When there are as many personal loan lenders as there are, how do you decide which is right for you? Your first instinct might be to go straight to your bank. After all, if you’re a valued customer, wouldn’t they give you the best deal on a loan? Maybe, but maybe not.
With this in mind, you may want to explore a loan from nontraditional lenders. Upgrade, a financial services startup that specializes in affordable credit products, is one of these alternatives. While the name might not be as well-known, it doesn’t mean Upgrade might not be exactly what you’re looking for in an online lender. Here’s what Upgrade is, how it works, and how you can use it to find the best loan for you.
Personal loans up to $50,000
- Free credit monitoring and educational resources
- No fees for prepayment
- Combine the benefits of a credit card and a personal line of credit with the Upgrade Card
An overview of Upgrade
Upgrade is a San Francisco-based online lending platform that partners with banks to offer personal loans and lines of credit, as well as free credit monitoring and educational tools. Co-founded in 2017 by Adelina Grozdanova and Renaud Laplanche, former leaders at online lending pioneer LendingClub, Upgrade arose out of the belief that an online platform, as opposed to a traditional bank, would not only operate at a lower cost but also provide customers with a better experience.
Although it's headquartered in San Francisco, the company has additional offices in Phoenix, Chicago, and Montreal, and it employs more than 350 people. The fintech company has attracted millions of customers since its inception.
Which loan products does Upgrade offer?
Upgrade offers personal loans, a credit monitoring program, and a unique take on a personal line of credit with the Upgrade Card — a combination of a credit card and a personal loan. In addition to these products, Upgrade also offers credit cards and a rewards checking account.
Personal loan at Upgrade
Upgrade offers unsecured personal loans from $1,000 to $50,000, with the exception of a few states. For instance, in Georgia, the minimum loan amount is $3,005 and in Massachusetts, it’s $6,400. Personal loans with Upgrade aren’t available to residents of Iowa, Washington DC, and West Virginia.
Upgrade touts a straightforward and seamless loan application process that consists of checking your interest rate, choosing your loan offer, and receiving your funds within a few business days. The three-step online application takes less than 10 minutes to complete and you get loan options right away. Loan rates are fixed and range from 6.95%-35.97% (as of Sept. 7, 2022) APR with terms of 36 or 60 months. To receive the lowest rates available, Upgrade requires you to set up autopay and pay off a portion of your existing debt directly. In other words, if you apply for a loan with the idea of paying off your credit card debt, a portion of the money you receive must be used directly toward your credit card debt for you to receive the best rates.
Each loan will have a 1.85% to 8% origination fee as well (as of Aug. 31, 2022), which is deducted from the total amount you’ll receive. So if you receive a $10,000 loan with a 5% origination fee, you would receive $9,500 in your account. While there is no fee for repaying your loan early, late payments and failed electronic or check payment attempts will incur a late payment fee of $10 each.
There are a wide variety of things you can use an Upgrade personal loan for, whether it’s paying off credit card debt, major purchases, debt consolidation, credit card refinancing, or making home improvements. There are also a few things you cannot use an Upgrade personal loan for, such as post-secondary education (tuition, room and board, supplies, etc.), investments, gambling, and, of course, illegal activities.
To apply for a loan through Upgrade, you must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or hold a valid visa; be at least 18 years old (unless otherwise specified by your state), and be able to provide a verifiable bank account and valid email address.
|Loan term||36 or 60 months|
|APR (annual percentage rate)
||6.95%-35.97% (as of Sept. 7, 2022)|
Upgrade Card at Upgrade
The Upgrade Card, Upgrade’s mash-up of a credit card and personal loan, offers a line of credit up to $50,000 and can be used anywhere Visa is accepted. While there is no ATM access with the Upgrade Card, you can transfer cash from your personal line of credit to your bank account free of fees.
The rate and terms that come with the Upgrade Card are fixed, so you can budget for predictable monthly payments. Your APR can range from 8.99%-29.99% (as of Sept. 7, 2022) depending on your credit score and other factors. The terms of this credit line will vary depending on your score and other factors as well.
