Best credit cards

Our choice: Upgrade Visa Card with cashback

The Upgrade Card is a unique, flexible credit card with some benefits of a personal loan. Tailored for large purchases that are repaid over the long term, this card has very interesting perks that make it stand out and worth considering for many borrowers. Let’s analyze why it is our choice, and how you can get the most out of it.

 


Overview: best for large purchases, and predictability of repayments

Upgrade is a fresh company (2017) based in San Francisco providing personal and auto loans, as well as a no-fee checking account, with fin-tech in mind since its beginnings over a decade ago. It commits to streamlining the customers’ experience, bringing them the highest value, and exempting them from unnecessary fees.

However, it is famous among lots of consumers for its singular product: the Upgrade Visa Card for cashback. This is a special credit card that offers a fixed 1.5% cashback reward every time you make a purchase, and you have a set term of repayment of 2-5 years with monthly installments to pay off, behaving like a personal loan.

These features combined together make this card an appealing option if you like or need to make substantial expenses while staying on track of them, and to support responsible behavior, in fact, you will have more control over your repayments.

In contrast to the typical minimum payments of regular credit cards, the presence of a fixed schedule of repayments for a known period helps you greatly to better face potential budget constraints in the future. Of course, you are incentivized to buy, because you get constant earnings through the cashback, whose rate is in line with the ones proposed by other credit card issuers.

The applied rates are also competitive, and quite low especially if you have excellent credit.

 

How does the Upgrade Card actually work?

The Upgrade Card gives you a credit limit, which goes from a minimum of $500 up to $25,000 in most cases, that you can borrow against unlimited times. Each time you draw, your balance goes under a monthly schedule, and more purchases in that period will aggregate into one installment, which refers to an overall term from 2 to 5 years, according to what you choose and qualify for. So, your billing period takes into account all the transactions, which are repaid with the monthly installment for that period. Your applied interest will obviously be calculated into each periodic repayment.

This way, the card acts more like a personal line of credit. Over the long haul, this functioning allows you to save money on interest and avoids procrastinating the repayments, which is typical with credit card holders who make only minimum payments.

If you carry a balance past the due date (the month), the excess is put directly into the next monthly installment.

Your 1.5% cash back reward will be added to your balance of the next month, and it comes into play every time you buy, then repay with the card. The reward is not applied when you are sending funds to your bank account.

So, aside from shopping, you can use the Upgrade Card to transfer your credit to the bank account: the interest rate is also charged in this case, but there are no fees. Also, mind that you can’t take cold cash from the card using an ATM.

A great perk is that with the Upgrade Card there are no hidden costs: you won’t be charged for things like tedious annual fees, origination, or late fees; also, if you want to make early repayments towards your balance, there is no penalty for doing this. Moreover, there won’t be commissions for your transactions in a foreign country.

Upgrade as a card issuer helps you being responsible: the company will prevent you to make expenses with the card if you are late on payments, by stopping any further transactions: this is a feature you don’t find with other cards, which is definitely worth considering. Your account is frozen until you are able to fill the gap in your balance so that you don’t get caught in debt.

The interest you receive on the Upgrade Card is of the fixed type: it will stay the same during the whole term applied, however, the company claims that it can modify the rate according to multiple factors, such as major market fluctuations, tax issues and obviously if your credit score changed.

You can also use the Upgrade Card entirely as a personal loan, whereas you are borrowing from the credit amount and send it directly into your bank account, with repayments following a fixed schedule. However, you won’t be able to withdraw the surplus amount as cash.

Your recurrent monthly payments can be of course deducted from your bank account (autopay), which gives you a 0.5% rate discount compared to making the repayments manually.

The Upgrade Visa Card also works contactless, which means you can use it through your mobile device via either Apple Pay or Google Pay to simplify your transactions.

What are the Upgrade Card rates, terms and credit limits?

Min. credit
$500
Max. credit
$25,000, and up to $50,000
APR (regular)
8.99% to 29.99% (with autopay)
Intro APR
N/A
Interest Rate Type
Fixed
Min. Credit Score
630
Term
24-60 months
Cashback rate
1.5%

Some eligible borrowers may be able to obtain up to $50,000: this is the case with excellent credit scores, combined with a few other favorable conditions.

The credit rating accepted by Upgrade is midway in the range of a fair score: this is good news if you struggle to find a card issuer granting you a card because of low credit.

What you get all depends on what you qualify for: your credit score and debt-to-income-ratio are the major factors that will be evaluated.

 

What are the main benefits and drawbacks of the Upgrade Card?

To help with your eventual decision to get the Upgrade Card, we summarize the points to consider, and what you should be aware of.

 

Pros:

On top of these, let’s also consider it is still a VISA card, so you can use it internationally. If you have a less than good credit score, you can qualify for the Upgrade Card, and that’s not necessarily in the reach of many credit cards.

