A few people have reached out this week asking for advice since an Amex charge card was one of their first cards, but they don’t want to keep paying an annual fee. Canceling the charge card will affect your credit if you’re a thin file (average age of accounts and the total number of accounts). I advise adding other cards first before canceling the charge card.
Obtaining credit cards that have a good no annual fee downgrade path is important when you’re starting out in your credit journey.
We’ll start with Chase cards first since they have the most restrictions due to the Chase 5/24 rule.
5 Best Travel Credit Cards with a Downgrade Path
1. Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve
Technically two cards, but you can only get one. Both Chase Sapphire cards have an attractive intro offer and no annual fee product change paths.
One Sapphire Rule:
You’re not eligible for a Sapphire bonus if…
You have a Sapphire card (i.e., Chase Sapphire, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve)
You received a Sapphire welcome bonus in the last 48 months ( 4 years)
Welcome offer: 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points ($750 in travel), after $4,000 in spend within the first 3 months
Earn 2X points on travel and dining
Welcome offer: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points ($750 in travel), after $4,000 in spend within the first 3 months of account opening
$300 annual travel credit per calendar year — includes transit, rideshare, hotels, and airline tickets
Earn 3X on travel and dining
$100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit
Both Sapphire cards have the following product change options after 12 months of account opening:
Chase Slate (no annual fee)
Chase Freedom (no annual fee)
Chase Freedom Unlimited (no annual fee)
Chase Sapphire (no annual fee)
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Important note: you do not receive a welcome offer for the respective card when you product change.
The United Explorer card earns United MileagePlus miles, which can be transferred to any Star Alliance partner.
Welcome offer: up to 60,000 miles
Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit
Earn 2X at restaurants and hotels
Earn 2X on United purchases
Earn 1X on all other purchases
First bag checked for free when you use your card to purchase the ticket
The United Explorer card has the following no annual fee downgrade paths:
If you prefer flexible points and boutique hotels, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards credit card is worth considering.
Welcome offer: 50,000 miles, after $3,000 in spend within the first 3 months
Earn 10X miles on hotels.com; learn more at hotels.com/venture
Earn 2X miles on all other purchases
Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit
12+ Airline transfer partners
The Capital One Venture card has a no annual fee product change path to the Capital One VentureOne. The good thing about the VentureOne is that it still has access to 20% off hotel.com bookings until Jan 2020.
American Express has a once in a lifetime rule, which means that you can only receive a welcome offer for each product once. I recommend waiting for an offer you’re satisfied with before applying.
In the past, we’ve seen the Gold Delta SkyMiles card welcome offer at 60,000 points. The offer usually comes around 2-3 times per year.
Earn 2X on purchases made directly with Delta
Earn 1X on everything else
First bag checked free when you use your card to purchase your Delta flight ticket
Delta SkyMiles can be used on SkyTeam airlines, and there are often Delta flash sales that make the points easier to use.
The Delta cards have a no annual fee downgrade path to the Blue Delta SkyMiles card. Keep in mind that once you downgrade to the Blue Delta card, you will not be eligible for the welcome offer (10,000 miles).
Be sure to wait at least 12 months before requesting a product change or you risk getting the welcome offer clawed back due to “abusing the system.”
The Hilton Honors Ascend card offers automatic Hilton Honors Gold status which gives you upgrades when available, and complimentary breakfast. You can product change to the Hilton Aspire or the no annual fee Hilton Honors card.
Welcome offer: 125,000 points after $2,000 in spend within the first 3 months of account opening
Earn 12X on purchases made directly with Hilton
Earn 6X at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations
Earn 3X on all other purchases
Important note: Unlike the Blue Delta card, the no annual fee Hilton Honors card welcome offer is worth getting. Due to the once in a lifetime rule, I suggest getting the Hilton Honors welcome offer first, and then downgrading the Hilton Ascend card.
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.