Guide: Downgrade Options and Rules for Amex, Citi and Chase Reward Credit Cards


Downgrade Credit Card

The Coronavirus Pandemic has everyone worried about recession and that means many of us are concerned with conserving money. Since we aren’t traveling and our expenses have shifted, one way to save money that could be worth considering is downgrading premium credit cards. Downgrading is simply moving from a certain credit card with an annual fee to a card with a lower (or no) annual fee.

Related: How to Downgrade Chase Credit Cards (Upgrade & Downgrade Options)

Credit card annual fees typically range from $49 to $595 depending on the benefits. Many benefits that justify higher fees are travel centric based perks and credits. Travel related credits are already a topic people spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to maximize, so if you’re not traveling this can be a source of pain to say the least.

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Reasons to Downgrade Credit Cards

  • Changes to a rewards program attached to the card where it no longer aligns with your rewards strategy, for example, the loss of a transfer partner.
  • Changes to the Credit Card
    • Reduced bonus categories or benefits
    • Changes in earnings 
    • Annual fee increase or reduction in benefits
  • Your personal situation or needs have changed
    • Promotion or job change, lifestyle changes like retirement or expanding family etc.
    • Moving can change the hotels and airlines you prefer to earn points with
  • Rewards Goals Change- shift from one type of travel to another etc
  • Competing credit cards or new products

In this Guide, we’ll cover every facet of downgrading for each major bank including:

  • Downgrade eligibility by bank
  • Downgrade rules by bank
  • Premium card downgrade options
  • How to keep the rewards you’ve already earned
  • Other reasons you may want to downgrade

Related: How to Choose the Best Credit Card for Hotels

We’re going to cover cards for each banks core transferable currency and cover co-branded cards in a separate post. We’ll cover Ultimate Rewards Credit Card options for Chase, Thank You Points Credit Card options for Citi and Membership Rewards Earning Cards for American Express. Each bank will also be covered in a separate post that will dig into the best strategies for each bank.

Downgrade Credit Card

Downgrade Chase Credit Cards: Ultimate Rewards

Downgrade Chase Sapphire Reserve ($550)

Downgrade Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card Options ($95)
  • Sapphire (No longer available for new applicants but should be available as a no fee downgrade option.)
  • No Fee Options
    • Freedom
    • Freedom Unlimited
    • Slate

Chase Ink Preferred (or Chase Ink Plus) $95

  • Chase No-Fee Business Card Options
    • Chase Ink Business Unlimited
    • Chase Ink Business Cash

Time Frame: Downgrade Eligibility

  • Wait one year to downgrade so that you avoid giving Chase a reason to think you’re gaming their system.

Downgrade Rules: Type of Cards

  • Same product family (Ultimate Rewards earning cards or same co branded card family like United and IHG for example)
  • Business cannot be downgraded to personal and vise-versa (even if it’s the same product family)

Related: Complete Guide: Chase 5/24 Rule (2020)

Lesser Known Downgrade Options

  • Chase Sapphire (no fee)

Bank Specific Concerns

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards: Lose ability to transfer your points to FF programs if you don’t hold one of the premium cards
    • CSR
    • CSP
    • Chase Ink Preferred
    • Chase Ink Plus
  • Earn bonus once every 2 years (as long as you’re not currently a cardholder and you haven’t earned the specific card’s sign up bonus in the last 24 months or 48 months for Sapphire bonus)

Ways to Downgrade but Preserve the Value of Points

  • Must have CSP, CSR, Ink Biz Preferred or Plus:
    • to transfer to partners
    • To use points for travel at an increased rate (1.5 for CSR and 1.25 for the others)
  • Transfer to one other member of your household who is primary cardholder on their own account or owner of the company 
  • Keep one premium card and transfer all your own points to that premium account

Downgrade Credit Card

Downgrade American Express Cards: Membership Rewards

Downgrade Amex Platinum Card ($550)
  • Personal Gold ($250)
  • Personal Green ($150)

No Fee Options are not available to downgrade for downgrade from the above options but any Membership Rewards card will keep your points alive. This includes any membership rewards earning credit card like the Amex Everyday Preferred.

No Fee Options are not available to downgrade from the above options but any Membership Rewards card will keep your points alive.

Time Frame: Downgrade Eligibility

Wait one year if you’ve earned a sign up bonus because Amex specifically mentions that sign up bonuses can be clawed back if you downgrade the card within the first year.

Related: Simple Tips to Avoid these Costly Miles and Points Mistakes

Downgrade Rules: Type of Cards

  • Same product family (Ex. Membership rewards, cash back etc)
  • Business cannot be downgraded to personal and vise-versa
  • Charge cards cannot be downgraded to credit cards and vice-versa (note Amex no longer calls many of their charge cards, charge cards- that’s probably outside the scope of this guide)

Bank Specific Concerns

Don’t downgrade to a card you’ve never had because it’ll preclude you from earning sign up bonus (strategy on how I applied for a new card first)

Membership Rewards points can only be transferred to an authorized user’s frequent flier or loyalty account if they’ve been an AU on your account for at least 90 days

How to Downgrade Amex but Preserve the Value of Points

  • Apply for the card you’re planning to downgrade to before downgrading so that you get the welcome bonus before you are no longer eligible
  • Choose a no fee MR points earning credit card to keep the points alive, this is a great benefit over the other programs because all MR points are transferable

Downgrade Credit Card

Downgrade Citi Credit Cards: Thank You

Downgrade Citi Prestige Card Options ($495)
  • Citi Thank You Premier ($95)
  • No Fee
    • Citi Thank You
    • Citi Rewards+ Card
    • Citi Double Cash

Time Frame: Downgrade Eligibility

Citi requires you to have the Card open for 12 months to be eligible to downgrade.

Downgrade Rules: Type of Cards

  • Cards do not have to be the same product family, there are some cross over options available with Citi.
  • Business cannot be downgraded to personal and vise-versa

Bank Specific Concerns

  • Citi Thank You Points from anything other than CC earnings are not transferable
  • Even if you transfer points, they still expire 60 days from when the account is closed.
  • If you transfer your Thank You points to another member they expire after 90 days

Ways to Downgrade But Preserve the Value of Points

Save value of TYP by transferring to other members (can’t be transferred to anyone elses loyalty accounts but Thank You accounts are fine)

  • remember transferred points expire 90 days after transferred and
  • There’s a limit to 100k per year on giving and receiving


Disclosure: Bougie Miles has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Bougie Miles and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.


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  1. Marty

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