Upgrade Cash Rewards Card 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.
May 18, 2022

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Our Take

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.

Jump to: Full Review
Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
8.99%-29.99% APR
Intro APR
N/A
Rec. credit score
630-850 (Average - Excellent)
Apply now

on Upgrade's website

Quick Facts

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • No foreign transaction fee

  • Qualify with average credit

  • High rewards rate

  • Reports to the three major credit bureaus

Cons

  • No bonus offer

  • Limited availability

Compare to Other Cards

NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Annual fee

$0

Annual fee

$0

Annual fee

$35

Regular APR

8.99%-29.99% APR

Regular APR

23.24% Variable APR

Regular APR

17.64% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Get more smart money moves — straight to your inboxBecome a NerdWallet member, and we’ll send you tailored articles we think you’ll love.

Full Review

The $0-annual-fee Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards 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 Visa® Card with Cash Rewards 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 Triple Cash Rewards Visa® and the Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Card. For information on how Upgrade's multiple cards stack up with each other, see the comparison table below.

Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards: 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%.

Nerdy tip: A rate discount of half a percentage point will apply for those who opt in to autopay with Upgrade. The lowest possible rate above assumes autopay.

Foreign transaction fee: None.

Balance transfer fee: N/A.

Other facts and benefits:

Nerdy tip: Activity on the Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards 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 rewards structures differ. Here's a closer look:

Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards

Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More

Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa®

Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More

Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Visa® Credit Card

Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Visa® Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More

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.

Earn 1.5% back on all purchases in the form of bitcoin. As you make payments, bitcoins will be purchased on your behalf and held in a cryptocurrency wallet.

Annual fee

$0.

$0.

$0.

Credit limit

Typically $500 to $25,000. (Some borrowers may qualify for up to $50,000.)

Typically $500 to $25,000. (Some borrowers may qualify for up to $50,000.)

Typically $500 to $25,000. (Some borrowers may qualify for up to $50,000.)

APR

The ongoing APR is 8.99%-29.99%.

The ongoing APR is 8.99%-29.99%.

The ongoing APR is 8.99%-29.99%

Benefits of the Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards

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 Visa® Card with Cash Rewards, 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 Visa® Card with Cash Rewards 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 Visa® Card with Cash Rewards 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 Visa® Card with Cash Rewards 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 Visa® Card with Cash Rewards 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 Visa® Card with Cash Rewards 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 Visa® Card with Cash Rewards 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 Visa® Card with Cash Rewards 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 Visa® Card with Cash Rewards 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.

Browse NerdWallet's best credit cards to see more options.

Should you get the Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards?

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 Visa® Card with Cash Rewards 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

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.