Upgrade Cash Rewards Elite Visa® review

Upgrade Cash Rewards Elite Visa® review

Updated: June 23, 2022

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Updated: June 23, 2022

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When you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
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Ratings Policy
Cash Back Rating:
4.3 rating
4.3 rating
4.3 / 5
Rewards value4.0
APR2.0
Rewards Flexibility2.7
Features2.0

In a Nutshell:

A unique credit card/loan hybrid that earns a great flat rate and refines your budget with consistent bill payments. While it lacks flexible cash back redemptions, it can be a fine solution if you consistently carry a balance.

Learn more about this card

Rewards Rate

2.2% cash back on purchases

Excellent

Sign-up Bonus

$200 when you open and fund a Rewards Checking account then make three transactions within 60 days

Average

Annual Fee

$0

Excellent

Average yearly rewards value ($1,325 monthly spend)

$349.50

Very Good

APR

8.99% to 29.99% (variable)

Fair

Other Notable Features: Fraud liability, roadside assistance, price protection, travel and emergency assistance, concierge services, extended warranty

The Upgrade Cash Rewards Elite Visa is a rewards credit card/personal loan hybrid that packs a punch by offering one of the highest flat rates currently on the market. It also boasts some impressive features you don’t typically find with rewards cards that don’t charge an annual fee, including a sign-up bonus as well as travel and purchase protections.

Unlike traditional credit cards, the Upgrade Cash Rewards Elite has a unique repayment option that mimics the predictability of loan payments. Since you pay the same amount each month toward your card balance, it’s a great choice if you anticipate a large purchase and would like to pay off your balance quickly, which can help reduce the amount of interest paid over the repayment period.

While its flat-rate rewards are nothing to scoff at, the card has a number of drawbacks that make it less appealing to rewards seekers. This includes a lack of redemption options and the potential for sky-high interest rates if you land at the high end of the card’s variable APR range.

Pros

  • Earns one of the highest unlimited flat cash back rates on the market
  • Potential for a very low APR if you have great credit
  • Flexible as a way to loan money without applying for one
  • Comes with a competitive welcome offer

Cons

  • The high end of the variable APR range is far higher than other top rewards cards and could make it harder to pay down balances
  • Only one redemption option for cash back
  • No intro APR offer, which is a standard perk found with other flat-rate credit cards

Why you might want the Upgrade Cash Rewards Elite Visa

The top-of-the-line flat rewards rate is the Upgrade Cash Elite’s main draw, but some may also appreciate the card’s limited amount of fees and the installment payment system. Credit card use requires a great deal of financial responsibility to avoid damaging your credit score and positioning you for crippling debt. If you’re a cardholder who wants to remove some of that perceived burden and simplify the process of making payments, the Upgrade Elite can be a great option for you because it requires a fixed monthly charge that won’t shock you when the bill comes.

Among the highest flat cash back rates

The Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa earns 2.2% cash back for purchases every time you make a payment. As you make purchases you’ll accrue a balance on your Upgrade card and as you pay that balance down–either before the due date or beyond it–you’ll earn cash back as a statement credit. A rate of 2.2% is solid in the cash back cards landscape and helps this card compare favorably to options like the Citi® Double Cash Card and the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card, which are two of the best cash back cards available.

Sign-up bonus for banking

If you open and fund a Rewards Checking account with Upgrade and then make three debit transactions of any amount within 60 days of opening the account, you’re eligible to receive a $200* statement credit on your Upgrade Cash Rewards Elite Visa statement. This is a pretty reasonable offer if you’re looking to open a new checking account, but if you already bank elsewhere and want to keep their money consolidated into as few accounts as possible, it’s less appealing.

It is however in line with what to expect for a welcome bonus on a credit card of this caliber. The biggest benefit is that you technically don’t need to spend more than you’re willing to. This compares well with the welcome offer on other comparable cards, but has the benefit of being far less expensive to obtain. You should expect to spend anywhere from $500 to $1,000 to receive a welcome bonus on other cards, but for the Upgrade Elite you can spend as low as you’d like as long as you have three separate transactions going through your Upgrade Rewards Checking account.

Limited fees

With this card, you won’t have to worry about an annual fee, foreign transaction fee, late payment fee, or a penalty APR. While many of the best cash back credit cards charge no annual fee or foreign transaction fees, it’s rare to find a rewards credit card that goes even further.

Pay your balance like a loan

The most unique aspect of the Upgrade Visa is your ability to make your credit card bill a series of predictable payments if you’re to carry a balance. This provides a consistent expectation of what you owe each month, instead of leaving the amount you pay in your hands. While this ties cardholders to a set amount and doesn’t give you room to pay less than what you owe, it’s beneficial if a consistent and structured repayment plan can help you pay down your debt faster.This feature gives you a clear trajectory to pay it off as well as enabling you to build your budget around your monthly payment.

