How to upgrade your credit card

Your credit card should work for you. But spending habits and financial situations change over time. So what do you do when your card doesn’t match your lifestyle? One option is swapping it for another card with the same issuer without opening or closing an account. 

The industry refers to the process as a product change. But you might also see it called a credit card upgrade. Learn more about how it works and how you might be able to upgrade your credit card. 

Key takeaways

  • A credit card upgrade is a type of product change where you swap your current credit card for a different card with the same issuer. 
  • Credit card upgrades typically don’t require applying for a new card, opening a new account or closing your current account. 
  • Generally, you keep the same card number and account number when you upgrade a credit card. 
  • To upgrade a credit card you typically have to be in good standing, have a good payment history and meet any other eligibility requirements. 

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What does it mean to upgrade a credit card?

A credit card upgrade is a type of product change, which refers to switching from one credit card to another with the same issuer. 

A product change isn’t the same as applying for a new credit card. New credit applications involve a hard inquiry and opening a new account, while product changes generally don’t. 

It’s also important to note that while people may refer to a product change as an upgrade or downgrade, these terms can be misleading. Switching to a card that better suits your needs and spending habits can still be an upgrade even if the new card offers fewer rewards, for example. 

Can you upgrade a credit card?

Each credit card issuer has its own policies and eligibility requirements for credit card upgrades. But typically, the cardholder needs to be in good standing, meet a certain credit score threshold and have a good payment history.

There are also a couple specific upgrade scenarios it may help to know about:

  • Cards with an annual fee: According to the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, credit card issuers can’t increase your annual fee within a year of account opening. This means that your credit card account may need to be open for at least a year before you can upgrade to a card with a higher annual fee.
  • Secured cards: If you’re looking to upgrade a secured card to an unsecured card, the requirements are largely the same. When you use a secured card responsibly over time, by doing things like paying on time, you may become eligible to upgrade to an unsecured card. The major difference here is that secured cards require a one-time security deposit to open an account. And when you upgrade to an unsecured card, you may get that security deposit back. But keep in mind that each credit card issuer has its own policies and requirements for upgrading a secured card.  

Steps to upgrade your credit card

Some credit card issuers may proactively get in touch if you’re eligible for a card upgrade. Other times, you may be able to request an upgrade yourself. 

Exactly how to go about upgrading a credit card varies, but here are a few general guidelines to consider: 

  1. Compare cards. Take the time to research different cards, compare your options and pick a card that’s right for you. Some things to look into include fees, rewards, eligibility requirements, perks and benefits.
  2. Check for card offers. Find out if you’re already eligible for any card offers. Capital One cardholders can check for offers by signing in to their Capital One account. You can also ask Eno, your Capital One assistant, for help finding your offers.
  3. Accept an offer and enjoy your new card. If you’re approved for an upgrade, it’s time to accept the offer and officially upgrade your credit card. Remember, you typically get to keep your existing card number and account number. This means you can keep using your account as normal and start enjoying your new benefits and perks right away. 

A credit card upgrade isn’t the only option. If you decide having more than one credit card is what’s best for you, you could apply for a new credit card. Just remember that credit card applications involve a hard inquiry, which could temporarily lower your credit scores. Capital One’s pre-approval tool lets you check for potential card offers before you apply.

Or, if you want to keep your current card but want more spending flexibility, you may be able to request a credit limit increase

What to consider before upgrading your credit card

Everyone’s situation is different. And there are many reasons to consider a credit card upgrade. Maybe your current credit card no longer aligns with your spending habits. Maybe you’ve worked on building your credit, and you think you can qualify for a card that offers better perks and rewards. 

Regardless of the reason, it’s important to examine your decision from all angles. Here are a few potential benefits and drawbacks of a credit card upgrade. 

Benefits of upgrading your credit card 

One possible perk of a credit card upgrade is boosting your rewards potential. If you don’t earn any rewards with your current card, you might be interested in a card that lets you earn cash back or miles for spending you’re doing already. 

If your current card offers rewards that don’t sync with how you spend, you may want to look for a rewards card that’s a better match. For example, if you have a travel credit card but find you’re spending more on dining out these days, you might consider switching to a dining credit card

Or, if you find that you’re not using your rewards card enough to justify its annual fee, swapping for a card with no annual fee might be right for you, even if the card offers fewer rewards. 

Drawbacks of upgrading your credit card 

It’s important to think about the potential impacts of any financial decision, including upgrading your credit card.

When you upgrade a card, you may lose the benefits that come with your current card. And upgrades may not be eligible for introductory APR offers or welcome bonuses intended for new credit card accounts. 

If you decide to upgrade to a rewards credit card with an annual fee, think through whether the potential rewards are enough to make that fee worth it. 

Credit card upgrades in a nutshell 

Deciding to upgrade a credit card is a personal decision. And remember, the term upgrade can be misleading. Even if you swap your current card for a card with fewer rewards, it can still be an upgrade if the new card better aligns with your needs and spending habits. 

If you want to check your credit before upgrading your card, you can use CreditWise from Capital One to access your TransUnion® credit report and VantageScore® 3.0 credit score. CreditWise is free for everyone, whether you’re a Capital One customer or not. And using it won’t hurt your credit scores. 

Capital One also has a credit card comparison tool that makes it easy to research cards and find one that’s right for you. 

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