Universal Credit Personal Loans: 2021 Review

Universal Credit, which targets bad-credit borrowers, may offer a rate discount on debt consolidation loans.

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Our Take

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Universal Credit

on Universal Credit's website

on Universal Credit's website

Min. Credit Score

580

Est. APR

8.43 - 35.43%

Loan Amount

$1,000 - $50,000

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Offers rate discount with direct payment to creditors on debt consolidation loans.

  • Option to change your payment date.

  • Offers free credit score access.

  • High debt-to-income ratio accepted.

  • Offers a .5% rate discount for setting up autopay.

Cons

  • Charges origination fee.

  • No co-sign, joint or secured loan option.

Compare to Other Lenders

Universal Credit
Upgrade
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Est. APR

8.43 - 35.43%

Est. APR

5.44 - 35.47%

Loan Term

3 to 5 years

Loan Term

3 to 5 years

Loan Amount

$1,000 - $50,000

Loan Amount

$1,000 - $50,000

Min. Credit Score

580

Min. Credit Score

580

Compare estimated rates from multiple lenders

Compare Rates

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Full Review

To review Universal Credit's personal loans, NerdWallet collected more than 40 data points from the lender, interviewed company executives and compared the lender with others that seek the same customer or offer a similar personal loan product. Loan terms and fees may vary by state.

Universal Credit offers personal loans to borrowers with fair and bad credit scores (689 or lower FICO). This lender is an offshoot of online lender Upgrade, which services Universal Credit loans.

The main difference between Universal Credit and Upgrade is that borrowers with lower credit scores and higher debt-to-income ratios may qualify more easily for a Universal Credit loan. 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.

Universal Credit is best for borrowers who:

  • Have fair or bad credit and a high debt-to-income ratio.

  • Are consolidating debts.

  • Don’t want to add a co-signer or secure the loan with a vehicle.

Universal Credit at a glance

Credit building

  • Soft credit check to pre-qualify.

  • Reports payments to three credit bureaus.

Affordability

  • Offers 0.5% rate discount for automatic payments.

  • APRs are consistent with other fair-credit lenders.

  • Charges origination fee of 4.25% - 8% of the loan amount.

Loan flexibility

  • Does not offer co-signed, secured or joint loans.

  • Funds loans in one to five business days.

  • Offers three- or five-year repayment terms.

  • Loans not available in Iowa, South Carolina, Washington, D.C. or West Virginia.

Transparency

  • Rates and fees are displayed in the site’s footer.

  • FAQ page answers some borrower questions.

Customer experience

  • Fully online application and loan approval process.

  • Users must download Upgrade’s mobile app to manage loan.

Where Universal Credit stands out

Rate discount for direct payment to creditors: 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. You may also receive a rate discount of 1 to 5 percentage points for doing this. Many lenders offer direct payment to other creditors, but few add the discount.

Reports payments to credit bureaus: Universal Credit reports loan payments to all three major credit bureaus, which means on-time payments can help your credit, while late or missed payments could hurt it. Building credit can put you in a position to borrow at a lower rate next time.

Credit-building tools: Through Upgrade, Universal Credit borrowers have free access to their credit score, credit monitoring and a credit score simulator tool. Not all lenders give access to a credit score, and tracking it can help you understand which behaviors help or hurt your score.

Change your payment date: When you get a Universal Credit loan, you won’t initially be able to choose your payment date; however, the company says you can later change it at any time, as long as the new date is within 15 days of the original payment date. That means you can move your payment date to better fit with your payday and expenses.

High debt-to-income ratio accepted: Universal Credit accepts borrowers with debt-to-income ratios of 75% or lower. That number includes a mortgage and the loan you’re applying for. It’s a high number compared with other lenders, which typically require a DTI below 50%, including the new loan. Keep in mind that a loan that puts your DTI above 50% may make it more difficult to manage your debt.

Where Universal Credit falls 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, higher loan amount or improve your chances of qualifying. Many bad-credit lenders offer at least one of these options.

Funding time: Some lenders can fund your loan the same or next day after you apply. Universal Credit says it can fund a loan the day after you apply, but the average is one to five days. Funds for debt consolidation loans that are sent directly to pay off creditors can take up to two weeks, according to the lender.

High rates compared with other online lenders: Universal Credit’s annual percentage rates are high compared with other online lenders that serve similar customers, and it charges an origination fee. You can pre-qualify to compare offers among multiple lenders and see which can offer you the lowest rate and best terms.

How to qualify for a Universal Credit loan

  • Minimum credit score: 580.

  • Minimum credit history: 2 years.

  • Minimum number of accounts on credit history: 2 accounts.

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

  • Average loan amount: $7,000.

  • Average customer income: $66,000.

  • Average customer credit score: 650.

Loan example: A three-year, $10,000 loan with a 23.4% APR would cost $389 in monthly payments. You’d pay $4,004 in total interest on that loan.

How to get a Universal Credit loan

Pre-qualify on NerdWallet

NerdWallet recommends comparing loans to find the best rate for you. Pre-qualifying may get you personalized rates from multiple lenders that partner with us, including Universal Credit. Pre-qualifying will not impact your credit.

Apply on Universal Credit

You can apply on Universal Credit’s website by entering a loan amount and purpose on the homepage. You’ll be asked for further information to pre-qualify first. If you’re shown any offers, you can accept one to continue the loan application process.

on Universal Credit's website

Personal Loans Rating Methodology

NerdWallet's ratings for personal loans award points to lenders that offer consumer-friendly features, including: soft credit checks, no fees, transparency of loan rates and terms, flexible payment options, accessible customer service, reporting of payments to credit bureaus, and financial education. We also consider the number of complaints filed with agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This methodology applies only to lenders that cap interest rates at 36%, the maximum rate financial experts and consumer advocates agree is the acceptable limit for a loan to be affordable. NerdWallet does not receive compensation of any sort for our reviews. Read our editorial guidelines.