Upgrade 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. No rewards or other incentives, though.

Sara RathnerSeptember 23, 2020

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Our Take

3.7

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.

Upgrade Card

on Upgrade's website

on Upgrade's website

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

6.99% - 29.99% APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Quick Facts

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Qualify with average credit

  • No late fee

  • No annual fee

  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • No rewards

Compare to Other Cards

Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$35

Annual Fee

$39

Regular APR

6.99% - 29.99% APR

Regular APR

17.39% Variable APR

Regular APR

13.99% Variable

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

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Full Review

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. However, the Upgrade Card lacks many of the upfront and ongoing incentives you'll find on other cards.

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: None.

APR: The ongoing APR is 6.99% - 29.99% APR.

Nerd 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:

Nerd tip: Activity on the Upgrade Card 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.

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.

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.

Nerd 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 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.

IT Lacks the benefits of more traditional credit cards

If you’re looking for a sign-up bonus, the ability to earn rewards on your purchases or a 0% intro APR period on balance transfers or new purchases, look elsewhere. The Upgrade Card has no rewards program, and it doesn’t support balance transfers.

  • The Alliant Visa® Platinum Rewards 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.

  • The Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card is also available to those with fair credit. While there is an annual fee, the card also earns rewards: an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. And if what you actually have is good to excellent credit, you might qualify for this card's bigger sibling, the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card. It, too, earns 1.5% cash back on all purchases, but there's no annual fee and new cardholders get a 0% APR offer and can earn a nice sign-up bonus.

It's Unavailable in certain areas

The Upgrade Card is unavailable to residents of Iowa, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C.

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

Comments

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