Upgrade Cash Rewards Card Review

Upgrade

8

Product Rating

8.0/10

Strengths

  • No annual fee
  • Cash back incentive encourages you to pay down the balance in full
  • High credit limits are available if you qualify
  • Fixed monthly payments provide a defined payoff date
  • Lower APY if you set up auto payments

Weaknesses

  • No Balance transfer or 0% introductory APR offers
  • You can't add secondary cardholders

Rewards credit cards are an easy way to earn cash back on purchases. However, the cards with the highest rewards can be difficult to qualify for if you have a poor credit history or are new to credit.

The Upgrade Rewards Cash Rewards Visa is a promising alternative to traditional credit cards. It can be easier to qualify for, you can earn 1.5% back on card payments, and you don’t need to make a security deposit.

In this Upgrade Cash Rewards card review, I’ll highlight the positives and negatives of this product. While this card isn’t going to be the best option for every person, it might be right for you if your current credit cards lack valuable rewards or an expensive interest rate.

What Is the Upgrade Card?

The Upgrade Cash Rewards Card is part of Upgrade’s larger financial platform that offers personal loans and rewards checking accounts. If you already use Upgrade for borrowing money and your account is in good standing, getting their credit card can be a shoo-in as you already have a banking relationship.

There are actually four versions of the Upgrade Card, all issued by Cross River Bank. None of them charge an annual or foreign transaction fee, but each one offers a distinct key feature.

  • *Cash Rewards: 1.5% cash back on payments and for people with average or excellent credit. This review focuses on this product.
  • Triple Cash Rewards: 3% back on home, auto, and health categories. All other purchases earn 1% back.
  • Bitcoin Rewards: 1.5% back in Bitcoin on payments instead of cash rewards.
  • Upgrade Card: No cash back, but ideal for individuals needing to build credit without an annual fee or security deposit.

*Note: This review is based on the Cash Rewards card.

Learn More About Upgrade Cash Rewards

Upgrade Card vs. a Standard Credit Card

The Upgrade Card provides you with access to a series of closed-end loans and is not a traditional credit card, although there are some similarities.

Like a credit card, you can use it for online or in-store purchases and make a single monthly payment against your outstanding balance. Cash-back rewards are also available, and unauthorized purchases are covered under Upgrade’s fraud protection. 

The big difference is that with the Upgrade cards, you will have a fixed monthly payment, similar to a loan payment, on your credit balance instead of a minimum monthly payment amount.

Also, your preset spending limit can be higher than regular credit cards because it’s like you’re getting a fixed-interest rate personal loan. Still, you should only spend what you can afford to repay to avoid unnecessary interest charges and falling deep into debt.

You also cannot perform balance transfers or request cash advances at ATMs. That said, you can transfer funds into your bank account as a workaround.

Who Can Apply for an Upgrade Card?

To apply for an Upgrade card, you’ll need to create a free account. You must be at least 18 years old and have average to excellent credit to qualify. You could be eligible with a credit score as low as 600, but having a credit score of 640 or higher will give you the highest approval odds. Note that other factors can affect your approval odds, too.

Upgrade Cash Rewards Card Fees

Upgrade does not charge an annual fee or any foreign transaction fees on their Cash Rewards card.

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 0%
  • Credit Line APR: 8.99% to 29.99% fixed APR
  • Balance Transfer APR: N/A

Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa Pros and Cons

There’s a lot to like about the Upgrade Cash Rewards card, but it’s not without its drawbacks. Here is a list of pros and cons, followed by a more detailed explanation of each point.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Cash back incentive encourages you to pay down the balance in full
  • High credit limits are available if you qualify
  • Fixed monthly payments provide a defined payoff date
  • Lower APY if you set up auto payments

Cons

  • Signup bonus has too many pre-conditions
  • No Balance transfer or 0% introductory APR offers
  • You can’t add secondary cardholders

Pros

No Annual Fee

There is no annual fee nor does Upgrade charge foreign transaction fees.

Signup Bonus

To qualify for the signup bonus, you must open an Upgrade Rewards Checking account and make at least three qualifying debit card purchases within the first 60 days of opening your Upgrade Card.

Most cash back credit card bonuses only require spending a minimum amount of money through the credit card during the introductory period. This one does require you to open a new rewards checking account because that gets you the debit card. It’s an extra step but not too onerous.

Earn 1.5% Cash Back

You earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases once your balance is paid in full. Yes, you read that right. Unlike most cash rewards credit cards which give you the reward based on your purchases, you must wait until you pay your balance to receive your rewards. On the surface, this might not seem like a positive feature, but I love like the added incentive for users to pay off their balance owing

High Credit Limits Available

You may qualify for a spending limit higher than most cards, with credit limits that range from $500 up to $25,000.

During my research for this Upgrade Cash Rewards Card review, I prequalified for a $24,000 limit, with a credit score in the upper 700s to low 800s. This inquiry took less than two minutes to complete. 

Your card spending limit also doubles as a personal line of credit. You can request “draws” that deposit into your linked bank account. In this situation, you don’t need to make a card purchase.

This tool can be preferable to a home equity line of credit if you don’t want to use your home as collateral or you rent.

Fixed Monthly Payments

It’s possible to borrow money with rates and terms similar to a personal loan but without applying multiple times.

Your Upgrade Card APR can be from 8.99% to 29.99%. Interest charges begin accruing 22 days after the statement period ends. Most credit card APRs exceed 20% so you might qualify for a lower rate.

At the end of the monthly billing cycle, your new balance goes into a small loan with a fixed interest rate and repayment term. The minimum monthly payment can be as low as $5 but paying more gets you out of debt sooner and without penalty.

