Credit Cards

Upfront Reward Visa Platinum: There’s Never Been a Credit Card Like It

Comments 11 Comments

Every now and then, a credit card offer gets me so mad, I want everyone to know about what a rip-off it is. So please help me spread the word about this egregious come-on: The Upfront Reward Visa Platinum card from Universal Savings Bank.

To be approved for the card, which comes with a 9.99%, 10.99%, or 11.99% interest rate depending on your credit report, you have to transfer a balance of $5,000. There won’t be a fee on the transfer and the bank says you’ll get your reward "right away," which will be your choice of one of the following:

  • A name brand notebook computer (e.g., Dell and HP)
  • An HD flat screen television (Philips and Sharp)
  • An Oreck vacuum cleaner
  • An $800 gift card for golfing paraphernalia

Don’t owe $5,000 on another card? No worries. Universal Savings will give you a cash advance of up to $2,500. There won’t be a fee and you’ll pay only 9.99% to 11.99% interest on it – not the 19.99% you’ll have to pay if you take out other cash advances.

The bank says it’s already given away over 75,000 upfront rewards, and that there’s "never been a credit card offer quite like the Universal Savings Bank Upfront Reward Visa Platinum offer. And because you’re a savvy consumer, we know you’ll agree."

I don’t agree at all!

Three major catches:

1. The rewards aren’t worth the $850 or so the bank says they are. It’s easy to find the  merchandise online for a lot less money. For example, I just found one of the notebook computers for under $500 and one of the televisions for $580.

I was just beginning to research the prices of the other rewards when I came upon a great article by Kevin LoVecchio, who received an offer for the Upfront Rewards card in the mail a few months ago:  High-Risk, Low-Reward: The Perfect Investment? While some of the particulars have changed, his reporting shows that the deals are lousy.

2. You have to maintain a balance of $3,500 for 18 months! According to the bank, "If your balance falls below $3,500 at any time during the first 18 months after your account is open, you will be in default and your account will be assessed a one-time fee of $600."

Ouch! Or as Kevin puts it:

"Imagining that you can perfectly manage your purchases and payments to maintain the exact $3,500 minimum monthly balance, you get significantly overvalued computers and accessories at an out-of-pocket purchase price that is either break-even (at best) or hundreds of dollars more than simply purchasing online (at worst).  Make one mistake along the line and you can add in an additional $600 expense, paid right into the greedy pockets of the credit card companies."

By the way, that $600 doesn’t include the interest you’ll have paid on the $3,500 balance, which could amount to around $650, if you kept the $3,500 balance for 17 months before you blew it and paid back some of that amount.

3. You won’t get your reward right away. When the bank says "right away," it means after you’ve been approved and the balance transfer goes through, which could take up to a month. You should receive your reward "within weeks" after that.  I don’t know about you, but that’s not exactly my definition of right away.

The bank says it’s "brought a breath of fresh air" with Upfront Rewards. I beg to differ. I think it stinks. 

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  • Kevin LoVecchio

    Thanks for following up on this. Keep pushing the credit card companies — it’s time for serious reform.

  • Kris

    I beg to differ. I pay all my credit cards monthly and on time. Recently I did have to make a big payment on my regular credit card and when this opportunity came along, I went for it. Now I have a laptop (which I needed)and utilize while traveling. The laptop also came in quite quickly. No complaints here and would do it over again.

  • Lewin Edwards

    There is a class of people for whom this is a good deal: subprime borrowers. This offer is clearly aimed at subprimes (who else would be carrying a $3500 balance for a year and a half?). So the approval creditworthiness bar is pretty low. IF you’re already a subprime paying 18, 19, 25% interest on a couple of balances, then you’re going to be paying out the cash in interest anyway. Taking out an offer like this one means you get something tangible in return for that interest payout.

