Sign up for cards you don’t want to get cards you do (2021 Edition)

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Filed under weird but true, there are situations where it makes sense to sign up for a credit card that you don’t want in order to get the card you do want. Typically the process requires signing up for a similar card and later calling to product change to the card you really want.

Why in the world would you do this?  Below you’ll find reasons and examples…

Card no longer available

When credit cards are discontinued, card issuers sometimes continue to make them available via product changes.  In these cases, you can sign up for a similar card now, and later product change to the card you really want.  Here are some examples:

Chase Ritz Carlton Rewards Visa Infinite

This discontinued card isn’t for everyone since it comes with a hefty $450 annual fee.  That said, it comes with a number of super high-end perks:

  • $300 in annual airline fee reimbursements.
  • Free Night Award each year upon renewal can be used to book any Marriott portfolio hotel that costs up to 50K points
  • Automatic Marriott Gold status
  • Earn Marriott Platinum status with $75K spend per account year
  • 3 Ritz club level upgrades for rooms booked at the standard rate
  • $100 hotel credit for each 2 night or longer paid stay at Ritz or St. Regis properties
  • Priority Pass Select airport lounge access with unlimited free guests
  • Free authorized users (who also get Priority Pass)
  • Global Entry fee reimbursement

This is probably the best card available for setting up yourself and your whole family with Priority Pass lounge access.  Yes, the annual fee is steep, but $300 in airline fee reimbursements plus the annual free night certificate can justify the annual fee before even considering the value of the card’s other features.

How to get it: Sign up for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, wait until the second year annual fee comes due, then call to request a product change to the Ritz card.  You may need a high credit limit ($10K or more) to be eligible.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card

Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card

The main reason to consider this $95 per year card is that it offers a Marriott free night certificate each year good for any hotel that costs up to 35,000 points.  This card is no longer available to new applicants.

How to get it: Sign up for the $450 Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, wait until the second year annual fee comes due, then call to request a product change to the $95 card.

Better signup bonus

Sometimes you can get a better signup bonus by signing up for a different card and then later product changing to the card you really want.  Here are some examples:

Chase United Gateway Card

Chase United Gateway Card

The fee-free United Gateway Card usually has a lackluster welcome bonus, but it is available as a product change from the $95 United Explorer MileagePlus Card.

This United Gateway card is special because it offers some of the best features of the $95 version for free.  Once you get this fee-free version, I recommend holding onto it forever.  It just might come in handy thanks to these features:

  • Improved economy saver award availability: As a cardholder, you’ll find more United economy saver awards (on United flights only).
  • Last seat standard economy award availability: Standard awards are the higher priced awards that United makes available on their own flights.  While I don’t usually recommend booking these, they can be a lifesaver under specific situations.  For a personal example, see: Delta delay… United last seat availability to the rescue.
  • 25% bonus on miles earned through the MileagePlus X App.  The MileagePlus X App offers bonus miles for retail purchases.  As a cardholder, you’ll get a 25% bonus.  For example, if the app offers 4 miles per dollar at Macy’s, you’ll earn a total of 5 miles per dollar.
  • The United MileagePlus Shopping portal sometimes offers better rewards for United cardholders.

Here is the current welcome bonus for the United Explorer Card:

Card Offer
Chase United℠ Explorer Card
Up to 70K Miles
Up to 70K miles: 60K after $3K spend in 3 months + 10K more after $6K total purchases in the first 6 months.

No Annual Fee First Year, Then $95

How to get it: Wait for a great offer for the United Explorer MileagePlus Card (e.g. wait for a 60K offer) and sign up.  Next, wait until the 2nd year annual fee comes due, then call to product change to the United Gateway Card.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card in my opinion is the single best travel rewards card on the market.  It offers excellent category bonuses (3X travel & dining), valuable rewards, and excellent travel protections.  With the Sapphire Reserve card, Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be cashed out at 1.5 cents each via Chase’s Pay Yourself Back feature. or used to purchase travel at a rate of 1.5 cents per point, or transferred to airline and hotel partners for even more potential value.  When you purchase travel with this card, you’re automatically protected in many ways (see: Ultra-Premium Credit Card Travel Insurance).  At $550 per year, this card is far from cheap, but it offers $300 per year in automatic travel rebates which go a long way towards minimizing your net cost.

The standard offer for this card has long been 50,000 points after $4K spend in 3 months.  That’s an excellent offer, but you can do even better by first signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card which has a slightly higher standard offer (60K points after $4K spend in 3 months).

How to get the better bonus: Sign up for the $95 Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, wait until the second year annual fee comes due, then call to request a product change to the Sapphire Reserve card.

