Posted by William Charles on October 27, 2014
Credit Cards downgrade options

Published on October 27th, 2014 | by William Charles

81

Best Downgrade Options & Rules For Each Card Issuer

A lot of credit cards come with a high sign up bonus and an annual fee that’s waived for the first year. That means it’s possible to sign up to get the bonus, then cancel the card before the annual fee actually hits. The downside to this is that it will eventually lower your average age of accounts, which is a factor in credit scoring algorithms such as the FICO score.

Before thinking about cancelling or downgrading a card, call the retention line.

You may be offered a retention bonus (e.g extra points or having the annual fee waived) which makes it worth keeping the card open.

Another option is to downgrade your card to a no annual fee card from the same card issuer. Because this is considered a product change it doesn’t affect that trade line on your credit report, this means that your credit card will continue to age and thus increase your average age of accounts in the long term.

Ideally what you want to do is downgrade to a card that you can also use, whether it be because it has rotating 5% categories or a particular benefit that is useful.  Unfortunately, what I’ve outlined above is really a best case scenario and it’s not always possible. Sometimes certain card issuers will do a hard pull when you do a product change, sometimes they’ll report a new opening date instead.

Below we’ve listed the best downgrade options for each card issuer, along with the rules and “fine print” that each card issuer has when it comes to product changes/downgrades. If you find any inaccuracies, please share your data points in the comments below.

General Rules

The below rules apply to all card issuers, unless otherwise noted.

  • You cannot downgrade/switch between a charge and a credit card
  • If you downgrade to a card, you’re not eligible for that cards sign up bonus
  • You cannot downgrade personal cards to business cards and vice versa

American Express

Rules:

  • You cannot downgrade charge cards to credit cards.
  • Annual fees on the cards are pro-rated monthly, for example if you have the platinum card with a $450 annual fee and you downgrade four months after paying an annual fee you’ll get a $300 refund. [In September 2016, Amex is changing the prorate policy for cancellations, but it doesn’t affect downgrades.]
  • Annual benefits (e.g $200 airline reimbursement) are on a calendar year basis rather than cardholder year (e.g you could apply in December, get a $200 reimbursement in December and then another in January and then cancel in February getting most of the annual fee back.
  • Ongoing benefits (e.g airport lounge access) require you to have an active card
  • American Express only allows co-branded product changes if the card stays within the same brand

Best downgrade options:

  1. AmEx EveryDay: This card has no annual fee and earns American Express membership rewards points, this means you can downgrade to this card and still have the option to transfer to airline and hotel partners. Also up to 2.4 Membership Rewards points on grocery store purchases and 1.2 on all other purchases.
  2. Blue Cash Everyday: No annual fee and 3% on the first $6,000 in spend at grocery stores

Unfortunately it doesn’t look like it’s possible to downgrade to the Old Amex Blue (although some people reported success earlier), it might be worth trying as this card earns 5% cash back on U.S gas stations, U.S grocery stores and select U.S drugstores after you spend $6,500 in a reward year.

For charge cards (Platinum, Gold, PRG) the cheapest downgrade option is the Green card with a $95 annual fee. (For business charge cards, there’s also a $75 annual fee Green card, but that one doesn’t earn points so you might want to opt for the $95 annual fee Green card even when downgrading a business card.)

Bank of America

Best downgrade options:

  1. BankAmericard Better Balance Rewards: No annual fee and you also earn $25 per quarter when you pay the monthly minimum or more on time each month. You need a balance each month, so your best bet is to put a small recurring charge (e.g Netflix) onto this card and set it up to automatically be paid off. You also get an additional $5 bonus per quarter if you have a Bank of America checking or savings account (these accounts sometimes have sign up bonuses of $100). It’s possible to get multiples of this card (most I’ve personally seen is 7) and you get the bonus on each card. Hat tip to Rapid Travel Chai for this idea. For more information please read through this post by us first.
  2. BankAmericard Travel Rewards credit card: No annual fee or foreign transaction fee and earns 1.5x points on all purchases. Also has chip + PIN functionality which could make it an attractive option for those traveling internationally. 10,000 point sign up bonus is the standard which you would be missing out on.
  3. BankAmericard Cash Rewards credit card: No annual fee and earns  3% cash back at gas stations and 2% cash back at grocery stores on the first $1,500 in spend per quarter. There are cards that earn at a much higher rate for grocery store purchases and gas station purchases which is why we’ve ranked this #3. Card usually comes with a $100 sign up bonus which you’d be missing out on.

