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How Do I Downgrade/Cancel My Credit Card? [Detailed Guide]

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Stephen Au
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Stephen Au

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Stephen is an established voice in the credit card space, with over 70 to his name. His work has been in publications like The Washington Post, and his Au Points and Awards Consulting Services is used...
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Maximizing credit card rewards and building up your creditworthiness is all about discipline. It takes a lot of discipline to learn the ins and outs of credit card rewards, from transfer partners to award charts. The name of the game is using discipline to adapt to change.

Over time, credit cards may become more or less valuable to you. Whether you see more perks being added to your credit cards or annual fees increasing, credit cards are, more or less, evolving constantly over time.

If you’re in a position where you think a particular card you hold doesn’t deliver as much value as it did in the past, you’ll probably be wondering how to approach the somewhat uncomfortable situation of downgrading or canceling your credit card.

In this guide, we’ll be providing you with the blueprint on how to downgrade or cancel your credit card across the major issuers out there.

Downgrading Your Credit Card

Woman with credit card and laptop
Image Credit: Antonio Guillem via Shutterstock

There’s a difference between downgrading and canceling your credit card.

When you downgrade your credit card, you are telling the card issuer that this card is no longer for you, but you still want a lower-tier card to replace your old card.

There are 2 main types of downgrades:

  1. Downgrading a high annual fee card to a lower annual fee card
  2. Downgrading a high annual fee card to a no annual fee card

Reasons Why You’d Want to Downgrade

  1. You received a welcome bonus and justified it by paying for the first year’s annual fee but can’t continue to justify paying an annual fee.
  2. You’ve held a card for a long time for the benefits but your situation has changed and you don’t use it that often anymore.
  3. You received a welcome bonus on a card and aren’t necessarily unable to afford an annual fee, you just want to downgrade it to a card you can keep for your credit history to improve your credit.
  4. You accrue points on a card and you need to keep a card open to store your points, otherwise, you’ll forfeit them.

As you can imagine, not all credit cards can be downgraded, and more specifically, you can’t just downgrade your card to any other card within a bank’s portfolio. Usually, you can only choose from 1 or 2 options to downgrade your card.

Also, if you downgrade from Credit Card A to Credit Card B, you won’t be able to get a sign-up bonus on Credit Card B in the future.

Canceling Your Credit Card

Man cutting a credit card to cancel
Image Credit: Bignai via Shutterstock

Canceling your credit card is completely different from downgrading your credit card. Canceling your credit card usually has adverse consequences on your credit report. In the long-term, closing your credit cards before you allow them to age will reduce your average age of accounts, which makes up 15% of your FICO score.

Generally, it is ill-advised to cancel your credit card if it is a very old card (>5 years of history), even if it has an annual fee. You can find your credit score plummeting if you start closing your old credit cards.

Reasons Why You’d Want to Cancel

Credit score aside, here are some valid reasons to close your credit card:

  1. There are no palatable downgrade options available, so you have no choice but to close the card to avoid an annual fee.
  2. You didn’t get a retention offer and you want to proceed with closing your card.
    • Example: You held the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card and couldn’t get a retention offer, so you decide to close this card.
  3. You need to close a card to comply with credit card application rules.
    • Example: You already had the maximum number of American Express credit cards and needed to free up 1 “slot” to get a brand-new Amex credit card you really like.

Hot Tip: If you’re considering downgrading or canceling your card, be sure to call the bank and see if they are extending retention offers.

How to Downgrade or Cancel Your Credit Cards From the Major Banks

Now that we talked about some of the motivations one might have to close or downgrade a credit card, let’s do a deep-dive into each of the major bank’s rules for closing or downgrading cards.

American Express

American Express Logo At A Centurion Lounge
Image Credit: First Class Photography via Shutterstock

As soon as you downgrade or close your card, you’ll lose all perks associated with that card, effective immediately. These include any statement credits, lounge access, etc.

You’ll get monthly prorated refunds on any annual fees for any cards you decide to downgrade.

When Can You Downgrade/Cancel Your Card?

If you close or downgrade your card within 12 months of opening your card, you’ll put yourself at a massive risk of shutdown and being blacklisted from the bank. Also, if you close or downgrade your card within 12 months of accepting a retention offer, you’ll again put yourself at that same risk.

Basically, wait at least 1 year before you downgrade your card.

To What Card Can You Downgrade?

You can downgrade American Express cards within the same brand. For example, you can downgrade a Delta card to a lower-tier Delta card. You can’t downgrade a Delta card to a lower-tier Hilton card and vice versa.

