Upgrade Cash Rewards Card review
This fee-free card earns 1.5% cash back, but it lacks many features.
finder.com’s rating: 3.3 / 5
- Get this card if you plan on carrying a balance and want to avoid fees while earning cash back.
- Choose a traditional credit card if you want to make smaller monthly payments and use ATMs.
- Apply with a fair to good credit score of 600 or higher.
Up to 1.5%
8.99% to 29.99%
Purchase APR (variable)
Recommended credit score
Michael Benninger is a staff banking writer at Finder. He is a former credit analyst and longtime freelancer whose articles have been published by Intuit, Business Insider and the Los Angeles Times. Michael is passionate about all facets of personal finance and has written hundreds of articles about money management during the past decade.
The Upgrade Cash Rewards Card straddles a fine line between a personal loan and a traditional credit card. It certainly has some attractive features, including no fees and 1.5% cashback on payments, but it lacks the flexibility and perks of a revolving credit account. If you plan on making a large purchase and carrying a balance for at least several months, this card could be right for you — especially if you don’t have a great credit score and you struggle with bad spending habits. But if you’re a responsible borrower who’s worked hard to maintain a clean credit report, you’re likely better off with one of today’s top-rated credit cards.
How to apply for an Upgrade Cash Rewards Card
- Visit Upgrade.com and select Get started.
- Fill out the Basic information form.
- Enter an email address and password under Create an account.
- Select Check your credit line and, if your credit history checks out, you’ll be approved for an Upgrade Cash Rewards Card with a credit line ranging from $500 to $25,000.
What credit score do I need?
You can get approved for an Upgrade Cash Rewards Card with a credit score of 600 or above. The greater your score is, the lower your interest rate will be, the higher your spending limit will be and the more time you’ll have to repay each month’s purchases.
What is the Upgrade Cash Rewards Card?
The Upgrade Cash Rewards Card is a Visa card that offers 1.5% cash back and doesn’t have fees of any kind. But unlike traditional credit cards that are linked to a revolving line of credit, the Upgrade Cash Rewards Card is tied to a personal line of credit. And instead of allowing you to make minimum monthly payments of 1% to 3% of your balance, the Upgrade Cash Rewards Card requires fixed payments with a firm deadline to repay all money borrowed.
How do purchases work with the Upgrade Cash Rewards Card?
Your Upgrade Cash Rewards Card works with any retailer that accepts Visa as a form of payment. The card features a magnetic strip, an embedded chip and contactless technology, so it works with any card reader. And even before you receive your physical Upgrade Cash Rewards Card in the mail, you can use a virtual Upgrade Cash Rewards Card with Apple Pay or Google Pay.
How do payments work with the Upgrade Cash Rewards Card?
At the end of each billing cycle, all of your purchases — minus any payments — are added up and turned into an installment loan. Each loan has fixed, equal payments, and you must repay the total amount over 24 to 60 months. This is determined by a hard pull into your credit history when you apply for the card. The process differs from standard credit cards that give you the option to make a minimum monthly payment equal to 1% to 3% of your outstanding balance. But you can make payments at any time, and you can schedule monthly payments that are debited directly from your bank account. Also, there’s no penalty if you pay off your entire balance early.
How does interest work with the Upgrade Cash Rewards Card?
The Upgrade Cash Rewards Card’s interest rate ranges from 8.99% to 29.99% based on your credit history, and you can qualify for a reduced rate by setting up autopay. But unlike standard credit cards that have an interest-free grace period that lasts until the end of each billing cycle, the Upgrade Cash Rewards Card has no grace period — interest begins accruing the day after you make a purchase. And although the interest rate for purchases made each billing cycle remains fixed over the life of that loan, you may be charged a higher or lower rate on future purchases based on your credit behavior.
How does the Upgrade Cash Rewards Card’s cashback reward work?
Unlike typical credit cards that calculate cashback rewards based on your purchases, Upgrade calculates them based on your payments. In this way, Upgrade incentivizes you to pay down your debt rather than rewarding you for spending more. And at the beginning of each billing cycle, your reward from the previous month is applied to your account balance. If you don’t owe Upgrade anything, you can transfer your cash reward to a bank account.
How does the Upgrade Cash Rewards Card affect my credit?
Although payments made toward your Upgrade Cash Rewards Card are reported to the three major credit bureaus, the transactions are considered payments toward an installment loan — not a revolving credit line. This means the balance on your Upgrade Cash Rewards Card does not affect your overall credit utilization. Upgrade can also tell you what spending limit you’ll be approved for without conducting a hard inquiry that hurts your credit score.
Benefits of the Upgrade Cash Rewards Card
- No fees. There’s no annual fee, and Upgrade doesn’t charge fees for late payments, refunded payments, foreign transactions or account inactivity.
- Helps you avoid long-term debt. Each month of purchases is billed as a separate installment loan with a fixed deadline by which you must fully pay it off.
- Competitive reward. The card earns an unlimited 1.5% cashback reward with every payment.
- Save on interest. Because you have to repay your purchases by a specific date, you can avoid paying interest that compounds indefinitely.
- Mediocre credit scores are OK. You can get approved for an Upgrade Cash Rewards Card as long as you have a credit score of at least 600.
What to watch out for
- Few perks. There’s no signup bonus or 0% APR promotional periods on balance transfers.
- No grace period. Interest accrues daily from the moment you make a purchase.
- No ATM access. You can transfer funds to a bank account, but you can’t withdraw cash from an ATM.
- No authorized users. Unlike credit cards, you can’t add authorized users to your Upgrade account.
- Not available everywhere. Residents of Iowa, Washington, D.C. and West Virginia aren’t eligible.
- No security features. Upgrade doesn’t offer account monitoring or fraud alerts.
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What do customers say?
As of September 2021, Upgrade has a Trustpilot rating of 4.7 out of 5 based on more than 8,500 reviews. Customers love the easy application process and the speedy service provided by the company. However, Upgrade also has 78 complaints on the Better Business Bureau’s website, relating to various problems with funding and payments. In many cases, representatives from Upgrade’s Disputes & Investigations department have responded to these complaints and clarified the company’s practices. Oftentimes, these specialists have also attempted to speak with customers directly to resolve their issues.
If you’re building, or rebuilding, your credit score and you plan on carrying a balance for several months or years, the Upgrade Cash Rewards Card might be a good fit for you because it can help you avoid long-term debt. But this card isn’t a great choice for everyday spending, and it lacks several features that are standard on common credit cards. If you’re working on cleaning up your credit, but you don’t like the limitations of the Upgrade Cash Rewards Card, one of this year’s best secured credit cards might be a better fit for you.
Frequently asked questions
Does Upgrade offer a mobile app?
Yes, Upgrade has apps for both Android and iOS.
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