Universal Credit Personal Loans Review for 2024

Pros Explained

  • Next-day funding: Universal Credit starts the funds transfer process the business day after you accept your loan offer. It may still take a few days before you see it in your account, however.2
  • Free VantageScore credit score: You’ll have access to the Credit Health credit monitoring service through Universal Credit’s parent company, Upgrade.3 It’s not as good as a FICO score, but it at least gives you some idea of your credit score status.
  • Offers direct payment to creditors: If you’re using your loan funds to consolidate other debt, Universal Credit can pay off your old debts for you. This process can take up to two weeks.2
  • Can apply with a joint applicant or collateral: You can’t apply with a co-signer, but you can apply with a joint applicant who shares the same rights and responsibilities for repaying the loan with you. Alternatively, you may be able to use a vehicle for collateral.

Cons Explained

  • No mobile app: Upgrade offers a handy mobile app that helps you manage your accounts more easily. Universal Credit, unfortunately, does not; you’ll need to use your web browser to see your account details.
  • High interest rates: Borrowers who qualify for the lowest rate will pay more at Universal Credit than Upgrade, which offers lower starting interest rates. However, the maximum rate is the same for both lenders.
  • High origination fees: Similarly, well-qualified borrowers will pay a much higher origination fee with Universal Credit than Upgrade—though the maximum fee charged by both lenders is the same.
  • Limited customer support hours: Universal Credit operates a customer service phone line seven days a week. However, the hours are rather limited, ending at 6 p.m. PT on weekdays.4 Borrowers who work a late shift may be out of luck if they need help over the phone.

Some lenders don’t charge an origination fee, especially if you’re a well-qualified applicant.

Types of Personal Loans Offered by Universal Credit

Universal Credit’s flagship product is an unsecured personal loan that provides very few details to the casual loan shopper. You can use this loan for many different purposes. Common reasons to take out personal loans include:

  • Consolidating debt
  • Moving to a new area
  • Handling emergency expenses
  • Repairing or upgrading your home
  • Getting married and going on a honeymoon

Most personal loan lenders allow you to use your funds for whatever you want, with a few prohibitions against things like illegal activities or gambling. Universal Credit doesn’t specify whether it restricts loans for these purposes either, but it’s possible that it does.

According to Investopedia’s 2023 Personal Loan Borrower survey, debt consolidation is the most common reason cited for getting a personal loan. Paying for home improvements and large purchases were the next two most common reasons.

Universal Credit may offer secured personal loans—but again, it provides no concrete details about how this process works. If it’s modeled after Upgrade secured loans, however, you can use a vehicle that you own for collateral.5 This may allow you a better chance of getting approved for a loan and possibly receiving lower interest rates.

Be extra cautious when using a vehicle as collateral for a loan. If you default on the personal loan—even if it was for reasons outside of your control—you could end up losing your car.

Time to Receive Personal Loan Funds

There are two main steps before you can use your loan funds. First, you’ll need to be approved for a loan; actual disbursement (i.e., payment) of your loan funds is a separate step. Universal Credit doesn’t specify how long it takes to go through the loan approval process, although most online lenders use an automated system for this.

Assuming you are approved for a loan, Universal Credit will send your loan funds over by the next business day. It does this via an ACH transfer into your bank account. Each bank has a different funds availability policy for ACH transfers, and depending on your bank’s policy, it could still take up to a few days before the funds become available to spend in your account.2

Borrower Requirements

Universal Credit doesn’t provide a lot of information about what you’ll need to qualify for a personal loan aside from having fair credit or better. Here are the requirements you’ll need to meet, at a minimum:

  • Age: 18 years or older, or 19 years or older in Alabama
  • Residency: U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or non-permanent resident with a valid visa
  • Credit score: 620 or higher
  • Bank account: Must have a valid bank account
  • Email address: Must have a valid email address2

Universal Credit Personal Loan Features

Don’t expect too many features with Universal Credit personal loans, especially when compared with other lenders (or even Upgrade personal loans, for that matter). However, these loans do have a few helpful aspects, even if Universal Credit doesn’t provide any details:

  • Credit insurance
  • Payment information reported to all three credit bureaus
  • Direct payment to creditors (for debt consolidation loans)
  • Interest rate discount for autopay and direct creditor payoff (for debt consolidation loans)

Co-Signers and Co-Applicants

If you need help in getting approved for a loan or if you want to share all of your finances—debt included—with a partner, Universal Credit only offers one option to apply with someone else: a joint application.

Applying for a joint personal loan with a co-borrower (as opposed to a co-signer) carries more weight because your co-applicant is responsible upfront for repaying the loan with you. A co-signer, by contrast—which Universal Credit does not allow you to apply with—is often easier to find because they’re only responsible for repaying the loan if you’re unable to do so.

Can You Refinance a Personal Loan With Universal Credit?

No. Universal Credit personal loans can’t be used to refinance another personal loan, only for new purchases. Oddly enough, its parent company—Upgrade—does allow you to refinance personal loans. It’s one of the few distinctions between the two companies, besides the higher rates and fees that Universal Credit charges.

Customer Service

Universal Credit may be tough to get ahold of at times, with only two options available.