Here are some common downgrade options:

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Credit CardDowngrades To
The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
American Express® Business Gold Card
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card*
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card

*All information about these cards has been collected independently by Upgraded Points.

The list goes on, but you can see the common theme that American Express downgrades must occur within the same brand of card.

How Do You Downgrade/Cancel Your Card?

You’ll want to call the number on the back of your card and get connected to a customer agent that can help process your downgrade.

If you’re looking to cancel the card, simply let the customer agent know that you want to close the account.

Bank of America

Bank of America exterior
Image Credit: Tero Vesalainen via Shutterstock

Bank of America offers lots of premium co-branded credit cards, as well as its own suite of Bank of America-branded rewards cards. It generally doesn’t offer ultra-premium cards.

When Can You Downgrade/Cancel Your Card?

As always, it is recommended to keep your card open for at least 1 year before considering a downgrade or cancellation.

To What Card Can You Downgrade?

In general, you can pretty much downgrade any of Bank of America’s cards to one of the following:

Unfortunately, you can’t downgrade your Bank of America business credit cards.

Some common downgrade routes include:

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Credit CardDowngrades To
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card
  • Bank of America Travel Rewards card
  • Bank of America Cash Rewards card
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card
Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard®

How Do You Downgrade/Cancel Your Card?

To downgrade your card, all you have to do is call the number on the back of your card. You’ll hear an automated prompt system. Simply ask to speak to a representative, and tell the representative that you’d like to downgrade your card.

If you want to close your card, just let them know you’d like to cancel the account.

Barclays

Barclays
Image Credit: chrisdorney via Shutterstock

Barclays is similar to Bank of America in the sense that most of the card offerings are co-branded cards. In fact, its proprietary Barclays-branded rewards cards were discontinued after a weak release, so you’re pretty much limited to its co-branded rewards cards.

When Can You Downgrade/Cancel Your Card?

It is recommended to keep your card open for at least a year before considering a downgrade. Barclays looks favorably at card activity when approving you for new cards, in any case, so it makes sense to keep them open for a minimum of 1 year.

To What Card Can You Downgrade?

You can downgrade your Barclays credit cards to lower or no annual fee versions within the same brand. However, there are no downgrade options for Barclays business cards.

Here are some common downgrade routes:

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Credit CardDowngrades To
AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard®
  • AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
  • AAdvantage® Aviator® Mastercard®
AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
  • AAdvantage® Aviator® Mastercard®
Wyndham Rewards® Visa® Card
  • Wyndham Rewards® Visa® No Annual Fee Card

How Do You Downgrade/Cancel Your Card?

To downgrade your card, all you have to do is call the number on the back of your card. Get connected to a customer service representative and explain that you’d like to downgrade your card. The representative should easily process your downgrade.

If you want to close the account, just inform the representative that you’d like to cancel instead of downgrade.

Capital One

Capital One
Image Credit: Isabelle Ohara via Shutterstock

Capital One is one of those banks that doesn’t offer mainstream co-branded airline or hotel credit cards. Instead, its focus has traditionally been on Capital One-branded rewards cards (consumers and businesses) or store cards, such as the Capital One Walmart Rewards™ card.

Capital One doesn’t offer any ultra-premium credit cards, though it still has some great credit cards.

When Can You Downgrade/Cancel Your Card?

Usually, you can downgrade your card after 1 year of card membership. Card issuers generally don’t like it when you downgrade or close your cards within 1 year of initially opening the cards.

To What Card Can You Downgrade?

Capital One has some card-specific downgrade options and a single universal downgrade option. There are a few cards that you can downgrade to and retain better perks than the universal downgrade option.

You can downgrade nearly all of your Capital One cards to the Capital One Quicksilver Rewards Credit Card. Even though this card doesn’t have an annual fee, it might not be a good fit among the different options available.

With Capital One, you can also downgrade your credit cards to lower-tier options within the same sub-brand. For example, you can downgrade your Venture card to the VentureOne card, whereas you can’t downgrade your Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card to the VentureOne card because the Capital One Savor card and Venture card are 2 different brands within Capital One.

Also, you can’t downgrade a personal credit card to a business credit card and vice versa.

Here are some common downgrade routes:

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Credit CardDowngrades To
Capital One Venture Rewards Card
Capital One Spark Miles for Business
Capital One Spark Cash for Business
Capital One Savor Rewards card

How Do You Downgrade/Cancel Your Card?

To downgrade your Capital One card, call customer service using the number on the back of your card and request to downgrade your card. Your customer service representative should be able to accommodate this without issue and process the downgrade request.

