Credit cards are designed to make spending more convenient, but the card you have now may not be the one you need. If you’re unsatisfied with your card’s features and benefits—or you’ve outgrown it—consider requesting an upgrade from your credit card company.
Upgrading a credit card means trading one card for another with the same company. Rather than a brand-new account, you get a new card for an open account.
In 2022, 27% of American consumers applied for a new credit card, while 11% requested a credit limit increase. Upgrading could be the answer if you’d like to get a new card to unlock better features but skip the hard credit check requirement.
In this guide:
- When it might make sense to upgrade your credit card
- Limitations to upgrading your credit card
- How to upgrade your credit card
- Changes to your account after upgrade
- What if you were unable to upgrade?
When it might make sense to upgrade your credit card
Reasons you might consider requesting a credit card upgrade include:
- Looking for more benefits to justify the card’s annual fee.
- Want to switch from one rewards structure to another (i.e., earning points vs. miles or cash back).
- Would like better credit card perks, such as travel benefits or a 0% introductory APR on purchases.
- Are hoping to get a lower APR with a different card.
- Want to get a new card without dinging your credit.
You could also downgrade your credit card if you pay an annual fee for features or benefits you don’t use. Downgrading might be better than canceling a credit card outright because closing a credit line can hurt your credit score.
Aside from weighing the reasons for a credit card upgrade, it’s essential to consider how likely your credit card company is to agree. Factors that can work in your favor when requesting a credit card upgrade include:
- Payment history. A solid history with no late or missed payments can show your credit card issuer you’re responsible.
- Account age. Credit card companies appreciate loyalty, and having an older account could help you unlock better benefits with an upgraded card.
- Credit habits. Your credit card company may not perform a hard credit check to approve you for an upgrade. However, it may review your account history to see how much you spend with your card on average, how you use any rewards you earn, and whether you pay in full or tend to carry a balance over time.
You could pull a copy of your credit report to see whether any negative items might hurt your score. However, that may not be necessary if no hard credit check is required for an upgrade.
Limitations to upgrading your credit card
Upgrading to a new card could help you unlock more value, but it isn’t always a perfect solution. For one, your credit card company may be unwilling to grant an upgrade, no matter how good of a customer you’ve been.
If your credit card company offers upgrades, it may limit which cards you can upgrade to from the one you have. For example, you may only be able to choose from a specific category of cards with similar features or benefits.
Rules to know about upgrading credit cards include the following:
- Credit card companies are not required to offer upgrades.
- Network-jumping, i.e., moving from Visa to Discover, even if your credit card company offers both types of cards, is often prohibited.
- Upgrading may disqualify you from earning an introductory bonus with the new card.
- Your credit limit with the new card may not be the same as the limit for your old card.
If upgrading a rewards credit card, it’s essential to ask what will happen to any rewards you’ve earned but not redeemed. For example, if you’re moving from an airline miles card to a cash-back card, will the miles remain in your account, be converted to cash back, or disappear altogether?
Redeeming unused rewards before requesting an upgrade can ensure they don’t go to waste. It’s wise to compare the value you’ll get with different redemption options to ensure your points, miles, or cash-back rewards go as far as possible.
How to upgrade your credit card
If you’re considering a credit card upgrade, first consider what changes you want to make to your account.
For instance, you may not need to upgrade your card to increase your credit limit. On the other hand, an upgrade might be necessary if you wish to access better travel rewards or perks, such as lounge access or TSA PreCheck benefits.
Once you’re ready to upgrade, you’ll need to contact the bank that issued the card. You should be able to find the customer service number listed on the back of the card. Here’s how to contact different card issuers to request an upgrade.
|Card issuer||Request by phone||Request online|
|American Express||1-800-528-4800||American Express website|
|Bank of America||1-800-732-9194||Bank of America website|
|Capital One||1-800-227-4825||Capital One website|
|Chase||1-800-432-3117||Chase Bank website|
|U.S. Bank||1-800-285-8585||U.S. Bank website|
|Wells Fargo||1-800-642-4720||Wells Fargo website|
When requesting an upgrade, be prepared to make a strong case for why the credit card company should agree. Also, be sure to ask whether upgrading will affect your credit scores or cost any rewards you’ve earned.
Changes to your credit card account after upgrade
If the card issuer accepts your upgrade request, it will issue a new credit card. You’ll activate the card once you get it and can start using it.
The account and card numbers should be the same for the new card. Double-check the card number to ensure it’s the same if you use it to make automatic bill payments. If not, you must update those payments to reflect the new card number. (Check whether you also need to update the expiration date and security code to reflect the new card.)
Other card updates to look out for include:
- Higher or lower credit limits
- Changes to your payment due date
- Changes to your rewards structure or rewards balance
Your old balance will carry over since the account isn’t changing, just the card. Upgrading shouldn’t affect your credit score if there’s no hard credit check. However, you might see a credit score impact if your credit limit changes.
Credit utilization—how much of your available credit you use—is a significant factor in credit scoring. If upgrading results in a reduced credit limit with the same balance, that could hurt your score. On the other hand, it could help your score if you get a higher limit, but your balance remains the same.
What if you were unable to upgrade your credit card?
If you can’t get an upgrade, consider applying for a new card. You might consider opening a new account with your current card issuer or a different one. Keep in mind the pros and cons below when making your decision.
A new card could allow you to upgrade rewards and other benefits.
You may qualify for an introductory rewards bonus.
A new card might allow you to take advantage of a lower APR or pay fewer fees.
Switching to a new rewards structure may be easier if your spending habits have changed.
Applying for a new credit card requires a hard credit check.
You may not qualify for an introductory rewards bonus when getting a new card with the same issuer.
When applying for a new credit card, it’s essential to consider what you’ll do with the cards you already have.
Closing credit card accounts can shrink your credit utilization and shorten your credit age, which could damage your credit score. If you plan to open a new credit card account, keeping old accounts open is often wise. You can keep old accounts active by making one small purchase every few months and paying it off.
Limiting the number of new cards you apply for is also better because each inquiry can shave points off your credit score. Comparing credit card offers can help you find the one that’s right for you.