Barclays

When it comes to Barclays, I wouldn’t recommend doing downgrades/product changes. There are a few reasons for this which I’ll outline below:

  • It’s possible to get Barclay bonuses multiple times, simply cancel and apply again
  • Barclays likes to see you putting spend on your existing cards before approving you for new ones

If you really do want to downgrade your card, Barclay offers no fee versions of their annual fee based products, which usually have lower sign up bonuses and worse earning rates but without an annual fee. You’ll be much better off just calling and asking for a retention bonus, these are usually generous and most times they’ll simply waive the annual fee.

Best Downgrade Options:

Capital One

Rules

I’m unsure of the rules of doing product changes with Capital One, it seems sometimes they’ll allow you to do it with no problems and other times they’ll deny your request. Either way there is no hard pull.

Best Options

Chase

Rules:

Best downgrade options:

Your downgrade options are going to be highly dependent on what card you’re downgrading. With the co-branded cards downgrading isn’t worthwhile as even the “basic” cards come with an annual fee, we’d recommend going after a retention bonus instead and if that fails just canceling. If you don’t hold a Chase Sapphire Preferred/Ink Plus or Ink Bold you won’t be able to transfer to airline/hotel partners, that said you can just cycle through this three cards continually keeping this transfer ability without paying an annual fee and scoring the sign up bonuses each time.

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred:
    1. Chase Freedom: No annual fee and rotating 5% categories. The sign up bonus regularly goes up to $200 which is one of the higher cash sign up bonuses, so we’d recommend downgrading to this card if you already have another Chase Freedom and have received the bonus on that card (yes, it’s possible to have multiple Freedom’s and yes you get the $1,500 quarterly spending limit on each card).
    2. Chase Sapphire: No annual fee and 2x points on restaurant purchases. There are other cards which earn at a much higher rate for restaurant spend but this might be an OK option if you value Chase UR points extremely high. Sign up bonus occasionally goes up to 20,000 + 2,500 points at the same time the CSP goes up to 50,000 + 5,000 points
  • Chase Ink Plus:
    • Chase Ink Cash: No annual fee and earns 5x on the same categories as the Ink Plus. The only difference is that this card doesn’t have the ability to transfer to hotel & airline partners. If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred then you’ll still be able to do this though.

Citi

Update: Keep in mind Citi will now change you at least part of an annual fee on a card if it’s downgraded after the annual fee has hit the account.

Best downgrade options:

  1. Citi Dividend: No annual fee and earns 5% cash back in rotating categories. Rather than having a quarterly limit on how much cash back you receive, it’s annual. The annual limit is $6,000 in spend or $300 in cash back. This makes it a more attractive option than the Freedom/it cards as if you get a quarterly category you like you can take full advantage of it.
  2. Citi doublecash card: No annual fee and earns 1% cash back when you make a purchase and another 1% cash back when you pay your statement. Card doesn’t usually come with a sign up bonus making it a perfect downgrade target.
  3. Citi ThankYou Preferred Card: No annual fee. Earns 2x points on dining and entertainment. This card also often offers targeted promotions where you can earn 5x-10x in popular categories. This is no guarantee of getting these though and it seems to be happening a lot less often.

Rules:

  • Card must be at least twelve months old before downgrading
  • Conversions can take up to 51 days (this is usually done much sooner)
  • Some representatives will say that product changes must be done within the same product family (e.g an American Airline card must be downgraded to another AA card). This is not the case, rather than arguing, hang up and call again.

As of now, Citi is not allowing us to product change into the Costco credit card.

Discover

I imagine a lot of people will want to product change the Discover it Miles card after the first year to the regular Discover it, I’m not sure if this is possible. If you have any experiences, let me know in the comments. Thanks to jnrfalcon. Update: You can’t product change to/from the Discover it Miles currently.

