When I canceled one of my American Express credit cards last week, the phone rep took a second to make sure that I still had a card that earned Membership Rewards. Because if I was canceling my last Membership Rewards card, I might lose all of my points.
It made me think about all of the people looking to decrease their annual fee expenses and the best card from each bank to keep points active.
Of course, the answer is one where Your Mileage May Vary, so I’ll show the choices from each of the three big banks and let you decide which one is the best for you.
My conversation with an American Express phone representative was the inspiration for this post. She made sure I had a card that still earned Membership Rewards before canceling my AMEX Business Gold Card.
I still have a Business Green Rewards Card. It’s not the best card because it has a $95 annual fee and unattractive bonus points earning categories but it does earn Membership Rewards and lets me add additional cardholders for free.
If you want to cancel your high-fee American Express card and keep your Membership Rewards points, there’s only one card you need.
The AMEX Everyday Card
This card has no annual fee and still earns fully transferable Membership Rewards points. That means you can transfer points to Delta (for a fee) or to Flying Blue, ANA or any number of partners to book amazing international award tickets. You can park your Membership Rewards you earned with your Platinum or Gold card with this account and redeem them whenever you want.
You’d need to apply for the Everyday card, as it’s not possible to product change from a charge card like the Platinum to a credit card like the Everyday. If you think you’re going to be spending money on the AMEX Everyday card in the bonus categories, it might be better to sign up for the Everyday Preferred which has a $95 annual fee.
Finally, if you don’t want to sign up for a new card, you can downgrade any other AMEX charge card to the AMEX Green Card. It’s an option that comes with a $150 annual fee but awards bonus points for travel and restaurant spending and a yearly CLEAR credit.
The Blue Business Plus card also has no annual fee and earns Membership Rewards points. If you’re eligible for a business card, this is also a great option from AMEX to save your points.
American Express is the only one of the three major banks that lets you park your fully transferable points with a no-annual fee card.
If you have Chase Ultimate Rewards and are looking to ditch your Chase Sapphire Reserve and its $550 annual fee, you’ll have some choices to make.
If you’re looking for no-annual fee cards, Chase doesn’t offer one that lets you transfer your points to one of their partners. You can only redeem your points for cashback or use them to make travel bookings through the Chase portal.
You can downgrade your personal card to either Chase Freedom Unlimited or Chase Freedom Flex. These cards are appealing because of their unique earning possibilities but without a premium Chase card, the points earned are only worth cashback or equivalent travel credit.
If you have a Chase Ink Business Preferred Card with a $95 annual fee, you could look to downgrade to a no-annual-fee Chase business card. However, you might want to think twice about that as the Ink Business Preferred is one of the best Ultimate Rewards earning cards and is a decent value for the annual fee.
If you’re really looking to cut expenses, you can downgrade to Ink Cash or the Ink Business Unlimited. Both cards are useful, but like the Chase no-annual-fee personal cards, you can only redeem points for cash back without a premium card linked to the account.
The Citi ThankYou points program is unique because there is no business card in the portfolio. Only personal cards can earn ThankYou points. Of those cards, only two of them allow you to transfer points to airline partners, the Citi Prestige and Citi Premier.
Citi also has some arcane rules when it comes to closing a card. Unlike AMEX and Chase that will let you transfer points (or pool points) when you close a card, with Citi the clock starts ticking for you to use or lose the points.
For that reason, it makes sense to downgrade a Citi card instead of closing it. The problem is that downgrading or closing a Citi card resets the 24-month clock to get a sign-up bonus for a card in the same card family.
So Citi really makes you think about what you want to do. You can transfer points out to a partner, but you’re locked into that program and lose flexibility. You can downgrade a Citi card (and possibly upgrade later) but you’ll lose the chance to earn a sign-up bonus for the near future.
Fortunately, Citi lets you downgrade your card to whichever one you want. However, if you want to keep your ThankYou points account active, there are only a few options with no annual fees.
- Citi Rewards+ Card
- Citi Preferred Card
- Citi AT&T Access Card
The only card which is still open to new applicants is the Citi Rewards+ Card. It’s a very good no-annual fee card but the points earned can only be transferred to select partners (JetBlue and Sears) or used for cash-back.
You can get the other cards by doing a product change, which will keep your points, but you can no longer transfer them to partners without upgrading the card again or signing up for a premium Citi card. Just remember that you’ll have to wait 24 months to get a sign-up bonus for a new card. Weigh those options carefully before making any moves with your Citi accounts.
For all of the grief that AMEX puts us through with the RAT team and clawbacks, their options when downgrading a card are the best of the big three banks. They’re the only one who offers business and personal no-annual-fee cards with fully transferrable points.
I’m sure there are plenty of people out there reconsidering their premium card portfolio. I can tell you that I’m giving all of my cards a closer look. Knowing what your options are will give you a clearer view of the path forward.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary