Credit Card Product Change and Upgrade FAQ

Can you upgrade a credit card within the first year?

No, you typically can’t upgrade a credit card within the first year, especially if there is a difference in annual fee due to the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act of 2009).

The CARD Act was passed by the United States Congress in 2009 to protect consumers from unfair practices from credit card issuers, which include changing the annual fee within the first card membership year.

For example, if you apply for the Chase Freedom card today, you can’t product change it to a Chase Sapphire Preferred a few months later since there would be a change in annual fee ($95). Banks are not allowed to charge you more than what you agreed upon the first year.

Do I get the bonus for product changing?

Unless you accept a product change offer, you will not get a bonus when you upgrade or downgrade your card.

This means that if you product change a Chase Freedom card to a Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP), you will not receive the 60,000 points welcome bonus that’s usually associated with the CSP.

Again, you won’t receive a welcome bonus for the respective credit card when you do product change.

However, upgrade offers do exist with some card issuers like Chase and American Express.

We typically see an upgrade offer from Chase when they want you to product change to the newest version of a credit card.

For example, the “old” grandfathered Hyatt credit card has a targeted upgrade offer of ~5,000 points when you product change to the “new” World of Hyatt card.

Grandfathered card =
1) Card that was previously publicly available
2) Can’t be applied for
3) Potentially can’t be product changed to

Chase Hyatt (discontinued) ($75 Annual Fee)
 - anniversary night = Category 1-4
 - 3x at Hyatt
 - status = Discoverist (Explorist if $50k spend cal. year)

Chase World of Hyatt ($95 Annual Fee)

 - anniversary night = Category 1-4
 - additional anniversary night = Category 1-4 ($15,000 spend, card year)
 - 4x at Hyatt
 - status = Discoverist
 - 2 nights towards status (not free nights) per $5k spend

Since the Chase Hyatt card isn’t my only hotel credit card, it wouldn’t make sense to pay an increased annual fee when I’m keeping the card for the free anniversary night. I’m grandfathered into the $75 annual fee as long as I don’t accept the upgrade offer.

What happens to the annual fee when you product change a credit card?

It depends on the credit issuer, but the general rule is that they prorate a refund based on the months you have the card.

This is an interesting strategy for people who missed downgrading the card on the anniversary date. You’ll receive a prorated refund based on how many months are left in the cardmember year.

For example, if you have an Amex Platinum card that just renewed, but you want the Gold card instead, Amex would refund the prorated amount for the Platinum and then charge the Gold card annual fee. This assumes that you did NOT receive a retention offer for the Amex Platinum card.

If you received a retention offer, keep the Amex Platinum for the year to avoid getting blacklisted. It’s in the terms of the offer that closing a card shortly after accepting a retention offer can qualify as “abuse.”

Can I product change from [a] to [b]?

It depends. The general rule is that you can only product change within a family of cards (same point system).

For example, the Chase Freedom can only be product changed to a Chase Slate, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Freedom Student, Chase Sapphire, Chase Sapphire Preferred, or Chase Sapphire Reserve.

You cannot product change the Chase Freedom to a World of Hyatt or United Explorer card, vice versa.

A few items to keep in mind:

  • Personal credit cards cannot be product changed to business credit cards, vice versa

  • Charge cards cannot be product changed to credit cards, vice versa

Can I product change from Chase to American Express?

No, they are completely separate credit issuers. You cannot product change across different credit issuers.

Can I change my international American Express credit card to a U.S. Amex?

No, you can’t product change international products across the same credit issuer. American Express Hong Kong, Amex Canada, Amex UK, etc. are all separate entities that have different regulations.

International organizations have different…

  • laws/regulations

  • interact fees

  • competitive landscape

  • risk/income models

  • credit models

However, if you are an international and looking to gain U.S. credit, American Express has a Global Transfer Program.

Can I upgrade for a bonus and then downgrade right afterward?

You might be able to do this, but I don’t advise it. American Express explicitly has terms that say they can close your account for “gaming” the upgrade bonus.

“ If we in our sole discretion determine that you have engaged in abuse, misuse, or gaming in connection with the welcome offer in any way or that you intend to do so (for example, if you applied for one or more cards to obtain a welcome offer (s) that we did not intend for you; if you cancel or downgrade your account within 12 months after acquiring it; or if you cancel or return purchases you made to meet the Threshold Amount), we may not credit Hilton Honors Bonus Points to your account. We may also cancel this Card account and other Card accounts you may have with us. “

Source: Offer terms

If you accept an upgrade bonus, I recommend keeping the respective card open for at least 12 months.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, vendors or companies, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. 

UGC disclosure: These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.