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Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® Card

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By : Mr Credit Card


  • Earn 1.5% unlimited cash back on card purchases every time you make a payment
  • No annual fee
  • See if you qualify in minutes without hurting your credit score
  • Access to a virtual card while you wait for your card to arrive in the mail
  • Great for large purchases with predictable payments you can budget for
  • Mobile app to access your account anytime, anywhere



What Is So Unique About the Upgrade Credit Card?

The Upgrade Credit Card is one which I would recommend everyone get. And the reason is because it is both a Visa credit card and a personal line of credit. You can either use it at any store where Visa is accepted and/or you can also drawn down a line of credit to your bank account. No other credit financial instrument in the market has such a dual purpose product. Furthermore, you earn 1.5% cask on every charge or draw you make. Because of the way it works, it is best used as an emergency line of credit rather than an everyday credit card. The Visa Credit Card and the personal line of credit is issued by Cross River Bank. We will now explain how this works but first, let's list it's basic terms and conditions.



Approval Requirements

  • At least 620 credit score - sweetspot is 680 to 720 credit score.
  • Income of at least 2 years - you should have an annual income of at least $50,000 to get a decent limit
  • May require upload of other documents like DL (proof of identity), W2 paystubs and even past tax returns

Most of you will never be asked to upload additional documents. But be prepared if you are asked to. Please read the end of this review to find out more about Upgrade's approval process.



Card Details

Annual Fee $0
Monthly Maintenance Fee N.A.
Regular APR 14.99% to 29.99%*V
Payback Period 12, 24 36 or 48 Months
Cash Back Rewards 1.5% on all purchases
Late Fee $0
Return Payment Fee $0
Balance Transfer Fee Up to 5%
Cash Advance Fee $0



How Does It Work

As we have just mentioned, the Upgrade Card is both a credit card and a personal line of credit. When you apply for the card, Upgrade says there will only be an initial soft pull and not a hard inquiry on your credit reports. Once you are approved, a hard pull will be performed and based on that, you will be given an interest rate and a payment period. The interest rate will apply to both credit card balances and any draws from your personal line of credit. The payment period will also apply to both credit card balances and any draws from your line of credit. You will also be given a line of credit (which is for both your personal line of credit and credit card).

How is Upgrade Card Different From Regular Credit Cards?

While the Upgrade personal line of credit operates the same way as regular line of credit, the credit card is different from regular credit cards in some significant ways.

Firstly, on a regular credit card, you can either choose to pay the minimum payment on your balance or pay in full every month. For the Upgrade Card, your interest and principal payment will be based on your repayment period. If you repayment is 24 months, it will be different from someone else who has a 36 month repayment period.

Upgrade argues that for those who carry a balance, having a fixed repayment period is better than having the flexibility to just pay the minimum period because you will save on interest payments if you have a set time to pay off your credit card balance.

Reports As Installment Loan - One very important thing to note is that though upgrade is both a credit card and a personal line of credit, it is reported as an installment loan in your credit report and not as a credit card. You can understand why this is the case because the repayment plan for your credit card balances works exactly like an installment loan.

Real Example of How It Works

Let us assume that you apply for the card and you get approved for $10,000 line of credit, your interest rate is 10% and your payment period is 2 years.

Let's assume that in the first month, you decided to draw $1,000 from your personal line of credit. The $1,000 will be deposited in your bank account and you are free to use it as you see fit. This $1,000 that you drew down needs to be paid in 2 years. In your next billing statement, you will see a bill for the interest/amortization payment. And that amount will continue for 2 years until the $1,000 is paid off.

Let's assume in the 2nd month that you decided to draw another $1,000 from your personal line of credit. The $1,000 will once again be deposited into your bank account. Once, this tranche of the $1,000 draw down will have to be paid in 2 years. In your second billing statement, you will be billed interest/amortization on both tranches that you drew down.

Now let's assume that in the third month you decided to start using the Upgrade Card as a regular credit card. You charge $100 in a grocery store. Like the two pervious examples of draw downs from the personal line of credit, this $100 will have to be paid over 2 years. Your next billing statement will consist of interest/amortization payments from the two $1,000 draw and the $100 credit card charge.

What if you want to pay down your principal?

Your billing statement will show all the interest and principal payments you have to pay for the month. It is a all your interest and principal payments for the various draws and credit balances (all based of 2 years of payment period) are added up and combined in your billing statement. The question many of you will ask if what if you want to pay off more principal? Or what if you want to pay off your credit card balance in full but just pay the interest and principal on the personal line of credit draw as per the payment schedule? Well, if you want to pre-pay the principal, you actually have to call Upgrade's customer service and tell them which tranche of your personal line of credit or credit card balance you want to apply the principal payment to. There is no penalty for pre-payment.

It is very important to know this, especially for those of you who are used to paying your credit card balance full and use autopay, because this card is really different from regular credit cards.




When I review credit cards, I normally have a table listing the key features of the card I am reviewing along with it's competitors. However, because the Upgrades card as a credit card is so different from a regular credit card that I have decided not to do that. Instead, we have to compare the Upgrade Visa Card with Cash Rewards to their other card, the Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa. We will also compare it to other personal line of credit.

The main difference between this card and the Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa is that this card gives you 1.5% cash back on any purchase you make or draws that you make. The Upgrade Triple Cash in contrast lets you earn 3% cash back on home, auto and health related expense and 1% on other regular expenses. The Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa is a great card to use for emergency home, auto or health expenses. For example, if your basement has a leak or if your car has an expensive work done at the mechanic, then the Upgrade Triple Cash is the better card to use. But if you do not own a home or a car, then this card ,the Upgrade Visa Card with 1.5% Cash Rewards is a much better alternative.

