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How to upgrade an American Express card

Tips on upgrading or downgrading your Amex card and eligibility requirements

Summary

American Express has a credit or charge card for every kind of spender – but puts strict limitations on which you can upgrade or downgrade to.

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American Express is well known for its wide range of competitive credit cards and charge cards, many of which offer some of the best rewards rates and additional benefits on the market. Amex offerings are diverse, ranging from no-annual-fee to luxury travel cards.

But what do you do if the American Express card in your wallet no longer meets your needs? Maybe you signed up for a premium card for the travel benefits, but now don’t travel enough to get the full value from them. Maybe you signed up for a card with no annual fee, but soon realized you spend enough to get better rewards from a card that charges a fee.

No matter the case, you might not have to cancel your current card and open a new one to make it work for you. Doing so can have negative effects on your credit score, as it can interfere with your credit utilization in addition to the hard pull caused by a new card application. Instead, you might want to consider opting for a product change.

When you upgrade or downgrade your card with American Express, you’ll preserve your account history and prevent a hard pull to your credit while finding a card that better matches your spending habits. Just keep in mind that Amex has strict rules when it comes to the cards you are allowed to switch between, and the issuer’s once-per-lifetime rule for introductory offers can be a deterrent.

Upgrade process

Occasionally, American Express sends out targeted offers to upgrade a card on user accounts or by mail. For the most part, however, you can request a product change from American Express by calling the customer service number listed on the back of your card.

Requesting an upgrade or downgrade won’t trigger a hard pull to your credit, as long as you meet the eligibility requirements, which we’ll touch on later in this guide. You can complete the entire product change process over the phone.

Eligibility requirements

Among major issuers, American Express has some of the strictest requirements for product changes. You can only upgrade or downgrade to specific cards, and you must meet account standing and opening eligibility. Before you request an upgrade or downgrade, keep the following restrictions in mind.

The type of card you want

In order to switch to a new American Express card and maintain the same account, the new card must offer the same kind of rewards as your old card. That means you cannot switch from a card that offers cash back to one that offers Membership Rewards points – or vice versa.

See related: Which cards earn American Express rewards points?

Additionally, you cannot switch between charge cards and credit cards. And if you own a co-branded American Express card, you must stay within that card family. So you are allowed to product change between Delta SkyMiles credit cards, but not from a Delta card to a Marriott card.

If you want to product change to an Amex card that doesn’t meet these requirements, you’ll have to cancel your original card and fill out a new application.

Length of account opening

While American Express does not have a public rule on how long you must have had your current card open before you are eligible for a card upgrade or downgrade, a good rule of thumb is to wait until the year mark before requesting a product change. Due to consumer protections in place from the CARD Act, credit card issuers cannot increase your annual fee for the first year of account opening, making upgrades before this anniversary nearly impossible.

When it comes to downgrades, it might be possible to qualify before you’ve had your account open a year. However, American Express is known for being strict when it comes to introductory bonuses. If they suspect you are signing up for a higher bonus card and immediately downgrading to game the system, you could have the bonus revoked. To boost your chances of being approved for any product change, you are better off waiting out the first year.

Account standing

In order to ensure you will be approved to switch to a new Amex card, you should ensure your account is in good standing. This means you have demonstrated a history of on-time payments and responsible card usage.

Changes to your card

When you switch to a new card, you can expect a lot of changes. In addition to earning a new rewards rate and qualifying for new benefits, you might also be charged a different annual fee. Your account history is preserved when you request a product change, so the following things will stay the same:

  • Your account number will not change, but you’ll receive a new card with updated card art, a new security code and expiration date. Be sure to update any automatic payments.
  • Your credit limit and APR will stay the same on the new card.
  • Rewards transfer over to the new card.

However, many of the features on your card will change. With a new product, you can expect the following updates:

  • You won’t receive a new introductory offer unless you are specifically targeted for one from American Express. This includes both points-based bonuses and intro APRs.
  • If you downgrade from a card with a higher annual fee to one with a lower annual fee, you can receive a pro-rated refund of your original fee.
  • Your new annual fee will be charged based on a pro-rated calculation for the rest of your account year. The full new fee goes into effect your next account year.

Benefits of upgrading or downgrading your card with American Express

If your American Express card no longer aligns with your needs, a product change is a great option to avoid a cancellation or new application. Whether you need to adjust your spending on annual fees or simply boost your benefits, you can find a card that better matches your lifestyle without dinging your credit along the way.

For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express offers some of the most generous perks available for frequent travelers, including the most extensive airport lounge access of any rewards card. On the downside, it charges a steep $550 annual fee that can be too much for your budget if you don’t travel enough in the year to use the card’s benefits.

See related: American Express® Gold Card vs. Platinum Card® from American Express

If this is the case, you could opt to downgrade your Platinum Card to the American Express® Gold Card, which offers a top-notch rewards rate on worldwide restaurant and U.S. supermarket purchases for a more modest annual fee of $250.

Tips for making the most of your upgrade or downgrade

  • If you are hoping to snag the introductory bonus on an Amex card, you shouldn’t upgrade or downgrade. American Express enforces a once-per-lifetime rule on welcome bonuses, so you won’t be able to cancel the card and get another bonus down the line.
  • Keep a close eye out for targeted upgrade offers by mail, email or your online account. You might be able to upgrade and snag a welcome bonus.
  • If you want a new card without a hard pull to your credit, see if another American Express card suits your needs.

Popular American Express cards

Below are some of our most popular American Express cards. Keep in mind that to be eligible for a product change, you must stay within the same rewards currency – meaning you cannot switch from points to cash back or vice versa. Additionally, you can’t switch between a charge card and a credit card. The American Express Green Card, Gold card and Platinum card are all charge cards.

CardRewards rateAnnual fee
Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express 
  • 2 points per dollar on U.S. supermarket purchases (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1 point per dollar)
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • 20% bonus when you make 20+ purchases in a month
  • Terms apply
$0
American Express Everyday Preferred card
  • 3 points per dollar on U.S. supermarket purchases (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1 point per dollar)
  • 2 points per dollar at U.S. gas stations
  • 1 point per dollar on general purchases
  • 50% bonus when you make 30+ purchases per month
  • Terms apply
$95
American Express Cash Magnet® Card1.5% cash back on every purchase$0
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)
  • 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores
  • 1% cash back general purchases
  • Terms apply
$0
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%)
  • 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit
  • 1% cash back on general purchases
  • Terms apply
$95
American Express Green Card
  • 2 points per dollar on travel booked through American Express Travel
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply
$95 (waived first year)
American Express® Gold Card
  • 4 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide
  • 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per year)
  • 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply
$250
The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel
  • 5 points per dollar on eligible hotels booked with amextravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply
$550

Final thoughts

American Express is pretty strict when it comes to product changes, and it might not be the best move for every kind of cardholder. If you are more focused on collecting intro bonuses than avoiding extra card applications, you might be better off canceling your current Amex and applying for a new one – due to the issuer’s once-per-lifetime rule on welcome offers.

Nevertheless, many Amex users can get great benefits out of upgrading or downgrading their card. You can ensure your card is well-aligned with your spending and earning great rewards and benefits. Plus, you’ll do so without a hard pull to your credit.

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Published: September 11, 2019

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Credit Card Rate Report Updated: October 16th, 2019
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15.18%
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Student
17.29%

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