Downgrade Your AMEX, Chase or Citi Credit Card to a No Fee Card?

Should you ever downgrade your AMEX, Chase or Citi credit card to a card with no annual fee? We've discussed when to cancel or close a credit card and current Citi AAdvantage and AMEX retention bonus offers and tips, but what if you don't get a good (or any) retention bonus yet want to keep your credit line open and not close the account? Here are some considerations, before getting into the cards that you can potentially downgrade to:

Pros of Downgrading Your Credit Card

  • Eliminate or reduce the annual fee you pay for the card
  • Keep credit line open with no new credit pulls
  • If the card you're downgrading is one of your oldest credit cards, best to keep it open and not close it, since average age of accounts is an important part of your credit score
  • Remain eligible for perks such as AMEX's Small Business Saturday statement credits

 

Cons of Downgrading Your Credit Card

  • Give up the chance to get a bonus on the card you're downgrading to
  • Lose out on valuable rewards perks, e.g. ability to transfer UR points or MR points to airline and hotel partners unless you still have a fee paying card
  • May still end up paying a reduced fee, since some cards only can be downgraded to lower fee cards, not no fee cards. With AMEX charge cards such as the Platinum or Premier Rewards Gold card, you won't be able to downgrade to a no fee credit card–you'll need to apply and incur a hard inquiry.

 

The main scenarios under which we'd recommend downgrading rather than canceling the card is:

1. If the card in question is one of your oldest cards, since you want to keep it to help your average age of accounts and your credit score.

2. If you don't have any other cards with the issuer, in order to keep a credit line available to help with a future card application with that issuer.

Other than those scenarios we'd recommend trying to get a good retention bonus to waive or cover the annual fee, along with some bonus miles or points as well. If that fails, then apply for a new card from the issuer that has an attractive bonus, transfer your credit line from the old card over to the newly approved card, then cancel the old card.

Here are the downgrade options for the most popular travel credit cards:

 

Chase Cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred

  • May downgrade to the no fee Chase Sapphire, which earns 2 points per $1 on dining (but *not* travel). Note you will need a fee card, such as the Ink Bold, to transfer these points out to Ultimate Rewards partners.
  • Sometimes a downgrade to the no fee Chase Freedom is allowed, but there are reports that some agents aren't willing to do it. You may need to call a few times, and your mileage may vary. Note you will need a fee card, such as the Ink Bold, to transfer these points out to Ultimate Rewards partners.


Ink Bold

  • If not renewing due to annual fee, best bet is to apply for Ink Plus before canceling card, to get another year with annual fee waived
  • Or may downgrade to Ink Classic or Ink Cash with no annual fee. The Ink Classic bonuses the same categories as the Ink Bold and Ink Plus, but you'll need one of them or the Sapphire Preferred in order to transfer points out to Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel partners. The Ink Cash, although also no annual fee, is not very attractive: it only offers cash bonuses for its points, 1 cent per point; it does not earn Ultimate Rewards points. Check out our comparison post, Ink Bold vs. Ink Plus vs. Ink Classic vs. Ink Cash: Which Business Card?


Ink Plus

  • If not renewing due to annual fee, best bet is to apply for Ink Bold before canceling card, to get another year with annual fee waived
  • Or may downgrade to Ink Classic or Ink Cash with no annual fee. The Ink Classic bonuses the same categories as the Ink Bold and Ink Plus, but you'll need one of them or the Sapphire Preferred in order to transfer points out to Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel partners. The Ink Cash, although also no annual fee, is not very attractive: it only offers cash bonuses for its points, 1 cent per point; it does not earn Ultimate Rewards points


United Cards (United MileagePlus Explorer, United Club Card)

  • No option to downgrade to a no fee card


British Airways Visa

  • No option to downgrade to a no fee card


Hyatt Visa

  • No option to downgrade to a no fee card


Marriott Rewards Premier Visa

  • Can downgrade to Marriott Rewards Visa, BUT Marriott Rewards Visa still has a $45 annual fee after the first year
  • No option to downgrade to a no fee card
  • Better to either cancel or keep the Marriott Rewards Premier Visa with $85 annual fee after first year, because of benefits: free night stay in a category 1-5 hotel, 5 points per $1 spent at Marriott, 15 nights credit toward elite status

 

American Express Cards

AMEX Platinum / AMEX Premier Rewards Gold

  • May downgrade to AMEX Zync Charge Card with $25 annual fee BUT note that points earned are for Membership Rewards Express, which does NOT give the option to transfer points out to airline or hotel partners
  • If you still hold a fee paying card, such as an AMEX Green, Gold, Platinum or Centurion card, the points earned with AMEX Zync ARE treated as full Membership Rewards points and may be transferred out to partners
  • Note that you cannot downgrade to no fee AMEX Blue, because it is a credit card, not a charge card. You would need to apply for the AMEX Blue, then after approval cancel the AMEX Platinum or AMEX Premier Rewards Gold


Gold Delta SkyMiles / Platinum Delta SkyMiles / Delta Reserve Credit Card

  • May downgrade to no fee Delta Options AMEX card (only earns 1 Delta SkyMile per $2 spent). Note that it is not possible to apply for this no fee card directly.
  • May also downgrade to no fee AMEX Blue, AMEX Blue Sky or AMEX Blue Cash credit cards

 

Citi Cards

Citi AAdvantage Visa / Citi AAdvantage AMEX

  • May downgrade to a no fee Citi AAdvantage Bronze MasterCard. Note that this will be a different card and new card number, and it is not possible to apply for the no fee card directly.

 

Related Posts 

When to Cancel or Close a Credit Card

Current Citi AAdvantage and AMEX Retention Bonus Offers and Tips

Understand How Your Credit Score Works to Maximize Credit Card Rewards

Ink Bold vs. Ink Plus vs. Ink Classic vs. Ink Cash: Which Business Card?

Best Travel Credit Cards for Signup Bonuses and Everyday Spend

Ink Bold Sign Up Tips

Check out and apply for the Best Travel Credit Cards.

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