While the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa card offers little in the way of cardholder perks, it carries a few advantages over traditional credit cards. The main advantage is transparency: You’ll know what you need to contribute each month to pay off your balance on time. You can also check your credit line and rate before you commit to the card.
Here are a few benefits of the Upgrade card:
Chance at a very low APR
Depending on your credit history, you could qualify for an APR as low as 14.99 percent variable.
Of course, if you opted for a card with a zero percent intro APR on purchases, you could avoid interest completely for several months (typically 12 to 15 months, but some cards offer intro APRs for as long as 21 months). However, the catch is that when your intro APR period ends, any balance that remains will be subject to the card’s standard APR. If you have trouble managing payments and wind up underpaying your balance, you’ll soon find yourself drowning in interest charges.
The Upgrade website uses data from Bankrate’s credit card interest calculator to show how much you could save by paying off a $10,000 balance with the Upgrade card instead of paying the minimum due on a traditional credit card — assuming you’re assigned an 18 percent APR and a 24-month term. Accounting for interest accrued between the charge date and the due date 51 days later:
|Interest paid over time
In this (somewhat dramatic) example, using the Upgrade card would save you over $12,000 and 26 years versus paying the minimum due on a credit card with the same interest rate.
Of course, paying off your balance sooner means you’ll pay less in interest.
Keep in mind that you’re not guaranteed a particularly low APR with the Upgrade card. If you have limited credit history or a middling score, you could wind up with the Upgrade card’s high-end APR of 29.99 percent, which is extremely high, even compared to the rate offered on many of the best credit cards for bad credit. If that’s the case, you may want to try working on your credit score for a few months first to see if you can get better terms.
Potentially large credit line
You also have a chance at a higher credit limit with the Upgrade card than you’re likely to find on a typical credit card. The Upgrade card offers personal credit lines from $500 to $25,000, depending on your credit history. That rivals some of the best high-limit credit cards on the market.
A large credit line could be an especially big help if you need to finance a few big expenses and want to avoid signing up for a deferred interest financing plan (which could end up costing a ton if you have any balance left at the end of the introductory period).
But again, there’s no guarantee you’ll be offered a high limit. It all depends on your credit history. In fact, Upgrade’s card terms state that they actually offer credit lines up to $50,000. However, the terms also say that the majority of credit lines are below $25,000.
Check terms with no hard credit pull
Luckily, you can check your Upgrade card credit line and APR before committing to the card. This gives you a chance to see whether it makes sense to move forward without risking your credit score via a hard credit inquiry. Contrast this with traditional credit cards, which almost always require you to apply and face a hard pull before you know what your credit limit and APR will be.
Easy workaround for balance transfers
While the Upgrade card does not technically support balance transfers, there is an easy workaround: Simply have your funds deposited to your bank account, pay off your existing debt and then pay off your Upgrade card balance over time according to your account’s installment terms.
Given how tough it can be to qualify for one of the best balance transfer cards, this could be a decent option. While you won’t be able to completely avoid interest charges as you would with a zero percent intro APR, you could still save a ton if the APR you’re offered on the Upgrade card is much lower than the rate on your current credit card.
The Upgrade card delivers an impressive cash back rate for such a low-fee card available for cardholders with “average” credit or higher (580+ FICO score). Cardholders get an unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases when they are paid back on time. That’s a great deal considering similar cards typically have much higher credit score requirements. Your cash back is added to your account balance after your next scheduled monthly payment as a statement credit.