U.S Bank

Rules

  • You cannot product change a co-branded credit card to a proprietary credit card (e.g you cannot product change a Club Carlson to a Cash+) and vice versa.

Best downgrade options:

  • U.S Bank Cash+: Card comes with no annual fee and you get to pick two 5% cash back category, limit of $2,000 spend ($100 cash back) per quarter. It’s possible to get more than one of these cards as well.

Wells Fargo

Update 2: Wells Fargo does do product changes. It might be worth doing a product change to one of their no annual fee cards, as they’ll continue to receive the phone insurance. When they do product changes they close your current card and open a new one. This means it does not keep it’s account history, but no hard pull is done.

Update: Wells Fargo does not allow product changes, so it’s not possible to downgrade your card.

The only Wells Fargo cards with annual fees are the new Propel cards, unfortunately these cards haven’t been out for long enough so there isn’t any data points on what cards it’s possible to downgrade to. As I see it there is basically two options:

  • Downgrade to one of the 5% cards that have a six month limit. There are a number of these cards, they have different names but they are all the same. Basically they have no annual fee and for the first six months you earn 5% cash back on gas, grocery and drugstore purchases. This would be far the best option if downgrading still grants you the introductory six month 5% period.
  • If the above option is not possible, then you can downgrade to the Wells Fargo Platinum card which also has no annual fee. The downside is that this card comes with no rewards program, so it would be purely for improving AAoA.

Smaller Card Issuers

Alliant

Alliant does allow product conversions, in fact if you upgrade to their cashback Visa signature card then you will earn 3% cash back with no annual fee in the first year. Read our full review of this card here.

USAA

Doesn’t allow product conversions.

Final Thoughts

What are your favorite downgrade targets and why? Am I missing a card issuer or a particular rule for a card issuer? Let me know in the comments. As mentioned at the start, always check to see if you’re offered a retention bonus before downgrading as you might get an offer that is too good to refuse.

 



81 Responses to Best Downgrade Options & Rules For Each Card Issuer

  1. Mike says:

    I’ve converted Barclays to a different card type, Arrival+ to Sallie Mae for example

  2. Excellent roundup, somethings had not sunk in first-time like your review of Sallie Mae did not register on the sold and shipped by Amazon angle.

    Some questions:

    (1) Amex: my oldest card with them by several years is a Hilton. Want to unload it now that Surpass upgrade/downgrade seems to be dead and want my 4th credit card slot for something else. Will that screw up the backdating to my oldest card if I downgrade, or failing that, close outright? Also have a SPG annual fee hit, may try for Old Blue to EveryDay.

    (2) Is Citi Dividend dead? I last converted an AA in Aug 2014 but worried that it will go away since they are not marketing it anymore. It is a nice quarterly 5% that you can earn all of the $300 annual limit in one quarter.

    (3) US Bank Cash+ for new applicants is in-branch only, have you seen verified reports of downgrading to it? Good way to unload a FlexPerks when fee is due, especially if could for the business FlexPerks which is mostly useless to me, though I doubt that would work.

    • 1. Closing your account does not affect backdating as your card anniversary stays the same (somebody correct me if I’m wrong).

      2. Citi Dividend isn’t available for new sign ups, I think this is the case for downgrades as well. A citi spokesperson was supposed to get back to me with more information when the double cash product launched but they canceled the interview so I’ve got no idea

      3. You can downgrade to this product, you can also apply over the phone and via the U.S bank windows phone application. You won’t be able to downgrade a business to personal product though, I don’t know any card issuers that allow this.

      • rediff says:

        Just downgraded my citi AA to Dividend today .. asked about it and CSR did say I can convert to it and went ahead and processed my request

  3. Quick update on Amex: so far in calling no luck downgrading/converting Hilton or SPG to anything. Agents just offer to close or meager retention. One did say some other cards they are doing conversions to EveryDay but as you noted, conversions to Blue (even new Blue) have stopped, that was one agent saying that however seemed knowledgeable. I don’t know if I will go to Dan’s Deals lengths of endless HUCA.