Interest rates are midway between a personal loan and credit cards, so they can be relatively low: the lowest rates are expected if you are “creditworthy”.

One of the main edges of the Upgrade Card is that you won’t see the risk of having “balloon payments” at the end of a billing period, like may happen with a standard credit card, when one makes only or mostly minimum payments, and because of a variable interest: if you seek maximum control as a cardholder, the Upgrade Card is the way to go, because it’s the only one that comes with fixed repayments and a set rate.

You can prepay earlier than the due date, and you won’t have fees, nor you are charged them for anything. This adds value to holding this card in the long run. Aside from accruing interests on your withdrawals, the Upgrade card has practically zero costs of maintenance and can make you saving especially if you qualify for the lowest rates, which are slightly below the average of traditional credit cards.

The Upgrade Card is unsecured but shows most of the features usually coming with secured cards, that require a security deposit for compensating the issuer/lender risk.

It’s also uncommon for a credit card to offer pre-approval, moreover without damaging your credit score: you’ll know in advance if you can afford to carry a balance with the Upgrade Card, at the given rate.

Cons:

The Upgrade Card doesn’t give you the grace period typical of a traditional credit card, which means interest is constantly applied to your credit. Normally, if you can repay the debt within the grace period, you wouldn’t pay any interest, but that’s not the case with the Upgrade Card. Sometimes you should think of using it having in mind a personal loan rather than a credit card, but with the flexibility of the latter.

Even if you qualify with fair credit, you may still find that your rate could be better if you applied for a personal loan, or you are likely to find cards with more suitable conditions; the Upgrade Card gives the best of itself for good-to-excellent standing borrowers.

Furthermore, there are no such things as a 0% introductory APR, or bonuses which you encounter in many credit cards out there. If you were seeking them for short-term advantage, the Upgrade Card is not for you.

Unfortunately, the Upgrade Card is currently not available for residents of the mentioned States. We assume that this limit will be overcome by the company in the upcoming future.


How do you apply to the Upgrade Card?

The very first step to request the Upgrade Card is checking if you are pre-approved for it: the company allows this preliminary step, which is crucial to also determine your future repayments. Obtaining a pre-approval won’t cost you anything: Upgrade will only make a soft inquiry on your credit report, meaning that your score stays untouched. You will see your estimated rate along with the amount of credit you can obtain based on your financial shape.

In the chance that you qualify, and you want to actually accept the agreement for getting the card, only then you undergo a hard pull, which still takes away just a few points from your score. And this is the rule with credit cards as well as with any financial service you agree to. On the other hand, the chance to priorly see your offer before applying is quite unique and greatly beneficial.

Your use of the Upgrade Card is reported to all the three major credit bureaus: every transaction, including money transfer, is noted. This is a good thing because it gives you more choice. You are encouraged to make punctual payments, in this way you can even improve your credit score. The Upgrade Card account is not treated like other credit cards: the “credit utilization ratio” factor is not implied, since this card is considered as a personal loan.

Once you have an account, you will easily see your balance through the online dashboard on the Upgrade site, from which you can also manage your transactions. If that’s your thing, Upgrade has purposely built a dedicated state-of-the-art app.

Since your application confirmation, your card will be delivered in 7-10 business days, but you can start using it soon: Upgrade will provide you a virtual interface from which you can move on with every needed transaction, so there won’t be any wasted time.

 

How is the Upgrade Card rated?

To evaluate the level of satisfaction with the card, we read among the lines of reviews on Trustpilot. The company as a whole receives a 4.7/5 score over more than 10,000 reviews, which is excellent and rare for a financial company. While most of the customers’ feedbacks are about its personal loans, several of them speak very well about the Upgrade Card: in particular, they like the convenience of use, the ease to apply with no hassle afterward, and not last, the fact it gives great control on expenses. The customer service is also much appreciated for being ready to answer, polite and professional.

Very few people have complaints, and those are about expectations of lower rates and very specific cases which pretended to be handled in a different way.

In our opinion, it’s hard to find a lender and card issuer with such an ample overall level of contentment from customers.

 

Bottom line

The Upgrade Card is an innovative product deserving your attention: you have both the versatility you seek from a credit card combined with the safety of regular monthly payments of a personal loan. This is ideal if you want to make big purchases responsibly, but you don’t feel committed to pay off so frequently.

Besides, having a fair credit won’t give you access to several credit cards; with Upgrade, you can get a credit card of high long-term value, despite the score, but be prepared to see a rate less than exciting. Overall, it is easier to use than your typical credit card.

Considering this product also as an alternative to a personal loan, with the advantage you can borrow from your granted amount as many times as you want, and replenish the credit.

If you instead need a credit card for everyday expenses, such as grocery and gasoline, there are more suited and convenient options that are interest-free (at least in the short term), and offering better rewards.

Have also a look at our other choices, and find what’s best for you.