Citi Double Cash

Citi’s fee-free Double Cash card was always worth considering since it offers 2% cash back on all spend.  Now, however, it’s even more exciting: Cash rewards can now be converted to ThankYou Rewards points and used for much more value when paired with a Citi Premier or Citi Prestige card.  See our Citi Double Cash Complete Guide to learn more.

The Double Cash card usually doesn’t have a signup bonus.  So, a good alternative is to sign up for another consumer Citibank Mastercard that offers a nice signup bonus.  Then, later, you can product change to the Double Cash card.  Here are the current signup offers for several Citi cards worth considering:

Card Offer
Citi Premier Card
80K points
80K points after $4K spend in the first 3 months

$95 Annual Fee

Recent better offer: None. This matches the best offer we've ever seen.

How to get the better bonus: Sign up for one of the above cards, wait until the second year annual fee comes due, then call to request a product change to the Double Cash card.  Note that in many cases Citi has rules that prevent you from obtaining a signup bonus for a card that is in the same product family as a card that you closed or earned the signup bonus within the past 24 months (48 months for the AA cards).  When you product change from another card to the Citi Double Cash, you will most likely be assigned a new card number.  As a result, Citi will count this as having closed the previous account and you’ll therefore have to wait longer to get a card within the same product family.

You are ineligible for the signup bonus

There are plenty of reasons that you may be ineligible for a signup bonus for a card you want.  Amex presents the most obvious example thanks to their lifetime rules, but there are similar situations to be found due to various bank’s 24 month or 48 month rules against getting a signup bonus again…

American Express Cards

American Express has a tough “lifetime rule” on most of their welcome bonus offers.  You are eligible for the welcome offer only if you’ve never had the same card before.  One way around this is to sign up for a card in the same product family that you are eligible for.  For example, suppose you want the Hilton Surpass card, but you’ve had it before.  You could instead sign up for the Hilton Aspire or the fee-free Hilton card and then later product change to the Hilton Surpass.  Amex will generally allow product changes within product families: change from one Hilton card to another, or from one Delta card to another, or from one Membership Rewards card to another.  Limitations: you cannot product change from a consumer card to a business card or vice versa.  You also cannot product change from a credit card to a charge card or vice versa.

How to get a new welcome bonus with an Amex card you’ve had before: Sign up for a card you’ve never had before which is in the same product family as the one you want.  Wait until the second year annual fee comes due, then call to request a product change to the card you want.

Conclusion

Above are a number of situations where it can make sense to sign up for a card other than the one you really want.  I presented a number of examples that occurred to me in the course of writing this post, but I don’t at all consider it to be a complete list.  So, here’s a challenge to readers: who can come up with the best example that I didn’t present above? Please comment below.

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O.S.

How to get it: Sign up for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, wait until the second year annual fee comes due, then call to request a product change to the Ritz card.

What about the Bonvoy Bold card? Couldn’t you hold this card for 12 months, and then product change to the Ritz card?

Captain Greg

Is it possible to upgrade to the Ritz card just before 1 year so that a 50k night posts instead of a 35k night?

Nick Reyes

Do you mean the first year? Doubtful that you’ll be able to upgrade until a year has passed since opening the card because the provisions in the CARD act about not increasing fees during a consumer’s first year. And actually, as I recall, you may reset your anniversary date when you make that upgrade and thus won’t get a certificate until your anniversary comes around again. If I’m right about that, you would want to wait until after you get your 35k cert and then upgrade as soon as possible in order to not miss out on getting a certificate and reset your anniversary year to about the same date next year.

Captain Greg

Yes, I meant the end of the first year. The moment the 35k cert posts, we (P2) will upgrade. Thanks Nick!

[…] to how you might be able to get a card that’s no longer open to new applicants. It turns out it may be as simple as signing up for a different card in the same family. For example, you can no longer apply for the American Express Bonvoy card; but if you apply for […]

Amy

Excellent and helpful article! Let us know when you think up more swaps!

Can you really PC from an AA card to a non-AA card? I was originally told it had to stay in the AA family.

Troy

I would add the US Bank Cash+ card to this list. Its $150 (sometimes $200) signup offer is not worth a hard pull in my opinion, but its ongoing 5% back on 2 categories you choose quarterly (up to $2000 per quarter for $100 cashback) is well worth making this a keeper card with no AF. 5% back on utilities is a phenomenal category option that earns me hundreds more each year than a next-best card would offer. I’d therefore recommend first applying for another US Bank card that you don’t plan to keep long term past the signup bonus, like the Altitude Reserve, and then product change to this before paying the annual fee in the 2nd year.