    • What do the agents say when you want to downgrade? It’s possible AmEx have a no downgrading co-branded cards to regular cards but I doubt it. Did you try to escalate as well? Ask to speak to a supervisor (I’m sure you don’t need to be told this, but be courtesy and don’t forget your please and thankyous) and see if you get a better outcome.

      • I will make another try tomorrow but so far it is has all been card-specific issues, pulling up each and checking the system for what it will allow. Maybe a supervisor can override. From a cursory look at forums I have not seen any report of people converting from any card to either of the EveryDay cards since they launched. And not seen any SPG conversion success reports posted in the last year. But that was a cursory look, maybe you have dug deeper and found some success stories.

  4. Jacinto says:

    Great summary. BankAmericard Cash Rewards credit card is 3% on gas not groceries.

  5. univs says:

    I am reading everywhere suggestions to apply for / downgrade to AmEx Everyday (Preferred) to keep their MR points AND “have the option to transfer to airline and hotel partners”. What I see at AmEx’s website is, however, Everyday (Preferred) cards do NOT have the feature to use MR points towards “20 airline and hotel loyalty programs” (to get this feature you need a card with a centurion on it such as the Green/Gold/Platinum). Correct me if what I understand is wrong.

  6. Frank says:

    I think it’s worth adding Citi Dividend. I recently called to try to convert an old AA Bronze card to Dividend and had success (although the product change takes about 6 weeeks). The CSR definitely talked up the Double Cash, but he said Dividend remains 1 of their 3 cash back cards and allowed me to select it.

  7. David G says:

    Nice post. When doing a downgrade to a card that typically offers a sign-up bonus, is the cardholder who’s downgrading eligible for that bonus? Is it different by banks?

  8. Paul says:

    Hazy memory but
    I Think I applied/got downgrade card cum bonus then cancelled other(fee) card and transferred
    Miles to new card
    Convoluted but it is the game we are playing

  9. dontneedaname says:

    Awesome website William Charles! Been following you for a couple of months now. Is there any link I can click on to help you make some $$ for your efforts?

    Just an update, tried downgrading my US Bank Avianca Lifemiles card today and they said it wasn’t possible to any other card, only the lower fee Avianca card $45 vs $75. No go on the Cash+ card mentioned above.

    is this a case of HUCA? It was actually a callback though.

    • It’s worth trying, sometimes cobranded cards are not downgradable but pretty sure you can with US Bank. Nah, nothing you can click, just share the site as much as you can so more people read it.

  10. Barb says:

    William,

    when you say we can have multiple Chase Freedom, does it mean we can apply for another when the $200 CB offer comes around? Don’t they questions why you want another? My husband and I already have a Freedom as primary, but if we can get more of this for category bonuses, that’ll be nice.

    • Not sure about applying for a second, but downgrading for a second works fine. If they ask why I usually just say I want one for personal expenses and the other for household expenses.

  11. GFM says:

    Any data points on how soon you can downgrade a BOA credit card after getting approved?

    I’m interested in getting the BOA Cash Rewards and/or Travel Rewards credit cards, but I think it would be better to get the BOA Alaska Airlines card for its sign-up bonus first and then downgrade to one of these cards to save a credit pull.

    Thanks for any advice you can provide and great job with this post!

    • Not sure to be honest, can anybody else chime in with a data point?

      • TB says:

        Just attempted to downgrade my BoA Alaska Signature and was informed by 3 CSRs that I need to apply for the new (no fee) card. Probably a hard pull, but maybe BoA does it differently. One other worthwhile thing they mentioned: if you apply and open the no-fee card before closing the fee card account, then a CSR can transfer your credit line to the no-fee. And another point: they will waive your annual fee if you close the account with no balance.

  12. Adam says:

    @will – quick Q, you mention the Citi TY Preferred card up here as a good conversion option. so, are you saying this card never has a sign up offer, even a small one and thus is an acceptable candidate to switch say an AA Plat?

    2nd – you say Citi card conversions can take weeks. does that mean if your AF posts on your CitiAA card, that you gotta pay it and there’s no way to avoid it if the conversion takes longer than 30 odd days? why does it take so long to convert? it kinda defeats the whole purpose of downgrading if you end up paying the AF.

