If you've got an old credit card, chances are you're losing out on rewards, miles, or a lower interest rate. Factors like changes to your credit score, income, spending habits, or debt could all be reasons to upgrade to a card with more perks — or downgrade to one with a lower annual fee or APR.

If you use credit cards regularly, it’s crucial that you have the best card for your needs. So, if it’s been a while since you got your credit card or things like your income or spending habits have changed, it might be time to replace your old card with a new one.

If you’re not sure whether you need to upgrade or downgrade your credit card, we’ve put together a list of 13 times when you should consider it.

But first…

What Does It Mean to Upgrade or Downgrade Your Credit Card?

Both terms basically mean the same thing: swapping out your existing credit card for another one with the same issuer, but that better suits your needs right now. Since it’s with your existing issuer, you typically don’t need to apply from scratch — they already have you on file and know your credit history. This could eliminate the dreaded hard pull on your credit.

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If you upgrade your credit card, you’re likely going for a higher tier credit card — something that offers travel perks, cash back rewards, and/or perks like airport lounge access, insurance (for anything from travel to cellphones), access to special events, free hotel nights, and more.

Keep in mind that with all the extra bells and whistles, these cards also tend to come with higher interest rates and/or annual fees. They also typically require that you have a high credit score (good or excellent) on file.

If you downgrade your credit card, you’re likely opting out of those extra perks in order to score a lower interest rate or to eliminate an annual fee. This could be an option if you’re carrying a lot of credit card debt at a high interest rate, or if you’re not taking enough advantage of the perks to justify the annual fee.

Now that we’ve established those two scenarios, let’s dive into 13 reasons why your credit card may be due for an upgrade or downgrade.

1. You Can’t Remember When You Got Your Credit Card

These days, credit card issuers are constantly competing to win over customers. That often means constantly tweaking their rewards and perks. So, if you got your current card many years ago, chances are its benefits don’t stack up to some of the cards your issuer offers today.

Consider what kind of spender you are and what kinds of rewards you value most. Do you love to travel? Then you might want a card that offers great points or miles for bookings. Or maybe you’re all about cash back. There are plenty of cards out there that offer great rewards for everyday spending, like 2% cash back on all purchases.

Whichever way you spend, there’s probably a credit card with your existing issuer that can help you earn more rewards.

2. Your Spending Habits Have Changed

A lot of rewards credit cards offer bonus rewards on certain spending categories like groceries, gas, streaming services, and dining out. And if you’re now spending more in certain areas, it might be worth getting a credit card that will reward you more for those purchases.

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For example, families tend to spend more on groceries than single people. If you’ve started a family, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers cash back in tons of categories, including 5% cash back (up to $1,500 in combined purchases) on eligible purchases in rotating categories, 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.

Pair all of these earnings with the 1% back on all other purchases, and you could end up with quite a bit of cash back for you and your family.

3. Your Credit Card Isn’t Even Offered Anymore

If your credit card has been discontinued, it’s likely because your issuer has replaced it with a better card.

Just keep in mind that you might not qualify for a card’s sign-up bonus if you upgrade to it from a different card, since you’re not technically a new customer. (Although it can’t hurt to ask — there are times when you may be eligible.) But even if not, getting a new (current) credit card is usually a good thing because it means you’re likely getting access to better terms and conditions.

4. Your Credit Score Has Improved

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If your credit score was poor or fair when you got your credit card, chances are that the card’s benefits are lacking and its interest rate is high. If you’ve checked your credit score and it’s in a much better place, you could potentially qualify for a better card.

This is especially true if you’ve been using a secured credit card to build your credit. Once you’ve proven yourself reliable to the credit bureaus, you no longer need to put down the deposit that secured credit cards require.

And yes, once you close your current secured account, you’ll get your deposit back — it’s your money!

Read more: How to Get a Free Credit Report and Credit Score

5. You’re Not Earning Any Rewards

Not every credit card offers a rewards program, especially cards for bad credit or that offer long 0% APR promotions. But if your current credit card doesn’t have a rewards program, you’re leaving money on the table.

There are all kinds of credit card rewards programs out there, from cash back rewards to travel rewards. And while some cards do come with annual fees, often the rewards you earn will more than make up for the fee. It’s worth checking out which ones your issuer offers and upgrading to one that earns you rewards you’ll use.

