This article provides information for educational purposes. NerdWallet does not offer advisory or brokerage services, nor does it recommend specific investments, including stocks, securities or cryptocurrencies.
Financial startup Upgrade offers a suite of cards that combine features of credit cards and personal loans. Three of the cards offer rewards:
The Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa®: Earn 3% cash back on home, auto and health purchases. Earn 1% cash back on everything else. Cash back will be applied to the next month’s balance on your card.
The Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Card: Earn 1.5% back on all purchases in the form of bitcoin. As you make payments on purchases, bitcoins will be purchased on your behalf and held in a cryptocurrency wallet.
The cards, issued by Sutton Bank, can be used to make purchases in stores and online, just like you would with a credit card. But unpaid balances are automatically converted to installment plans where you make equal monthly payments with a fixed interest rate over a set period of time, much like a personal loan.
You can use the cards like personal loans in another way by borrowing against your credit line. To do this, request that funds be sent to your bank account.
The Upgrade cards, compared
What’s the same
In many ways, the Upgrade cards are nearly identical. All offer the same ranges for credit limits and interest rates, though the terms you’ll qualify for depend on factors like credit usage history, credit score and others. The cards charge no foreign transaction fees when used internationally.
They also share a few limitations: You can’t use the cards at ATMs for cash advances, and you can’t transfer a balance from another credit card onto any Upgrade card.
For all three cards, rewards are earned not as you spend, but as you make payments toward your balance.
The cards’ only difference is in their rewards programs. The Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards is a flat-rate cash-back card, earning 1.5% back. The Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa® is a tiered cash-back card, earning 3% back in a wide selection of home, auto and health purchases including:
Hardware and home improvement stores.
Furniture and appliances.
Landscaping and cleaning services.
Auto parts, dealership purchases and repairs.
Gym memberships, gym equipment purchases directly from vendors and sporting goods stores.
Doctor’s visits and pharmacies.
Health and beauty services, including spas.
The Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Card, meanwhile, is part of the growing collection of cards offering cryptocurrency rewards. You’ll earn 1.5% back in the form of bitcoins, which are purchased on your behalf and held in a crypto wallet provided by NYDIG, a custody and trading platform. Your bitcoins cannot be transferred to a separate wallet. You can, however, sell your bitcoins after a 90-day holding period, and a 1.5% transaction fee will be deducted from the proceeds. You can only receive the proceeds from the sale in the form of a statement credit.
How to decide
Which Upgrade card to choose comes down to how you want to earn and redeem rewards. The Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards wins for its simplicity thanks to the flat cash-back rate. If you don’t have a major home, auto or health purchase coming up, or you just don’t want to have to pay attention to spending categories, this card could be a good fit.
If you’d like to invest small sums in bitcoins, using earned rewards could be a way to do that since you won’t have to budget additional money for investing. However, the Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Card has limitations, including the holding period and the fact that your proceeds from the sale of your bitcoins can only come in the form of a statement credit. If you want more flexibility or the ability to buy other cryptocurrencies, other crypto credit cards might have the features you’re looking for. You may also prefer to invest on your own by creating an account on a cryptocurrency exchange.