  • aj

    This card is such a rip off. Take it from me who is now paying the price. What they don’t tell you is that after a certain number of months, your card switches from a fixed interest rate to a variable one (mine happens to be prime + 4.99% or 13.99% right now!!!!) This despite a perfect credit score, and two other cards at 7.99% and 9.9%. I have no choice now but to pay it off and take the $600 hit, since the interest alone for the next 6 months til the end of my 18 month manditory period will be close to $800. CAN YOU SAY RIPOFF????? I called them and they said this card was never meant to be a fixed interest rate card, that it was alway intended to be a variable rate card w/ “a teaser introductory rate”. STAY AWAY FROM THIS CARD!!!!! I cannot emphasize this enough. By the end of this experience, if continued to keep my balance at around $3500, I will have paid almost $1000 in interest. Hardly worth it for a computer worth about $400. Let me say it one more time. STAY AWAY FROM THIS CARD. IT IS A TRAP!

  • J

    Try googling Upfront Rewards or Universal Savings Bank – they have bought a bunch of domain names and when you click on them they just take you to a page that has the logo on it and that’s it. What they are trying to do is game the search results so that pages like this blog don’t appear. I would be willing to bet that this is in violation of google policy and could get them banned from the search engine. Please spread the word on this.

  • T

    I had a run in with a different company which upped my rate to 24% saying I had negatives on my credit report. I asked them to prove that to me and they couldn’t, but never lowered my rate. I transferred to this credit card, received a new computer and still got a much lower interest rate. I maintained my balance for the 18 months and now am paying it off. This credit card did not do anything wrong towards me. I have been quite pleased with it.

  • John

    I just want to say that the Upfront rewaeds is not upfront with you at all. It is a rip off and unfortunately I did not do my home work before falling into there trap. So do not fall for this rip off.

  • Ericka

    I’m sad to say we fell for this “deal” also. It is MUCH cheaper to buy a Laptop or TV on your one, then it is to go this route.
    My other complaint- dealing with their “customer service” reps. They are one of the worst.
    We’ve learned our lesson.

  • Dan A.

    I loved this card!! We were in the process of paying off our credit cards and I wanted a new set of Golf clubs – Callaways. I saw the advertisement in the Golf Digest and took it on. My wife did the math over the protracted period of time, measured the interest rate against the purchase of new clubs over the 18 months. Then she figured how much minimum payment we would have to do to keep our balance at the minimum (a whole 20 mins of her time and a calculator) and it worked out! Now the card is paid off, I have my new Callaway clubs (X-18′s), new Callaway bag and X-Tour Sand wedge! Very happy camper here!!

  • J.M.J. West

    I loved this card too. My wife had a high interest card (16% ish APR), and over $10k on it. By switching to this card, my APR was lowered 6 pts to 9.9%, and I got a free Laptop (a dell, which I’m writing this on), and later a free camera for transferring over a smaller debt from one of my cards…
    The only odd thing was that they actually sold my account after about 9 months to one of the other moguls (Chase, I believe), but none of my terms of service changed.

  • Tony S

    Universal Savings Bank defrauded me of a FREE laptop that they promised if I transferred $5000 from another account. Shortly after opening the account I followed through with a phone call to see when the laptop would arrive and was told that it was on it’s way. Weeks passed and I called again, only to be greeted by an automated response. Several more weeks passed and no emails or phone calls were ever answered. Until one day I received a letter and credit card from Chase Bank that I had never applied for. The letter basically said something along the lines of, “Welcome to Chase Bank. You’ll be doing business with us now because we purchased Universal Savings Bank which are no longer in business”.
    Seeing how Chase took the liability of purchasing all of USB accounts, I then called Chase to ask about the whereabouts of my laptop. They basically had no idea what I was talking about and claimed no responsibility in owing me anything other than a higher interest rate to what I previously had with USB. After taking this up with a higher official at Chase, I was informed that they would look into it, however in the meantime I had to initiate a first payment on the USB balance as a good faith gesture. To this day I still haven’t heard anything back from Chase. In the meaqntime I intend to take this to Consumer Affairs.

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