The Upgrade Card, a Visa Signature card issued by Sutton Bank, is for people who want the convenience of a credit card and a predictable repayment schedule. Traditionally, credit cards are a “revolving” line of credit, meaning you can carry a balance for as long as you’d like while you continue to make minimum payments. With Upgrade, your balance is converted into an installment loan (24, 36 or 60 months) that has a fixed APR and payment schedule so you can budget accordingly. In other words, with regular payments, there is an end in sight to your debt.
For example, if you spend $5,000 in a month, it might be converted into a 36-month term with a 19.99% APR, which will require a monthly payment of $187.90. Whereas on a regular credit card, that $5,000 balance could linger on for decades if you only pay the minimum amount due each month.
Your APR, credit line total, and loan term will depend on your credit score and other factors. As such, those in better credit standing will have a lower APR offer and more favorable terms.
Those who don’t have excellent credit might find the Upgrade Card appealing because it’s like having access to both a credit card and a loan product. As a line of credit, you have the option to pay interest on the amount that you actually use or deposit some or all of your credit to your bank account.
Fixed monthly payments can help you build credit
Unlimited cash-back rewards
No new-cardholder bonus or extra perks
No way to avoid paying interest
Potential to accumulate a large monthly payment
- Soft-inquiry application: Before submitting a full application, you can check what your rate and offer will be without it impacting your credit score. Once your loan is funded, however, a hard inquiry will be performed.
- Fixed monthly payments can help you build credit: Because Upgrade reports your account to the credit bureaus like a line of credit, your consistent on-time payments can positively impact your credit score over time. You can even set up automatic payments from your bank account to ensure that your payments are on time.
- Unlimited cash-back rewards: You’ll get 1.5% cash-back on all your purchases when you pay them off, which is a nice addition to this atypical card. That set-up incentivizes repaying debt rather than carrying a balance month after month.
- No fees: The Upgrade Card doesn’t have the typical fees that most credit cards charge, such as an annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or even late fees. Plus, if you decide to borrow funds from the credit line, there are no fees for that (whereas a credit card cash advance would likely result in fees).
Even though there aren’t any late fees or penalties, Upgrade does still report account activity to the credit bureaus. In other words, late or missed payments will show up on your credit report and will likely damage your credit score.
- No new-cardholder bonus or extra perks: Many people choose credit cards that offer benefits and perks, but you won’t find any on the Upgrade Card. There is no welcome bonus, and you cannot transfer a balance to the card, or withdraw funds from an ATM.
- No way to avoid paying interest: With typical credit cards, if you pay off your balance in full each month, you can usually avoid paying anything extra. With the Upgrade Card, you’ll have a fixed APR on purchases and borrowed funds that begins accruing from the date of the transaction.
- Potential to accumulate a large monthly payment: If you use your line of credit each month instead of transferring it all to your bank account, Upgrade will convert those additional draws into installment loans each month and add them to your monthly payment. Your balances can quickly add up and create a monthly payment amount that may stretch your budget.
Earning Points & Rewards
This card simply offers 1.5% back on all purchases, a rate consistent with what other more traditional cash-back rewards cards offer, but uncommon among cards marketed to those with poor or fair credit.
Payments that go toward non-purchase transactions, such as sending money from your credit line to a bank account, will not earn rewards.
However, the Upgrade Card only awards the cash-back when you pay back the purchases. Most rewards cards award cash-back when you make purchases. We like that the Upgrade Card rewards structure incentivizes prompt debt repayment, but since it’s impossible to avoid paying interest on purchases made with this card, the rewards aren’t actually extra money back in your pocket. They really just help reduce your balance when it’s time to make another payment.
Unlike other cash-back cards, this card doesn’t require you to manually redeem your rewards once they are earned. Instead, the cash back you earn after making payments will be automatically applied to your balance after your next monthly payment. Just know the cash-back rewards applications won’t reduce or cover your monthly payment. They will be applied to your balance in addition to your required minimum monthly payment.
How to Get the Most Out of This Card
The best way to use the Upgrade Card is to put limits on yourself when it comes to how much of your credit line you will tap into. Credit lines range from $500 to $50,000, though most are $20,000 or below. The more credit you borrow or use for purchases, the bigger your fixed monthly payment amount will become. Unlike a regular credit card that has a fairly affordable minimum payment (that could keep you in debt for decades), the Upgrade card is designed so that you’re paying off the balance much faster and more aggressively. Therefore, if you keep generating new installment loans month after month, it may become challenging to afford your bill.
Before accepting Upgrade’s line-of-credit offer, calculate how much your monthly payment would be if you used the entire line of credit. Use this as a reference point; if you can’t afford the payment, don’t use all your credit.
For borrowers who have a large purchase to make or want ready access to cash should they need it, the Upgrade Card offers a convenient line of credit without some of the fees that you’d find with a traditional personal loan or credit card. Especially if you’re able to qualify for an APR at the lower end of the spectrum, it could offer a low-cost cushion that extends your cash flow and offers a bit of rewards while you pay off the purchase.
Watch your credit! If your credit score goes down or other factors change, Upgrade can change your credit line, the interest rate, and the length of the credit on future draws. However, the terms on any existing balances will not change.
There is not much information about contacting customer service on their website. There is a contact email and a help center with articles. However, if you open an account you may then receive more details about customer service.
You can use the Upgrade Card to make contactless payments and you can add it as a payment method to Apple Pay and Google Pay. You can also manage your account via the Upgrade mobile app.
When you first sign up for your Upgrade Card, you will get a temporary “virtual” card to use until your actual card arrives in seven to 10 business days.
The Upgrade Card has the standard security features you’d expect from a Visa card including zero liability for fraudulent purchases. Its contactless and mobile wallet options also offer an additional layer of protection for consumers making transactions.
Upgrade also offers Credit Health, a free tool for monitoring your credit score.
Upgrade Card’s Fees
The Upgrade Card does not have any of the typical fees you’d find on some credit cards, such as an annual fee, foreign transaction fee, and late payment fee.