How to Upgrade a Citi Credit Card

A credit card upgrade is a type of product change in which you swap out a “lower tier” card for a more premium one, all while bypassing the application process. Most of the major credit card issuers, including Citi, allow cardholders to upgrade to a different product.

Here’s how to go about upgrading your Citi card, plus some drawbacks to consider before doing so.

How Citi’s upgrade process works

To upgrade a Citi credit card, you must call Citi directly at the number of the back of your card. The number is 605-335-2222 for international cardholders. Citi’s customer service is available 24/7. Though Citi does offer a chat feature on its site, you must call in order to make any changes to your card,

Benefits of upgrading a Citi credit card

Upgrading to another Citi card could certainly result in a net gain, especially if the new card is a better fit for your current lifestyle and spending habits. Here are some of the reasons why you might want to upgrade rather than apply for a new Citi card.

  • More and better perks. Perhaps the main reason someone would request an upgrade is to level up to a more premium card and enjoy the perks that come with it. Say you upgrade from a Citi Custom Cash® Card to the Citi Premier® Card. With your new Citi card, you’ll get a $100 annual hotel credit and no foreign transaction fees, among other benefits.

  • No hard credit inquiry. Upgrading a credit card doesn’t require a formal application, so you’ll avoid a hard credit check that can temporarily lower your credit score. 

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  • Credit history is preserved. Upgrading to another card, as opposed to canceling one card and opening another, preserves the credit history you’ve built with the old card. Because credit bureaus consider length of credit history when calculating credit scores, it’s best to hang on to accounts you’ve had the longest, if you can.

  • More upgrade options. Citi cardholders have more choice in the card they can upgrade to in comparison to other issuers. Chase and American Express, for example, limit their customers to upgrading to a card within the same card “family” as the old card. As Citi allows cross-pollination between card types, some cardholders might be able to upgrade from the cash-back earning Citi® Double Cash Card to the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, a co-branded travel card.  

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Citi cardholders whose current accounts are not in good standing won’t qualify for an upgrade. And, upgrading to a premium credit card may require a certain credit score that may put the card out of reach for some.

Drawbacks to upgrading a Citi credit card

Consider the following drawbacks and caveats to upgrading a Citi card before making the swap.

  • No sign-up bonus. Issuers sometimes extend sign-up bonuses to new cardholders, but when you upgrade from one card to another, you aren’t considered a new customer. If you upgrade, you could miss out on valuable sign-up bonuses such as tens of thousands of miles or a generous intro APR period

  • High annual fee. By its nature, upgrading is a move from a lesser card with fewer perks to a more premium card. Luxury cards and their attendant perks come with a price, so it’s quite possible that upgrading a Citi card could result in an annual fee of several hundred dollars. 

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You may not be immediately eligible for an upgrade if the card you’re eyeing has an annual fee, and if your current card account is less than a year old. That’s because the CARD Act of 2009 forbids issuers from raising a card’s annual fee in the first year of account opening.

  • Credit card information may need to be updated. If the card you upgraded to runs on a different payment network than the old card — say you moved from a Visa to a Mastercard — the new card will have a different number. You may have to manually update the new card number with any merchants that had the old card on file. Fortunately, Citi cardholders will rarely encounter this inconvenience since most Citi cards are Mastercards.

  • Potential to lose earned rewards. Citi said that rewards often transfer from the old card to the upgraded one when both cards earn the same rewards currency, for example, ThankYou Points. However, that may not be the case when moving from a card that earns ThankYou Points to a card that earns miles, or vice versa. In that case, consider redeeming your rewards before upgrading to a new card to avoid losing them.

  • Potential to lose transfer partners. Six Citi cards earn ThankYou Points that may be transferred to partner hotels and airlines, one of the best ways to get more value out of those points. When you upgrade to a card that doesn’t earn ThankYou Points, you’ll lose the ability to maximize rewards through strategic transfers.  

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