Credit Cards Cash-Back Credit Cards

Upgrade Card Review

overall rating

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The Upgrade Card is different from other credit cards, combining the convenience of a Visa card with the lower rates and fixed payments of a personal loan. When you sign up for the card, you’re granted a personal line of credit. At the end of each month, your purchases are combined and your balance is placed into an installment plan with a fixed monthly payment. With no fees, it’s a different approach to credit that may appeal to people who are wary of traditional credit cards or might have trouble getting one. And, the Upgrade Card now provides unlimited 1.5% cash back on all payments made on purchases made with the card.

Upgrade Card

Overall Rating
Upgrade Card
On Upgrade's Secured Site.
Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Fair - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 8.99% - 29.99% fixed
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Unlimited 1.5% cash back on payments
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
how this card stacks up
When compared among all low cost cards in our database:
Low Fees
Security/Customer Experience
Low Interest
worst best

The Upgrade Card is not one of our top-rated credit cards. You can review our list of best credit cards for what we think are better options.

Full Review of Upgrade Card

  • No fees to obtain or use the card

  • Predictable monthly payments

  • Useful alternative to balance transfer offers

  • 1.5% cash back on all payments

  • Most applicants won’t qualify for the maximum credit line

  • No grace period

Pros Explained

  • No Fees to Obtain or Use the Card: While some credit cards charge annual fees, setup fees, and monthly fees, the Upgrade Card doesn’t charge any fees at all. That includes no foreign transaction fees or prepayment penalties. 
  • Predictable Monthly Payments: When you put charges on your Upgrade Card, they’re turned into an installment loan. You’ll repay the loan with fixed payments over a loan term of 12 to 60 months. You’ll have a predetermined monthly payment and fixed APR, so you can plan ahead and create a budget. You’ll also know exactly when you’ll pay off the amount you borrowed. 
  • Useful Alternative to Balance Transfer Offers: For people who can’t qualify for the best balance transfer cards because of their credit, the Upgrade Card could be a good alternative. While the Upgrade Card technically doesn’t allow balance transfers, it does have an easy workaround: You can draw money from your account online and deposit it into your bank account. Once that money is in the bank, you can use it to pay off your existing credit card debt. Going forward, you’ll make payments on the Upgrade Card balance. 
  • 1.5% Cash Back Rewards on All Payments: It's unusual for a card designed for those with little credit history or bad credit to offer cash back but the Upgrade Card recently added this valuable benefit. Rather than paying cash back on new purchases Upgrade incentivizes on-time payments by awarding the cash back at the time of repayment.

Cons Explained

  • Most Applicants won’t Qualify for the Maximum Credit Line: While the Upgrade Card offers credit lines as large as $50,000, most applicants won’t qualify for that much. According to the company, the majority of credit lines are for $20,000 or less. Your APR, credit line amount, and loan term will depend on your credit, credit usage history, and the credit line you requested. 
  • No Grace Period: With traditional credit cards, you typically have a grace period—the time between when your billing cycle ends and your minimum payment is due. In most cases, if you pay off your statement balance before the grace period ends, no interest will accrue. However, the Upgrade Card doesn’t have a grace period. All of your purchases will start accruing interest right away. 

This Card is Best For

  • Avatar for Credit Builder Persona
    Motivated to create positive credit history
    Credit Builder

If your credit isn’t perfect and you’re looking for an alternative to subprime credit cards, the Upgrade Card may be a good option for you. It offers the flexibility and convenience of a credit card but the lower costs and predictable payments of a personal loan. 

There are no fees, and you’ll repay your charges over 12 to 60 months. By having a fixed repayment term, you’ll be committed to repaying your debt by a set deadline, and you may pay less in interest than you would with a traditional credit card. 

Rewards Earning Details

The Upgrade Card now awards unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards on payments made to the card each month. It's a subtle difference but having rewards tied to payments rather than purchases helps create an ongoing incentive for cardholders to pay as much as possible and pay on time—both good things for those building credit. Rewards are made in the form of statement credits and don't involve other redemption options. Still, the presence of a significant cash back rewards component to a card that is targeted toward those with less than perfect credit is a very significant product feature.

Standard Benefits

Because the Upgrade Card isn’t a standard credit card, it doesn’t offer the usual benefits you might expect from credit cards. However it does allow you to add your Upgrade Card to Apple Pay or Google Pay, and you can use it at contactless terminals. 

Cardholder Experience

The Upgrade Card is issued by Sutton Bank and is licensed by Visa. As a small, privately held, community bank, Sutton Bank was not rated in the 2020 J.D. Power Credit Card Customer Satisfaction Study.

Upgrade was launched in 2017 and specializes in personal loans and personal lines of credit. Since its inception, it has issued $3 billion in credit to customers. The company introduced the Upgrade Card in 2019, so it’s a very new financial product. 

