CREDIT CARDSCREDIT CARDSUPGRADE CASH REWARDS REVIEW: CHARGE LIKE A CREDIT CARD, PAY OFF LIKE A LOAN

Upgrade Cash Rewards Review: Charge Like a Credit Card, Pay Off Like a Loan

Make charges to your card or borrow against your credit line. Either way, you can pay off the balance in equal monthly installments at a fixed rate. It earns rewards, but it lacks certain other incentives and is not available everywhere.
Sara Rathner Author Avatar
Feb 13, 2024 7:32 a.m. PST
Edited by
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4.7

NerdWallet rating
The bottom line:

This hybrid credit card/personal loan product expands your options and offers a lot of flexibility. But if you have at least fair credit, you might qualify for cards with more benefits or loans with better terms.

Pros
  • No annual fee
  • Qualify with average credit
  • High rewards rate
  • Reports to the three major credit bureaus
Cons
  • No bonus offer
  • Limited availability
Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® Image
Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

14.99%-29.99% APR

Intro APR

N/A

Rec. credit score


Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

14.99%-29.99% APR

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Rewards rate

    1.5%

  • Bonus offer

    None

  • Intro APR

    N/A

  • Ongoing APR

    APR: 14.99%-29.99%

  • Balance transfer fee

    Up to 5%

  • Foreign transaction fee

    Up to 3%

More details from Upgrade
View Rates and Fees
  • Earn 1.5% unlimited cash back on card purchases every time you make a payment.
  • Combine the flexibility of a credit card with the predictability of a personal loan.
  • No annual fee
  • No touch payments with contactless technology built in.
  • Great for large purchases with predictable payments you can budget for.
  • Mobile app to access your account anytime, anywhere.
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud liability.

Compare to Other Cards

ANNUAL FEE
$0
REGULAR APR
14.99%-29.99% APR
Rates & Fees
INTRO APR
N/A
RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE
ANNUAL FEE
$0
REGULAR APR
28.24% Variable APR
Rates & Fees
INTRO APR
10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months
RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE
ANNUAL FEE
$35
REGULAR APR
25.64% Variable APR
INTRO APR
N/A
RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE
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Detailed review: Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®

The $0-annual-fee Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® is a unique product for people with lower credit scores, or for anyone who needs to finance a large purchase. It advertises "the flexibility of a credit card with the low cost and predictability of a personal loan," and indeed it can be used in those two ways:

  • As a credit card: Use it to make purchases, which are converted to installment loans at a fixed interest rate. If you carry a balance beyond the due date, you can repay it in equal monthly installments over a set period.

  • As a personal loan: Tap into your credit limit and request that funds be sent directly to your bank account. You can pay back the loan in equal monthly installments over a set period with a fixed interest rate and a 5% cash advance fee. (You cannot use the card at an ATM to withdraw cash, however.) Personal loans are made by Upgrade's lending partners.

That's a good bit different from how most credit cards work, and it could make monthly budgeting a lot easier. The Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® also earns a solid 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Still, if you have good to excellent credit, you may have a number of 0% intro APR options to choose from if you need to carry a credit card balance.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Upgrade has a portfolio of several credit cards, including the Upgrade Select Visa® and the Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa®. For information on how Upgrade's multiple cards stack up with each other, see the comparison table below.

Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®: Basics

Annual fee: $0.

Credit limit: $500 to $25,000.

Sign-up bonus: None.

Rewards: 1.5% cash back on all purchases. (Cash back will be applied to the next month’s balance on your card.)

APR: The ongoing APR is 14.99%-29.99%.

Foreign transaction fee: 3%.

Balance transfer fee: 5%.

Other facts and benefits:

  • No security deposit required.

  • Get pre-approved without hurting your credit scores.

  • Pay down balances at a fixed interest rate with equal monthly payments.

  • No prepayment penalty, late fees or penalty APR.

Credit Lines opened through Upgrade feature Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) of 14.99% - 29.99% and line amounts ranging $500 - $50,000. Optional ACH transfers to your bank account, balance transfers, and foreign transactions are subject to fees that, if incurred, will increase your finance charge and APR. The lowest rates require Autopay and the majority of the line amounts will be $15,000 or under. For example, a $5,000 transaction with a 36 month term and a 19.99% APR has a required monthly payment of $187.90. The APR on your transaction may be higher or lower. Your rate, line amount, and default term depend on maintaining a qualifying credit score, your credit usage history, requested amount, and other factors. The Upgrade Card is unique in that it allows you to obtain a series of closed-end loans which you may access through transactions such as card purchases up to the approved line amount. As you repay your balance, additional credit may become available to you up to the approved line amount subject to meeting our credit requirements. The Upgrade Card will not replenish as it would in an open-end credit arrangement.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Activity on the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® is reported to bureaus as a line of credit, but without a total credit line limit. Upgrade does report a balance and fixed payments, but since the total credit limit is not reported, credit utilization is not affected.

