Universal Credit Personal Loans: 2024 Review

Universal Credit personal loans are best for bad-credit borrowers looking for a loan that can help them build credit.
Annie Millerbernd
Last updated on August 7, 2023
Edited by
✅ Fact checked and reviewed
Kim Lowe
Edited by
✅ Fact checked and reviewed

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Our Take


NerdWallet rating
The Nerdy headline:

A Universal Credit loan is a sound option for bad-credit borrowers looking to build credit, but rates are high compared to similar lenders.

Jump to:Full Review
Universal Credit
Universal Credit

Est. APR
Loan amount
$1,000 - $50,000
Min. credit score
on Universal Credit's website
on NerdWallet


  • Direct payment to creditors with debt consolidation loans.
  • Fast funding.
  • Offers multiple rate discounts.
  • Free credit score access.


  • Origination fee.
  • Two repayment term options.
Compare best personal loans for bad credit
Est. APR
Loan amount
Min. credit score
Check Rateson NerdWallet
on NerdWallet
8.49- 35.99%
$1,000- $50,000
7.80- 35.99%
$1,000- $50,000
9.95- 35.99%
$2,000- $35,000
Universal Credit
11.69- 35.99%
$1,000- $50,000
8.99- 35.99%
$2,000- $50,000
View more
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Full Review

Universal Credit personal loans are best for borrowers with low credit scores who want a loan with features that will help their scores. Universal Credit’s starting rates are high compared to other bad-credit lenders, so compare loan offers before you apply.

Universal Credit is operated by online lender Upgrade. The main difference between the two is that borrowers with bad credit scores (629 or lower) and more debt may more easily qualify for a Universal Credit loan. Upgrade offers a more flexible personal loan that’s particularly good for debt consolidation.

Once approved, Universal Credit customers can access features offered by Upgrade, including credit building tools, a mobile app and a discount for directly paying off creditors on debt consolidation loans.

» MORE: See your bad-credit loan options

Table of Contents

Universal Credit personal loans at a glance

Minimum credit score



11.69% - 35.99%.


  • Origination: 5.25% to 9.99%.

  • Late fee: $10.

  • Non-sufficient funds fee: $10.

Loan amount

$1,000 to $50,000.

Repayment terms

3 or 5 years.

Time to fund after approval

1 day.

Loan availability

Loans available in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

  • Personal loans made through Universal Credit feature Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) of 11.69%-35.99%. All personal loans have a 5.25% to 9.99% origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Lowest rates require Autopay and paying off a portion of existing debt directly. Loans feature repayment terms of 36 to 60 months. For example, if you receive a $10,000 loan with a 36-month term and a 28.47% APR (which includes a 22.99% yearly interest rate and a 7% one-time origination fee), you would receive $9,300 in your account and would have a required monthly payment of $387.05. Over the life of the loan, your payments would total $13,933.62. The APR on your loan may be higher or lower and your loan offers may not have multiple term lengths available. Actual rate depends on credit score, credit usage history, loan term, and other factors. Late payments or subsequent charges and fees may increase the cost of your fixed rate loan. There is no fee or penalty for repaying a loan early. Personal loans issued by Universal Credit's bank partners. Information on Universal Credit's bank partners can be found at https://www.universal-credit.com/bank-partners/. † Accept your loan offer and your funds will be sent to your bank or designated account within one (1) business day of clearing necessary verifications. Availability of the funds is dependent on how quickly your bank processes the transaction. From the time of approval, funds sent directly to you should be available within one (1) business day. Funds sent directly to pay off your creditors may take up to 2 weeks to clear, depending on the creditor.

Where Universal Credit personal loans stand out

Rate discounts:

  • Autopay discount: Universal Credit offers a 0.5 percentage point discount for setting up automatic payments. This discount is common with personal loans, and setting up autopay ensures you’ll make payments on time.

  • Direct pay discount: If you’re using a Universal Credit loan to consolidate other high-interest debts, the lender will directly pay off those debts (leaving you with one monthly loan payment) and discount your rate by 1 to 3 percentage points. Many lenders can directly pay other creditors, but few include a discount. To use this feature, at least half of the loan must go toward consolidating debt.

