Why We Picked It
Beyond offering accessible personal loans, Upgrade streamlines the lending process with a mobile app that lets borrowers view their balance, make payments and update personal information. Upgrade’s Credit Heath tool also makes it easy to track your credit score over the life of your loan.
Loan amounts, which start at just $1,000, are flexible but cap out at $35,000—lower than lenders that focus on more creditworthy borrowers. Three- and five-year loan terms are available. Upgrade charges an origination fee between 2.9% and 8% of the loan, and borrowers will encounter a $10 fee if their payment is more than 15 days late or if the payment does not go through; there are no discounts for autopay. That said, Upgrade borrowers are not subject to a prepayment penalty, so you can reduce the overall cost of the loan if you’re able to pay it off early.
Upgrade was launched in 2017 and provides accessible online and mobile credit and banking services in every state except Iowa, Vermont and West Virginia. Since that time, the platform has made more than $3 billion in credit available to over 10 million applicants and continues to expand its online and mobile services. Although maximum APRs are on the high end compared to other online lenders, Upgrade makes loans available to those with poor credit history.
Pros & Cons
Eligibility: Prospective borrowers should have a minimum score of 580 to qualify for an Upgrade personal loan (the average borrower score is 697), making it an accessible option for those with fair credit. Furthermore, the lender does not require applicants to meet a minimum income requirement, although borrowers make $95,000 per year on average. Applicants should have a maximum pre-loan debt-to-income ratio of 45%, excluding their mortgage.
The lender also considers each applicant’s free cash flow, which demonstrates their likely ability to make consistent on-time loan payments. Ideally, applicants should have a minimum monthly cash flow of $800.
Upgrade increases loan accessibility by also allowing co-applicants.
Loan uses: As with most other personal loans, loans from Upgrade must be used to pay off credit cards, consolidate other debt, make home improvements or pay for other large purchases. However, Upgrade stands out from some lenders by allowing borrowers to use personal loan funds to cover business expenses. What’s more, Upgrade will directly pay off third-party lenders, making debt consolidation more convenient than with some competing lenders.
There are no specific prohibitions on the use of Upgrade loans other than those already imposed by law.
Turnaround time: Once an Upgrade loan is approved, it generally takes up to four business days for a borrower to receive the funds. However, if Upgrade is directly paying off a borrower’s loans to a third-party lender, it can take up to two weeks for the funds to clear.