Loan yourself money

Similar to a cash advance, the Upgrade Visa lets you loan yourself money from your credit limit as long as you’re transferring those funds directly to your bank account. You’ll pay back the loan–as your card balance–with monthly payments that have an interest rate equal to your card’s APR (8.99% to 29.99% variable).

This is a great feature if you need funds to cover an expense that can’t be paid for with a credit card. With the Upgrade Elite you can loan your bank account the amount you need from your credit limit, withdraw it as cash from your bank and make your transaction. From there you’ll simply pay the balance you carry on your Upgrade card as a fixed monthly payment. However, you will not earn cash back by doing this, and like any outstanding credit card or personal loan balance, you will have to pay interest. To make sure this is the best option with the lowest rates for you, it’s a good idea to research personal loans and credit cards.

Low APR for eligible cardholders

If you have good-to-excellent credit, you can qualify for really low APRs with the Upgrade card’s variable range of 8.99% to 29.99%. While the high end is very high compared to other cards, the low end is comparably just as low. This can be great for cardholders who want a low-interest credit card or an alternative to a personal loan. However, if you qualify for the low end of this card’s interest rates, you might still end up with a higher APR than your potential loan’s interest rate.

Great cardholder benefits

The Upgrade Elite comes with a host of cardholder benefits like fraud liability, roadside assistance, price protection, travel and emergency assistance, concierge services and an extended warranty program. These benefits provide the Upgrade card some of the same luxuries available on top-tier rewards cards.

Why you might want a different cash back card

For all the Upgrade card offers as a unique entry into a competitive cards market, it does have some drawbacks that make it a little more limited than other cash back cards.

Cash back only comes as a statement credit

You can only earn your cash back as a statement credit on your bill. While this offers some simplicity with using the card, other cash back cards have redemption options like gift cards, direct deposits or checks. These options give cardholders a little more breathing room with how they redeem their rewards. Unfortunately, the Upgrade card ties your cash back to your statement, effectively meaning that by making payments you’re simply earning a 2.2% discount (of what you paid that month) off of your total balance.

Statement credits do not reduce your monthly payment

As mentioned, cash back comes as a statement credit. While this isn’t a huge drawback, it is a minor inconvenience because you won’t immediately see the value of your rewards. To make matters even less convenient, however, Upgrade does not adjust your monthly payment despite your total balance decreasing from statement credits.

You’ll still owe the same amount each month, just like you would with a loan, but the total amount you owe will be lower based on the amount of cash back you have earned. Some may see this as reasonable, especially if they’re comparing it to the predictability of personal loan payments. However, as a cash back card, this is a bit more restrictive than is to be expected.

APR can climb pretty high

If you have good credit but a shaky history, you could get a relatively high APR compared to other card options. Some cards for average credit come with lower APR ranges than the Upgrade card, making them more ideal choices for people who carry a balance or fall on the lower side of good credit. Alternatively, if you are on the high end of its credit requirements with excellent credit, you can certainly find cards with lower APRs.

APR can climb pretty high

If you have good credit but a shaky history, you could get a relatively high APR compared to other card options. Some cards for average credit come with lower APR ranges than the Upgrade card, making them more ideal choices for people who carry a balance or fall on the lower side of good credit. Alternatively, if you are on the high end of its credit requirements with excellent credit, you can certainly find cards with lower APRs.

How does the Upgrade Cash Rewards Elite Visa compare to other cash back cards?

The Upgrade Cash Rewards Elite Visa is a great card if you want flat-rate cash rewards without too much flare or complication. Here are a few other options to choose from as you research which card is right for you.

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Rewards rate

2% cash rewards on purchases

Rewards rate

3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%); 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations; 1% cash back on general purchases

Rewards rate

Unlimited 1.5% cash back on purchases and 5% back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One travel

Welcome bonus

Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months

Welcome bonus

Earn a $200 statement credit for spending $2,000 in your first 6 months

Welcome bonus

Earn $200 for spending $500 in your first 3 months

Annual fee

$0

Annual fee

$0

Annual fee

$0

APR

16.49%, 21.49% or 26.49% Variable APR

APR

14.74%-24.74% (variable)

APR

15.24% to 25.24% (variable)

Other things to know

Cash rewards don’t expire, redeem for check, statement credits, direct deposit, or Wells Fargo ATM withdrawals.