If you’re canceling the card, you can let the representative know.

Chase

chase bank
Image Credit: Tooykrub via Shutterstock

Chase offers some of the best rewards credit cards in the world. The ecosystem of co-branded partners and its incorporation into Chase’s proprietary Ultimate Rewards system has cemented Chase as one of the biggest players in credit card rewards.

Chase business credit cards come fully loaded offering some of the best cards in the business. When you downgrade your card, you’ll get a prorated refund.

When Can You Downgrade/Cancel Your Card?

You can downgrade your Chase credit card 12 months after your card has been open.

To What Card Can You Downgrade?

You can downgrade your card to any other card within the brand family. In other words, Southwest credit cards must be downgraded to Southwest credit cards. They can’t be downgraded to, for example, United credit cards.

Here are some common downgrade routes:

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Credit CardDowngrades To
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Chase Sapphire Preferred card
Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card
United Club℠ Infinite Card
United℠ Explorer Card
Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

How Do You Downgrade/Cancel Your Card?

To downgrade your card, you can call the toll-free line on the back of your card. Then, prompt the line to speak to a representative. When you’re connected to a human, the customer agent will help you downgrade your card.

If you’re closing your account, have the customer agent help you cancel it.

Citibank

Citi Bank Sign in a City
Image Credit: TungCheung via Shutterstock

Citi offers a few fantastic cards; namely, its ThankYou Rewards credit cards and its American Airlines family of credit cards.

Importantly, the downgrade process takes time to process on Citi’s end. Usually, this will take around 7-11 business days, but it has been known to take up to 2 months. This doesn’t affect how much of the annual fee you’ll get refunded, but it just might delay when you get your newly downgraded credit card.

When Can You Downgrade/Cancel Your Card?

Your card must be at least 1 year old to be eligible for a downgrade.

To What Card Can You Downgrade?

In general, you can downgrade your cards to:

Notably, you can downgrade to any of these cards, even if they’re not from the same card family.

Here are some common downgrade routes:

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Credit CardDowngrades To
Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
  • Double Cash Card
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Gold Mastercard®
  • Citi Rewards+ Card
  • Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card
Citi Prestige® Card
  • Citi Premier Card
  • Citi Rewards+ Card

How Do You Downgrade/Cancel Your Card?

To downgrade your Citi card, simply call the number on the back of your card and tell the automated prompt “product change.” You’ll then be connected to a representative who can help you process the downgrade.

If you’re looking to cancel, you can have the representative close your card.

Discover

Discover sign
Image Credit: Jonathan Weiss via Shutterstock

Discover’s credit cards are all $0 annual fee cards, so downgrades don’t exist. You can simply change from one card to another by calling the number on the back of your card to request the product change.

HSBC

HSBC sign
Image Credit: BobNoah via Shutterstock

Some HSBC credit cards are quite rewarding. There are:

  • HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card
  • HSBC Premier World Mastercard® Credit Card
  • HSBC Advance Mastercard® Credit Card

When Can You Downgrade/Cancel Your Card?

Generally, it’s always a good idea to have your card open for at least a year before asking to downgrade your card.

To What Card Can You Downgrade?

All of HSBC’s credit cards are within its own rewards ecosystem — in other words, there are no co-branded cards available. So, you should be able to downgrade to any card you wish.

Here are some common downgrade routes:

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Credit CardDowngrades To
HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card
  • HSBC Premier World Mastercard® Credit Card
  • HSBC Advance Mastercard® Credit Card
  • HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® Credit Card
  • HSBC Gold Mastercard® Credit Card
HSBC Premier World Mastercard® Credit Card
  • HSBC Advance Mastercard® Credit Card
  • HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® Credit Card
  • HSBC Gold Mastercard® Credit Card
HSBC Advance Mastercard® Credit Card
  • HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® Credit Card
  • HSBC Gold Mastercard® Credit Card

How Do You Downgrade/Cancel Your Card?

To downgrade or cancel your account, just call the number on the back of your HSBC credit card. You’ll be connected to a customer service representative who can help process your downgrade or cancellation. After that, request a downgrade or cancellation with the live agent.

Synchrony Bank

Synchrony Financial
Image Credit: Pavel Kapysh via Shutterstock

Generally, Synchrony Bank doesn’t allow credit card downgrades, only cancellations.

If you want to cancel your card, just phone up the number on the back of your card. After you reach an agent, you can have them process your cancellation.

U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank sign
Image Credit: 4kclips via Shutterstock

U.S. Bank has a healthy portfolio of both U.S. Bank-branded cards and co-branded credit cards. These cards include the Altitude line of credit cards, Korean Air SKYPASS credit cards, and more.

