What is a credit card product change, and when does it make sense?

Feb 9, 2022

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.

Adding a new credit card to your wallet can result in a huge haul of rewards and unlock an array of valuable perks. However, there are times when you may not want to apply for a new card — like if you’re getting ready to buy a house.

Likewise, there may be times when you feel that the annual fee on a credit card is no longer worth it — but you don’t want to cancel it and risk a drop in your credit score.

Fortunately, there’s a strategy you can use to address both of these scenarios: a credit card product change. This typically involves either upgrading to a higher-end card or downgrading to a lower-tier one.

Read more: When can you downgrade your credit card?

This allows you to maintain your existing account while enjoying the benefits and terms of a different card. It also doesn’t require applying for a new account or performing a credit check, also known as a “hard pull.” Finally, some card issuers will even offer a pro-rated refund of your annual fee when you downgrade to one at a lower price point.

However, there are some downsides to initiating this process, so in this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about making a product change to one of your credit cards.

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In This Post

What is a product change?

In the credit card industry, each type of credit card is referred to as a product. For example, although the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve have similar names, they are two entirely separate products with unique perks and notably different annual fees. However, because they are both issued by Chase and both are a part of the Ultimate Rewards ecosystem, you can change your product from one to the other.

Just note that this process is generally limited to cards within the same family and type of products. This means the following:

  • You generally can’t change from a charge card to a credit card.
  • You generally can’t change from a personal credit card to a business credit card.
  • You generally can’t change from a cobranded credit card — often issued in partnership with an airline or hotel — to one that participates in a bank’s proprietary program (like Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards).

Related: 6 reasons to keep the Chase Sapphire Reserve after the recent Sapphire card changes

When should you consider a credit card product change?

(Photo by The Points Guy)

Once you know that it’s possible to change products while retaining the same credit card account, it brings up several interesting possibilities for how you could benefit from this technique.

Credit card upgrades

When a new credit card, such as the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, is introduced, most people will try to apply for a new account in order to earn the sign-up bonus. But if you’re unable to qualify for a new product due to opening too many accounts, you might consider upgrading one of your existing cards to the new one in order to take advantage of its benefits.

Credit card downgrades

One of the most common reasons for requesting a product change is to avoid an annual fee without having to close your account. When you downgrade one of your existing accounts from a card with an annual fee to a no-annual-fee credit card — trading your Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to the Chase Freedom Flex, for example — you may still be able to receive some key benefits while avoiding the yearly payment.

Obtaining a credit card that’s no longer available

Credit card issuers sometimes stop offering great cards to new applicants, but these products might still be available when you request a product change. For example, Chase Sapphire Preferred customers may be offered a standard (no-annual-fee) Sapphire. Alternatively, if you have a Marriott Bonvoy credit card issued by Chase, you may be able to upgrade your card to the Ritz-Carlton Credit Card — which is no longer available to new applicants.

Extending your credit history

When you’ve had an account for just a short time, you might not want to cancel it, as it could shorten the average age of accounts on your credit history and have a minor impact on your credit score. Instead of just closing your account to avoid paying an annual fee, consider a product change. This way, your account will continue to be open in good standing without reducing the average age of all of your accounts.

As an example, instead of getting rid of your Citi Prestige® Card (no longer available), downgrade it to the Citi Premier® Card instead.

The information for the Citi Prestige card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Maintaining your credit line

When you close a credit card account, you’ll reduce the total amount of available credit, which will raise your debt-to-credit ratio — also called your credit utilization ratio. This will often lead to a decrease in your credit score.

If you’re worried about impacting your credit, you can request a product change to a no-annual-fee card instead of closing the account, such as downgrading the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card. This is especially important for those with just a few credit cards, since closing an account that makes up a large proportion of your total line of credit could massively decrease your score.

Avoiding new applications

Another reason to perform a product change is to utilize the benefits and earning rates of a new card without having to submit a new application. Each new application results in a check on your credit, and it can also run afoul of some issuers’ policies (Chase’s 5/24 rule is a prime example). If there’s a credit card that meets your needs better than the one you currently have, a product change can allow you to use it without the impact of applying for a new card or opening a new account.

Read more: How does applying for a new credit card affect my credit score?

How to make a credit card product change

The process for initiating a change to your credit card is quite simple, and it’s consistent across issuers. Simply call the customer service number on the back of your card, and inquire about what options you have for a product change.

The phone representative will generally review your options and read off some disclaimers to make sure you’re aware of the full scope of what will happen to your account. Thankfully, it typically shouldn’t take longer than 5-10 minutes to complete the entire process.

Disadvantages of credit card Product Changes

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

For all the benefits, there are a few downsides to making product changes to your existing accounts.

The biggest one is that you will rarely receive a welcome offer when you make a product change (with the exception of some targeted offers). As long as you’re aware of this going in, you can weigh it against the advantages for your particular situation. After all, there are times when a card is valuable enough that you’re willing to forgo an initial bonus.

As an example, if you wanted to downgrade your Platinum Card® from American Express to the American Express® Gold Card, you’d miss out on that card’s current 60,000-point welcome offer after spending $4,000 on purchases on your new card in the first six months. However, you would be able to enjoy earning 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in spending each calendar year, then 1 point per dollar) and 4 points per dollar spent at restaurants.

Related: 6 ways to make the most of the Amex Gold Card benefits

In addition, most card issuers require that your account stay open for at least one year before allowing you to make a product change, so don’t try to do it too soon after opening a card.

Bottom Line

Many cardholders may not be aware of the ability to initiate a product change when they don’t want to apply for a new card or are looking to cancel an existing on. this technique for maximizing your credit card portfolio, but it’s not very hard to do. By considering the best ways to strategically switch products on your existing accounts, you can always hold the best combination of cards for your needs.

Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson

Featured photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

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