Q: Can I downgrade my AmEx credit card and keep my number the same? Will another credit inquiry be done? If I downgrade near the beginning of my membership year will I get reimbursed for the annual fee I already paid?
A: There are several questions there so let’s go over them one at a time.
Will your number stay the same?
For the charge cards, I would say the odds are 50/50, depending on which card you currently have and which you want to go to. If you have a Platinum and want to downgrade to the Gold Card then you may be able to keep your number (I have heard from those who were able to, but also those who weren’t).
If you want to jump from a charge card to a no annual fee credit card (like the Gold to Blue Cash Everyday) then there’s a good chance your number will have to be changed, based on what forum members have reported.
Will there be another credit inquiry?
Assuming it’s a downgrade within the same class of cards (i.e. Green, Gold, Platinum) then it’s unlikely a hard pull credit inquiry will be made. However if you consider going from a Green Card to the AmEx Blue, there’s chance a credit inquiry may be required. Because remember a Green is a charge card (balance due in full) and a Blue is a credit card (where you can pay over time). The latter is a higher credit risk, so its understandable why American Express would want to verify your credit.
What if I downgrade after paying the annual fee?
If you downgrade after you’ve already paid the fee for the current year, usually you should be able to get it refunded at a prorated rate. For example, if you’re downgrading 3 months into your current year, then 9 months (75%) would be refunded. I can’t guarantee every situation will work this way but the prorated refund does appear to be a very common option.
Before you downgrade consider these 3 things:
#1. Understanding the Membership Rewards Points
If you have a card with Membership Rewards (i.e. Green/Gold/Platinum) then you will want to spend those first if you plan on downgrading to a card that doesn’t participate in MR. Why? Because if you have MR points on your account and you downgrade from Gold to Blue, the MR points will disappear from your account. In short, you need an open account that uses MR points in order to access them.
#2. Possible retention bonus for keeping your card
American Express is notorious for never waiving the annual fee so that is not an option. However you may be able to score a bonus for keeping your card – Membership Reward Points or a statement credit. To find out if you qualify, ask to be switched to the retention department and see what they can offer you. If you’re not a big spender, don’t be surprised if they don’t offer you anything.
#3. Consider cancelling and then applying for a new AmEx
If your account number will be changing and no retention bonus is offered (or it’s not very good) then you may want to consider cancelling the card and then applying for a different one you want, so you can get the signup bonus with it. From my experience the signup bonuses are more generous when you apply for the card versus downgrading/switching to it. For Example, the sponsored bonus currently available for the gold card is quite enticing, look at how many points you can earn, plus you won’t pay an annual fee for its first year.