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Can you upgrade your credit card?
Yes, though your options depend on your card and provider.
For eligible credit cards, you can upgrade your existing card to a higher tier version of that card. This is known as a credit card upgrade. Most common upgrades happen when you own a secured credit card and the bank offers you an unsecured version of the same card. But you could also ask for a card with rewards or with a higher rewards rate than what you already earn. Here’s how to upgrade and what to watch out for when making the switch.
How to upgrade your credit card
There are typically two ways to switch credit cards with the same provider.
Asking specifically for an upgrade on your credit card is referred to as a product change. You can typically do this in one of two ways:
- Call the number listed on the back of your credit card and request a product change.
- Login to your credit card account online and send an upgrade request through your account portal.
You should receive an answer from your provider within a few business days. Most credit card companies place some limitations on your upgrade options. For example, if you have an airline card with an issuer, you might only be able to upgrade or downgrade among other similar airline cards in the catalog. Your provider may also restrict you from moving between rewards points and cash back and vice versa.
Some credit card providers will review your card activity and upgrade your card automatically. This is often the case with secured credit cards where the provider decides to refund your secured deposit but lets you keep the card. You might also receive an “upgrade” if your card’s benefits and terms are refreshed by the issuer.
Is a credit card upgrade treated as a new account?
Yes and no. If your card upgrade is automatically performed by your issuer — such as in the event of a product refresh or an issuer switching networks — your new card is not treated as a new account.
If you choose to upgrade (or downgrade) through a product change however, your issuer will treat this as though you’re applying for a new product. In this case, they’ll perform a hard pull on your credit report and open a new account for you if approved.
Take note that a product change does not necessarily close your old account. This means you can continue to use your old card, even after you’ve “upgraded” to the new one.
Should I upgrade my credit card?
If you’re wondering whether to make the upgrade to a different card, here are a few indications that it might be a good time to make the switch.
- Your daily routine has changed. It’s a good idea to make sure your rewards are maximized to match your daily spending habits. For example, maybe you used to walk to work, but you recently got a new job and now have a long commute. In that case, getting a credit card that rewards travel spending could pay off.
- Your income has increased. If you’re making more money, you may be able to afford a card with better perks and more favorable terms. While a $95 annual fee might have been out-of-reach with your first job, as your income grows it’s worth looking into cards with higher annual fees as the rewards could pay off in the long run.
- Your credit score improved. Perhaps you’ve been working hard to build up your credit score after a series of financial mishaps. Once you’ve strengthened your standing, it’s worth researching whether or not you’re eligible for a card with elevated benefits.
- Your family life has significantly changed. Adding kiddos to the family, or even getting married, can shift your priorities and financial needs. For instance, if you’re saving for a honeymoon vacation, opening a credit card with travel rewards may help you afford that lovebird escape. On the other hand, a credit card that offers maximum cash back may be more important if kids come along and stretch your budget for discretionary spending.
- You want to take advantage of a signup bonus. If your credit score is stable and it makes financial sense based on your budget, sometimes an excellent signup bonus is a good enough reason to open a new credit card. Just keep in mind that most signup bonuses require you to spend a minimum amount in a set period of time, and some providers restrict you from earning a welcome offer from an upgrade, so be sure to read the fine print before applying.
Examples of when to upgrade
Here are a few quick examples of when it might make sense to upgrade.
- You have an entry-level travel credit card, but your new job has increased the frequency of your travel significantly.
- You have an unlimited 1.5% cashback card, but find upon reviewing your bank statements that you spend much more on groceries than any other area.
- You have a secured card and have built your credit score enough to graduate to an unsecured card that could better serve your spending needs.
On the other hand, there are a few reasons you might want to opt for applying for a new card instead of upgrading. For example, obtaining a new card will typically increase your credit limit, which can help your credit utilization ratio. A card upgrade may also lock you out of earning a welcome offer, whereas this usually isn’t a problem when you apply for a new credit card.
Things to consider before changing your credit card
Upgrading your credit card can cause some fundamental changes to how you use your card, and potentially affect your credit score. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before making the jump.
- Do you have debt? Unless you want to make a balance transfer, pay down as much of your credit card debt as possible before applying for a new card. A high debt might reduce your chances of approval when the bank is assessing your ability to repay.
- How will this impact your credit score? Too many applications for credit in a short space of time is a red flag for creditors. Make sure you apply only for the card you really want to get.
- What are the costs? If you’re upgrading to a rewards credit card with an annual fee, make sure the value-adding features are worth the extra cost and that you’ll be using these features.
- Will you close your old account? If you’re upgrading to a credit card with a different issuer, make sure you decide whether you want to close the account after you’ve made the switch. If you have debt remaining on the card, you’ll have to keep it open until you’ve paid it off. If you’ve conducted a balance transfer or paid your debt off, you could consider closing it. Keep in mind, closing your oldest credit card will shorten your credit history and could affect your credit score.
Upgrading your credit card is a great way of upping your card value as you build credit and become more comfortable handling your current credit cards. Doing your research where possible and comparing your credit card options beforehand will help you make the right choice and ensure you’re getting the most value.Back to top
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