Fintech startup Upgrade is launching a new credit card today. The Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Card is a classic Visa credit card that works across the Visa network. But you get 1.5% in bitcoin rewards when you make payments.
Upgrade isn’t the first company to announce a credit card with bitcoin rewards — but it’s the first one that is generally available. If your application is approved, you can start using the virtual card immediately.
BlockFi announced its own credit card with bitcoin rewards in December 2020. Gemini followed suit quickly thereafter. But those cards are still not generally available. A couple of weeks ago, BlockFi started inviting people on its waitlist. So a general rollout should come sooner rather than later.
As for the Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Card, the company offers credit lines from $500 to $25,000 depending on your credit score. It works with Apple Pay and Google Pay. Like other Upgrade credit cards, there are no monthly fees, late fees or returned payment fees.
Essentially, this new card works pretty much like Upgrade’s existing credit card. But instead of getting 1.5% cash back on all purchases, you get 1.5% back in bitcoin — there’s no specific category, no partner retailer, no point system. It’s a straightforward, uncapped cash back program.
While you get rates that range between 8.99% and 29.99%, Upgrade encourages you to combine monthly charges into installment plans that you can pay back over 24 to 60 months. Once you’ve done that, you pay equal monthly payments at a fixed rate.
“Upgrade Card is already delivering over $3 billion in annualized credit to consumers,” co-founder and CEO Renaud Laplanche said in a statement. “Starting today, anyone can apply for an Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Card and enjoy the same affordable and responsible credit as with any Upgrade Card, plus the potential upside and fun of owning bitcoin.”
The company has partnered with NYDIG for the bitcoin rewards. Right now, you can’t do much with your bitcoins. You can choose to hold them or sell them. There’s no way to transfer your bitcoins to another wallet for instance. If you choose to sell your rewards, there’s a 1.5% transaction fee.
It’s also worth noting that this card isn’t available in all 50 states. Customers in Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia can’t order a Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Card at the moment.
Once again, Upgrade is diversifying its portfolio of products as a top-of-the-funnel strategy. By diversifying its credit card offering, it’ll lead to more personal loans down the road.
To be fair, Upgrade encourages you to pay down your debt as you receive your rewards when you make your monthly balance payments. But Upgrade wants to own the customer relationship so that you’ll think about them whenever you need a personal loan.