Upgrade personal loan review: Self-employed may apply

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In a Nutshell

Online lender Upgrade offers personal loans with fixed interest rates that may help you consolidate credit card debt. But Upgrade charges origination fees and its interest rates are higher than some competitors, so it may not be your best option if you have excellent credit and can apply for a personal loan elsewhere.

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Pros Cons
Wide range of loan amounts ($1,000 to $50,000) Origination fees of up to 6%
Clear application process for self-employed borrowers Only two loan terms: 36 or 60 months
Soft credit inquiry available to check potential rates No direct payments for debt consolidation

What you need to know about an Upgrade personal loan

Upgrade is a San Francisco–based online lender founded in 2016 that offers unsecured personal loans, personal lines of credit and free credit monitoring. Its loans are available in every state except Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Vermont and West Virginia.

Popular uses for Upgrade personal loans include debt consolidation, home improvements, and major purchases like vacations, medical procedures or emergency expenses. Here are some important details about Upgrade personal loans.

Learn more: Bill consolidation: How to do it with a personal loan

Wide range of loan amounts

One benefit of applying for a personal loan with Upgrade is the range of amounts you can potentially borrow. Upgrade offers loans as small as $1,000, depending on your state, though you should always determine if you need to finance a purchase at all before taking out a loan.

Upgrade issues loans up to $50,000, which is higher than a number of online competitors.

Self-employed borrowers may qualify

If you’re self-employed, you may want to look into a personal loan with Upgrade. Just keep in mind that self-employed applicants will likely have to submit more documentation during the application process than wage-earners. Upgrade requires two recent years of tax returns and most recent bank statements to verify income for self-employed (sole proprietor) borrowers. It may also request additional documentation.

Origination fees

One downside to Upgrade is that the lender charges origination fees, ranging from 1.5% to 6%, on every single loan. It may make more sense to work with a lender that doesn’t charge origination fees, particularly if you have excellent credit.

Upgrade deducts the origination fee when you receive your loan funds. For example, if you take out a $10,000 loan with a one-time 5% origination fee, you’ll receive $9,500 in your bank account. 

Since the origination fee is included in your annual percentage rate, or APR, an Upgrade loan could come with higher interest rates. On the flip side, competitors that don’t charge loan origination fees may have lower interest rates. 

No direct payments for debt consolidation

If you plan to use an Upgrade loan to consolidate credit card debt, you’ll have to pay creditors off on your own from the funds deposited into your bank account.

Compare that to lenders like Marcus and Wells Fargo, which will send money directly to your creditors to pay off your balances (if requested).

What else you should know about Upgrade personal loans

Here are some additional details about Upgrade personal loans.

  • Autopay is required for the lowest rates. The interest rates you see on loan offers include an autopay discount. Along with qualification, to get the advertised rates, you’ll need to sign up to have funds automatically deducted from your bank account for repayment. If you don’t select the autopay option, you’ll have to pay a higher interest rate.
  • You must meet minimum requirements. Upgrade doesn’t publish its minimum credit scores or debt-to-income requirements. But the lender considers your credit (scores, usage and history) when making loan decisions.
  • There are some restrictions on uses. Loans from Upgrade can’t be used to fund investments, pay for postsecondary education or gamble.
  • Upgrade offers limited loan terms. Upgrade doesn’t offer much flexibility when it comes to loan-payoff terms — you can choose between a 36- or 60-month payoff plan.
  • You’ll face late and returned payment fees. If a check or electronic payment is returned, you’ll be charged a $10 fee. You may also owe a late payment fee of up to $10 if you don’t make your full payment within 15 days of your payment due date. 

Who an Upgrade personal loan is good for

With origination fees and higher interest rates than a number of competitors, Upgrade is probably not a top choice for people with excellent credit. But people with fair credit who want an unsecured personal loan might consider Upgrade. You can check your estimated rate without hurting your credit scores, since Upgrade uses a soft inquiry to screen you.

Your guide to credit score ranges

But if you’re looking for a loan that you’ll want to pay off early, Upgrade may be a good choice, since you won’t face any prepayment fees.

Because Upgrade is an online lender, you’ll want to be comfortable working with a financial-services company that doesn’t have physical bank branches. 

How to apply for an Upgrade personal loan

To apply for an Upgrade personal loan, you must be at least 18 years old (19 in some states); have a verifiable bank account; have a verifiable email address; and be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or have a valid visa to live in the U.S.

You can check your estimated rate. If you decide to proceed with the loan, you’ll then have to complete a formal loan application.

You can apply online or start an application by calling 1-844-311-0088. Applications by mail are not accepted.

To complete the application process, you’ll need to submit the following information:

  • Name, address and date of birth
  • Annual income
  • Bank account information
  • Email address
  • Amount you want to borrow
  • Purpose of the loan

Upgrade may also request income verification documents, like recent pay stubs, bank statements or tax returns, or a copy of a government-issued photo ID.

If your loan application is approved, Upgrade may deposit the loan proceeds in your bank account as soon as one business day. Depending on how quickly your bank processes the loan transaction, it could take up to four business days to receive the funds.

Not sure an Upgrade personal loan is right for you? Consider these alternatives.

  • Lightstream: Lightstream, the online consumer-lending arm of SunTrust Bank, may be a better choice if you have good or excellent credit, since it offers personal loans with no origination fees and more-competitive interest rates.
  • Wells Fargo: Wells Fargo may be right for you if you prefer in-person banking or the option for a secured personal loan. Read our Wells Fargo personal loan review to learn more.