Credit-building tools: Through Upgrade, Universal Credit borrowers have free access to their VantageScore, a credit score simulator, credit monitoring and customized credit-building recommendations. Many lenders offer credit score monitoring, but the simulator tools and recommendations are unique.

Fast funding: Universal Credit personal loans can be approved and funded as quickly as two days after you apply. The lender says approval can take one to a few days, and funds are usually available the day after approval. This process may be faster with other lenders — some approve you the day you apply and fund the loan the next day — but two or three days from application to funding is decent timing for a personal loan.

Where Universal Credit personal loans fall short

No joint, co-signed or secured loans: Universal Credit borrowers cannot add collateral, a co-signer or a co-borrower to a loan application. Adding collateral or a co-applicant with better credit or higher income can mean a lower rate, a higher loan amount or could improve your chances of qualifying. Many bad-credit lenders offer at least one of these options.

Charges an origination fee: Universal Credit charges an origination fee ranging from 5.25% to 9.99%. The lender takes this fee from the loan before it’s deposited into your account, reducing your loan amount by a few hundred dollars or more. This fee is somewhat common with bad-credit online loans. Be sure the loan amount is still enough to cover your expense once the origination fee is applied.

Do you qualify for a Universal Credit personal loan?

You may be able to qualify for a Universal Credit with fair or bad credit. The lender also says qualified borrowers can have debt-to-income ratios up to 75%, including the new personal loan.

To apply for a Universal Credit personal loan, you must be:

  • A U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or living in the U.S. on a valid visa.

  • At least 18 years old in most states.

  • Able to provide a verifiable bank account.

  • Able to provide a valid email address.

Here are Universal Credit’s minimum requirements to qualify for a loan. (Meeting these requirements doesn't guarantee approval.)

  • Minimum credit score: 560. Universal Credit uses FICO score version 9 from TransUnion.

  • Minimum credit history: 1 account and 2 years.

  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 75%, including mortgage and the loan you’re applying for.

  • Minimum income requirement: None. This lender accepts income from alimony, retirement, child support, Social Security and other sources.

Here are details about Universal Credit’s average borrower, according to the lender.

  • Average credit score: 672.

  • Average annual income: $80,000.

  • Average loan amount: $9,100.

  • Average loan term: 5 years.

  • Most common loan purpose: Credit card refinancing and debt consolidation.

Before you apply

  • Check your credit. You can get your free credit report on NerdWallet or at AnnualCreditReport.com. Doing so will help you spot and fix any errors before you apply.

  • Calculate your monthly payments. Use a personal loan calculator to determine what APR and repayment term you’d need to get a loan with affordable monthly payments.

  • Make a plan to repay the loan. Review your budget to see how the loan’s monthly payments impact your cash flow. If you have to cut other expenses in order to repay the loan, it’s better to know that before you borrow.

  • Gather your documents. Universal Credit may require proof of income, which can be a W-2 or pay stub, as well as proof of address and a Social Security number. Having these documents handy can speed the application process.

How to apply for a Universal Credit personal loan

Here are the steps to apply for a Universal Credit loan, based on information from the lender and our experience completing the pre-qualification process.

Here are the steps to apply for a Universal Credit loan, based on information from the lender and our experience completing the pre-qualification process.

  1. Pre-qualify on Universal Credit’s website. You’ll be asked how much you want to borrow and what the funds are for, as well as some personal information like your name, birthdate and address. The lender will ask for your individual income and additional income, which can include a partner’s income, alimony, child support and other sources. You’ll then create an account with an email address and password. There’s no hard credit pull at this stage.

  2. Preview loan offers and accept the one that fits your budget. If you qualify, you’ll preview multiple Universal Credit loan offers with different amounts, rates and repayment terms. Once you accept an offer, you’ll submit a formal personal loan application. This may require more documents, like W-2s, pay stubs and tax documents to confirm the information you gave during pre-qualification. Universal Credit will do a hard credit check when the loan is funded, which may cause a temporary dip to your score.

