Universal Credit Personal Loans: 2021 Review

Universal Credit personal loans are a solid choice for bad-credit borrowers, especially those looking to consolidate debt.
Annie MillerberndAug 19, 2021

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Our Take

4.5

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: Universal Credit offers flexible personal loans ideal for borrowers with low credit scores.

Universal Credit

on Universal Credit's website

on Universal Credit's website

Min. Credit Score

560

Est. APR

8.93 - 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.
  • Offers a 0.5 percentage point 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

8.93 - 35.43%

Est. APR

5.94 - 35.47%

Loan Term

3 to 5 years

Loan Term

2 to 7 years

Loan Amount

$1,000 - $50,000

Loan Amount

$1,000 - $50,000

Min. Credit Score

560

Min. Credit Score

560

Compare estimated rates from multiple lenders

Compare Rates

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Full Review

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 more debt 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 other high-interest debts.

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

Universal Credit at a glance

Affordability

  • Offers 0.5 percentage point ​​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.

  • Loans can be funded within one day of approval.

  • Offers three- or five-year repayment terms.

  • Loans not available in IA, SC, WV or Washington, D.C.

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.

Key terms to know about personal loans

Annual percentage rate is the interest rate on your loan plus all fees, calculated on an annual basis and expressed as a percentage. Use the APR to compare loan costs from multiple lenders.

An origination fee is a one-time, upfront fee that some lenders charge for processing a loan. The fee can range from 1% to 10% of the loan amount, and lenders typically deduct it from your loan proceeds.

The debt-to-income ratio divides your total monthly debt payments by your gross monthly income, giving you a percentage. Lenders use DTI — along with credit history and other factors — to evaluate a borrower's financial ability to repay a loan.

Lenders that offer pre-qualification typically do so using a soft credit check, which allows you to see rates and terms you qualify for without affecting your credit score. If you accept the loan offer, the lender will perform a hard check to confirm your information. Hard checks knock a few points off your credit score.

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 2 percentage points for doing this. Many lenders offer direct payment to other creditors, but few include a 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. It’s not uncommon for lenders to give you access to your credit score, but the simulator tool and tips are rare. Keeping a close eye on your credit score can help you understand which behaviors help or hurt it.

Existing customer discount: Because Universal Credit is owned by Upgrade, customers who maintain an active Upgrade rewards checking account may be eligible for a discounted rate on a Universal Credit loan — up to 20% off the annual percentage rate of their approved loan. So, a loan with a 30% APR could drop as low as 24%.

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. That means you can move your payment date to better fit with your payday and expenses.

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’re approved, but approval may take a few days. Funds for debt consolidation loans that are sent directly to pay off creditors can take up to two weeks, according to the lender.

How to qualify for a Universal Credit loan

  • Minimum credit score: 560; borrower average is 638.

  • Minimum income: None; average is $60,000.

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

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

Loan example: A three-year, $10,000 loan with a 20.5% APR would cost $374 in monthly payments. You’d pay $3,464 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 more information and to make an account, and then you’ll be pre-qualified. 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 review process evaluates and rates personal loan products from more than 30 lenders. We collect over 45 data points from each lender, interview company representatives and compare the lender with others that seek the same customer or offer a similar personal loan product. 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. 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.

This methodology applies only to lenders that cap interest rates at 36%, the maximum rate most financial experts and consumer advocates agree is the acceptable limit for a loan to be affordable. NerdWallet does not receive compensation for our star ratings. Read our editorial guidelines.