How to downgrade a Chase credit card

Mar 31, 2020

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It’s easy to justify paying hundreds of dollars in credit card annual fees when you can fully use card benefits like travel credits, dining credits, shopping credits, and airport lounge access. But it’s harder to keep paying those fees when you’re cooped up at home and tightening up on expenses.

If you’re not getting enough value from a credit card to offset its annual fee, you can downgrade your card to a different product with a lower or no annual fee. You could cancel the credit card but that can have unintended consequences, like a drop in your credit score. More often than not, you’ll be better off requesting a downgrade as a product change rather than canceling outright.

Every card issuer has a different way of handling product changes. In this guide, we’ll look at how to downgrade a Chase credit card.

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
Downgrading your credit card allows you to save on annual fees. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)

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In This Post

Should I downgrade my credit card?

Downgrading your card allows you to maintain your credit line and average age of credit so it doesn’t have the same negative effect on your credit score as canceling a card might. Plus, it’s better to have a good track record of maintaining accounts rather than opening and closing many accounts.

Related: Is now the time to downgrade your premium credit cards?

Downgrading a card may also allow you to earn a sign-up bonus that you would otherwise be denied. Chase is not as strict as some other issuers, but it does impose restrictions on earning sign-up bonuses. You generally won’t be able to earn an intro bonus on a Chase card if you currently hold that card in your wallet or if you earned a sign-up bonus on that exact card in the last 24-48 months. To earn the bonus on a card again, you must cancel or downgrade the card before reapplying for it (as well as not having earned a bonus in the last two to four years).

Depending on the card, the policy may also lump the entire card “family” together. For instance, let’s say you currently have the Chase Sapphire Reserve and have waited 48 months from when you earned the welcome bonus. If you now want to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card  for its bonus (100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.), you must first downgrade the Sapphire Reserve. That’s because you’re now only allowed one Sapphire-branded card at a time. The personal Southwest credit cards have a similar family restriction as well.

Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which card is right for you?

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Another major restriction on Chase cards is the issuer’s 5/24 rule. In order to be approved for a Chase card, you cannot have opened five or more personal credit cards across all banks in the last 24 months. If you are not allowed to apply for another card, you could request a product change to a different card if its benefits are more appealing to you.

The one big disadvantage of downgrading a card is that you typically won’t get a welcome bonus for the card you’re downgrading to. However, depending on your situation, the pros may outweigh this con and there’s nothing stopping you from reapplying for the card you’re giving up and earning that welcome bonus months down the line.

What cards can I downgrade to?

Most rewards credit cards are part of card families and product changes can typically only be done within that family. This means you likely won’t be able to downgrade from a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve to a United Explorer Card or other cobranded card, even though they are both Chase-issued credit cards. Instead, you would need to downgrade the Sapphire Reserve to either the Sapphire Preferred or another Ultimate Rewards-earning card like the Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) or Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Sometimes, you may even be able to downgrade to a card that’s no longer available to new applicants. For instance, Chase still allows cardholders of Marriott-branded personal credit cards to change to the Ritz-Carlton Card even though it was closed to new applicants in 2018.

Related: Maximize your wallet with the perfect quartet of Chase credit cards

There are a few more restrictions to be aware of. First, you must have had your card for at least 12 months before you can downgrade it. Also, you cannot switch between personal and business cards even if they are within the same family (i.e., Chase Sapphire Preferred to Ink Business Preferred Credit Card). Finally, opportunities to downgrade are not always consistent and what’s offered to one person won’t necessarily be offered to another.

Protect your rewards

Since you’re not closing your card account, you won’t lose your points. However, if you downgrade a Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred card to a Chase Freedom or Freedom Unlimited card, you will lose the ability to transfer those points to hotel and airline partners (unless you have another fully transferable Ultimate Rewards-earning card like the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card).

The no annual fee Freedom cards are billed as cash-back credit cards, so if you want to use the points you earned with your Sapphire Reserve at a fixed value for travel, their value goes from 1.5 cents each with the Sapphire Reserve to 1 cent each with the Freedom cards. If you don’t have another transferable Ultimate Rewards-earning card, you may want to consider transferring them to a hotel or airline partner before the downgrade. Alternatively, it is possible to transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to a household member if they have an eligible card.

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

Related: How to maximize your Chase Ultimate Rewards points

(Photo by Javier Rodriguez / The Points Guy)
It might make sense to “burn” your points on a hotel stay before downgrading your card. (Photo by Javier Rodriguez / The Points Guy)

Contact customer service

Requesting a card downgrade is fairly straightforward: Call the customer service phone number on the back of your card and speak to a Chase agent. Chase also lets you contact them via a secure message portal on their site, but reports suggest that product-change requests must be made over the phone.

If you’re lucky, you might even get a pro-rated refund of your annual fee when you downgrade to a card with a lower annual fee. Since you’re maintaining your existing account — as opposed to opening a new one — Chase will not need to perform a credit check.

Related: Downgrading the Sapphire Reserve to the $0 Freedom Unlimited

You will retain the account number, balance and due date of your old product when you downgrade your card. You’ll receive a new card with the name of the new product within a few days, but since the card number will be the same, you can continue to use your old card under the terms and benefits of the new one before, and even after, you’re issued a new card.

Bottom line

Cancelling a card isn’t always a good idea because of the hit to your credit score, so downgrading is a great alternative. Like other issuers, Chase typically doesn’t advertise product-change options, so not many cardholders know this technique exists. However, it’s fairly easy to do. You won’t earn a welcome bonus when you downgrade your card.

Further reading:

Featured image by The Points Guy staff.

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