Jan W

This sounds like a fascinating option. I had no idea there was a card that bonused home utilities. Are the categories stationary or do they change each quarter? If I was able to keep Utilities for one year, that category alone would yield over $270 CB. The others aren’t as strong, but could be useful if you had a large planned expense (like Furniture). I have no experience with US Bank so I don’t know their system and I don’t see too much on FM. Gregg–possible post on this option?

Troy

Their categories have remained fairly consistent for several years. I believe they removed a donations category and maybe another one at some point, but nothing drastic. For no annual fee, it should easily be a keeper for almost everyone. On occasions you have a big expense you know is coming you can change up to furniture, electronics stores, etc. Even better when Player 2 has the card, as you can cover more categories by choosing different options.

Jan W

Thanks, Troy! I will definitey be putting this one of the list when I go over 5/24 again.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jan W
Jan W

Also, Troy mentioned the charity bonus category. I would love a card for this as so many places are now offering CC donations with no added fees. Is there a card for this (or some better way of making charitable donations?).

Jan W

Yes! I actually used that bonus (along with the 2500 bonus MR for spending over $2000) four times last month for charitable donations. Used the other six on a window pane replacement bill done in $500+ increments. Unrelated question: when I get subscription updates now, they include the email address but not in link (blue) form, which I means I have to cut and paste to reply. Is this an intentional change on FM’s part? I miss the link. Thanks, Greg.

Anita

Sorry if this has been covered elsewhere (I can’t find the answer).

If I downgrade an AMEX card, thinking Hilton Surpass to the NF card, do the AMEX offers apply to the new card? Thanks.

traveler80

Greg,
Can you speak to credit card strategy this year for Marriott if you’re starting out without any cards, want to get 30 elite nights for status, and still qualify for sign up bonuses? Is Amex business card and Amex Brilliant the only play? Does it matter which to apply for first?

Kelly

Isn’t there still a Chase personal card you can apply for and get 15 nights instead of the Amex Brilliant? Ever since they changed everything a couple of years ago I can’t keep track.

Michael

How can I get multiple Blue Business Amex cards? The $50000 limit is an issue for
Me

NK3

Great article. A few additions:

  1. The 48 month Citi/American rule only relates to the signup bonus; when you close the account does not matter. The Citi Premier does have the 24 month language for both sign up bonuses or closing the account. While it is widely repeated that a change in card number determines whether a Citi account is closed for the purpose of a signup bonus, that is not an official rule and there are data points indicating that may not always be true.
  2. Just to emphasize, if you sign up for the United Explorer and covert after 1 year to the Gateway, or do the same with AA Platinum to Citi Double Cash, you won’t pay an annual fee, since the first year AF is waived on these cards.
  3. United Gateway also gives you access to United Visa Rewards, which has earned me thousands of miles (much more than added portal earnings or the MPX bonus).
  4. Helpful tip on the Marriott Bonvoy Amex card–don’t switch from Bonvoy Brilliant to the $95 card right when your AF posts. Wait 2 months, use your Marriott credit (gift cards work), and let your free night cert post. The AF will be prorated and will be about $154 (($450 x 2/12) + ($95 x 10/12)), and you will get the $300 Marriott credit and a better 50K night cert.
Joel Alejandrino

thanks for the advise! this is awesome information especially marriott bonvoy amex card.

Last edited 1 year ago by Joel Alejandrino
HoKo

Very useful nugget about the Chase card…wish i had known that before I cancelled it.

With regards to Citi’s product change rules:

  1. So they allow you to PC between families (i.e. switching from an AA card to a Double cash)?
  2. If I PC from a TYP card to double cash would that count as product family change?

I am about ~8 months away from being eligible for another TYP sign up bonus with Citi so I am trying to be very careful about accidentally resetting the clock.

Justmeha

1. Yes
2. Yes

MSer

Looks like Chase no longer offers the no-fee United Mileage Plus. They now push you to the United “Gateway” card that doesn’t offer access to award space (as far as I can tell)

Captain Greg

Was just on the phone with a chase rep to downgrade my United explorer mileage plus and was using this article as my guide. When he wouldn’t allow me to downgrade to just the “united mileage plus” and was only offering the “united gateway mileage plus” I was scrambling to look into the details of that card to try to figure out if they allowed the enhanced award availability. After a few minutes I found this comment and made the switch. It would be great to update this article with that info if you get the chance. It seems like there are a few things that could be updated (you can’t get the freedom card via downgrade anymore, right?). Thank you for this info and all the hard work!

