Almost every issuer will let you switch to a different credit card from the same bank without having to pull your credit; here’s everything you should know.
By keeping your card issuer and opting for a different card, you can elect for something with better – or simpler – rewards, a higher (or lower) credit line or a lower interest rate.
In some cases, keeping the same issuer means no application and – even better – no credit check, which means no impact on your score. “It can have some real advantages,” says Joe Ridout, spokesman for Consumer Action.
One very practical reason cardholders switch: To trade a card with a looming annual fee for one with no annual fee, he says.
Here are eight questions you need to ask your issuer before switching – plus major issuers’ basic rules for switching cards:
8 questions to ask before switching cards
- Will the issuer do a credit check?
- Are there different rules for different cards?
- Will I be eligible for a sign-up bonus?
- What is my credit score?
- How will the old and new cards be reported to the credit bureaus?
- How could the swap affect my utilization ratios?
- What happens to existing rewards?
- Should I shop other issuers?
1. Will the issuer do a credit check?
One big advantage to staying with the same issuer: The company might not do a “hard” credit check.
If you select a different card from your current card issuer, some companies won’t check your credit at all. Others will do a soft check, which won’t affect your score.
But with some card switches (and some issuers), there will be a “hard” credit check.
It didn’t come as a surprise for Bruce McClary when he switched cards and the issuer pulled his credit. “Because I was looking to change my credit limit,” says McClary, who is also the vice president of public relations for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
When you inquire with your issuer about changing cards, ask for someone “closer to the underwriting process” to make sure that person knows the answer, such as a senior account representative, McClary advises.
It’s also smart to skip switching cards if you’re less than a year away from a big purchase, like a house or a car. Because, depending on your score, a couple of points could mean the difference in hundreds or thousands over the life of your loan.
2. Are there different rules for different cards?
Some card issuers will let you switch cards within the same card family without an application or credit check.
But if you want to change into or out of one of the issuer’s co-branded cards, or if you decide to change card families, then you might need to submit an application and undergo a credit check, just as if you’d never been a customer.
If your goal is to simplify paperwork or switch cards without a hard credit check, ask exactly which of the issuer’s cards (if any) will qualify.
3. Will I be eligible for a sign-up bonus?
Technically, you’re not a new customer. So, most card issuers won’t give you those new customer sign-up bonuses.
However, some cards will reward some card switchers with a special bonus award as an incentive to change cards, says Ridout. Ask your issuer whether you’re eligible for any bonus by switching.
“I certainly wouldn’t be expecting any bonus offers,” says Ridout. “It’s more about what the [new] card will do for you.”
4. Keep an eye on your credit score
You don’t want to switch to a new card if your credit and credit score are in less-than-stellar shape, as this could impact the APR you’ll receive on it.
This is especially important if the company is doing a hard credit check. If that’s the case, it might be worth it to wait until you’ve had time to raise your score.
To switch cards, many issuers will require that your account be in good standing, too. If you’re delinquent or about to have that balance sent to collections, a switch likely isn’t in the cards for you.
5. How will the old and new cards be reported to the credit bureaus?
The average age of your accounts and the length of your credit history are also important credit scoring factors – hint: and older is always better.
Therefore, think twice before you swap out the oldest card in your wallet.
In order to understand how the switch might impact your credit, make sure to ask your issuer these questions:
- Whether the new card will appear as a new “trade line” on your credit report.
- Whether your credit history will list the account’s age as that of the new card or the old one.
As long as the switch won’t affect the length of your credit history, you should be fine.
6. How could the swap affect my utilization ratios?
If the new card comes with a different credit limit, this could potentially benefit or hurt your credit as it will impact your credit utilization.
Credit utilization – the amount you have borrowed compared to your credit limits – is the second most important factor in credit scoring calculations, after making on-time payments.
Credit scoring formulas look at your utilization ratios on individual cards as well as the overall utilization of all your accounts combined.
If the new card you’ll receive after the switch comes with the same credit limit, your utilization will remain the same. If it comes with a higher limit, this will reduce your utilization and potentially boost your score. But if the credit limit is lower, your utilization will increase – and this could make your score drop.
7. What happens to existing rewards?
If you’ve spent five years collecting points to finance that trip to Tombouctou, you don’t want to lose them just because you’re switching cards on the eve of your journey.
Look up your rewards balance and include those points or miles in your conversation with the issuer. Find out if you could lose some or all of them if you switch, along with any steps you can take to protect them.
8. Should I shop other issuers?
It’s smart to shop all of your options before you change cards – especially if you have to reapply anyway or your current issuer is going to pull your credit.
Even if you can get the new card without a credit check or extra paperwork, “it’s still worth looking at what else is out there,” says McClary. “Look at some of the competitive offers from other lenders, too.”
Major issuers’ rules on switching credit cards
- Can switch without a credit check as long as you stay within same card family and rewards currency.
- For card upgrades, an application is needed.
- New card will be reported to credit bureaus as the original account. Account numbers remain the same.
- Can’t switch from exclusively Amex cards to co-branded cards (or vice versa) without reapplying and getting credit check.
- Cardholder may get an upgrade bonus when switching cards if they solicited for such an offer.
Bank of America
- Eligible for card switch without application or credit check if you’re in good credit standing.
- No time limitations for changing cards.
- Product changes not eligible for new account offers.
- Cardmembers must reapply for any card switch.
- No credit check if you are eligible to switch cards.
- Account reviewed regularly for qualifying product changes.
- Application required for changes to products that aren’t pre-approved on a case-by-case basis.
- All rewards will transfer to the new card.
- For more information, see our guide to product changes with Capital One.
- No credit check if you’re eligible to switch cards.
- Change to another Chase branded card without reapplying.
- May be eligible to switch to another co-branded card within the same co-brand product suite only.
- To switch to higher fee card, must have first card for at least 12 months.
- In most cases, cardmembers not eligible for a second sign-up bonus within the same product suite.
- Generally, all earned rewards will transfer to the new card.
- For more information, see our guide to product changes with Chase.
- Can switch to any “it” branded card without an application or credit check.
- Account number and bill due date remain the same.
- Members retain all earned rewards.
- Must have card for one year before converting.
Navy Federal Credit Union
- No time limitations for changing cards.
- Typically, no credit check. Additional review may be required for the Visa Signature Flagship Rewards card.
- Depending on the card, a cardholder may give up certain network-specific benefits.
- Can switch to any credit card.
- Depending on the card, there could be an application, but no credit check.
- If the customer is switching card networks (Mastercard, Visa, etc.) an ability-to-pay analysis may be conducted.
- No time limitations for changing cards.
- Customers won’t be eligible for a sign-up bonus if they opened a Wells Fargo credit card within the last 15 months and received introductory APR(s), fees, and/or a rewards bonus.