Other things to know

Car rental insurance, travel assistance, purchase protection, family vacation packages, car purchase discounts

Other things to know

Free credit score monitoring with CreditWise, no foreign transaction fee, purchase security, roadside assistance, baggage insurance, travel upgrades and savings, VIP access to events

Upgrade Cash Rewards Elite Visa vs. Wells Fargo Active Cash

The Wells Fargo Active cash card is one of the best cash back cards available because of its solid, flat rate of cash rewards, welcome bonus and overall redemption flexibility. Although its cash rewards rate is 0.2% lower than the Upgrade Cash Rewards Elite Visa card’s rate, it offers much more flexibility around how you access those cash rewards. The card’s welcome offer is also a little less restrictive because you have a longer period to obtain it and you don’t need to open and fund a bank account. The one drawback compared to the Upgrade card is that the welcome offer. It has the same $200 cash rewards bonus, but requires you to spend $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months to earn it. You can earn the Upgrade card’s welcome bonus by making three, independent $1.00 transactions using your Upgrade Rewards Checking account debit card within 60 days. Overall, the Wells Fargo Active Cash would be the better card if you have higher credit, as it has potentially lower APRs and comes with cell phone protection as well as Visa Signature benefits.

Upgrade Cash Rewards Elite Visa vs. Blue Cash Everyday® from American Express

The Blue Cash Everyday from American Express is the ideal card for at-home shoppers and people on the go. With cash back in key categories like groceries and gas, it’s hard to find a card that is more rewarding for the cost to hold it. Both the Upgrade and the Blue Cash Everyday lack an annual fee, but the Blue Cash Everyday can ultimately be more rewarding to cardholders who spend less than $10,000 each year at U.S. supermarkets.

The Blue Cash Everyday caps its boosted 3% cash back rate at $6,000 for the year at U.S. supermarkets. While this is limiting, the card will still earn 1% back for purchases made at U.S. supermarkets the rest of the year. However, the Upgrade Elite will earn an unlimited 2.2% back year round. If you only want one card and you’re spending more than $10,000 per year at U.S. supermarkets, the Upgrade Elite is a better choice for you. However, a great card strategy would be to use both, maximizing the Blue Cash Everyday card’s $6,000 limit and then using the Upgrade Elite to earn 2.2% for the rest of the year.

Where the Blue Cash Everyday thrives over the Upgrade Elite is with its APRs. The high end of the Blue Cash Everyday is much lower at 24.74% than the Upgrade Elite card’s 29.99%. This can be a good option if you don’t typically qualify for the best interest rates.

Upgrade Cash Rewards Elite Visa vs. Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards

The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card earns an unlimited 1.5% back on every purchase and includes a boosted 5% cash back for rental cars and hotels booked using Capital One Travel. It also carries a $200 welcome offer for spending $500 in the first 3 months–which is a pretty generous offer and is among the most attainable sign-up bonuses available. Although you need to spend less to earn this sign-up bonus than you would with the Active Cash for the Blue Cash Everyday, it still requires you to spend more than you would need to with the Upgrade Elite, a card that doesn’t require anything more than three transactions from your Rewards Checking account.

While the Quicksilver Cash Rewards regular flat-rate on all purchases is only 1.5%, this card could be good for someone who anticipates traveling to hotels and using rental cars and who also doesn’t mind making these bookings through an issuer’s portal to earn a boosted rate. You’ll earn 5% back for bookings through Capital One Travel, making it a great choice if you are going to be on-the-go often and want to scoop up some extra cash back for travel purchases.

How to use the Upgrade Cash Rewards Elite Visa

  • Pay your card’s bill each month to earn 2.2% cash back as a credit statement
  • Carry a balance comfortably if you have a low APR and want an alternative to a personal loan
  • Enroll in EarlyPay to avoid interest charges
  • Open and fund a Rewards Checking account and make three transactions in 60 days to secure the welcome offer

Is the Upgrade Cash Rewards Elite Visa right for you?

If you’re anticipating some heavy spending in the coming months or simply want to earn a higher cash back rate than the often found 2%, the Upgrade Elite Visa can be a great choice. You’ll have access to plenty of cardholder benefits, the possibility of earning a sign-up bonus, and you’ll reap the rewards from one of the highest flat-rates available. Beyond that, you’ll also carry a flexible credit card that can do much more than other cards.

One of the best ways to use the card is as an alternative to a personal loan because you’re able to carry a balance and pay it like you would a loan. If you’re in the unique position of needing anywhere from $500 to $25,000 and can’t find a suitable loan, this card can get you what you need.

However, you could possibly find a lower APR on other cards if you’re on the cusp of good credit. Plus, the cash back you do earn is limited to being rewarded only as a statement credit. Compared to other cash back cards, the Upgrade Elite Visa can be restrictive. But if you aren’t particular about how you earn cash back and only want to utilize the card’s unique benefits, like sending funds from your credit limit to your bank account, there is no replacement for it.

*To qualify for the $200 welcome bonus, you must open and fund a new Rewards Checking account and make 3 debit card transactions within 60 days of your Upgrade Card account opening. The bonus will be applied as a one-time credit to your account and will not otherwise reduce the amount of your regular monthly payments. The bonus credit will be posted to your Upgrade Card as a rewards credit within 1-2 billing periods following the third debit card transaction on your Rewards Checking account. Your Upgrade Card must be in good standing to receive a bonus.

All reviews are prepared by CreditCards.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.

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When you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
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