Upgrade Rewards Checking Account Review 2024

An Upgrade rewards checking account can help you earn cash back on everyday purchases if you use a debit card frequently. Compare rates and fees.
Financial Expert
mm
Managing Editor
Our methodology is designed to provide consumers with unbiased and comprehensive evaluations of various banking products. Visit our Editorial Policy page for more information.

If you don’t mind online banking and want to earn cash back rewards for using your debit card regularly, then the Upgrade rewards checking account is worth looking into.

In addition to earning cash back on daily purchases, Upgrade saves you money by not charging some of the customary checking fees you might be used to paying.

Sound intriguing? Continue reading to learn more about the Upgrade rewards checking account, including its features, downsides you should know, and how this account measures up to the competition.

Upgrade Rewards Checking Account At-a-Glance

Overall Impression

Overall, the Upgrade rewards checking account is a good option, mainly because of the cash back you can receive when using your debit card to pay for items you’d be buying anyway.

Also, Upgrade charges no fees, though if you use your debit card at an ATM, you may be subject to fees from that bank. However, you can receive reimbursements for these fees from Upgrade, but only up to a point. To take advantage of ATM rebates and cash back benefits, Upgrade requires that you have an active account, meaning you’ve received at least $1,000 in direct deposits per month.

This may be concerning if you cannot deposit that much every month into your account.

Easily Compare the Best Checking Accounts Online

Compare rates, fees, accessibility, customer service, and more. Find the best checking account for your needs.

Pros and Cons of Upgrade Checking

No matter where you open a checking account, there will be a combination of benefits and drawbacks.

Below, we look at the pros and cons of opening an Upgrade rewards checking account so you have realistic expectations about doing business with the company.

Pros

  • Cash back rewards: Upgrade provides 2% cash back rewards for everyday purchases made with your debit card, so you can earn rewards when you shop at convenience stores, gas stations, and drugstores. Also, charges made at restaurants and payments for utility and mobile phone bills can receive these awards.
  • No fees: Upgrade charges no draft, ATM, or annual fees. Also, no minimum deposit is required, nor is there a minimum balance needed to keep your account open.
  • ATM fee reimbursement: Although Upgrade does not charge customers for using their debit cards at ATMs, they may still be subject to third-party charges. When this happens, Upgrade will reimburse you for these fees.
  • Availability: Unlike some online financial institutions that are available only in limited areas of the country, Upgrade is available to consumers in all 50 states.
  • Direct deposit perks: If you receive direct deposit payments, Upgrade allows you to receive your money two days earlier than you normally would when you have direct deposits into your rewards checking account.

Cons

  • No physical branches: Upgrade has no physical branches, so if you’re accustomed to making face-to-face bank transactions, you will not have that option with this company.
  • High deposits required to have an active account: Upgrade requires that customers receive at least $1,000 in direct deposits each month for an account to be considered active.
  • Limits on rewards: Although you can be reimbursed for the ATM fees you incur when you take out money from other institutions, this benefit is limited. You can only receive ATM rebates from Upgrade if the account was considered active the month before the fees were incurred. You can only receive these rebates for up to five transactions, and your account must be active to take advantage of the cash back rewards.

Compare to Other Checking Accounts

There are many savings accounts to choose from, so researching is essential to ensure you find the right one for your needs.

Although you may think Upgrade is a good choice, check out these comparisons to other checking accounts to see how they measure up to what Upgrade offers.

Varo Bank Checking

The Varo Bank checking account is similar to the Upgrade rewards checking account in several ways.

Both companies allow customers to receive direct deposit payments early, so they don’t have to wait for their funds.

Also, these companies charge no monthly fees to their customers, nor do they require a minimum balance to open an account.

Varo Bank, like Upgrade, allows customers to earn cash back on purchases made with their debit cards. However, when it comes to this benefit, this is where the similarities between the two companies end.

While Upgrade provides cash back rewards of 2% for everyday expenses, Varo Bank is much more generous with its rewards, allowing customers to receive up to 15% on qualified purchases.

Citi Priority Checking Account

Like the Upgrade rewards checking account, the Citi priority checking account is available to customers in all 50 states.

