Upgrade’s Rewards Checking Plus Account Review 2024


Choosing the best checking account can feel like finding a needle in a haystack. With so many online options available today, you have many options for no-fee accounts. But what if you want something more, like cash back?

That’s also possible with accounts like Upgrade’s Rewards Checking Plus account. Upgrade has been around since 2016, so it’s a newer player, but it packs quite a punch as Cross River Bank, a financial institution with a long and successful history, backs it.

Check out this Rewards Checking Plus account by Upgrade review to see if the account fits your financial needs.

What Is Upgrade’s Rewards Checking Plus?

Rewards Checking Plus is a checking account with cashback rewards on debit purchases, no monthly fee, and the potential for ATM reimbursements and high savings APY through their Performance Savings companion account.

The basic account provides members with many benefits, but there are even more benefits if you set up direct deposit of at least $1,000 monthly.

Because Cross River Bank, Member FDIC, backs the Rewards Checking Plus account, it includes standard FDIC insurance of up to $250,000 per depositor.

What Sets Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus Apart?

Most online checking accounts offer benefits, such as early access to direct deposit or cash back on debit purchases, but they don’t offer a combination of rewards like Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus offers if you have an active account.

Upgrade requires a qualified direct deposit of at least $1,000 set up monthly to have an active account. You can access greater rewards than ‘standard’ members if you qualify. No matter your qualifications, there is never a monthly fee or minimum balance requirement,  including:

  • Up to 2% cash back on common, everyday purchases
  • Higher APY of 5.07% on Performance Savings accounts
  • Non-network ATM fee reimbursement
  • Remote check deposit
  • Lower rates on new credit cards or loans

Key Features of Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus

The features you can enjoy with an Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus account depend on your membership. If you have an active account, you have more benefits.

Features for Any Member

All Upgrade members receive the following benefits with an Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus account.

Early Access to Direct Deposit

Get early access to your earnings by as much as two days with early direct deposit access. How early you receive your funds depends on when your employer initiates the deposit. Cross River Bank makes the deposit available as soon as the ACH transfer is received.

No Monthly Fees

The Rewards Checking Plus account doesn’t charge any monthly fees to use or access your funds. There also isn’t a monthly minimum balance you must meet to avoid a fee.

No Overdraft Fees

The Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus account doesn’t allow overdrafts. While your transactions could be declined because of a lack of funds, you won’t face the consequences of exceeding your account balance. However, if you have an overdraft from a tip or another expense that made it through, Upgrade won’t charge an overdraft fee.

24/7 Access on a Mobile Device

The Upgrade mobile app is available 24/7. This enables members to manage their money any time of day or night, including making transfers or reconciling their accounts.

Up to 1% Cash Back on Purchases

All members receive up to 1% cash back on most purchases made with the Rewards Checking Plus debit card.

Features for Active Members

If you become an active member and have at least $1,000 but less than $5,000 in direct deposits monthly, you’ll have access to the following benefits.

Higher Savings APR

Active members with a Performance Savings account can earn 5.07% APY on their savings balances. Regular members earn 1.5%.

Up to 2% Cash Back on Everyday Purchases

Active members can earn 2% back on everyday purchases, such as gas, convenience store purchases, restaurants, utilities, phone bills, and monthly subscriptions. Members can earn up to $500 per calendar year; after that, it’s 1% back on all purchases.

ATM Reimbursement for Non-Network ATM Use

Active members can use any ATM, even if it’s out of network, without paying a fee. Upgrade will reimburse members up to five times per month for non-network ATM charges.

Remote Check Deposit

Active members have access to remote deposit, allowing them to deposit checks from anywhere, even on their couches. Without this option, you must deposit the check in a different account and transfer the funds electronically to your Rewards Checking Plus account.

Lower Rates on Loans and Credit Cards

The final benefit is lower rates on new loans and credit cards after opening a Rewards Checking Plus checking account. However, the exact savings will depend on your qualifying factors.

Pros & Cons of Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus

An Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus review wouldn’t be complete without reviewing its pros and cons.

Pros

  • High cashback opportunities for active accounts
  • No monthly fees
  • Early access to direct deposit
  • High APY and ATM reimbursement opportunities for active members

Cons

  • Limit to the 2% cash-back rewards
  • Must have at least $1,000 in direct deposit to get the best rewards
  • No physical branches

How To Open an Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus Account

Opening an account takes five minutes or less and can be done online.

You’ll start by entering your email address. Next, they ask for personal information, including your name, date of birth, and address. Provide Upgrade with your mobile number, create a password, and provide your Social Security number, and you’re on your way to becoming an Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus account member.

