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 & Cons
Qualify with average credit
No late fee
No annual fee
No foreign transaction fee
Potentially high APR
Not available in all states
Compare to Other Cards
8.99% - 29.99% APR
22.99% Variable APR
17.39% Variable APR
10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Get more smart money moves — straight to your inbox
Become a NerdWallet member, and we’ll send you tailored articles we think you’ll love.
The $0-annual-fee Upgrade Card 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. The card itself is issued by Sutton Bank.
As a personal loan: Tap into your credit limit and request that funds be sent directly to your bank account. Again, you can pay back the loan in equal monthly installments over a set period and fixed interest rate. (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 Card 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.
Upgrade Card: Basics
Annual fee: $0.
Credit limit: Typically $500 to $20,000. (Some borrowers may qualify for up to $50,000.)
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 8.99% - 29.99% APR.
Foreign transaction fee: None.
Balance transfer fee: N/A.
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.
Benefits of the Upgrade Card
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 Card, 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 Card 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 Card treats your debt like a personal loan. Any time you don’t pay your credit card bill in full, you’re charged a fixed interest rate on the remaining balance. You have 24, 36 or 60 months (depending on what you’re approved for) to pay it off in equal monthly installments. You can also prepay any amount at any time with no penalty, and monthly payments can be debited directly from any bank account.
It offers OTHER Hard-to-find features
Aside from its low cost to carry, the Upgrade Card 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. And, as with the Apple Card and a handful of others, you also don't have to wait for the Upgrade Card to arrive in the mail to use it. You'll get immediate access to a virtual card you can use until the physical one arrives, which isn't a common feature.
Drawbacks and alternatives
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 Card 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.
» MORE: Where to get a personal loan
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 Card doesn't offer these things. Instead, you might want to look into other products. Some examples:
The Alliant Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card is an option for those with fair credit (FICO scores of at least 630). It offers a sign-up bonus and 2 points per $1 spent on all purchases. Plus, there’s an introductory low-interest rate. However, you must join Alliant Credit Union to get this card.
If what you really have is good to excellent credit, you might qualify for the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card. It, too, earns 1.5% cash back on all 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 Card 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.
It's Unavailable in certain areas
The Upgrade Card is unavailable to residents of Iowa, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C.
THERE's A Potentially weak user interface
Some customers have reported issues using or interpreting the card's website and app, complaining that it's not user-friendly or intuitive. The issuer has acknowledged some "known concerns" and notes that it's working on an upgrade.
Should you get the Upgrade Card?
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 Card 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.
on Upgrade's website