Upgrading Credit Cards: Rules & Tips For Each Card Issuer

We’ve talked about downgrading credit cards before, which is usually the process of turning a credit card with an annual fee into one that doesn’t have an annual fee. Increasingly credit card issuers are allowing you to upgrade your credit card into a more premium product. I thought it would be a good idea to look at which card issuers allow you to do this and the different rules you should be aware of as well as a few tips which should make this process easier.

American Express

As far as I know, American Express were the first card issuer to implement the “upgrade your credit card” option. The most common card they allow you to upgrade to is the American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass card, although they’ve allowed upgrades to almost all premium cards at one time or another.

  • If you upgrade your card, you won’t be able to get either sign up bonus again. American Express only allows you to get each sign up bonus once per lifetime. If you upgrade to the Hilton Surpass card, it won’t be possible to sign up for that card directly in the future and get the bonus.
  • You will still get the upgrade sign up bonus if you’ve had the card in the past. This is where things get interesting, American Express usually offers you a sign up when you upgrade a credit card (typically 50,000 points for the Surpass). Even if you’ve gotten the Surpass card sign up bonus before if you upgrade you’ll be able to get it again.
  • Cards must be open for a minimum of 13 months before they can be upgraded. It’s not possible to get an upgrade offer if the card you’re trying to upgrade has not been open for at least 13 months.
  • Annual fees are not waived, but will be prorated. Generally American Express will waive the annual fee on most cards for the first year. When you upgrade a card this does not happen, you’ll need to pay the annual fee immediately. If the card you’re upgrading from has an annual fee, they will be prorated back to your account after the upgrade is complete. For example if you upgrade a Platinum card which has an annual fee of $450 and you had the account for 13 months, you will receive a prorated refund of ($412.5 which is 11 months).
  • Upgrading will result in a soft pull. In my experience (and from a lot of different data points I’ve read) upgrading a credit card with American Express will always result in a soft pull.
  • Upgrade links and sign up bonus. To see if you’re able to upgrade, use these links:

If you know of any other upgrade links, please let me know in the comments or by e-mail. I think upgrading American Express cards really only makes sense on personal cards when you’ve already received the sign up bonus before. Although it make also make sense for those wanting to minimize the number of hard pulls they have (e.g if you’re applying for a big loan in the short term future).


Citi have recently started sending out targeted upgrade offers as well, the process is a little bit different than American Express so I thought I’d outline some of the differences below.

  • You must receive a targeted e-mail communication offering the upgrade. You used to be able to go to https://cardupgrade.citi.com/ [card name]Upgrade (e.g https://cardupgrade.citi.com/ReserveCardUpgrade/) but this no longer works and instead it asks you to refer to the unique URL you received in your invitation.
  • There is no hard credit pull. Upgrading will not result in a hard credit pull.
  • They don’t offer a sign up bonus. Unlike American Express, there is no sign up bonus for upgrading and you won’t receive the standard sign up bonus that the card offers. In addition this would reset the clock on being able to get the sign up bonus in the future. It’s possible to churn most Citi cards once every 18 months (since the card was open or closed) by upgrading the card would be considered open, thus resetting the clock.
  • You’ll still have to pay the annual fee. Much like American Express, the annual fee is due immediately and any annual fee you paid on the previous card will be refunded on a prorate basis.

I really don’t think upgrading with Citi ever makes sense, I guess if all you cared about were the benefits of a card and not the sign up bonus you could save yourself a hard pull but most of the cards they offer aren’t worth considering without the sign up bonus. It’s also important to remember that in most cases if you applied for the cards directly you’d be able to get the annual fee waived on the first year as well. Thanks to Rapid Travel Chai for helping me to provide some of this information.


It’ll be interesting to see if more and more card issuers decide to offer some type of upgrade option to entice consumers into cards with higher annual fees. If this does become more common, I hope they take the route that American Express does and offer a sign up bonus. The option Citi currently offers is basically worthless. If you’d like to share any more information about upgrading credit cards, please feel free to do so in the comments below.

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Matt (@guest_423237)
June 19, 2017 11:42

Just found an upgrade offer that popped up on both mine and my wife’s amex hilton. 75,000 after $3,000 spend. We have both upgraded before (before the once per lifetime rule) and then downgraded to the NAF version. I don’t see any once per lifetime language in the TC. Since this would be a soft pull (we are trying to stay under 5/24) and there is no once per lifetime language, I think I’m going to do it!

Any reason not to?

weedibix (@guest_89130)
March 17, 2015 09:22

How frequently can the Surpass be upgraded?

Chao (@guest_88648)
March 16, 2015 12:08

assume downgrade is the same right? I am considering downgrade my AMEX everyday preferred to regular everyday card. hope I can still get the sign up bonus on my everyday card.

Jay (@guest_88645)
March 16, 2015 11:51

I upgraded my Chase Freedom to CSP with no problem. Didn’t receive a bonus though or the adding auth user points.

C (@guest_88639)
March 16, 2015 11:09

Thank you for this post! I have been trying to find info on Amex upgrade details for quite a while, and they’re hard to come by.

Pulled the trigger on a targeted upgrade from Amex PRG to Platinum late last year. Got 50k upgrade bonus after $5k spend (wasn’t targeted for the 100k sign-up bonus anyway), had much of my AF prorated (more than I expected), and already 2x$200 airline fee credit (for 2014 and 2015) with another $200 to come from 2016 still included in first cardmember year. No hard pull will come in handy for upcoming loan shopping. Overall, the benefits of Platinum and the upgrade terms have been well worth it, but I would have sprung for the new app and hard pull if the 100k bonus was available to me.

Gary Leff
Gary Leff (@guest_88633)
March 16, 2015 10:04

Worth noting that the reason upgrading can’t be done in first 12 months is because it’s illegal for a card company to change pricing during that timeframe — both APR and annual fee. So they cannot switch you to a higher annual fee until you’ve had their product for a full year.

Ny (@guest_88641)
March 16, 2015 11:33

I’ve always wondered about that. Thanks for the info.