[…] written before about signing up for cards you don’t want in order to get the cards you do. Product changing can be a valuable tool for your belt, whether in order to downgrade to a no-fee […]

Jacinto

I was considering downgrading the $95 United Explorer to the no-fee United mileage Plus. But since I’ve used up all my AAA free car towing for this year, I decided that the $95 card’s Roadside Assistance Plan was still worth the price.

P-kolo

Nice but I can’t get approved for any of these cards

K Johnson

For the ‘Card no longer available’ category, the Barclay AAdvantage Aviator Silver card with solid perks for the $199 annual fee is only available by upgrading the Barclay Aviator Red card that has a $99 annual fee. The Silver was never available to apply for on its own though so maybe it gets its own category.

Todd Oshima

Can you still PC from the Sears shop your way to the Thank you pt. version fo the card?

rich

I’ve been reducing my credit cards and have been using Chase’s secure email to do so. Unfortunately when it comes to product change they won’t do that via email but instead require a phone call. With all of the annoying banners suggesting heavier than normal call volume, it is frustrating that something simple like this requires a phone call and a possible long wait on the phone.

I might just cancel the card instead and apply for the no AF version later and grab whatever sign up bonus is available.

Sometimes companies are their own worst enemy. It isn’t as if I’m product changing into a higher credit limit, more exclusive card, etc.

Geez.

Kadels

Time to update – this no longer applies to any card, as far as I am aware: Visa Infinite $100 companion discount for round trip domestic flights

RabbMD

This is not the best time to recycle an article suggesting to apply for a chase business card. Has the covid tightening of chase business card relaxed?

Ed. C

Not as of last week. Applied for the CIBU and was denied because I don’t have a business deposit account with Chase, despite being 3/24 and 849 FICO score on TransUnion. Also have a solid history with Chase via CSR, CFU, Freedom and CIC.

Lee

Chase did not allow me to PC my Sapphire to a second Freedom. Messaged a week ago and called yesterday.

Michael D

Sadly, need to remove “Visa Infinite $100 companion discount for round trip domestic flights” as a benefit listed under the Ritz card. I was very disappointed when it ended in January with no notice

FMPost

Is it possible to downgrade from United Club card to no AF MielagePlus card? and will that work the same as downgrading from Explorer to no AF card?

Nick Reyes

I assume that it is, but I’m not positive. I’d say to just call the number on the back of the card.

OR97

Regarding the Ritz card, and the upgrades (3 Ritz club level upgrades for rooms booked at the standard rate). When first reading this I assumed this simply meant it did not apply to award nights or to AAA rates, etc. But does that mean the regular Marriott ‘member rate’ does not work for the upgrade? No big deal as the member rate is typically not drastically different, but wondering if you knew. Thank you for this and all there great info and help.

sharon

Will Chase allow 2 Ritz cards, one original sign up and and one a product change from Marriott Bonvoy Boundless?

Nick Reyes

Most likely, yes, sharon. It’s not uncommon to get multiples of other cards this way.

Nick Reyes

Sorry, I missed this question. You need to book a specific rate type to apply the club upgrades. I’ve only bothered with it once when the rates were the same or close enough to the regular rate.

Captain Greg

One more question….I recently signed up for the CIP and the CIC. In the near future I’m going to jump over the 5/24 limit and be over it for at least 18 months, but probably longer. My plan had been to just grab another 50k now with the CIU, but do you think it makes sense to try to hold off for 18+ months for another CIP? In all likelihood I’ll downgrade the CIP next fall to another one of the no fee cards – or even cancel – so I feel like that I could probably sign up for another CIP card no matter what in 18+ months. It probably still makes the most sense for me to grab another 50k now with the CIU, right? A bird in the hand…

Rena

Any idea if you can product change the Citi AAdvantage Gold MasterCard to Double Cashback? We were thinking of canceling my husband’s card.

Pat

I wish I’d seen this article a year ago. I closed my United Explorer card after being told by representatives (twice) that there was no extra access to award seats with the fee free cards. Now I am learning that while it may not be an official benefit of the no fee cards, at least some people are still getting access to extra award seats. Had I known that, I would have done the product change and seen what happened for me. But instead I closed my Explorer card because I had a lot of cards at the time and was unaware of any benefit to the free card. I even called Chase today to see if I could reopen my Explorer card to do the product change, but it was way too late. Oh well. .

USB

The Ritz card has gotten way too much coverage lately and in terms of certain benefits, this is the last one standing after CNB killed their crystal visa. So obviously I’m counting down the days till Chase shreds all the good benefits. It’d be a sad day!