After you submit your pre-qualification, you’ll see a breakdown of your loan details, including the credit line you qualified for, the APR, and how long you have to pay off each charge you put on the card (this is known as a draw length). So, for instance, you may qualify for a $1,000 limit at a 15% APR with a draw length of 24 months. That means you’ll have $1,000 worth of purchasing power, your APR for each transaction is locked in at 15%, and you have 24 months to pay off each charge you make to your Upgrade Card.
While the terms on your existing balances will be fixed, Upgrade notes that the availability of your remaining credit, your interest rate, and how long you have to pay off each future charge (draw) may be adjusted if there are changes to your credit score or changes in the general market conditions.
You can use the Upgrade Card just like you would a traditional credit card; however, with the Upgrade Card, you’ll know exactly how much it will cost each month and when the borrowed amount will be paid off. This is because you’ll lock in a fixed rate and payoff date with the ability to make equal monthly until your balance is paid in full. This can help cut down on the cost of interest. Costs can be further reduced as there are no fees either. No origination fees, no annual fees, no fees when you make a purchase, no late fees, and no prepayment fees for paying your balance off early.
|APR||8.99%-29.99% (as of Sept. 7, 2022)|
Credit Health at Upgrade
Part of Upgrade’s goal is to help you understand your credit, and one of the ways the company does this is with its Credit Health tools. These tools are available on Upgrade's website and include free credit monitoring, email alerts concerning fraud or other changes impacting your score, a credit score simulator, and access to a variety of educational resources. There is no impact on your credit score when you use Upgrade’s Credit Health tools.
What Upgrade customers are saying
Upgrade has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) with an average of 4.6 stars based on over 2,900 reviews. If you dig into some of these reviews, you’ll find adjectives like “simple,” “fast,” and “pain-free,” with many people raving about Upgrade’s staff, which one person described as being “of the highest caliber.”
But you can’t rely on just one source of reviews to determine where to get the best personal loan. Head over to Trustpilot, and you’ll find an average 4.7-star rating. With close to 33,500 reviews, again, a majority of people focus on how simple the entire process was and how professional the staff is.
FAQs about Upgrade
What credit score do you need for an Upgrade loan?
The minimum credit score that's likely needed for a loan through Upgrade is 620, which is considered fair credit, though many factors are taken into consideration when determining loan eligibility, including your credit usage and credit history. Borrowers with a limited credit history might opt to apply for a personal loan with a cosigner. If you choose to go this route, just keep in mind that Upgrade will consider both your credit report and your co-applicant's credit report and debt-to-income ratios when determining your eligibility for a loan. However, it does charge origination fees and can have higher-than-average APRs, so borrowers with excellent credit may find lower rates with another lender.
How long does it take for Upgrade to approve a loan?
According to Upgrade, customers can receive their loan funds as soon as one business day after the necessary verifications. That said, how quickly your loan proceeds are available can vary depending on how quickly your bank processes the transaction.
Can you pay off an Upgrade loan early?
Yes, you can pay off your loan before the end of your repayment term without incurring a prepayment penalty.
Is Upgrade a direct lender?
Upgrade is not a bank but rather partners with banks to originate the loans you obtain through Upgrade’s online lending platform. Here are the banks offering loan options through Upgrade:
- Blue Ridge Bank: Member FDIC
- Cross River Bank: Member FDIC, issues all personal lines of credit
- Sutton Bank: Member FDIC, issues the Upgrade Card that allows you to access the personal credit line
Is Upgrade a good loan company?
If you define a good loan company as being highly-rated, with a simple loan process that gets you your money within just a few days, then, yes, Upgrade may be considered a good loan company.
Of course, just as you would do with any lender, take the time to understand the company yourself so you can make an informed decision based on what’s best for you and your situation.
The final word on Upgrade
Just because you’re borrowing money doesn’t mean you have to be at the lender’s beck and call. A streamlined loan process, a first-rate reputation, and the ability to get you your money quickly are some of the most important characteristics borrowers look for as they're researching how to get a loan. This is what most people get when turning to Upgrade.
While Upgrade seems to be a favorable lender in most people’s eyes, it doesn’t mean Upgrade will tick all your boxes. If there’s a specific feature you’re not particularly on board with, there are plenty of other options worth considering. Do your research, compare lenders, and choose the option that best meets the needs of your current situation.
Disclaimer: All rates and fees are accurate as of Sept. 7, 2022.