Universal Credit Personal Loans: 2023 Review
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The bottom line:
Universal Credit personal loans have a low minimum credit score requirement, credit-building features and perks for debt consolidation. The lender charges high rates but offers autopay and debt consolidation discounts.
Pros & Cons
- Direct payment to creditors with debt consolidation loans.
- Multiple rate discounts.
- Free credit score access.
- Fast funding.
- Origination fee.
- Only two repayment term options.
Compare to Other Lenders
3 to 5 years
3 to 5 years
2 to 7 years
Min. credit score
Min. credit score
Min. credit score
Compare estimated rates from multiple lenders
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Full Review of Universal Credit
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 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 (689 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% - 35.93%.
$1,000 to $50,000.
3 or 5 years.
Time to fund after approval
Loans not available in Washington, D.C.
Where Universal Credit personal loans stand out
Multiple 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 make payments on time.
Direct pay discount: If you’re using Universal Credit 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 5 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.
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 annual percentage rate on a Universal Credit loan — up to 20% off the approved rate. A loan with a 30% APR could drop as low as 24%.
» MORE: Compare debt consolidation loans
Credit-building tools: Through Upgrade, Universal Credit borrowers have free access to their VantageScore, a credit score simulator, credit monitoring and educational resources about credit building. Many lenders offer credit score monitoring, but the simulator tools and other tips are unique and allow borrowers to monitor their score and see which behaviors help or hurt it.
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.
» MORE: Fast personal loans
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.
» MORE: Best bad-credit loans
Charges an origination fee: Universal Credit charges an origination fee ranging from 5.25% to 9.99%. Lenders take this fee from the loan before it’s deposited into your account, reducing your loan amount by a few hundred dollars or more. It’s 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.
How to qualify for a Universal Credit personal loan
Most lenders have basic requirements to apply, and some have financial requirements or recommendations to qualify.
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 number of accounts on credit history: 1 account.
Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 75%, including mortgage and the loan you’re applying for.
Minimum length of credit history: 2 years.
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: $10,100.
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 requires proof of income, which can be a W-2 or paystub, as well as proof of address and a Social Security number. Having these documents handy can speed the application process.
» MORE: How to apply for a personal loan
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.
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, birthday 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.
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 will require more documents, like W-2s, pay stubs and bank statements to confirm the information you gave during pre-qualification. Universal Credit will do a hard credit check when you apply, which may cause a temporary dip to your score.
Receive your funds within a business day or two. The lender says it may take one day to approve an application, but it could take longer. 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.
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.
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.
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.
» MORE: Upgrade personal loans review
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.
» MORE: Upstart personal loans review
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:
Ready to apply? Click the button below and head to Universal Credit's website to pre-qualify.
NerdWallet’s review process evaluates and rates personal loan products from more than 35 financial institutions. 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 more about our ratings methodologies for personal loans and our editorial guidelines.