  13. Adam says:

    one huge caveat w/BofA – not sure if this is common (requires a more knowledgeable/helpful retention dept CSR etc)… but my AF posted on an old BofA Alaska Visa Sig card, I called in to see what could be done. only downgrade options were to lower fee versions of this product. couldnt convert to other BofA CCs w/o a new app. so I went ahead and closed the acct. talked to one frontline rep who said the same and then spoke to the card closing dept who also said the same.

    not sure if this has always been the policy or if its new. I obviously didnt try multiple CSRs so dunno if it’s dependent on the person you get/time of day etc.

    • Don’t think it’s official policy unless it’s very new as I’ve been able to change between products in the past. Anybody else share experience with this?

      • Adam says:

        both those folks told me it was official policy. additionally they said the AF goes directly to Alaska Air and in turn AS offers that companion pass, which sucks if you never use it – I wish it was optional… anyways they said they have no control over the AF and have an agreement with AS not to product change to other BofA cards precisely because of that.

        they said BofA is basically a manager for AS financial products so it may not be like a conventional co-brand relationship like Chase has with UA or Citi has with AA. for ex they said AS offers the miles directly to its cardholders, BofA hasnt prepurchased a chunk like Chase and Citi have etc. so they couldnt waive AF, couldnt offer bonus miles/retention in lieu of AF nor could/would they switch to reg BofA no-AF cards.

  14. Jessica says:

    For citi cards with the “no bonus if you’ve opened/closed in the last 18 months”….if you downgrade, say, a Citi AA card, then downgrade it to a Doublecash, does that count as closing theAA card?

  15. star says:

    Does anyone know of any Comenity product changes that could be possible?

  16. anthonyjh21 says:

    I know this is an older article so I’m looking for confirmation on the Citi section, specifically:

    “Some representatives will say that product changes must be done within the same product family (e.g an American Airline card must be downgraded to another AA card. This is not the case, rather than arguging hang up and call again).”

    Is this still correct as far as you know? So if I get the Citi Hilton cc I can downgrade to the DC card?

    • As far as I know it’s still correct, you might need to ask to a supervisor.

      • SD says:

        I will note that around Sep. 2014, I converted the following cards with Citi:
        – From Citi TY Preferred to Citi Double Cash
        – From Citi Bronze AA (previously Platinum) to Citi TY Preferred

        I had two cards and I wanted the existing TYP that I had to be DC because it had a great line and unreal/awesome interest rate (not that I revolve, but nice to have just in case). But I’d rather have the TYP than the Bronze AA and they obliged. That was about 9 months ago, so not sure if anything has changed, but you should be able to change with little issue.

  17. TJ says:

    American Express no longer backdates cards, so this should be changed. I imagine the “Old Blue Cash” is no longer possible as well.

  18. scott says:

    You can no longer convert to the BofA Better Balance Rewards card, only new applications.

  19. Josh says:

    I just downgraded from Amex business gold to business green. About a week later I got a 5,000 point welcome bonus from the green card! Same thing happened to my wife.

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  21. Jordan says:

    Was told today that you cannot downgrade the Signature Alaska card to the BankAmericard Better Balance Rewards card. Rep spoken with management to confirm.

  22. Ben says:

    Trying to downgrade my Delta Gold to Hilton Honors – my brother reported being offered a sign up bonus when he did the same thing, but I’m not having any luck on getting a sign up bonus for a downgrade. Anyone else have any success with Amex giving you the signup bonus when downgrading?

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  24. Christopher says:

    Wells Fargo seems to have changed since this was published… Two weeks ago (knowing the annual fee was upcoming), I converted my propel 365 amex to a no annual fee basic propel amex. The rep explicitly said no credit check would be done for the conversion. All was done over the phone in a rather long call with lots of recorded informal played for me. In that information was also explicitly stated that the new card would also have the mobile phone insurance.

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  26. anthonyjh21 says:

    May want to remove the True Earnings (Costco) card from Amex and if I recall correctly we also lost the backdating some time around March 2015.

