American Express offers a wide variety of credit cards, each with its own unique set of benefits. If you’re not getting the most out of your current card, you may consider upgrading or downgrading to a different American Express card.
Upgrading can give you access to new benefits, such as a higher rewards rate or more travel perks. Choosing to downgrade your American Express credit card can save money on annual fees, especially if you’re not using all of the benefits of your current card. However, there are downsides to upgrading or downgrading a card. Most notably, you could miss out on the valuable welcome offer that comes with opening a new card.
Here’s what you should consider, alternative options and how to initiate the upgrade or downgrade process.
How to upgrade your American Express card
Upgrading typically means moving to a card with more benefits, and often a higher annual fee. Here’s the process:
Check your eligibility. Cardholders must maintain an account in good standing for at least one year to be eligible for an upgrade. To check your eligibility, log into your AmEx account, go to the “Account Services” tab, then select “Card Management.” You may see an offer to upgrade if you’re eligible, or in the “Offers” tab in your account.
If you think you’re eligible for an upgrade but don’t see the option, call the number on the back of your card or use the chat feature within your American Express online account to ask a representative about your options.
Choose a new eligible card. You’re restricted to upgrading to a card within the same family. For instance, you can upgrade a basic Delta credit card to a premium version that offers more Delta perks, but you can’t upgrade a Delta card to a Marriott card. (More on that below). Use the American Express website to compare different cards within the same card family, or review NerdWallet’s picks among the best AmEx credit cards.
Contact American Express. Once you’ve chosen a new card, you can upgrade through the card management tab within your account or by contacting American Express customer service.
Wait for your new card. You may get an instant approval decision on your upgrade request, or approval may take a few days. Either way, your new card will be sent by mail in a few business days. In the meantime, the card that you upgraded should still work to make purchases, and you’ll earn rewards following the rates of your new account even before the new card arrives in the mail.
Downgrading or canceling your AmEx card before you’ve held it for at least 12 months could result in the points you’ve already earned being revoked or your account being closed.
How to downgrade your American Express card
Downgrading is the process of moving to a card with a lower annual fee and potentially fewer benefits. Here’s how to take this step:
Contact customer service. American Express prefers you to speak directly to a representative about downgrades.
Explain your needs. Discuss why the current card doesn’t suit your requirements.
Consider a retention offer. Though never guaranteed, AmEx will in some cases offer customers an incentive to continue using a higher-tier card. Before downgrading your American Express card, it may be worth asking if a retention offer is available.
Choose a new eligible card. If you decide to move forward with downgrading your AmEx, the customer service representative can help you select a new card based on your needs, spending habits and desired benefits and fee. The same rule applies here about card families (more details below).
You’ll likely forgo a welcome bonus
When navigating the American Express card landscape, it’s essential to note how your upgrade or downgrade may factor into the company’s “once per lifetime” welcome offer policy. According to the policy, a cardholder can receive a specific card’s welcome bonus only once in their lifetime.
That means if you choose to upgrade to a different card — even if you don’t receive any bonus points in doing so — you won’t be eligible for a welcome bonus on that card in the future.
When upgrading an American Express card, you may be eligible for a targeted offer that allows you to earn a lump sum of bonus Membership Rewards points when upgrading, similar to a welcome offer. However, this is rarely available when downgrading a card, so keep in mind any offers you may be giving up through this move.
Understanding the American Express card families
American Express categorizes its vast range of credit cards into distinct card families, each tailored to specific customer needs and preferences. These families group different versions of co-branded cards or other related products. It’s crucial to note that when considering an upgrade or downgrade, changes can only be made within the same card family, ensuring that the benefits remain aligned with the category’s core focus.
Here’s a breakdown of the various American Express card families.
Green, Gold and Platinum pay over time cards
These cards don’t have a preset spending limit and are designed for individuals who pay off their balances in full every month, though they do offer options to pay over time. They come with a range of travel and dining benefits, with annual fees that vary widely depending on the card. The cards within this family include:
AmEx EveryDay Cards
A more flexible option, the EveryDay cards offer rewards on general purchases along with bonuses on supermarket spending. Unlike AmEx’s pay over time cards, these traditional credit cards have a preset spending limit and allow you to carry a balance month to month.
Blue Cash Cards
Ideal for families or those who spend a lot on groceries and gas, these cards offer cash back on various categories.
Delta SkyMiles Cards
Targeted toward frequent flyers of Delta Air Lines, these cards offer a range of benefits from free checked bags to priority boarding.
Hilton Honors Cards
Designed for Hilton hotel loyalists, these cards offer perks such as room upgrades and free night stays.
Marriott Bonvoy Cards
For Marriott loyalists, these cards offer status, rewards and additional perks at Marriott hotel properties.
All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet.
If I downgrade my American Express card, will the annual fee be refunded?
Will my old card stop working immediately after I upgrade or downgrade?
Can I earn a welcome offer when upgrading an American Express card?