Compared to the typical personal line of credit that is issued by banks, the Upgrade Visa Card does not have an annual fee. This is in contrast to some personal line of credit that requires an annual fee to maintain that credit line. Unlike regular personal line of credit, Upgrade actually gives you cash back when you draw on your credit line. In this aspect, having an Upgrade Card is much better.



Pros and Cons


  • No Annual Fee - For a card that will approve folks in the 620 score range, having no annual fee is quite a rarity. Furthermore, most personal line of credit requires an annual fee as well.

  • Fixed Payoff Period For Credit Card Balances Forces Discipline - One of the unique features of this card is that when you are approved, you are given a period ranging from 12, 24, 36 or 60 months which is the payment period for both your credit card balances and draw downs for your personal line of credit. For those who actually carry a balance on their credit card, this repayment period forces you to pay off your balance within that period and prevents you from accumlating more debt from interest if you just pay your monthly minimum like in a typical credit card.

  • Both a Credit Card and Personal Line of Credit - This card is unique because it is both a credit card and a personal line of credit.

  • No Hard Pull When Applying - Only Soft Pull - Upgrade only does a soft pull when you apply. Your rate, payment period terms and credit limit will be based on that soft pull (as I was told). They do ask for 2 years of income history and may require that you send your W2s over.

  • Chance of having a decent credit line and limit - Most of you will get a credit line of between $5,000 and $10,000. Some of you might get a credit line as high as $25,000 to $50,000.

  • 1.5% Cash Back - While many credit cards offer 1.5% cash back, personal line of credit do not. So because this card acts like a personal line of credit, it is a great feature because if you apply for a line of credit and draw down, you get no cash back.

  • Potentially Low Interest Rate - Once again, depending on your credit profile, you could get an interest rate in the single digits (which is very rare now on most credit cards).

  • Reports as Installment Loan - Upgrade reports your draw as an installment loan. In my opinion, this is good for a couple of reasons. They do not report credit limits, just your charges or draw so there is no impact on credit utilization when you use the card. Furthermore, having an installment loan on your credit report diversifies your credit type.


  • Have to Pay off Credit Card Balance In a Fixed Period - Unlike regular credit cards, you have to pay off your balance within a fixed period. While (as I mentioned above) this forces one to be disciplined and pay off their balance within a certain period, it is also not as flexible as a regular credit card where you can pay off just the minimum payment when you want.

  • Have to Call Customer Service if you want to Pre-pay Principal Amount - Whether it is a credit card balance or a drawdown for you line of credit, your billing statement will provide you with the amount you to pay each month so that you will pay off your balances within your repayment period. If you want to pay extra to pay down the principal, then you have to actually call customer service and tell which which part of your balance do you want to apply the principal payments to. For those who like to pay in full when they run up a credit card balance, this is very inconvenient.

  • Cannot Be Used at ATMs - Unlike regular credit cards, this one does not allow you to withdraw cash from your ATM. In fact, we do not recommend that you withdraw cash using a credit card from an ATM because you will be charged a cash advanced fee and you will also be charged interest immediately based on the cash advance rate.



Our Take

In my opinion, I think everyone should get the Upgrade Visa Card with Cash Rewards. The reason is that it is a great card for emergency expenses that works like a personal line of credit. And most of us will eventually have a emergency type expense that crop up most unexpectedly.

Many financial planners advise that have 6 months worth of emergency funds. However, there will be occasions when you do not want to use your emergency cash. In such situations, a card like the Upgrade Visa Card with Cash Rewards is ideal because you can use it like an installment loan. You can either charge the expense to your card or draw down to your checking account and use it as you please.

Furthermore, because Upgrade reports as an installment loan on your credit report rather than a regular credit line, it will help diversify your items in your credit report. Best of all, you can earn 1.5% cash back on emergency expenses that regular personal line of credit just does not provide.

If you own a home and a car, then I would suggest that you consider the Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa instead because you can earn 3% cash back on home, auto and health related expenses.

Because you have to pay back your draws or spending on the credit card in installments (where your rates and maturity), I would suggest that you do not make this card an everyday card but instead only use it if you have emergency expenses.



Application Requirements

Upgrade accepts applicants with credit scores between 620 and 720 though we have found that your best chances of getting approved are when your credit scores are between 680 to 720. Your income should be at least $50,000 to apply. Though Upgrade advertises that you could get a limit as high as $25,000 or $50,000, the reality is that most of you will get a credit line somewhere between $2,000 and $10,000 depending on your income.

The application has 2 steps. During this first step, no hard inquiries will be done on your credit report (just a soft pull). You first have to provide information like your name, address, income and also create an account via email and a password that you create. After you submit that information, you will be asked to give you Social Security Number (IMO, they should have asked this information on the first page). Then you have to SUBMIT the info one more time before you get your credit limit and other terms of your offer.

upgrade cash back application upgrade cash back application upgrade cash back application

After you have got your credit limit, there are three possible outcomes. You might be approved immediately. This will most likely occur for those of you with very good credit scores and income. Some of you might be approved partially for the amount of credit given to you and will be approved for the full credit limit if you submit certain documents that Upgrade has requested. Some of you will have to submit other documents before you are approved. These documents could be for verifying your identity or income. This has caused a stumbling block for many of you who apply. Just be mentally prepared to be asked to submit the following additional documents during your application process.

  • Photo of Drivers License - front and back
  • pay stub
  • Utility bill
  • Bank Statement
  • 4506-T Form to authorize them to get tax returns from IRS


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