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How to Upgrade or Downgrade Your Credit Card

To downgrade your credit card, contact your credit card issuer and tell them you’d like to downgrade. They may ask why you’re downgrading and could offer you an incentive to keep your current credit card, such as an annual fee discount. 

There are hundreds of different credit cards out there, each with unique rewards, perks, and fees. Sometimes, you’ll get a card for a specific reason — like maximizing your rewards on travel purchases — only to find that over time your habits change and the card isn’t as useful as it once was.

If that happens, you might want to get a different card that fits your current needs. But instead of applying for a new card, which can ding your credit score temporarily, you might be able to upgrade or downgrade your existing card instead.

Should You Upgrade or Downgrade Your Credit Card?

Upgrading a credit card lets you avoid opening a new account and can be convenient. It also brings a few drawbacks, such as missing out on sign-up bonuses.

Pros of Switching Your Credit Card

These are the top benefits of switching your credit card instead of opening a new one.

  1. Convenience. When you open a new credit card, you need to set up an online account or link it to an existing account, set up payments, decide whether you want to use automatic payments, and worry about an extra bill every month. Switching your card usually means keeping the same card number and online account. It also doesn’t add an extra monthly bill to your mailbox.
  2. Maintain Your Credit History. One of the important factors in determining your credit score is the average age of your credit accounts. If you change a current card, it keeps its age and continues helping your score. Opening a new account can drop your score by adding a new account to your credit report, especially if you close the old one as well.
  3. Keep or Increase Your Credit Limit. When you upgrade or downgrade a card, you typically get to keep the same credit limit. The credit card company might even offer to raise your credit limit if you qualify. Applying for a new card might mean getting a lower limit than you had previously.
  4. Take Advantage of Better Card Terms Right Away. Changing your old card lets you take advantage of the better APR, rewards, or perks a card offers right away. If you’re applying for a new card to get those perks it might take a week or two to get the new card and start using it.
  5. No Credit Check. When you submit a credit card application, the lender will look at your credit report to make sure you have strong credit. With a product change, the lender usually won’t look at your credit, meaning you don’t have to worry about whether you’ll get approved.

Cons of Switching Your Credit Card

While there are lots of reasons to consider upgrading or downgrading a credit card, there are drawbacks as well. These are the most important to consider.

  1. No Welcome Bonus. Many credit cards offer lucrative account opening bonuses to encourage new customers to apply for them. In some cases, these can be worth hundreds of dollars — and sometimes more than $1,000. Because these offers are only available to first-time applicants, upgrading or downgrading a card means missing out on the opportunity to earn these rewards.
  2. No Promotional APR. Similarly, some credit cards come with low introductory interest rates, balance transfer offers, or 0% APR deals. You won’t get to take advantage of these perks when you switch your card.
  3. Limited Options. You can only change your credit card to another card from the same issuer. Some issuers also limit what types of cards you can swap between. That means that you’ll have limited options when trying to upgrade or downgrade a card compared to just applying for a new one from any issuer.

Are You Eligible for a Credit Card Upgrade or Downgrade?

If you’re considering a credit card upgrade or downgrade, you’ll have to make sure that you’re eligible for the switch.

First, you generally need to be in good standing on your current card to be eligible for an upgrade or downgrade. For example, if you’re late on payments, the card issuer will care more about getting paid than helping you swap to a new card.

Beyond that, each issuer will have its own rules and restrictions when it comes to credit card upgrades and downgrades. You may need to have held the card for a specific length of time before you’re allowed to change. There might also be limits on the cards you can change to and from.

For example, American Express typically only allows someone with a credit card to change their account to another credit card account and someone with a charge card to swap to another charge card. Swaps between the two types of products aren’t typically permitted.

Other issuers, like Chase, are more willing to let you move from one card product to another. For example, you can swap a Chase Sapphire Preferred card or Chase Sapphire Reserve card to a Chase Freedom Unlimited card with no problems. However, you’ll have to meet eligibility requirements to complete the switch.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, is a premium card with stricter credit requirements. You can’t sneak your way into having the card despite only having fair credit by getting the easier-to-qualify-for Chase Freedom and then upgrading. If your credit score is too low, Chase will deny the change.

There aren’t any hard and fast rules about this that are true across all issuers. The best thing you can do is reach out to your card issuer and ask them if you’re eligible for an upgrade or downgrade.

How to Upgrade or Downgrade Your Credit Card

If you’re thinking about upgrading or downgrading your credit card, the good news is that it’s really easy to do.

Before you get started, keep in mind that you can only switch to a card from the same credit card issuer. You can’t ask Capital One or Chase to turn your card into an American Express card. Similarly, you can’t change a business card to a personal one or vice versa.

If you’re ready to get started, all you have to do is contact your credit card company and request the switch. You can do this by calling the number on the back of your credit card, using the company’s online chat, or sending a secure message through your online account. The process should be the same regardless of whether you’re upgrading or downgrading the card.

If you’re not sure which card you want to swap to, ask the issuer’s customer support representative to explain your upgrade and downgrade options based on your credit and other factors. They’ll spell out the terms of the new card, confirm if you’d like to complete the change, and help walk you through the process.

If you’re trying to downgrade a card, the issuer may offer a retention bonus to prevent you from going through with it. The idea is to convince you to keep the more generous — and typically more expensive — card. It’s up to you whether their offer is enough to convince you to stay put.

Final Word

Whether you’re switching your card to avoid the annual fee, get a better cash-back rate, or take advantage of lucrative travel perks, there are plenty of reasons to consider upgrading or downgrading your credit card. 

However, it’s important to keep in mind that switching to a new card usually means giving up on the valuable sign-up bonuses they can come with. Though it could reduce your credit score by adding a new account to your report, the bonus earned by signing up for a new rewards card might be worth it.

TJ is a Boston-based writer who focuses on credit cards, credit, and bank accounts. When he's not writing about all things personal finance, he enjoys cooking, esports, soccer, hockey, and games of the video and board varieties.
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