Josh

Are there any repercussions or things to watch out for when converting from a Citi Premier to Citi Double Cash back. Guessing you would want to use up your points?

Josh

but if you downgrade to a ThankYou+ you don’t have to use up the pts right away. Correct?

Rob

Question about the United MileagePlus Card: does this card offer primary car rental insurance? I know that the Explorer and the old Adwards cards have it but i can’t find the benefit page for this no-AF United card. Anyone know?

JohnB

I have that United Mileage Plus no fee card. I downgraded from the Explorer card. You do not receive any extra availability in reward seats. That is not true. Hasn’t been for 5 years that I have had that card.

Patty

I just called and before making the switch asked to make sure it does have saver award availability. The person I talked to said she didn’t think it does and that if it does it comes from United’s end. Is there any chance that yours is old enough that it somehow still includes it and the new ones don’t? I’ve been searching and have yet to find anywhere official that it does include it. Have you seen that? I’d love to save that $95, but would hate to find there was a change between your card and mine somehow.

Matt

I looked into it a while and and as far as i can tell. It is not an official perk of the card it just seems to stick around when downgrading. The poster above might have had their acct closed and then opened an new acct with the no-fee card which might not get the same saver availability, at least thats what i would suspect if they aren’t seeing it b/c i’ve seen a lot of dp’s where people are

Rob

I see saver award availability as well.

tom

Hi Greg – how easy is it to use the Ritz $300 airline credit. I heard you have to call in, but do they look for receipts etc?
I generally do not do seat upgrades or pay for luggage, so would be hoping I could use it for award taxes/fees and low cost tickets on B6.
If I can recover the $300 then the card makes sense. TIA

Mark

Great idea on the no fee United Mileage Plus card! I’m interested to know whether having increased availability on saver awards will also mean better award pricing now that United has moved to a dynamic award pricing model. It may still be better to use a partner airline’s program to book United award flights.

Mary Jane

Greg, also, if you are an authorized user on a cc, does it make it any easier to get the same individualized cc under your sole name?

Mary Jane

Hi Greg, as usual, the article was very insightful. We are getting spoiled. Just a quick question. I am very interested in getting the Marriott Bonvoy Chase card which offers 1 elite status for every $3,000 in spend. I have the Ritz and the Bonvoy Am Exp $95 card, and Chase double cash, Chase Ink and Chase Ink preferred, Raddisson Visa. Anyway I can product change to the Marriott Bonvoy Chase card?

Todd Oshima

Yes please report back! interested in this also!

MAlMel

Very useful article! Does the UA MileagePlus include the priority boarding and free checked bag benefits?

Aloha808

No it doesn’t, unfortunately.

MalMel

Bummer. Thank you for the reply.

adam

For your second reason “Better signup bonus”, I was wondering why a product change is better than canceling the first card and then applying for the second card. Wouldn’t that allow you to earn signup bonuses from both cards, instead of just the first one?

Matt

How long do u need to wait to re-apply for the preferred after downgrading? Was thinking about doing this today. Also if my 2nd year fee posted Nov 1 on the preferred and i ask to downgrade will they still waive it?

Glenn

Hey Greg, I’d like to add that for those Amex product changes, you’d typically want to wait till they give you a targeted upgrade offer. I had the no fee Hilton and the Surpass. I cancelled the Surpass. Few months later they gave me a 150k upgrade offer from the no fee to the surpass. Upgrade offers aren’t typically restricted by the lifetime rule.

Matt

AT&T access more? Best offer page says its still available via product change, any idea if that is still the case?

Byron

I got the ATT More a few years ago with the product change. It is not such a great card, Citi does not show you what you get 3x for and they seem to be pretty selective as what to dish out 3x. Originally I thought this card would be great to use on Plastiq and just pay mortgage and car payments. Nope, they give 1x on those. I have it set up for Amazon, which it does give 3x for, which does not amount to much for me. I do not think not getting it anymore is such a loss.

John

Greg, If I add my son to my Ritz card as authorized user, will he also get all the benefits of the card? You mention Priority Pass, but what about the other benefits? Will it take up one of his 5/24 slots?

John

Greg, thanks for the response. Would billings for the his charges come to my account, or does Chase give him a new account when he is an AU?

Aloha808

Chase backdates AUs, therefore if the RC card is older than 2 years old (which i assume it is), the AU card won’t affect the son’s 5/24 status.

Captain Greg

How frequently can you sign up for the Ink Preferred and still be eligible for the SUB (assuming you’re signing up through the same business)?