Read more: Best Rewards Credit Cards

6. Your Credit Limit Is Ultra-Low

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A lot of starter cards offer low credit limits — as in a few hundred dollars kind of low. And while that means you can’t rack up too much credit card debt, the problem is that you could damage your credit score by using too much of your limit.

It’s best to keep your credit utilization to less than 30% of your credit limit, and a card with a higher limit could give you more room to spend without hurting your score.

Read more: What’s Your Credit Utilization Ratio and How Does It Affect Your Credit Score?

7. You Have a High Interest Rate

If you carry a balance from month to month, your credit card’s interest rate is the most important feature. While it’s best to pay off your balance in full each month to avoid interest, that may not be possible for you at this time.

If it isn’t, consider asking your card issuer for a card that features a lower rate. And if your issuer refuses, consider applying elsewhere for another card with a lower APR or transfering your existing balance to a credit card that offers 0% intro APR on balance transfers.

Read more: The Best Low-Interest Credit Cards

8. Your Income Has Increased

Annual fee credit cards aren’t for everyone. But if you can afford one now, you could stand to get a lot more back in rewards and perks.

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For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers 60,000 bonus points after meeting the minimum spend requirement. That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards® — more than 10 years’ worth of the card’s $95 annual fee. You’ll also get various travel protections and solid rewards to make up for the fee in subsequent years.

Read more: Is an Annual Fee Credit Card Ever Worth It?

9. You’re Paying an Annual Fee that’s Not Worth It

Just because a card has an annual fee doesn’t mean it’s worth having. In fact, many credit cards for bad credit charge annual — or even monthly — fees without giving you any significant benefits in return.

Alternatively, you could have a rewards credit card that isn’t worth its annual fee, or you don’t use it enough to make it worth it. Switching to a strong no-annual-fee card is a good option.

Read more: Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards

10. You Have Your Eye on a Sign-Up Bonus

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This will depend on your issuer’s terms and conditions, but in some cases, existing customers may qualify for a new card’s sign-up bonus when they upgrade their existing card.

So, if you’ve received a special offer in the mail from your issuer, or seen a good credit card sign-up bonus online, jump on it before it goes away. Contact your issuer and find out if you can qualify for the bonus as an existing customer.

With a bit of strategic spending, you could easily earn enough sign-up bonus points or cash back to offset the cost of an annual fee or maybe even take a nice vacation!

Just be sure to pay off your balance as soon as possible to avoid costly interest charges on that intro offer’s spending requirement.

Read more: The Best Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus Offers

11. You Have a Major Purchase Coming Up

If you’d like to finance a large purchase at 0% interest, there are plenty of cards that offer such a promotion on new purchases.

Whether you’re looking to buy a new car or make some home improvements, financing your purchase at 0% APR can help you save money in the long run. Just be sure to pay off your balance before the promotional period ends, or you’ll be stuck with interest charges.

Read more: Best 0% APR Credit Cards

12. You Want a Specific Perk or Feature

Some credit cards offer rare or unique perks that you can’t get with just any credit card. Airport lounge access, cellphone insurance, and no foreign transaction fees are just a few examples.

If you have your eye on one or more cards with your issuer that offer such a benefit, and the rest of the card’s features are also good, go for it.

Read more: Hidden Credit Card Perks and Benefits You May Not Know Existed

13. You’re Unhappy with Your Card Issuer’s Customer Service

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OK, in this case you’re not just going to want to upgrade, but change issuers completely. And, frankly, some credit card issuers are just better than others at customer service.

If you’ve had more than one bad experience with your card issuer’s customer service, now could be the time to switch to one that might treat you better.

There are a few things you can do to research credit card issuers and find one that will likely offer better customer service, like reading online reviews from other customers or seeing if the credit card company has an easily accessible customer service number that you can call with questions or concerns.

Do some research to find a credit card issuer that has a good reputation for customer service — you’ll be glad you did.


If you’ve got an old credit card, chances are it needs an upgrade. You could be losing out on cash back rewards, travel miles, and/or a lower interest rate.

When you do decide to upgrade, make sure you do a little research and find that credit card that works best for you!

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About the author

Total Articles: 17
Ben Luthi is a personal finance and travel writer who covers credit cards, debt, credit, investing, and more. He's currently studying to become a CFP® and trying to keep up with his two young kids. You can connect with Ben on Twitter or his website.