Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® review: A tool to help you budget better

A solid choice for anyone looking to learn some positive credit behaviors, but people looking for flexibility in their cards should look elsewhere.

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Snapshot

3.0

Bankrate rating
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Bottom line

This card offers plenty of structure for someone looking to improve their credit habits, but if you’re searching for a card that will provide you flexibility this card could turn into a burden. People with at least fair credit have access to more flexible options, if needed.

Upgrade Image
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Apply now

on Upgrade's secure site

Best for low interest and low cost

Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®

Rewards rate

1.5%

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

N/A

Regular APR

14.99% - 29.99% APR

Recommended Credit Score

Fair to Good  (580 - 740)

Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® Overview

If you’re trying to decide how best to cover large upcoming expenses, the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® may be worth a look. Though the card lacks a zero percent intro APR, it could be a useful financing tool if you worry about your ability to manage a repayment plan.

Here’s how it works: When you sign up, you’re assigned a line of credit, APR and installment terms of 12 to 60 months, based on your credit score. You can use your card to make purchases or have funds transferred directly into your bank account. At the end of each month, your charges or bank draws are automatically put into an installment plan with fixed, equal monthly payments.

While you won’t be able to avoid all interest charges, the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa card’s unique blend of a credit card and personal loan could save you money by obligating you to pay off your purchases within a set period. Instead of risking the ballooning balance and high interest charges that come when you only pay the minimum due on a credit card, you’ll have a clear payoff schedule to follow.

That said, if you’re confident in your ability to pay off your balance on time, a credit card with a zero percent intro APR on purchases will probably be a better fit.

What are the advantages and disadvantages?

Pros

  • Cardholders with excellent credit have a chance at a low APR and high credit limit
  • No annual fees, setup fees or other fees of any kind reduce the cost of carrying this card
  • There are no prepayment fees, so you can pay your balance off early without penalty
  • This card earn 1.5 percent unlimited cash back on card purchases every time you make a payment

Cons

  • Cardholders can’t completely avoid interest charges with the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa payment plan. The card’s line of credit requires that installment payments begin immediately, and the lowest possible APR is 14.99 percent.
  • Depending on your credit history, your Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa APR may not be any better than the rate you’d get on a traditional credit card

A deeper look into the current card offer

Quick highlights

  • Rewards rate: Earn 1.5 percent unlimited cash back on card purchases every time you make a payment
  • Welcome offer: None
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Purchase intro APR: None
  • Balance transfer intro APR: None
  • Regular APR: 14.99 percent to 29.99 percent

Other cardholder benefits

While the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa card offers next to nothing in the way of cardholder perks, it carries a few key advantages over traditional credit cards. Chief among these is transparency: You’ll know exactly 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.

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). 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:

Upgrade card Traditional credit card
Payoff time 2 years 28 years
Interest paid over time $2,102.71 $14,423.16

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 a thin credit history or 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 promotional 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 you commit 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 actually 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.

Cash back

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 you pay them 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.

Rates and fees

As discussed, the Upgrade card’s APR is a bit of a mixed bag: You’ll be assigned an APR between 14.99 percent and 29.99 percent, depending on your credit score. While a 29.99 percent APR is very high, an APR of 14.99 percent is relatively low—even compared to the lowest-interest credit cards on the market. Just keep in mind that the Upgrade card terms state that you’re required to enroll in autopay to be potentially eligible for the lowest rates.

When it comes to fees, though, the Upgrade card is a clear winner. The card charges no fees of any kind: No annual fee, transfer fee, cash advance fee, late payment fee, or any of the other fees you’ll typically find on traditional credit cards.

There’s also no prepayment fee, so you can pay your balance off as soon as you’re able and save on interest.

How the Upgrade card compares to other low-interest and 0% APR cards

While the Upgrade card could be a useful tool for someone looking to pay off a large purchase over a longer period of time, it might be wise to consider other cards with 0 percent APR, as well. That way you can still chip away at your balance and keep interest charges at bay.

Upgrade Image

Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®

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3.0
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Apply now

on Upgrade's secure site

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

N/A

Rewards rate

1.5%

Recommended credit

Fair to Good(580 - 740)
Chase Image

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

Earn an Additional 1.5% Cash Back

Rewards rate

1.5%–5%

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent(670 - 850)
American Express Image

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

$200

Rewards rate

1%–3%

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent(670 - 850)

The Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa with cash rewards vs. the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

While the Upgrade card gives cardholders the chance to secure a very low APR for the entire time they keep their cards (the APR could also end up being very high depending on your credit score), the Blue Cash Everyday Card offers cardholders intro APR offers. So, if you want to finance a large purchase, the Blue Cash Everyday certainly deserves your attention. Upgrade Visa cardholders who know how to manage their credit cards effectively and have good credit scores (a FICO score of 670 or more) will definitely see some benefits on the lower end of the card’s potential APR, and with its unlimited 1.5 percent, cash back rewards rate (you’ll get cash back every time you make a payment). On the other hand, if you’re set on using your card to finance a large purchase and have a plan for how you’ll handle the balance, the Blue Cash might be the better choice.

The Upgrade Visa card with Cash Rewards vs. the Chase Freedom Unlimited®

With its credit score requirements, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card is a bit harder to access than the Upgrade Visa, but for people with at least a good credit score, the card’s introductory boost to cash back earnings, respectable rewards rate and access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal make it worth it. The Upgrade Visa, on the other hand, is likely the best choice for people looking to establish positive credit habits and still earn rewards. Because Upgrade Visa cardholders can’t keep a rotating balance on their cards and their payments are all broken up into equal amounts, budgeting with this card is a simpler task. So if you’re searching for a card with the flexibility to let you pay your balance your way, choose the Chase Freedom Unlimited. If, on the other hand, you need more structure, the Upgrade Visa is the right choice.

Best cards to pair with the Upgrade card

Since the Upgrade card offers flat-rate rewards, it may be wise to pair it with a credit card that earns a higher cash back rate on specialized categories. This way, you can chip away at the cost of a large expense like a home repair with applicable bonus categories while also earning rewards on the things you purchase every day.

If you don’t mind doing a bit of legwork to earn extra rewards on some of your purchases, the Discover it® Cash Back card is worth a look. You’ll earn 5 percent cash back in bonus categories that rotate each quarter (upon enrollment, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter, then 1 percent) and 1 percent back on general purchases. The Discover cash back calendar for 2022 includes grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, Amazon.com, Walmart.com and more.

Bankrate’s Take – Is the Upgrade card worth it?

The Upgrade card could offer a predictable and transparent financing alternative for cardholders who struggle with managing credit card balances. By putting your balance into an installment plan, the card could help you minimize interest charges and keep your debt repayment efforts on track while earning cash back on all purchases.

But how much you’ll save—and whether you’ll save at all—comes down to the Upgrade card APR you’re assigned. If you can’t qualify for one of the card’s lower-end APRs, it won’t be nearly as compelling as a traditional credit card that comes with a zero percent intro APR on purchases and helps you avoid interest completely for 12 months or more. Luckily, though, you can see your credit line and APR before you move forward with your Upgrade card application.

Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express, please click here