Credit card reader question: Do you keep your account history when upgrading a credit card?

Aug 30, 2021

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Editor’s note: This article is part of a weekly column to answer your toughest credit card questions. If you would like to ask us a question, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

As more and more premium rewards cards hit the market — occasionally offering targeted bonus offers — requesting a product change for your existing credit cards is becoming a more popular rewards strategy. Perhaps you opened a card to take advantage of a large welcome bonus and want to downgrade to a cheaper version. Or maybe you want to upgrade to a card with better perks while avoiding application restrictions. One TPG reader wants to know if her account history will transfer to a new card:

I just upgraded my Hilton Surpass to a Hilton Aspire to get the 150,000-point bonus. Will I get a new card number? Will I keep all my old account history?

TPG READER KIM

Kim is one of the lucky ones who was targeted to upgrade her Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card to the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express. This decision brought not only an upgrade bonus but an array of perks she can now maximize. But what does this mean for her old account?

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

What happens to my credit card number and account history when I request a product change?

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

There are two parts to Kim’s question. Whether you get a new card number is typically a matter of personal convenience, but preserving your account history can have important ramifications for your credit report.

Credit card number

While the exact policies vary by issuer, you will generally be sent a new card in the mail whenever you request a product change. However, in most cases, the card issuer will keep your number the same to avoid unnecessary confusion. The new card may have an updated expiration date and will likely have a new security code, but the actual account number should remain.

While this isn’t a product change per se, this is what happened when I first received the Rose Gold version of the American Express® Gold Card a few months ago. Amex mailed me a new card with a new design, but it had the same account number.

Account history

There’s a real incentive to keep your oldest cards open and preserve the length of your credit history and the average age of accounts, which together account for around 15% of your credit score. This is a big driver behind many people’s decision to downgrade a credit card instead of closing the account outright, which can bring down the average age of their accounts, and thus their credit score. The good news is that all Kim’s information from her old account — length of account history, payment record, credit limit, outstanding balance, etc. — should all transfer to the new product.

In addition, since you’re not opening or closing a credit card account, there won’t be any hard inquiries on your credit report. While these inquiries don’t permanently affect your credit score, they do result in a temporary drop. Applying for a brand-new credit card is a surefire way to have an inquiry; upgrading or downgrading a card almost certainly will not. And since this account remains largely intact, it typically won’t count as a new card under the Chase 5/24 rule, either, which could allow Kim to apply for yet another card in the nearer term than she might be able to otherwise.

Related: How to improve your credit score

Bottom line

Opening, closing or changing a credit card is not a decision you should make lightly. Kim is smart to think through all the possible implications of how this could affect her daily use and overall credit score. She can be rest assured that the switch will be pretty seamless, and she can focus her energy on maximizing her Hilton Aspire card and figuring out how to redeem the free weekend night and the targeted upgrade bonus she’ll (hopefully) be receiving soon.

Featured photo by Stella/Getty Images.

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