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How to Request a Downgrade for a Credit Card

Downgrading your credit card could be a good idea if your current credit card is a financial drain.

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Sometimes the credit card you applied for just isn’t a good fit. If you want to downgrade, upgrade or swipe your credit card, you’ll need to request what’s called a product change. 

The main reasons you may want to downgrade your current credit card is if it carries an annual fee you no longer want (or can afford) to pay, if you can’t take advantage of its offers or if you want to simplify your accounts. Some cardholders might also have changed their spending habits since the credit card was issued. Whatever the reason for the product change, here’s what you need to know.

When to downgrade your credit card

Downgrading your credit card could be a good idea and help you save money if your current card has a high annual fee that no longer makes sense based on usage or the benefits received.

For example, you might be paying a yearly fee on a travel credit card that includes airport lounge access or mileage for an airline you don’t use frequently anymore.

You should also consider downgrading if your spending patterns don’t match the card. If you’re unable to benefit from the specific reward categories -- or if you have to alter your lifestyle to align with the card -- consider swapping to a different card.

Drawbacks of downgrading a credit card

While there are benefits to downgrading your card, there is a handful of disadvantages to consider.

If your credit card has an introductory 0% APR offer, downgrading would likely cut back that no-interest period. In addition, if you’re downgrading from a rewards card with an annual fee, you’ll typically have less-impressive benefits on your new card that doesn’t carry a fee.

Another thing to consider is if you received a welcome bonus on a card and decide to downgrade before paying its annual fee. In that case, the credit card issuer might either deny your request or approve it while taking back any rewards you earned.

How to request a downgrade for your credit card

To request a downgrade, contact your credit card issuer. Each issuer has different rules around product changes, but you should be able to find out if you’re eligible by talking to a representative. Some issues may let you request a product change online, though it’ll likely be easier to figure out the details over the phone.

Can you request an upgrade?

You can request an upgrade to your credit card the same way you request a downgrade. However, an upgrade usually has different requirements. You may need to have a higher credit score and a history of on-time payments to qualify for the new card. If you’re trying to upgrade to a card with an annual fee, you may need to wait until your account is at least a year old. 

As per the Credit CARD Act of 2009, credit card issuers can’t increase an account’s annual fee within a year of account opening. Again, a representative should be able to tell you more about eligibility.

Does downgrading a credit card affect your credit score?

No. Unless your credit limit is changed or your account is closed, your credit score shouldn’t be negatively impacted by requesting a downgrade. However, if your new card has a lower credit limit, it’ll cause your credit utilization rate, or debt-to-credit ratio, to increase, which can be less advantageous for borrowers. Having a low debt-to-credit ratio, meaning you’re using a smaller percentage of your total available credit, will help boost your credit score.

The bottom line

Downgrading a credit card could make sense if your current card doesn’t fit your needs. If the card carries an annual fee that’s a burden, or you’re unable to use all its perks, downgrading to a different card could save you money.

Editors’ note: An earlier version of this article was assisted by an AI engine. This version has been substantially updated by a staff writer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

Evan Zimmer has been writing about finance for years. After graduating with a journalism degree from SUNY Oswego, he wrote credit card content for Credit Card Insider (now Money Tips) before moving to ZDNET Finance to cover credit card, banking and blockchain news. He currently works with CNET Money to bring readers the most accurate and up-to-date financial information. Otherwise, you can find him reading, rock climbing, snowboarding and enjoying the outdoors.
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