When Can You Downgrade/Cancel Your Card?

It is always recommended to wait at least a full year after opening your card to downgrade to another credit card.

To What Card Can You Downgrade?

The only restriction for downgrading cards is that you can’t change from one card brand to another. In other words, you can’t downgrade an Altitude credit card to a SKYPASS card and vice versa.

Here are some common downgrade routes:

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Credit CardDowngrades To
U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
  • U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card
  • U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
SKYPASS Visa Signature® Card
  • SkyBlue SKYPASS Visa® Card

How Do You Downgrade/Cancel Your Card?

To downgrade or cancel your card, you can start by calling the number on the back of your card. Speak into the automated prompt looking for “product change” or “cancellation.” You’ll be redirected to a customer agent who can help process the downgrade or cancellation.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo Bank
Image Credit: Wells Fargo

Update: Due to staffing reallocation related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wells Fargo is currently not allowing product changes.

There are no Wells Fargo premium credit cards, so there are no real options to downgrade your card. Product changes are possible, but you will not inherit the credit history from your previous card.

So, be sure to think about whether you want to change your credit card before forfeiting your credit history.

To What Card Can You Downgrade?

You can product change across these cards:

  • Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card
  • Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card
  • Wells Fargo Rewards® Card
  • Wells Fargo Platinum Card
  • Wells Fargo Cash Back College℠ Card

How Do You Downgrade/Cancel Your Card?

If you want to change or cancel your card, you can call the number on the back of your card to accomplish this. Get connected to a customer service representative, and they can process these changes/cancellations.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this guide was valuable for you to learn about all the downgrade and cancellation policies across different credit card issuers.

There are a lot of different rules and policies that you have to keep in mind when you’re considering downgrading or canceling a card. The best move is to make sure you’re not breaking any rules or giving a bank a reason not to lend to you.

After you’ve made sure of that and you’ve definitively decided that you’re downgrading or canceling the card, it’s a matter of calling the number on the back of your card to get your card changes processed.

The information regarding the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard®, Wyndham Rewards® Visa® Card, Wyndham Rewards® Visa® No Annual Fee Card, Capital One Quicksilver card, Capital One Spark Classic for Business, Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card, HSBC Advance Mastercard® Credit Card, U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card, SKYPASS Visa Signature® Card, SkyBlue SKYPASS Visa® Card, Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card, Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card, Wells Fargo Rewards® Card, Wells Fargo Platinum Card, Wells Fargo Cash Back College℠ Card and U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

The information regarding the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. 
The information regarding the Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Capital One Spark Cash Select for Excellent Credit was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Capital One SavorOne Card Rewards Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information for the Citi Prestige® Card has been collected independently by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Business Green Rewards Card from American Express was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Chase Freedom Flex℠ was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Gold Mastercard® has been collected independently by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

Information regarding the Capital One Spark Miles for Business was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. 
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Business Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees for The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees for the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you downgrade United Explorer card?

Yes, you can. The only downgrade option available is the United Gateway card.

Can you cancel a credit card to avoid annual fee?

Yes, you can. Most of the time, canceling the credit card within 30 days of your annual fee posting will get you a refund.

Some banks will not allow this, but most do.

Is downgrading a credit card better than canceling?

It is better for your credit to keep your credit history as long as possible. Usually, canceling a card means you will lose your credit history. As a result, downgrading to a zero annual fee card can help preserve your credit.

How can I change my credit card without hurting my credit?

You can downgrade your credit cards. Most of the time, you’ll keep the credit history, and it won’t hurt your credit.

Can you cancel a new credit card?

Generally, you shouldn’t. However, it is a rule with some banks that you can’t cancel new credit cards.

Still, you generally shouldn’t because you might get on the blacklist of a bank.

How do I cancel my credit card online?

In the past, you could cancel your credit card online. Unfortunately, most of the major credit card issuers need to speak to you to cancel your credit card.

Some card issuers can automatically cancel your card via automated phone lines.

Is bad to cancel a credit card?

It depends. You’ll lose your credit history if you cancel a credit card. Generally, you want to keep your oldest cards open, even if there’s an annual fee. This is because your credit score card could crash downwards otherwise.

How do I close a credit card account permanently?

The best way to close a credit card permanently is to call the number on the back of your card and close it down by talking to a customer service representative.

Stephen Au's image

About Stephen Au

Stephen is an established voice in the credit card space, with over 70 to his name. His work has been in publications like The Washington Post, and his Au Points and Awards Consulting Services is used by hundreds of clients.

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