You must set up direct deposit with your employer to become ‘active’ to get the best perks. However, if you want to start by funding your account to be a regular member, you can do so via ACH or wire transfer.

Fees

Currently, the Rewards Checking Plus account doesn’t have many fees. This includes no monthly maintenance, overdraft, ATM, or incoming wire transfer fee. However, if you send an outgoing wire, they charge $20.

Also, if you use an out-of-network ATM, the ATM operator may charge you a fee. Upgrade will reimburse you up to five times per month if you have an active account.

Customer Service and Online Experience

Upgrade currently offers phone and email support for checking and savings customers. Support is available 5 AM to 6 PM ET, Monday to Friday, and 6 AM to 5 PM, Saturday – Sunday.

They are also working on adding chat support to provide more opportunities to contact support.

Upgrade also has a robust online help section to provide answers to commonly asked questions, and they encourage you to use your online dashboard to check for updates or answers.

Alternatives

Providing you with alternatives in an Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus review helps you compare your options to decide which account is best.

1. Discover Cashback Debit

The Discover Cashback debit checking account has no monthly fees and earns 1% back on purchases up to $3,000 per month, which is just shy of the $500 maximum Upgrade allows annually. Like Upgrade, Discover offers early access to direct deposit and a robust mobile app. Discover customers also have access to 60,000+ fee-free ATMs.

2. Axos Cash Back Checking

The Axos Cash Back Checking account pays 1% back on signature-based purchases made with your debit card if you maintain a $1,500 average daily balance, up to $2,000 earned. If your balance falls below $1,500, you’ll earn 0.50% for that month. There are no monthly maintenance fees, and Axos allows unlimited ATM reimbursements.

3. SoFi Checking and Savings

With one application, the SoFi checking and savings account offers high-yield checking and savings. Like Upgrade, you must have a qualifying direct deposit to be eligible for the higher APY on checking and savings balances. In addition, SoFi offers up to 15% cash back on purchases made with your debit card at local retailers and doesn’t charge a monthly fee.

Final Word

The Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus account is a great option if you can set up direct deposit. The higher savings APY and 2% cash back on everyday purchases are enough of a reason to try it.

With no monthly fee and the ability to have non-network ATM transitions reimbursed, it’s easy to see why thousands have tried and loved the Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus account.

As is the case with any checking account, see how the features and rewards stack up to your financial habits and compare them to other options to ensure you’re maximizing your rewards.


Disclaimers:

¹ Rewards Checking Plus customers who set up monthly direct deposits of $1,000 or more earn 2% cash back on common everyday expenses at convenience stores, drugstores, restaurants and bars – including deliveries – and gas stations, as well as recurring payments on utilities and monthly subscriptions including phone, cable, TV and other streaming services, and 1% cash back on all other debit card purchases. 2% cash back is limited to $500 in rewards per calendar year; after $500, customers earn 1% cash back on all eligible debit card purchases for the remainder of the year. Rewards Checking Plus accounts with less than $1,000 in monthly direct deposits 60 days after account opening will earn 1% cash back on common everyday expenses and 0.50% cash back on all other eligible debit card purchases. Some limitations apply. Please refer to the applicable Upgrade VISA® Debit Card Agreement and Disclosures for more information.

² There are no overdraft fees or annual fees associated with Rewards Checking Plus accounts. Rewards Checking Plus charges no ATM fees, but third-party institutions may charge you a fee if you use their ATM/network or if you use your Upgrade VISA® Debit Card internationally. For Active Accounts, Upgrade will rebate ATM fees charged by another institution for debit card withdrawals in the United States, up to five times per calendar month. To be eligible to receive third-party ATM fee rebates in any calendar month for eligible ATM withdrawals made during that month on a Rewards Checking Plus account, the account must be an Active Account in the prior calendar month. See the Active Account page for more information. As a courtesy to new customers, Upgrade will provide third-party ATM fee rebates for 60 days after account opening regardless of account user status. Some limitations apply. Please refer to the applicable Cross River Bank Checking Deposit Account Agreement and Upgrade VISA® Debit Card Agreement and Disclosures for more information.

³ Early direct deposit requires set up of recurring electronic direct deposit from your employer, payroll, or benefits provider and is limited to direct deposits under $5000. Early access to direct deposit funds depends on the timing in which we receive notice of impending direct deposit, which is generally up to two days before the scheduled deposit date.

⁴Active Accounts with a monthly direct deposit of $1000 are eligible for additional benefits on Rewards Checking Plus such as additional cash back rewards, ATM fee reimbursement, and more. See the Active Account page for more information. 



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