Unlike most credit cards that are happy to let you keep your balance as long as possible, the Upgrade Card defines a payoff date to minimize the effect of credit card debt.   

0.50% Autopay Discount

Enrolling in automated payments from a linked checking account can reduce your APR by 0.50%. This discount is an effortless way to reduce your total interest charges and a benefit most cards don’t provide. 

Cons

No Balance Transfer Offers or 0% Introductory APR

It’s not uncommon for cash back credit cards to offer a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers and purchases. Unfortunately, this card doesn’t support balance transfers, and your purchases begin accruing interest after the 22-day grace period ends.

Can’t Add Secondary Cardholders

Unlike the vast majority of credit cards, Upgrade doesn’t give you the option to add authorized users to your card profile.

Learn More About Upgrade Cash Rewards

Upgrade Cash Rewards Card Alternatives

The Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa card is a unique product that doesn’t have many direct competitors. That said, there are alternatives that serve a similar purpose. Before signing up with Upgrade, here are some other products to consider.

Tomo Credit Card

The Tomo Credit Card lets you earn rewards, improve your credit score, and avoid carrying a balance. You will earn 1% back on purchases and make weekly payments to prevent interest charges. There is no annual fee, and your spending limit will be between $100 and $10,000.

Cash Back Credit Cards

Some people may find traditional cash back credit cards to be a better fit than Upgrade as long as they can qualify. You may have an easier time claiming the signup bonus, receiving introductory APR offers, and other perks.

Balance Transfer Credit Cards

If you’re looking to consolidate existing credit card debt, a 0% balance transfer offer will help you save money. Several cards offer an extended 0% rate on transfers, including:

  • BankAmericard® credit card
  • Chase Slate EdgeSM 
  • Citi Simplicity® Card
  • Wells Fargo Reflect℠ Card

Rewards Debit Cards

Debit rewards cards can let you earn cash back on purchases and avoid getting into debt as the money immediately comes out of your bank account. Some of these products also come with checking accounts that make it easy to pay bills and receive direct deposits.

But be wary of the fees associated with some debit cards. For example, the Extra Debit Card is $7 monthly but does report your payment history to the credit bureaus. You can also earn purchase rewards, but you must pay $9/month for the benefit. You need to decide if it’s a perk worth paying for.

FAQs

Does the Upgrade Card report to the credit bureaus?

Yes, your monthly card activity reports to the Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion credit bureaus. As you make payments, you should notice an increase in your credit score.

Does the Upgrade credit card require a credit pull?

Prequalifying for the Upgrade Card doesn’t impact your credit score, but formally applying for the card requires a hard pull. This event remains on your credit history for two years and can result in a temporary dip in your score.

How can I contact Upgrade customer service?

You can call Upgrade customer service at 1-844-319-3331 from 5 am to 7 pm Pacific Mondays to Fridays and from 6 am to 5 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. You may call to dispute unauthorized transactions or make general account inquiries. 

Learn More About Upgrade Cash Rewards

Is the Upgrade Cash Rewards Card Worth It?

The Upgrade Card can be an excellent option if you want to earn cash back with the potential of having a lower APR than a regular credit card if you must carry a credit card balance.

However, there are better rewards credit cards if you have excellent credit, pay off your balance every month, or want to earn travel rewards. You may also prefer a credit card that’s from your primary bank to potentially enjoy special benefits.

¹ Rewards Checking Plus customers who set up monthly direct deposits of $1,000 or more earn 2% cash back on common everyday expenses at convenience stores, drugstores, restaurants and bars – including deliveries – and gas stations, as well as recurring payments on utilities and monthly subscriptions including phone, cable, TV and other streaming services, and 1% cash back on all other debit card purchases. 2% cash back is limited to $500 in rewards per calendar year; after $500, customers earn 1% cash back on all eligible debit card purchases for the remainder of the year. Rewards Checking Plus accounts with less than $1,000 in monthly direct deposits 60 days after account opening will earn 1% cash back on common everyday expenses and 0.50% cash back on all other eligible debit card purchases. Some limitations apply. Please refer to the applicable Upgrade VISA® Debit Card Agreement and Disclosures for more information.

² There are no overdraft fees or annual fees associated with Rewards Checking Plus accounts. Third-party institutions may charge you a fee if you use their ATM/network or if you use your Upgrade VISA® Debit Card internationally. Please refer to the applicable Cross River Bank Checking Deposit Account Agreement and Upgrade VISA® Debit Card Agreement and Disclosures for more information.

3 Early direct deposit requires set up of recurring electronic direct deposit from your employer, payroll, or benefits provider and is limited to direct deposits under $5000. Early access to direct deposit funds depends on the timing in which we receive notice of impending direct deposit, which is generally up to two days before the scheduled deposit date.

4 Active Accounts with a monthly direct deposit of $1000 are eligible for additional benefits on Rewards Checking Plus such as additional cash back rewards and more. See the Active Account page for more information. 

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About Josh Patoka

After graduating in $50k with student loans in May 2008 from Virginia Military Institute with a B.A. International Studies and Political Science with a minor in Spanish (he studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain for 3 months), Josh decided to sell his soul for seven years by working in the transportation industry to get out of debt ASAP and focus on doing something else with a better work-life balance.

He is a father of three and has been writing about (almost) everything personal finance since 2015. You can also find him at his own blog Money Buffalo where he shares his personal experience of becoming debt-free (twice) and taking a 50%+ pay cut when he changed careers.

Today, Josh relishes the flexibility of being self-employed and debt-free and encourages others to pursue their dreams. Josh enjoys spending his free time reading books and spending time with his wife and three children.

Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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