How Upgraded Points Ranks and Rates Credit Cards [Our Methodology]
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At Upgraded Points, we’ve published thousands of articles to millions of readers that help them decide which credit cards are best for their needs.
These articles include our credit card reviews that feature our “U.P. Rating,” which is a star rating ranging from 0 to 5 stars. We also publish a series of pieces where we rank the top cards for a certain category based on various factors.
To provide full transparency to our readers, here is a look at the methodology we use regarding how we score and rank the various credit cards we cover on our site.
How We Score Credit Card Reviews
As mentioned, each credit card review piece is given a “U.P. Rating” ranging from 0 to 5 stars that highlights a card’s overall quality.
- 4.5 stars or higher: Best-in-class cards (those we recommend most highly)
- 4 stars: Great cards
- 3.5 stars: Good cards
- 3 stars: Average cards
- <3 stars: Below-average cards
We determine an overall star rating based on a full picture of the card’s value proposition, including these factors: bonus categories, card benefits, rewards program (if applicable), and card fees.
Our Rating Philosophy
Here are some important items to know when it comes to our ratings:
- Our star ratings are based on various factors we discuss further down this page.
- Card ratings are separated by category, i.e. cash-back cards and travel rewards cards. Further, cards in separate categories are not evaluated against each other.
- Any business or financial interest does not impact how Upgraded Points reviews credit cards.
- Our ultimate goal is to help readers decide what card would be best suited for their needs based on the value proposition of the cards we review.
The Editorial Team and Process
Upgraded Points content is created and managed by a team of seasoned credit card rewards and travel experts. Many of our team members travel over 100,000 miles each year using credit card rewards and have hundreds of years of combined experience between them.
Not only does our team spend hours researching and writing the articles we produce, but we have extensively tested the vast majority of reward cards on the market.
Our writers thoroughly research and fact-check each article prior to submitting them for publishing. An editor then reviews the article for accuracy and grammar, and any financial pieces are additionally scrutinized by our compliance team. Finally, the article is prepared and scheduled for publishing by our editorial team. Overall, articles are thoroughly reviewed by our editorial team up to 3 times prior to publication.
Our work and writers are regularly featured in The New York Times, CNBC, Forbes, Travel + Leisure, NBC, USA Today, Yahoo! Finance, and hundreds more outlets. Further, our team members get called upon regularly to comment on the current state of credit cards, their rewards, structure, fees, and where the industry is heading.
Our growing and talented content and editorial team focusing on credit card information includes Jarrod West, Stephen Au, Christine Krzyszton, Kellie Jez, Keri Stooksbury, Nick Ellis, Juan Ruiz, Stella Shon, Jessica Merritt, and Chris Dong.
Factors Considered When Ranking Cards
This chart provides an overview of the factors we consider when rating a given credit card and how those factors might apply to the specific category a card belongs to. Factors that are bolded are given higher consideration for that category than those that are not.
|Bonus Categories||Card Benefits||Loyalty Program||Card Fees||Welcome Bonus||Balance Transfer Offer||APR||Credit Building Features|
|Travel Rewards Cards||X||X||X||X||X||–||–||–|
|Balance Transfer Cards||X||X||–||X||X*||X||X||–|
* = if applicable (i.e. a secured card is unlikely to offer a welcome bonus)
Here is a further insight into each factor we consider when rating credit cards.
Most rewards cards offer benefits that add extra value to the card. These benefits can make travel more comfortable, save money, and provide consumer protection. Some of these benefits include airport lounge access, statement credits, elite-style hotel and airline benefits or status, travel insurance protections, and purchase protections, which are examples of card perks we look for.
Earning rewards is the name of the game. We seek out cards that offer bonus categories that provide for accelerated earnings. We also consider that some bonus categories are better suited for some but not others. For instance, some might prefer a card that rewards supermarket purchases, while others prefer to have flat-rate earnings on all purchases.
A credit card welcome bonus allows you to earn many rewards fast and jump-start your point balance. Welcome bonuses can be quite lucrative for travelers, as some offer over $1,000 in value. Due to this, welcome bonuses do play a role when we select a travel rewards card to recommend.
We will always do our best to provide you with the most current welcome bonus information available to us for each card we cover on the site, but we also encourage readers to review any earnings offers before applying for any card.
Great rewards cards do not come cheap, unfortunately. Card annual fees can range anywhere from $95 to $695. Given that, a cards fees are a primary consideration in our evaluation process to ensure that the benefits the card offers allows you to offset the fees that you pay.
Redemption Value/Loyalty Program
When redeeming your rewards, the cards we rank the highest offer flexible redemption options and/or a strong loyalty program. In our view, the best rewards cards provide you with multiple redemption options, like the ability to redeem points directly for travel, towards statement credits, or offer transfer partners that allow you to receive increased value for your points.
Balance Transfer Offer
The prime consideration for a balance transfer offer is the time frame the introductory offer lasts, along with the APR. In this case, we value these cards based on how much they’d be able to save cardholders who are moving a balance onto them to pay down.
Naturally, a card’s APR is always considered, especially for balance transfer cards and secured cards. However, we highly recommend paying your balance off in full each and every month, which effectively negates the APR entirely, as those who do so will never be charged any interest.
Credit Building Features
For cards designed to help people build their credit, we look for card features that help them accomplish that. This includes credit monitoring, payment reminders, and late payment forgiveness.
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