Which Upgrade Card is right for you?

Upgrade offers several different cards, and while they all offer the same unique "credit card/personal loan" hybrid feature, their reward structures and terms may differ. Here's a closer look at three of the company's popular cards:

Upgrade Select Visa®

Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®

Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa®

Rewards

None.

1.5% cash back on all purchases. Cash back will be applied to the next month’s balance on your card.

Earn 3% cash back on home, auto and health purchases. Earn 1% cash back on everything else. Cash back will be applied to the next month’s balance on your card.

Annual fee

$39.

$0.

$0.

Credit limit

$500 to $2,000.

$500 to $25,000.

$500 to $25,000.

APR

The ongoing APR is 21.96%-29.99%.

The ongoing APR is 14.99%-29.99%.

The ongoing APR is 14.99%-29.99%.

Upgrade also offers the Upgrade OneCard and Upgrade Life Rewards Card, which feature different rewards.

Benefits and perks

It's available to those with FICO scores of 600 and up

Applicants with FICO credit scores of 600 or above can qualify for the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®, and unlike a lot of other cards available to those with less-than-stellar credit, there's no security deposit or annual fee. Because on-time payments are reported to the three major credit bureaus, the card can help you build your credit scores over time with responsible use.

It earns cash-back rewards

The Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® unveiled a cash-back rewards program in October 2020. You'll earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases, and earnings will be applied to the next month’s balance on your card, almost like a prepayment on your bill. This redemption process may not be ideal for everyone (more on that below). But still, it's uncommon for an unsecured card geared toward those with fair credit to offer rewards and charge a $0 annual fee.

Fixed monthly payments make budgeting easier

Revolving balances on typical credit cards have no set deadline to be paid off in full, and the amount you owe can change — and balloon — over time thanks to variable interest. The Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® treats your debt like a personal loan. You're charged a fixed interest rate on that balance, but you can prepay it at any time with no penalty. Monthly payments can be debited directly from any bank account, and you have 24, 36 or 60 months (depending on what you're approved for) to pay it off in equal monthly installments.

🤓Nerdy Tip

While the terms on your existing balances won't change, Upgrade notes that they might be adjusted for future draws, depending on things like changes to your credit scores, market conditions and overall interest rate hikes.

It offers other hard-to-find features

Aside from its low cost to carry, the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® also allows you to see what credit line you’d qualify for without initiating a hard pull on your credit report. Such hard pulls can temporarily ding your credit scores, which isn't ideal for those with low scores to begin with. A hard inquiry is completed only once you agree to the terms. This feature is rare among credit cards, although the Apple Card is a well-known product that has a similar pre-approval process.

Drawbacks and considerations

Other loan options may still offer better terms

Depending on your financial situation, a personal loan or other credit card may make the cost of borrowing money significantly less expensive. The interest rate you’re approved for by the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® can be quite low if you qualify for its best rates, but also quite high if you do not. And as noted above, different transactions on the card may be subject to different APRs depending on multiple factors.

It lacks some benefits of more traditional credit cards

If you’re looking for a sign-up bonus or a 0% intro APR period on balance transfers or new purchases, look elsewhere. The Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® doesn't offer these things. Instead, you might want to look into other products.

If you have good to excellent credit, you might qualify for the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card. It, too, earns 1.5% cash back on most purchases and the annual fee is $0. New cardholders get an introductory APR offer and can earn a nice sign-up bonus.

You can't 'bank' your rewards

Because the cash back you earn with the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® is automatically applied toward your next month's balance, it means you can't save up your cash back for a big purchase later.

That's different from how most rewards credit cards work. If you'd rather get a more traditional credit card, browse NerdWallet's best credit cards to see more options.

How to decide if it's right for you

If you plan to carry a balance, want the convenience of equal monthly debt repayments and pre-qualify for a favorable interest rate, the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® is a legit and compelling choice. But consumers with good to excellent credit have more borrowing options, including low-interest personal loans and credit cards with 0% intro APR periods for new purchases and balance transfers.

Methodology

NerdWallet reviews credit cards with an eye toward both the quantitative and qualitative features of a card. Quantitative features are those that boil down to dollars and cents, such as fees, interest rates, rewards (including earning rates and redemption values) and the cash value of benefits and perks. Qualitative factors are those that affect how easy or difficult it is for a typical cardholder to get good value from the card. They include such things as the ease of application, simplicity of the rewards structure, the likelihood of using certain features, and whether a card is well-suited to everyday use or is best reserved for specific purchases. Our star ratings serve as a general gauge of how each card compares with others in its class, but star ratings are intended to be just one consideration when a consumer is choosing a credit card. Learn how NerdWallet rates credit cards.

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