Reader question: Can you downgrade and then upgrade the same card?

Apr 20, 2020

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An annual fee is only worth it when you’re getting more value out of the card than it costs. If you have a credit card that you stop using, we always recommend downgrading it over canceling it outright so that you keep that account open for your credit score.

But what about when you only want to downgrade for a short period of time? For example, right now many travelers are considering downgrading their high-fee travel credit cards because travel is currently on hold — but they may not want that switch to be permanent.

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First, thanks to your insightful explanation about Chase Sapphire Reserve, I decided to get one 3 years ago because my family loves traveling and the CSR worked well for our needs.

With the recent global pandemic, we will not be traveling this year, so I also read your article about downgrading instead of canceling which makes sense. I’m aware that if I downgrade to Chase Freedom, my points still stay with me but I will lose the 1.5x travel redemption incentive.

My question is if in the future it’s safe to travel again and I wanted to upgrade again to the CSR, can I do that? And can I transfer all my points from Chase Freedom back to the CSR?

TPG Reader

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.

Downgrading (and then upgrading) a chase card

On the surface level, this is possible. There is no official Chase policy saying that someone couldn’t ask for more than one product change on the same credit card, and I know of multiple people who have done something similar with different Chase credit cards.

When a cardholder downgrades from the Chase Sapphire Reserve to the Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) , they keep the points accrued. But as the reader mentioned, they lose out on the ability to transfer points or redeem them for 1.5 cents each in the travel portal. If they later requested another product change back to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, those points would once again be redeemable for a bonus through the portal or transferrable to partners.

But just because this strategy is possible, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best course of action. For starters, there is no guarantee that you would be approved for the product change back to a Chase Sapphire Reserve. Chase has historically been lenient with allowing product changes, but it is possible that it could review your account and decide not to allow you to upgrade — especially if you just downgraded a few months prior.

Here are a few other options to consider:

Related: Consider your options before canceling your Chase Sapphire Reserve

Keeping the Chase Sapphire Reserve

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
It could make more sense to keep the Chase Sapphire Reserve, even if you don’t plan to travel in the near future. (Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

While it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, there is one: It might be worth it to keep the card if the reader is planning out potential 2021 trips over the next few months. While the cardholder may not be physically traveling in 2020, that doesn’t mean the card loses its value. We’ve already seen some great deals for 2021 flights. It could soon make sense to start looking at redemptions (I’ve been eying a few myself), and that 1.5x redemption bonus and access to transfer partners will come in handy.

Plus, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a couple of good non-travel perks — its partnership with Doordash, for example. Cardholders get $60 in DoorDash credits for delivery and takeout in 2020, plus another $60 in 2021. The card also comes with a complimentary DashPass membership, which gives cardholders free delivery on eligible orders and discounted service fees.

If you are only planning on going a few months between downgrading and upgrading, I would suggest hanging on to the Chase Sapphire Reserve. If you don’t think you will want to upgrade again until 2021 at the earliest, then it would make more sense to downgrade now.

Related: Credit card annual credits you can use from home

Re-applying for the Chase Sapphire Reserve instead

If you do decide to downgrade from a Chase Sapphire Reserve, I would suggest re-applying when you are once again eligible for the sign-up bonus. According to the reader’s submission, it’s been three years since the cardholder first applied for the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Chase requires waiting 48 months between earning Sapphire bonuses, so this person only has a little over a year left until he or she can apply and be eligible for a bonus again.

If the reader goes this route, he or she could earn an additional 60,000 points (after spending $4,000 in the first three months) and still have the no-annual-fee Chase Freedom for the rotating categories.

Bottom line

While there are no official rules that say you can’t request a downgrade and then an upgrade on the same card, I would caution against multiple product changes in quick succession. Chase could theoretically flag that as suspicious behavior and close your accounts.

If the reader is planning on waiting to upgrade again for at least another year, then it could make sense to downgrade to the Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited now and then re-apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve separately in 2021 once he or she is eligible for another Sapphire bonus. But if the reader only plans on having the Chase Freedom for a few months to save on part of the Chase Sapphire Reserve annual fee, I’d recommend keeping it. The card does come with a few non-travel perks and a cardholder will be able to utilize the more flexible redemption options should a 2021 travel deal come available in the next couple of months.

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Featured image by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.

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