Personal loan

Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa: A personal loan and credit card all in one

Cash Rewards Visa®* Upgrade is a combination credit card and Personal loan. You make purchases with the card as you would with any Visa credit card, but at the end of the month your balance is converted into a personal loan with a set interest rate and monthly payment. Upgrade typically offers 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 (i.e. you can’t save money up front), the upgrade card offers a structured repayment plan with a defined APR. This can help avoid interest rates that increase over time. It can also help smooth out inconsistencies for those struggling to meet 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. The most accurate description is that it is a personal loan that works much like a credit card.

Cash Rewards Visa® Upgrade

Introductory offerN / A

APR14.99% – 29.99% APR

Intro Purchase APRN / A

Recommended credit Excellent/Good/Fair

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

Annual fees$0

Late payment fees No charges

Foreign transaction fees No charges

  • 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 the overall amount of interest you’ll pay.

Each time you make a monthly payment on your upgrade balance, 1.5% of that payment will be applied as a “bonus” to the next month’s balance. Thus, if you pay $100, a bonus of $1.50 will be deducted from your capital the following month.

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

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

Why it’s 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 withdrawing a fixed amount of money, like $5,000, the loan amount is determined by your credit limit and spending. Credit limits generally vary between $500 and $25,000 depending on a number of financial factors, such as your income, credit history and credit score, existing debt, etc. You can use as little or as much of your credit limit as you want, but not without potential impact on your credit score.

The second main difference with a traditional personal loan is that it slightly simplifies the overall process. Rather, it is a line of credit against an asset, such as a HELOC, so you don’t have to constantly reapply when you need a loan. You also don’t have to borrow money 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. However, most of our best choices for personal loans don’t charge prepayment penalties either.

Other options to consider

If you find the combination of a credit card and a personal loan problematic, you can opt for a clearly defined financial product. Here are some recommendations on credit cards and personal loans.

Wells Fargo Reflect® Card

If you are planning to make a major purchase or purchases that you will not be able to pay for immediately, a Credit card 0% intro APR might be a good option. These cards can help avoid interest charges by giving cardholders a limited time frame of 0% introductory APR, sometimes up to 21 months or more. The Wells Fargo Reflect offers 18 months from account opening of an initial 0% APR on qualifying purchases and balance transfers (then 15.99% to 27.99% variable APR), and if you make your minimum payment on time every month during those 18 months, you’ll 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 the upgrade’s 1.5% cash back offer, the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card offers 2% cash rewards on your purchases – up front. There is also an APR introductory period so you can take advantage of inexpensive 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 suited for large purchases like home renovations, debt consolidation, or other needs. LightStream in particular offers an APR range of 5.99% to 21.49% for its personal loans, but this can vary by loan type. It also features repayment terms of 2 to 12 years and financing ranging from $5,000 to $100,000.


Can I refund my entire upgrade balance sooner?

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

What happens if I miss a payment or pay late?

It’s unclear exactly what will happen, but based on 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 will pay over the repayment period will be slightly higher since you are maintaining a balance longer.

If new credit is made available and I use my card for other purchases, is the new amount due combined with my old loan?

No. Our understanding is that at the end of the new month, Upgrade would 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 issuer.

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