How to Switch Credit Cards

Smiling blonde guy holding two credit cards.

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You may be able to switch between credit cards from the same card issuer without having to apply for a new card. Sometimes this is called upgrading or downgrading a credit card, depending on whether the new card has more benefits or fewer. More broadly, people refer to this process as a product change.

Switching to a card that better suits your needs can be a good idea, particularly if you plan to close your current card anyway. But go through these five steps before you make the ask.

1. Learn How Switching Can Affect Your Credit Score

When you do a product change, your account generally doesn't close. Instead, you might keep the same account number, credit limit and interest rate, but switch to a new credit card that has different rewards, fees and benefits. As a result:

  • The account stays the same on your credit report. Its history continues uninterrupted, and you won't have a new account that lowers the average age of your credit accounts—which is good for your scores. Your balance and credit limit also stay the same, so there won't be a change to your credit utilization rate.
  • Usually, there's no hard inquiry. Because you're not applying for a new credit account, you generally won't need to agree to a credit check that results in a hard inquiry. When you apply for a new card, the hard inquiry typically hurts your credit scores a little.

Being able to change your card's terms without losing access to your account, decreasing your credit limit or having to submit a new application is why switching cards might make more sense than closing one card and opening a new one.

2. Understand What Happens to Your Old Card

Although some things stay the same, there could also be significant changes to your card's terms and benefits. It's why you're making a switch after all. Keep these important points in mind:

  • You generally won't lose rewards. You can keep your rewards if you change between cards that are part of the same rewards program, such as the one operated by your card issuer. If you have a cobranded hotel or airline credit card, those rewards accrue in your loyalty account—you don't lose your points or miles if you change or close your credit card.
  • You might lose interest rate offers. Even if your account's annual percentage rate (APR) stays the same, you might lose promotional APR offers, such as 0% APR on purchases. And you won't necessarily be eligible for offers with your new card.
  • Your cardholder benefits could change. You could immediately lose or gain cardholder benefits depending on the change, such as statement credits and access to airport lounges. However, if you received a statement credit for a membership from the old card, such as TSA Precheck or Global Entry, your membership could still continue until it expires.
  • You could have new (or fewer) fees. The new card's fees will also immediately take effect, including potential changes to your foreign transaction, late payment fees and annual fees.

3. Browse New Credit Cards

You'll want to consider your options before switching cards. In addition to comparing the cardholder benefits and rewards, here are a few things to review when choosing your new card:

Does It Have a Different Annual Fee?

One reason people switch credit cards is to change to a card with a lower or no annual fee. You may be able to avoid paying your current card's annual fee if you make the change before the fee applies. Or, some card issuers will offer you a prorated refund if you switch cards soon after.

However, you might not be able to switch your cards during the first year. Or, if you do, the card issuer might think you're trying to game the rewards program. It could decide to close all your credit cards, freeze your rewards and even take back any intro offer bonuses you earned.

An alternative option if you're concerned about the annual fee is to ask a representative if any retention offers are available. In some cases, you might get extra rewards or statement credits if you keep your current card.

Is There an Intro Offer?

Many credit cards have intro bonus offers, such as promotional interest rates and bonus rewards for completing purchase requirements.

Often, you won't be eligible for these offers when you switch to a different card. Additionally, if you change cards, you might not be able to receive an intro offer on that card (or similar types of cards) during the next several years—or ever again—depending on the card issuer's rules.

Occasionally, credit card issuers have separate intro offers for product changes. However, you might need to be targeted for one of these offers. And they're generally different, and not necessarily better, than the intro offers for new applicants.

Will Switching Help You Avoid Restrictions?

Some credit card issuers limit how many cards you can have at once or automatically deny new card applications if you've recently opened other credit cards.

Switching credit cards could help you get around these restrictions if you want a specific card from the issuer. Also, keep the intro offer restrictions in mind. If you won't qualify for a card's intro offer anyway, switching to the card might make more sense than applying for it.

4. Call Your Card Issuer to Discuss Your Options

Card issuers may have different requirements, processes and offers for switching cards, and they don't always publish these online. Some card issuers don't allow switching at all, or they only offer changes by invite or limit you to changing between cards that are part of the same rewards or loyalty programs.

In some cases, you might be able to request a product change online. For example, you might see an option to switch American Express cards if you check your card's Amex Offers. Alternatively, your card issuer might send you a letter or email with an offer to upgrade one of your credit cards online.

Often, you'll need to call the card issuer (you can use the number on the back of your credit card) to discuss the options with a representative. Use the opportunity to double-check how their process works—whether there's a hard inquiry, if they close your account and what terms or benefits will change.

5. Update Your Saved Payment Information

If you switch cards, your new card will likely have a different expiration date and security code, and it might have a new card number. Because the new card is linked to the same account, some companies can automatically update your stored payment information with your new card's details. However, you may want to double-check any websites or services where you use your card to make automatic payments to ensure you won't accidentally miss a bill.

Compare Current Credit Card Offers

Although your credit score might not affect your options when changing cards, it is important when you apply for a new card. Check your credit report and credit score for free, and use Experian CreditMatch™ to see your card offers based on your credit profile. Compare options that you might be able to switch to and see if there are any appealing intro offers on new cards instead.