Medium Contact When
Telephone 877-418-9765 Weekdays, 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT
Saturday and Sunday, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT
Email support-universal@upgrade.com 24/7

Customer Satisfaction

Despite Universal Credit’s lack of transparency and the relatively poor ranking of its parent company, Upgrade, on J.D. Power’s annual customer satisfaction ranking, Universal Credit seems to have garnered a fair amount of support from actual customers.6

Borrowers who’ve used Universal Credit personal loans have given the company an average rating of 4.8 stars (out of five) with Trustpilot, based on nearly 3,000 reviews.7 A smaller number of customers—361 total—have shared their thoughts with the Better Business Bureau, where Universal Credit has a similarly high rating of 4.8 out of five stars.8

How to Qualify For and Apply For a Universal Credit Personal Loan

The process of applying for Universal Credit personal loans works basically the same as with any other lender. Here are the main steps:

  1. Pre-qualify. You can check your rates and loan options with Universal Credit without completing a full loan application. Universal Credit uses a soft credit check to do this, so your credit score won’t be impacted.
  2. Shop around. Although not required, it’s highly recommended to check your rates with at least a few other lenders—the more, the better. In particular, it’s worth checking your rates with Upgrade, which may be cheaper than Universal Credit personal loans.
  3. Complete a full application. If you choose Universal Credit after seeing your full range of options, you’ll need to submit more information in a full application that the lender will provide. In particular, you’ll generally need to submit documents showing your proof of identity, bank account, and income.2
  4. Receive final approval. Most online personal loan lenders approve applications quite quickly; often within a few minutes via an automated system. However, it’s always possible that your application will need further review, in which case a representative from Universal Credit will reach out to you.
  5. Receive funding. Universal Credit will send you a final loan agreement to review. Make sure you read through this carefully so you know what happens if you pay late, for example. Once you sign the agreement, Universal Credit will initiate an ACH transfer to your bank account on the next business day.
  6. Begin repayment. Universal Credit personal loans offer a discount if you sign up for autopay. It’s best to do this during the sign-up process so you can ensure your loan payments are always made on time, saving you money on late fees and potential credit score damage.

Other Banking Services and Loans Offered by Universal Credit

Universal Credit doesn’t offer any other products. However, its parent company, Upgrade, offers a few other financial tools geared toward helping people with limited access to traditional banking and credit services.

  • Upgrade credit card
  • Upgrade checking and savings account

Compare Universal Credit With Other Personal Loan Lenders

Universal Credit Upgrade PenFed
APR Range 11.69%–35.99% 8.49%–35.99% 7.99%–17.99%
Loan Amount $1,000–$50,000 $1,000–$50,000 $600–$50,000
Loan Terms 36–60 months 24–84 months 12–60 months
Recommended Minimum Credit Score 620 620 700
Origination Fee 9.99% 9.99% N/A
Time to Receive Funds 1 day 1 day 1 day

The Bottom Line

We don’t view Universal Credit personal loans as a first-choice option. Its parent company, Upgrade, essentially offers the same personal loan but with cheaper financing costs and a wider range of term lengths. Furthermore, Universal Credit doesn’t do a good job of distinguishing itself or providing relevant details, with most of its selling points being basic descriptions of how personal loans work in general.

That said, we still think it’s worth your time to check your rates with Universal Credit. There’s nothing to lose, since it offers pre-qualification with no hard credit inquiry. Customers who’ve worked with Universal Credit seem to view it favorably, and if it does offer you better rates, you can be confident you got the best deal. If not, it’ll be even easier to rule out Universal Credit personal loans in favor of something better.

Is Universal Credit Personal Loans Legit?

Yes. Universal Credit has been offering online personal loans since 2020 and is licensed to operate in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.1 The company is owned by Upgrade, Inc., a larger and more well-known lender in the online personal loan space.9 Universal Credit is based out of the same headquarters as Upgrade in San Francisco, California.4

What Credit Score Do You Need for a Universal Credit Loan?

Universal Credit accepts applicants with FICO credit scores of 620 or higher, assuming they also meet all other requirements to get a personal loan. This is considered a fair credit score, meaning that Universal Credit personal loans may not be suitable for borrowers with bad credit scores.10 Similarly, borrowers with good credit scores may find it easy to find more affordable personal loans than what Universal Credit can offer.

How Long Does It Take for a Universal Credit Loan to Be Approved?

Universal Credit does not provide any information on the timeline for loan approval (i.e., between when you submit your application and receive final approval). This is often a fast process with most online lenders, typically happening within a few minutes for most borrowers. It can take longer if you have a unique financial situation, however, such as being self-employed.

Once you’re approved, you can see your funds from Universal Credit in your account within a few business days, depending on your bank’s processing timeline for ACH transfers.2

What’s the Most You Can Borrow From Universal Credit?

Universal Credit personal loans can be as large as $50,000 for qualified applicants. The lender will evaluate your income, debt payments, credit score, and other factors when calculating how much you can borrow for any loan, including a Universal Credit personal loan. You’ll stand the best chance of being approved for a larger personal loan if you have a high income, a strong credit score, and a relatively small percentage of your income going towards current debt payments.

Methodology

To evaluate and rank personal loan providers we collected hundreds of data points across 70 lenders, including traditional banks, credit unions, fintechs, and special interest finance companies. We researched and evaluated APRs, loan amounts and terms, fees, customer experience, and much more. To rank the lenders in our database and to generate star ratings, we weighted the data we collected, based in part on what consumers told us were the most important features of a personal loan and lender in a survey we conducted. We grouped those factors into four broad areas:

  • Loan costs (advertised APR, fees, and six other factors): 29.25%
  • Loan terms (loan amount, repayment term, and three other factors): 22.25%
  • Borrowing requirements (credit score, membership requirement, and six other factors): 28.5%
  • Additional features (online application, pre-qualification, and eight other factors): 20%

Learn more about how we evaluated personal loans in our complete methodology.

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