Key takeways

  • Upgrading your credit card with the same issuer is a good way to switch products without a hard inquiry on your credit report, though you'll lose out on a welcome bonus
  • To start the upgrade process, contact your card issuer and consider negotiating perks like a higher credit limit or waived fees
  • When choosing a card to upgrade to, consider APR ranges, annuals fees, rewards structures and additional card benefits

One of the best ways you can ensure your cards are always working best for you is by making a product change with your issuer.

Maybe you’ve improved your credit with a secured card and are looking to upgrade to an unsecured option with better rewards. Or maybe you want to switch your student credit card out for one with more options that fit your spending after graduation.

Of course, you can always apply for a new credit card and add to your portfolio. But asking your current issuer for an upgrade can help simplify the approval process and even avoid a hard credit inquiry. It can also keep you from closing your existing account and potentially taking a credit hit.

There are some pitfalls to keep in mind, though, and ways you can prepare to improve your chances of getting the card you want before you talk with your issuer. Here’s what to know about the process and how to pick the best upgraded card option to suit your needs:

What to know about credit card upgrades

When you ask your issuer to change your current credit card to another card in their product suite, you’ll often get to keep your original account.

This means that you can avoid the hard credit inquiry required when you apply for a new card — and the temporarily lower credit score that comes with it. Make sure to ask your issuer when you make the upgrade request though, since this may vary depending on your bank.

However, there’s a significant drawback to product changes with the same credit card company. In most cases, requesting an upgrade or product change from your issuer means you’ll forfeit the card’s welcome bonus offer. These offers can be worth hundreds of dollars in value, so it’s worth considering whether the tradeoff makes sense for you.

Still, there are exceptions. For example, you might receive an offer in the mail from your issuer advertising the chance to upgrade your current card and receive a bonus for doing so. If you’re considering a product change, keep an eye out for these offers from your issuer.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your upgrade options may be limited. For example, if you have an Amex card that earns Membership Rewards points, you probably won’t be able to make the switch to a cash back card from American Express or a co-branded Amex card that earns Delta SkyMiles.

How to upgrade a credit card

Once you’ve decided you want to upgrade to a card with your existing issuer, here are a few steps to take:

1. Call your card issuer

The best way to make your request is by speaking to a representative from your credit card company. Use the number on the back of your card to call the issuer and ask about your upgrade options and the details of the upgrade process.

It can help to do some research beforehand and have a card in mind that you’d like to upgrade to. Then, you can get more information from the issuer about your eligibility, account details and the upgrade process.

2. Negotiate

It’s always worth asking what other benefits you might score from your issuer.

For example, ask if you qualify for an offer that could get you a welcome bonus on the new card, a higher credit limit or waive your annual fee for the first year. Depending on your history with the issuer and your credit, you may get a great deal.

3. Upgrade and get your new card

After you’ve considered all the details and found the right upgrade for you, you can move forward with the process.

Depending on your issuer, you may get a temporary card number immediately after you’re approved to begin spending online and via digital wallet. Otherwise, you’ll need to wait until you receive your new card in the mail (typically within seven to 10 days).

4. Update your card information

If you have recurring charges, like subscription services or memberships, connected to your previous card, make sure you update your card information after you receive your new card in the mail. Do the same for any online accounts you had your old card info connected to.

It’s tedious, but updating your payment information as soon as you get your new card can help you avoid the headache later on.

How to choose your upgraded card

Before you choose to upgrade your credit card, make sure you want to stay with the same issuer. If your current issuer doesn’t have any other cards that appeal to you, for example, or you don’t like the mobile app where you do most of your card maintenance, you may be better off applying for a new card under a different issuer altogether.

You should also double check the rewards and benefits of your current card to make sure a product change is the right move. You’ll lose out on any current benefits that add value for you once you upgrade your account. Plus, there may be some benefits that you didn’t know you could access.

As for the upgraded card itself, there are a few important factors to consider:

  • Annual fee: Anytime you apply for a card with an annual fee, compare your regular spending to the card’s rewards and benefits to ensure the cost of the annual fee is worth it.
  • APR: Many credit cards from the same issuer may have similar APR ranges you can qualify for. However, when you talk to your issuer, ask how your interest rate may change from your current card.
  • Rewards: One of the best reasons to upgrade a card you already have is to start earning rewards that best align with your spending. Make sure any new card you get offers rewards and benefits that are best fit for you, whether you want travel points and miles or cash back.
  • Benefits: On top of rewards, you’ll want to evaluate your card’s added benefits — which can add a lot of value over time and help offset the annual fee. For example, travel cards often come with travel credits, lounge access and more, while cash back cards may offer discounts with partner brands and purchase protections.

The bottom line

If your credit is good and you have a positive history with your issuer, upgrading your current card should be a simple process. Before you start, just remember to do your research to find the right card for your spending — that’s also eligible for you to upgrade to, under your issuer’s rules.

And don’t forget: there are multiple issuers and cards to choose from, so don’t limit yourself by staying with the same issuer if you don’t need to. You could miss out on benefits and sign-up bonuses that give you greater rewards and more money in your pocket, or a 0 percent introductory APR period that can help you save on a big purchase.