Upgrade Personal Loans: 2021 Review

Upgrade’s personal loan stands out for its many consumer-friendly features and discounts.
Annie MillerberndAug 12, 2021

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Our Take

5.0

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: Customizable loan features and discount opportunities make Upgrade a strong option for fair- and bad-credit borrowers.

Upgrade

on Upgrade's website

on Upgrade's website

Min. Credit Score

560

Est. APR

5.94 - 35.47%

Loan Amount

$1,000 - $50,000

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Allows secured and joint loans.
  • Offers a wide range of repayment terms.
  • Offers a 0.5% rate discount for setting up autopay.
  • Offers significant rate discount for checking account customers.
  • Offers rate discount with direct payment to creditors on debt consolidation loans.

Cons

  • Charges origination fee.
  • Charges late fee.

Compare to Other Lenders

Upgrade
Prosper
Upstart
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Est. APR

5.94 - 35.47%

Est. APR

7.95 - 35.99%

Est. APR

5.38 - 35.99%

Loan Term

2 to 7 years

Loan Term

3 to 5 years

Loan Term

3 to 5 years

Loan Amount

$1,000 - $50,000

Loan Amount

$2,000 - $40,000

Loan Amount

$1,000 - $50,000

Min. Credit Score

560

Min. Credit Score

600

Min. Credit Score

None

Compare estimated rates from multiple lenders

Compare Rates

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Full Review

Upgrade personal loans are designed for mainstream appeal, supporting a wide range of credit scores and incomes.

The lender differentiates itself with features like rate discounts for having payments sent directly to creditors on debt consolidation loans. It also boasts secured and joint loan offerings, reasonably fast funding and a wide range of repayment terms.

Upgrade is best for borrowers who:

  • Have fair or bad credit (689 or lower FICO).

  • Want to secure the loan or add a co-borrower to their application.

  • Are consolidating credit cards and other unsecured debts.

  • Need help building credit.

Affordability

  • Offers rate discount for autopayments.

  • APRs are low compared to similar lenders.

  • Charges 2.9% - 8% origination fee.

  • No prepayment fee.

Loan flexibility

  • Offers secured and joint loans.

  • Approval may take a few days.

  • Loan may be funded within one day of approval.

  • Offers repayment terms between two and seven years.

  • Loans not available in West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Transparency

  • Soft credit check to pre-qualify.

  • Reports payments to three credit bureaus.

  • Website includes comprehensive FAQ and financial education.

  • Rates and fees are disclosed in the footer of the lender's product page.

Customer experience

  • Offers multiple customer contact channels and seven-day support.

  • Fully online application and approval process.

  • Offers 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 Upgrade stands out

Discount for direct payments on debt consolidation loans: Upgrade offers a rate discount of 1 to 5 percentage points for borrowers who get a debt consolidation loan and have the lender directly pay their other debts. This discount is rare on personal loans, and 5 percentage points is a hefty slash compared to discounts offered by other lenders.

Pre-qualify with soft credit pull: Upgrade lets you check your rate and offers with a soft credit pull, which does not impact your credit score. If you accept the offer, a hard pull is triggered. Upgrade uses the FICO 9 credit score to evaluate borrowers.

Credit building tools: Upgrade customers can sign up for free credit score monitoring, a credit score simulator and personalized tips to build credit. Some other lenders offer free credit score monitoring, but additional tools are relatively rare.

Existing customer discount: The lender says it may reduce your personal loan APR by up to 20% if you're an active customer of its Rewards Checking account. That discount could bring a 30% APR down to 24%, for example.

Joint and secured loans: Upgrade allows applicants to add a co-borrower to improve their chances of qualifying for a loan. Unlike a co-signer, a co-borrower will have access to the funds from the loan.

Applicants can use a vehicle as collateral on a secured loan. The lender will consider the value of the vehicle on your application, which could lead to a lower rate. If you secure a personal loan and fail to repay it, the lender can seize the collateral.

Hardship program: Consumers who experience a sudden hardship, like a job loss, may qualify for a temporary reduction of their monthly payment or a permanent loan modification that extends the length of the loan.

This option can be helpful in a pinch, but extending your loan’s repayment term without getting a reduced rate can cost more interest overall.

Where Upgrade falls short

Moderate funding time: Unlike some of its competitors that boast instant approval and same-day funding, Upgrade may take a few days to approve a loan application. According to the lender, about half of all applicants will see the loan funds deposited in their account the day after their application is approved.

Origination fee: Upgrade charges an origination fee, which isn’t uncommon among online lenders. At 2.9% to 8%, Upgrade’s origination fee is high compared with other lenders, though. Your origination fee is calculated in your annual percentage rate.

How to qualify for an Upgrade loan

  • Minimum credit score: 560; borrower average is 678.

  • Minimum annual income: None; borrower average is $78,000.

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

  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Less than or equal to 75%, including mortgage and calculating in your new personal loan.

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 an Upgrade 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 Upgrade. Pre-qualifying will not impact your credit.

Apply on Upgrade

You can apply on Upgrade’s website by entering a loan amount and purpose on the lender’s personal loans page. 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 Upgrade'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.