Both companies have a mobile app that gives customers easy access to their accounts.

However, unlike Upgrade, Citi charges a monthly maintenance fee of $30, which can be waived if you maintain a minimum balance of $30,000.

SoFi Checking and Savings

While Upgrade allows customers to open a separate savings account when they obtain their rewards checking account to receive healthy interest, SoFi has a combined checking and savings account for customers who aren’t interested in traditional accounts.

Customers of both companies enjoy many of the same benefits: early access to direct deposit funds, no maintenance fees, access to a mobile app, and robust customer support.

Who Is an Upgrade Rewards Checking Account For?

An Upgrade rewards checking account is a good choice for those who feel comfortable doing their banking online and don’t mind that the company has no physical branches.

If you frequently use a debit card to make purchases at places like restaurants, convenience stores, and gas stations, Upgrade has attractive cash back rewards.

This is a good account if you can make a direct deposit of at least $1,000 each month since that is the criteria for keeping an Upgrade rewards checking account active.

Rating the Features & Products

At first blush, an Upgrade rewards checking account may sound like a good option. However, it’s essential to understand exactly what features are available when you open an account. Let’s take a look at what the company provides.

Mobile Banking

Upgrade has a mobile app that customers can access using an iPhone 7 or Android 6 or newer. People can use the app to sign up for an account and manage it once it’s open.

Customer Service and Experience

While no physical branches are available, Upgrade is reasonably accessible to customers. The customer service line is available by phone from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific Time on Monday through Friday and 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Customers can find answers to frequently asked questions on the company’s website or send an email with any questions or concerns. According to Upgrade’s website, an online chat feature will soon be available for those with checking and savings accounts.

Fees

Upgrade customers are not charged annual, overdraft, or ATM fees on their checking accounts. Third-party institutions may charge ATM fees for using their machines, but Upgrade will reimburse you.

There are some limitations. To receive the ATM fee rebate, your account must have been active — meaning you received at least a $1,000 direct deposit — in the month before the fees were incurred. As a courtesy, however, new customers can receive these rebates during the first 60 days of opening an account, even if the account hasn’t been active.

Upgrade only provides rebates for up to five ATM fees, so if you take money out of your account more frequently, the fees may add up.

Rates

Although the Upgrade rewards checking account does not accrue interest, when you open a premier savings account with your checking account, you can earn a very competitive APY if the account is active. If the account isn’t active, you’ll earn a significantly lower rate, though it may be higher than what you’d receive from traditional savings accounts.

Tools and Extras

Upgrade offers 2% cash back rewards when customers use their debit card on purchases at drug and convenience stores, restaurants, and gas stations. This cash back reward can also be earned for utility, mobile phone, and monthly subscription bills.

However, you can only earn these rewards for up to $500 per year. Once this threshold is met, you will receive 1% cash back for unlimited purchases for the rest of the year.

Access

Upgrade has no physical branches, so if you start an account, you must feel comfortable banking online. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t have access to help when you need it.

Customer service is available seven days a week if you need to speak to someone, and you can also email the company with any questions.

Upgrade also has answers to many customer questions on its website. In addition, you can easily access your funds by taking out withdrawals at ATMs, as well as wire transfers and ACH transactions.

Safety and Security

When you open an account at Upgrade, your money is FDIC insured through the Cross River Bank. As a result, your balance is safe up to $250,000, as with any other bank.

Minimum Deposit or Balance Requirement

Upgrade does not require a minimum deposit to open an account or a minimum balance to maintain your account.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does Zelle work with an Upgrade checking account?

No, Upgrade customers are not able to use Zelle at this time.

How does a rewards checking account work?

Rewards checking accounts allow customers to receive a certain amount of cash back when they use their debit card. In some cases, these accounts may also earn interest.

What are the cons of a rewards checking account?

Some rewards checking accounts may have limits on the rewards you can receive. Also, depending on the financial institution, high opening deposit requirements or fees may be charged to maintain the account.

About Author
Kenya McCullum
Kenya McCullum is a freelance writer with expertise in personal finance. She writes about personal finance, education, and other topics that are important to consumers.