  3. Receive your funds within a business day or two. The lender says it may take up to a few days to approve an application. Universal Credit can send loan funds the day after approval. If you’re consolidating debt, it may take longer for the funds to reach other creditors. Continue making debt payments until you’re sure they are paid off.

  4. Make a plan to repay the loan. Universal Credit reports payments to all three major credit bureaus, so on-time payments will help build your credit, but missed payments will hurt it. Setting up automatic payments and keeping an eye on your budget are two ways to manage your loan payments.

Check rates at Universal Credit

Compare Universal Credit to other lenders

Compare Universal Credit with other lenders to decide whether it offers the right personal loan for you. Lenders offer different rates, loan amounts and special features, so it pays to weigh your options. The best personal loan is the one with the lowest APR and most affordable monthly payments.

Upgrade and Upstart offer lower rates than Universal Credit, and both say they may approve fair- and bad-credit borrowers.

Universal Credit vs. Upgrade

Upgrade personal loans are potentially more affordable and more flexible than loans from Universal Credit. Upgrade offers lower rates, more repayment term options and lets borrowers use a vehicle to secure a loan.

On the other hand, Upgrade’s qualification requirements might be tighter. It doesn’t hurt to pre-qualify for both and choose the better offer; once you get either an Upgrade or Universal Credit loan you’ll use Upgrade’s app and website to manage it.

Universal Credit vs. Upstart

Upstart provides an instant approval decision — a process that takes Universal Credit a day or more — and funds many loans the next business day.

Upstart’s rates tend to be lower than Universal Credit’s, and it uses alternative data that may help consumers with low credit scores qualify more easily. The lender says borrowers with all credit types — including thin and no credit history — can apply.

If you’re consolidating debt, Universal Credit may be the better choice. Upstart doesn’t directly pay off other creditors or offer rate discounts for consolidation.

How we rate Universal Credit personal loans

NerdWallet experts rate lenders against a rubric that changes each year based on how personal loan products evolve. Here’s what we prioritized this year:


Star rating



Loan flexibility


Customer experience


  • Affordability (30%) An affordable loan has low rates and fees compared to other similar loans and may offer rate discounts.

    Underwriting and eligibility (25%) The lender reviews borrowers credit reports and credit history, and tries to understand their ability to repay a loan, before making a final application decision.

    Loan flexibility (20%) A flexible loan is one that lets users customize terms and payments. That means offering a wide range of repayment term options, allowing the borrower to change their payment date, offering loans in most states and funding it quickly.

    Customer experience (15%) A good customer experience can include a fully online application process, financial education on the lender’s website and a customer service team that’s available most of the time and can be reached multiple ways.

    Transparency (10%) A transparent lender makes information about the loan easy to find on its website, including rates, terms and loan amounts. Transparency also means allowing users to pre-qualify online to preview potential loan offers and reporting payment information with the major credit bureaus.

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on Universal Credit's website

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NerdWallet’s review process evaluates and rates personal loan products from more than 35 technology companies and financial institutions. We collect over 50 data points from each lender and cross-check company websites, earnings reports and other public documents to confirm product details. We may also go through a lender’s pre-qualification flow and follow up with company representatives. NerdWallet writers and editors conduct a full fact check and update annually, but also make updates throughout the year as necessary.

Our star ratings award points to lenders that offer consumer-friendly features, including: soft credit checks to pre-qualify, competitive interest rates and no fees, transparency of rates and terms, flexible payment options, fast funding times, accessible customer service, reporting of payments to credit bureaus and financial education. Our ratings award fewer points to lenders with practices that may make a loan difficult to repay on time, such as charging high annual percentage rates (above 36%), underwriting that does not adequately assess consumers’ ability to repay and lack of credit-building help. We also consider regulatory actions filed by agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. We weigh these factors based on our assessment of which are the most important to consumers and how meaningfully they impact consumers’ experiences.

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