  27. Win says:

    Citi just processed product change from AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard to Thank You Preferred without issue. $95 Annual Fee to be refunded after conversion (Did not pursue retention offer since I have the Barclays AA card).

    • MH says:

      I’ll be converting this AA card eventually and was thinking of going to a Double Cash. In a conversion what does the TY Preferred have over the DC?

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  29. Dominic says:

    Amex would not let me downgrade the Personal SPG credit card to the AmEx Everyday

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  31. Jeff H says:

    U.S Bank Cash+: Card comes with no annual fee and you get to pick TWO 5% cash back category
    PLUS ONE 2% CASH BACK CATEGORY, limit of $2,000 spend ($100 cash back) per quarter.
    =============
    SUGGESTED EDITS IN CAPS

    • Chuck says:

      Thanks, fixed the “one” to “two”. We don’t usually focus much on the 2% categories since most of us have cards that earn 2% everywhere.

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  33. Steve says:

    Does Amex have a waiting period before they are allowing a product change?
    Some online sources suggest a 12 month waiting period.

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  35. anthonyjh21 says:

    Does anyone have any recent data points or knowledge regarding the AF waiver rule for Citi when product changing? I was told wrong information (surprise!) prior to my downgrading of my premier cc earlier this year, learning eventually I had to wait 12 months before requesting it (and getting AF waived when reps prior told me I couldn’t do it).

    Now it’s time to downgrade my wife’s card and while I’m fairly certain I also have to wait 12 months AND that I can get the AF waived, a chat rep once again told her she had to request the product change prior to 12 months otherwise no AF would be waived. Pretty frustrating to know Citi policy better than their employees, but I also wonder in the back of my mind if anything has changed over the last few months in regards to their AF waiver policy.

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  37. Wash says:

    Under Amex, you mention that ongoing benefits require you to have an active card. Would that also mean that any status granted from the card (such as hotel elite status) will go away effective immediately after you cancel/downgrade the card? If not, then when would be the best to downgrade/cancel a card such as the Amex Plat/Centurion, and still retain Hilton/SPG status as long as possible?

  38. CGID says:

    Short version: WF does not do PCs, as we understand the term, according to the rep I spoke with this week.

    Longer version:

    I got a Wells Fargo World Propel 11 months ago for the $400 bonus. I called WF a few days ago to explore the possibility of a product change to a no annual fee card. They transferred me to the department that handles PCs. They were very helpful but explained that the way WF does PCs is that they close the existing account and open a new one (and the new one has today’s date as the Date Opened).

    I asked how a PC was different from me just cancelling the card and opening a new one on my own, and they acknowledged that there was not a lot of difference — but that with a PC you saved yourself a hard inquiry (though you don’t get any promotional bonus with the new card).

    I asked if this was a new policy and the rep confirmed that this is the way they have been doing PCs for some time.

    Bottom line appears to be: with Wells Fargo, no real downgrade path. Best to simply cancel at month 10 or 11.

  39. nice_ramzi says:

    DP for Citi: Downgraded Prestige and Premier card. I was told that my Thankyou points will expire 60 days after the conversion (even though the new card also earns Thankyou points).

  40. SA13 says:

    Can I downgrade AMEX Everyday Preferred Credit Card ($95 Annual fee) immediately after receiving sign up bonus?

    I already have AMEX Everyday card (No annual fee). Really appreciate your help. Thanks you.

  41. George says:

    Am I reading correctly that if you cancel a credit card, eventually your credit history average age decreases? I dont understand that. I thought that your credit history average age was calculated on your active accounts only? Can somebody explain this?

  42. George says:

    Well, I tried to get the card reinstated based on the article, but Chase said they cant do that. I had called to close the account 7 days earlier and they said the only way to reopen the account would be to listen to the call and if the account was closed in error. I know that I said to close the account, so I didnt bother with listening to the call. I told them that I think I misunderstood the call representative and couldnt they reopen it because I misunderstood, but they said they can only open it back up if it was a Chase error. It was worth a try though. Thanks for your help William. I know to keep accounts open in the future.

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