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. It earns rewards, but it lacks certain other incentives and is not available everywhere.
Sara RathnerSep 7, 2021

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Our Take

4.6

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

Annual fee

$0

Regular APR

8.99% - 29.99% APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

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

22.99% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Regular APR

17.39% 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

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Full Review

The -annual-fee  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:

That's a good bit different from how most credit cards work, and it could make monthly budgeting a lot easier. The  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.

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Card type: , .

Annual fee: .

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: .

Foreign transaction fee: None.

Balance transfer fee: N/A.

Other facts and benefits:

Applicants with FICO credit scores of 600 or above can qualify for the , 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.

The . 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  annual fee.

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 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.

Aside from its low cost to carry, the also allows you to see what credit line you’d qualify for without initiating a 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 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 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.

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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 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.

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

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Because the cash back you earn with the 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 work.

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

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 to see more options.

If you plan to carry a balance, want the convenience of equal monthly debt repayments and pre-qualify for a favorable interest rate, the 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