Upgrade’s customer service team can be reached by calling 844-558-5687 Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time.

Security Features

The Upgrade Card doesn’t offer the usual security features typical of a credit card. For example, it doesn’t have account monitoring or fraud alerts, so you’ll have to be diligent about your own account security. If your card is lost or stolen, contact customer service right away to freeze your account. 

Our Verdict

If you’re afraid of running up a credit card balance, the Upgrade Card can be a useful alternative to a traditional credit card. The card automatically puts your charges into an installment plan with fixed monthly payments, so you’ll pay off your balance within 12 to 60 months. Depending on your credit, you may qualify for a lower APR than you could get with a regular credit card.

While the Upgrade Card doesn’t offer any other standard benefits it does now provide a solid cash back rewards program, which is a significant feature improvement. As you build good credit, there may be other cards to consider down the road that offer benefits that are becoming standard across the industry.

For example, you may qualify for a card in the future that provides useful benefits like auto rental insurance, lost luggage coverage, or roadside assistance. Many traditional credit cards now also waive foreign transaction fees, which can be quite desirable when traveling overseas. In the meantime, the Upgrade Card can be a great place to start your credit journey.

Next Steps
For Upgrade Card
on Upgrade's Secured Site.
Compare This Card
See how this card compares to similar cards
Upgrade Card
overall rating
Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Fair - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 8.99% - 29.99% fixed
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Unlimited 1.5% cash back on payments
Investopedia Credit Card Rating Methodology
Investopedia is committed to delivering the best credit card recommendations in the industry. We’ll tell you when a card is good, we’ll tell you when a card is bad, and we’ll only call a card the best if we would recommend it to our friends or family members.
Overall Star Rating Explained
To rate credit cards we objectively assess, score and weight nearly 100 individual card features which roll up into five major feature sets: fees, interest, rewards, benefits and security/customer service. Here’s how we weighted those feature sets for the overall star rating of a card:
We have applied our proprietary rating methodology to every generally-accepted credit card in the U.S. domestic market to allow consumers to make fully informed choices. It’s important to note that for our overall score that we make a number of assumptions about how you would be using your credit card:
  1. While we make no assumption as to whether balances are carried on a given card we do assign varying weights to all credit cards’ introductory APR (if present) in addition to the regular, long term purchase and balance transfer interest rates.
  2. We utilize BLS (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) income and average category spending data to calculate annual earnings rates for rewards cards that offer cash back, points or miles rewards at a set rate on all spending or in consideration of bonus rewards for certain spending categories, like gasoline, groceries, restaurants or travel.
  3. We determine the maximum points value of rewards cards by dividing the points, cash back or miles required to exchange for the retail price of the most valuable redemption option (for example, in the case of a card that offers a domestic roundtrip airline ticket as a redemption option vs. another redemption option of lesser value that requires the same amount of points or miles to acquire, we would base the rewards value on the airline ticket).
  • Cards that are selected best overall in their respective categories generally feature most if not all of the following attributes:
  • Low or Reasonable Fees Credit card fees come in many forms but the primary ones involve those for annual card membership and balance transfer. There are a myriad of reward and non-reward card options that charge no annual fee but for the many that do assess an annual fee the cost is often justified by their lucrative ongoing rewards and initial signup bonuses. Balance transfer fees are occasionally waived during introductory periods with certain cards, a factor which is heavily and positively weighted in our scoring model for cards offering this benefit. When charged, balance transfer fees range between 3% - 5%, which we grade accordingly. Other standard fees can generally be avoided, such as those for paying late or taking cash advances but we rate those relative to other cards in the market for reference, though with less weight assigned
  • Competitive Interest Many cards offer 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for varying lengths and then revert to a permanent or regular APR (based on a variable rate tied to the prime rate) that applies to any balances not paid in full. We rate both introductory APR percentage and length (in months) along with the midpoint of the variable regular APR interest rate range.
  • Valuable Rewards Credit card reward programs can be based on cash back, points or travel rewards (which can be generic or travel partner-specific, as with airline and hotel co-brand card programs). For cards that offer rewards we determine the value per dollar spent along with average redemption values and assign more favorable ratings to cards that offer superior consumer value. We also assign value to sign-up bonus offers and their initial spending requirements, when present.
  • Excellent Benefits Credit card benefits cover a range of offerings like concierge service, TSA Pre-check, auto rental coverage, travel accident insurance, lost luggage assistance and free credit scores. We rate cards on the number and level of over a dozen standard and upscale benefits and provide extra weighting emphasis for those travel-related perks that apply to premium travel cards when present.
  • Solid Security/Customer Service Security and customer service features like lost or stolen card replacement, being able to lock one’s card from an issuer app and 24 hour customer support are becoming more standard across the card market and we provide a significant amount of weighting to features in this area.
  • You can also read the full version of our methodology for a more in-depth look at how we assess cards and award them the best in various categories.