Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®* is a combination credit card and personal loan. You make purchases with the card just like you would with any Visa credit card, but at the end of the month your balance converts to a personal loan with a kit interest rate and monthly payment. Upgrades typically offer 24-, 36-, or 60-month installment plans, and your options may vary depending on your credit situation.

For those planning to make a large, time-limited purchase (ie you can’t save the money upfront), the Upgrade card provides a structured repayment plan with a set APR. This can help avoid interest rates that increase over time. It can also help mitigate the discrepancy for those who have trouble sticking to their own monthly payment schedules.

It’s marketed as a rewards credit card that earns “1.5% cash back,” but as we’ll explain, that’s not quite accurate in most cases. A more accurate description is that it’s a personal loan that works a bit like a credit card.

Upgrade your Cash Rewards Visa®

Introductory offerN/A

GPR14.99% – 29.99% APR

Introductory purchase APRN/A

Recommended credit Excellent/Good/Satisfactory

Reward rates

  • Earn 1.5% unlimited cash back on card purchases every time you make a payment

Annual fee$0

Late payment fee Tax free

Foreign transaction fees Tax free

  • Earn 1.5% unlimited cash back on card purchases every time you make a payment

How it works

The upgrade card works like any typical Visa credit card when making purchases. But at the end of the month, Upgrade will combine all fees into one plan with a fixed monthly payment amount and a fixed interest rate. This payment plan—and your credit score—will help you determine how much total interest you’ll pay.

Each time you make a monthly payment towards your upgrade balance, 1.5% of that payment will be applied as a ‘bonus’ to the following month’s balance. So if you pay $100, the bonus $1.50 will be removed from your principal next month.

That’s why we don’t really consider it a “rewards credit card” — most of the time, you’ll just get a small discount on the interest that Upgrade charges you. With a typical rewards credit card, the goal is to pay off your balance in full each month so that your rewards are You can also pay off your balance in full with the card Upgrade, but it is unclear how the rewards will be credited in this case and Upgrade did not immediately respond to our inquiries.

You can also use the Upgrade card for a cash advance, transferring funds directly to the bank account of your choice. The same process results from a cash advance as purchases, and you don’t have to worry about a cash advance fee like you would with a credit card.

Why not a personal loan

Although the Upgrade Cash Rewards card is similar to a personal loan, there are a few key differences.

The first difference is that instead of borrowing a set amount of money, such as $5,000, the loan amount is determined by your credit limit and expenses. Credit limits typically range between $500 and $25,000 depending on a number of financial factors, such as your income, credit history and credit score, existing debt, and more. You can use as little or as much of your credit limit as you want, though not without potential consequences for your credit score.

The second major way it differs from a traditional personal loan is that it slightly simplifies the overall process. It is created more like a line of credit against an asset, such as a HELOC, so you don’t have to constantly reapply when you need a loan. Also, you are not forced to borrow money that you may not need.

Finally, Upgrade doesn’t charge any prepayment fees, so you can always pay off your entire balance if you want or can. Most of ours though the best choices for personal loans and don’t charge prepayment penalties.

Other options to consider

If you think that the combination of a credit card and a personal loan is problematic, you can choose a financial product that is clearly defined. Here are some top recommendations for credit cards and personal loans.

Wells Fargo Reflect® Card

If you plan to make a large purchase or purchases that you will not be able to pay for immediately, a 0% introductory APR credit card might be a good option. These cards can help avoid interest charges by giving cardholders a limited time period of 0% intro APR, sometimes up to 21 months or more. Wells Fargo Reflect offers 18 months from account opening of 0% introductory APR on purchases and eligible balance transfers (then 15.99% to 27.99% variable APR) and if you make your minimum payment on time each month during those 18 months, you will get an additional 3 months of 0% intro APR.

For more details, see our Wells Fargo Reflect Card Review.

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

If you were intrigued by Upgrade’s 1.5% cash back offer, the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card offers 2% cash back on your purchases — up front. There is also an introductory APR period, so you can benefit from cheap financing for a short time.

For more details, see our Wells Fargo Active Cash Review.

LightStream Personal Loans

Personal loans tend to offer lower interest rates than credit cards — even upgrade cards — and are specifically designed for big purchases like home improvements. debt consolidation, or other needs. In particular, LightStream offers an APR range of 5.99% to 21.49% on its personal loans, but this can vary depending on the type of loan. It also includes repayment terms from 2 to 12 years and financing ranging from $5,000 to $100,000.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I pay off my full upgrade balance early?

Yes, you can pay it in full at any time with no additional fees or prepayment penalties.

What happens if I miss a payment or am late?

It’s not clear exactly what will happen, but from other information we found on Upgrade’s site, you should at least expect them to report your late payments to the credit bureaus, and the total interest you’ll pay for the repayment period will be slightly less -high as you maintain balance for a longer period of time.

If a new loan is granted and I use my card for more purchases, is the new amount owed combined with my old loan?

No. It is our understanding that at the end of the new month Upgrade will issue a new loan with its own separate repayment plan.

*All information about the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa has been independently collected by CNET and has not been reviewed by the publisher.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertisements or partnerships. Not provided or commissioned by a third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa: A Personal Loan and Credit Card All in One