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 65K Miles
Up to 65K miles: 40K after $2K spend in 3 months + 25K after $10K total spend in first 6 months

No Annual Fee First Year, Then $95

This card is subject to Chase's 5/24 rule (click here for details).

Alternate offer: $250 statement credit after first purchase + 25K miles after $2K in the first 3 months. You may find this offer during the booking process or can possibly access it here.

Recent better offer: 60K after $3K spend in 3 months plus 10K after $6K in 6 months [Expired 1/13/21]

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
60K points
60K after $4K spend in 3 months

$95 Annual Fee

Alternate offer: There is an in-branch offer for 65K points (or 70K for CitiGold members) after $4K in purchases in 3 months. Some have reported success getting matched to that higher offer by request (YMMV).

Recent better offer: None

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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