The bottom line:
Upgrade personal loans come with multiple rate discounts and offer direct payment to creditors. This lender has a low minimum credit score requirement, making the perks stand out even more.
Pros & Cons
- Multiple rate discounts.
- Secured and joint loans.
- Mobile app to manage loan payments.
- Direct payment to creditors with debt consolidation loans.
- Long repayment terms on home improvement loans.
- Origination fee.
- No option to choose initial payment date.
Compare to Other Lenders
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Full Review of Upgrade
Upgrade personal loans are good for borrowers with low credit scores looking to consolidate debt and build credit at the same time.
Though Upgrade lends to borrowers across the credit spectrum, the lender has looser minimum credit score, credit history and debt-to-income ratio requirements than lenders that seek borrowers with good or excellent credit scores (690 or higher).
Its softer borrowing requirements make some of its features — such as rate discounts, direct payment to creditors on debt consolidation loans and extra long repayment terms on home improvement loans — stand out even more. Such perks are rare among bad-credit lenders (that accept credit scores of 629 or lower).
» MORE: See your bad-credit loan options
Table of Contents
Upgrade personal loans at a glance
Minimum credit score
8.49% - 35.97%.
$1,000 to $50,000.
2 to 5 years. 7 years on some larger loans.
Time to fund after approval
Loans not available in Washington, D.C.
Where Upgrade personal loans stand out
Multiple rate discounts: Upgrade offers more opportunities to lower your annual percentage rate than most of its competitors.
Autopay discount: The lender offers a 0.5 percentage point discount for setting up automatic loan payments. Some lenders offer an autopay discount between 0.25 and 0.5 percentage points. This is a low-effort way to slightly lower your APR.
Direct pay discount: For debt consolidation, Upgrade offers a rate reduction of 1 to 5 percentage points when you have the lender pay off your debts directly. You must have at least half the loan funds sent to other creditors to get the discount. Not all lenders offer direct payment to creditors, which simplifies the consolidation process, and a discount for using the feature is unique.
Rewards checking discount: Upgrade says customers with a rewards checking account may get up to 20% off of their rate. So if you qualify for a 30% APR, your rate could be as low as 24%.
» MORE: Compare debt consolidation loans
Secured and joint loans: Borrowers can get a secured or joint loan through Upgrade. These loan types may be easier to qualify for or get you a lower rate. Upgrade accepts a vehicle as collateral and says your secured loan rate could be 1 to 10 percentage points lower than an unsecured loan.
» MORE: Best secured personal loans
Mobile app and credit assistance: Upgrade has a well-rated mobile app where borrowers can manage loan payments. The lender also offers free credit score monitoring, a summary of your latest credit report, a credit score simulator and educational resources on credit and finances. Some lenders offer a mobile app, but credit report summaries and a score simulator are rare perks.
Longer repayment term for larger loans: Upgrade’s repayment terms of two to five years are common with personal loans, but the lender offers an additional seven-year repayment term for home improvement loans and loans over $30,000. Only a few lenders offer longer home improvement loan repayment terms.
» MORE: Best home improvement loans
Where Upgrade personal loans fall short
Charges origination fee: Upgrade charges an origination fee from 1.85% to 8%. The lender takes this fee from the loan amount before you receive the funds, reducing your total loan amount. Be sure the loan amount is still enough to cover your expense once the fee is applied.
No option to choose payment date: When you get an Upgrade personal loan, the lender assigns you a repayment date. Many lenders let borrowers choose a repayment date that works best with their pay schedule. Instead, Upgrade borrowers can move their payment date within 15 days before or after their given due date. You can do this as often as you want in the app.
How to qualify for an Upgrade personal loan
Most lenders have basic requirements to apply, and some have financial requirements or recommendations to qualify.
To apply for an Upgrade 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 the lender’s minimum requirements to qualify for a loan. (Meeting these requirements doesn’t guarantee approval.)
Minimum credit score: 560. Upgrade uses FICO score version 9 from TransUnion.
Minimum number of accounts on credit history: One account.
Minimum length of credit history: Two years.
Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 75%, including mortgage and the loan you’re applying for.
Minimum annual income: None; this lender accepts income from a partner, alimony, retirement, child support, Social Security payments and other sources.
Here are details about Upgrade’s average borrower, according to the lender:
Average credit score: 672.
Average annual income: $80,000.
Average loan amount: $10,100.
Average loan term: Five years.
Most common loan purpose: Credit card refinancing and debt consolidation.
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. Upgrade 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 up the application process.
How to apply for an Upgrade personal loan
Here are the steps to apply for an Upgrade loan, based on information from the lender and our experience completing the pre-qualification process.
Pre-qualify on Upgrade’s website. Start by entering a loan amount and purpose on Upgrade’s website to get to the lender’s pre-qualify form. Next, choose between a joint and individual application and provide basic information like your name, address, birth date and income. Finally, create an account with your email and a password and enter your Social Security number. There’s no hard credit pull at this stage.
Preview loan offers. Qualified borrowers are shown multiple offers with different rates and terms. Choose the offer that fits your budget to start a formal personal loan application.
Finish applying. The application may require certain documents, like W-2s, pay stubs and bank statements to confirm the information you gave during pre-qualification. Upgrade will also do a hard credit check when you apply, so your credit score will temporarily dip.
Get approved and receive your funds. It typically takes Upgrade one to a few business days to approve applications. The lender says it sends loan funds the day after approval. This process may take longer if you’re having Upgrade directly pay off other debts.
Make a plan to repay the loan. Upgrade reports payments to all three major credit bureaus, so on-time payments will help build your credit score, 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 Upgrade to other lenders
Personal loan lenders offer different rates, loan amounts and special features, so it pays to weigh Upgrade against other options. The best personal loan is the one with the lowest APR and most affordable monthly payments.
Upstart and Happy Money are online lenders with similar borrowing requirements to Upgrade, and both are solid options for consumers with fair or bad credit scores (689 or lower).
» MORE: Compare personal loans
Upgrade vs. Upstart
Upstart provides an instant personal loan application decision and can fund a loan within one business day — at least a day or two faster than Upgrade. Upstart offers similar rates to Upgrade, but may more easily approve borrowers with low credit scores or thin credit histories using its alternative data underwriting model.
Upgrade may be the better debt consolidation lender because Upstart doesn’t offer direct payment to creditors or debt consolidation discounts.
» MORE: Upstart personal loan review
Upgrade vs. Happy Money
Happy Money has tighter credit requirements, but it offers lower rates than Upgrade.
The lender is focused on debt consolidation and financial health. Like Upgrade, Happy Money offers direct payment to creditors on debt consolidation loans. Happy Money also provides members with unique psychology-based advice and insights into their cash flow.
» MORE: Happy Money personal loan review
How we rate Upgrade personal loans
NerdWallet writers 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? Select the button below and head to Upgrade'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.