Upgrade Review: Cash Back on Debit Purchases Plus Great Rates

GOBankingRates Score

Upgrade
4.9
SCORE
GOBankingRates Best Banks 2023 scores and rankings are objectively determined by our research/editorial team. Our scoring formula weighs several factors that differ from category to category depending on what consumers want from varying products and banks.
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Quick Take: Upgrade is a virtual bank, or neobank, with checking and savings accounts, credit cards and personal loans. It has no fees for its deposit products and offers higher-than-average interest rates on savings. Its Rewards Checking account pays up to 2% cash back on debit card purchases.
  • Checking Account
    5.0
  • Savings Accounts
    5.0
  • Upgrade OneCard
    5.0
  • Banking Experience
    4.5
How did we calculate this?

Pros

  • Earn cash back on debit card purchases
  • Earn 4.13% APY interest on $1,000 or more in savings
  • No monthly fees
  • Free same-day transfers offered

Cons

  • No physical branches or ATMs

Upgrade Overview

Upgrade is an online-only, financial technology company, which is also sometimes known as a fintech. Upgrade itself is not a bank, but the banking services offered on its site are administered by Cross River Bank and Sutton Bank. Upgrade offers checking and savings accounts, a credit card, personal loans and more.

GOBankingRates has ranked Upgrade among the Best Neobanks of 2023.

Key Features

Here are some of the key features of Upgrade’s banking products and services.

Rewards Checking Account

Upgrade offers a Rewards Checking account that gives you cash back on debit card purchases, which is unusual. But what’s even rarer is the amount of cash back you get. You’ll get 2% cash back on purchases you make at convenience and drug stores, gas stations and restaurants. You’ll also get 2% cash back on monthly subscriptions such as streaming services, and also on utilities and cell phone bills. Then you get 1% cash back on everything else. There’s no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn.

Upgrade Premier Savings

The Upgrade Premier Savings account pays APY interest on balances of $1,000 or more. There are no monthly fees to eat into your earnings, either. You can transfer money to and from other banks on the same day, and there are no fees for that either.

Upgrade OneCard

The Upgrade OneCard acts like both a debit and a credit card – you can choose whether you pay now with no interest –like a debit card– or whether you pay later, just like a credit card. You won’t be charged an annual fee.

If you get the Upgrade OneCard credit card with your Rewards Checking account, you get an extra 1% cash back – so, 3% cash back on your everyday purchases and 2% cash back on everything else. Plus, you get a $400 welcome bonus when you use a new Rewards Checking account and make three purchases with your Upgrade OneCard.

Banking Experience

GOBankingRates has ranked Upgrade among the Best Neobanks of 2023.

Upgrade is a fintech company, with its banking products underwritten by banks, so deposit accounts are FDIC-insured. Upgrade has no branches and no ATMs. They do not charge ATM fees for customers who use other ATMs but those ATMs may charge a fee.

Upgrade offers a suite of credit health tools to help customers understand their credit score. You can also get personalized recommendations on how to improve your credit score and weekly updates to keep you on track.

Upgrade offers a robust mobile app, as you might expect from an online-only bank. The app lets you check your balance and available credit, pay your bills, transfer funds and stay on top of your credit health. The Upgrade mobile app has a rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars on the App Store and 4.6 out of 5 stars on Google Play.

Comparable Neobank Options

Choosing a bank is a big decision and you’ll want to compare to make sure you’re getting the features you want. Here are some other options to consider.

Lending Club Bank

Lending Club Bank is also a neobank and offers many of the same products and features as Upgrade. The interest rate on savings is slightly comparable, at APY on any balance. Lending Club Bank offers cash back on debit card purchases as well, but you earn 1% on all purchases and your debit card needs to be tied to an account with a balance of at least $2,500, or into which you have direct deposits of at least $2,500 per month.

ONE

ONE Finance is a fintech company that offers banking products through Coastal Community Bank. With the ONE debit card, you earn 2% cashback up to $50 on purchases you make at gas stations, drug stores, and Walmart, in the first twelve months you have the card. Interest on the ONE savings account is APY. ONE offers a $25 bonus for your first direct deposit and a $10 bonus for your first purchase of $10 or more.

Final Take

Upgrade offers most of the banking services most consumers need, and has great interest rates on savings accounts. The cashback on debit card purchases is a big advantage. If you’re looking for an online-only bank and want the one that will help you make the most of your money, Upgrade is worth a serious look.

Upgrade FAQ

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Upgrade.
  • Is Upgrade a legitimate bank?
    • Upgrade is a fintech company, not a bank. Checking and savings accounts, debit cards and personal credit lines are issued by Cross River Bank. Deposits are FDIC insured through Cross River Bank. Upgrade Cards are issued by Sutton Bank.
  • What bank is Upgrade associated with?
    • The checking and savings accounts offered by Upgrade are provided by Cross River Bank, which also makes Upgrade's personal credit lines. Personal loans and auto refinance loans are made by Cross River Bank and Blue Ridge Bank. Upgrade Visa Debit Cards are issued by Cross River Bank. Upgrade cards -- its credit cards -- are issued by Sutton Bank.
  • What bank owns Upgrade card?
    • Upgrade debit cards are issued by Cross River Bank, and Upgrade credit cards are issued by Sutton Bank, both pursuant to a license from Visa USA, Inc. Since Upgrade is a financial technology company and not a bank, it cannot issue bank cards itself.
  • Where is Upgrade bank?
    • Upgrade has its headquarters in San Francisco, California, and a regional office in Atlanta, Georgia. It also has a service center in Phoenix, Arizona, and an engineering center in Montreal, Ontario, Canada.

Rates are subject to change; unless otherwise noted, rates are updated periodically. All other information on accounts is accurate as of Dec. 10, 2022.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by any entity covered in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, ratings or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any entity named in this article.

To determine rankings for the Best Neobanks, GOBankingRates looked at the following factors: (1) monthly checking fee ratio (percentage based on the minimum to avoid the fee compared to the monthly fee itself); (2) savings APY; (3) products/services offered (credit cards and investment services); (4) the average mobile app rating between the Android and Apple app stores; and (5) number of extra benefits and perks unique to neobanks. All factors were then scored and combined, with the lowest score being best. Factor (1) was weighted 0.5 times, and factors (2) and (5) were weighted 2 times.

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About the Author

Karen Doyle is a personal finance writer with over 20 years’ experience writing about investments, money management and financial planning. Her work has appeared on numerous news and finance websites including GOBankingRates, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, USA Today, CNBC, Equifax.com, and more.
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