I Pay Annual Fees on 2 Credit Cards That I Never Use – But I’m Not Going to Cancel Them (Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Either)

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Every now and again in the miles & points hobby, it’s critical to sit down and reevaluate your wallet.  That’s because you’re consistently opening credit cards that charge annual fees of $95+ per year!

I’ve got ~18 credit cards, the majority of which have (at one point) come with annual fees.  If I decide a card no longer serves my travel situation, I need to ditch the annual fee!

I presently own 2 annual fee cards that I never use anymore (and I actually meant to cancel them last year… 🙁 )  – the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® and the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard.  But I’m not going to cancel them for 2 reasons:

  • I don’t want to lose the credit history I have with these cards
  • I don’t want my available credit to decrease

There’s a very simple way to maintain these items without paying the annual fee.  Downgrade credit cards!

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I’m keeping my credit history and credit line, but I’m ditching the annual fee by downgrading credit cards

Downgrade Credit Cards Instead of Canceling

When you cancel a credit card, you’ll lose the credit history you’ve accrued with that card.  And if you don’t move your credit line over to another card, you’ll lose your available credit, too!  Both of those things are factors that determine your credit score.

However, if you’re totally done with one of your annual fee cards, you should NOT continue to pay the annual fee just so your credit score won’t take a minor hit.  You can often downgrade your card to a no-annual-fee version.  When you do this, all your card info transfers over to the new card:

  • Credit card number (in most cases)
  • Credit line
  • Credit history

Both my Barclaycard Arrival Plus and AAdvantage Aviator Red have some valuable features that make them worth keeping.  But not enough to justify the annual fees (for me).

For example, the handiest feature of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus (besides the enormous welcome bonus) is that it’s Chip + PIN enabled.  I firmly believe that any globetrotter should have this card.

Chip + PIN comes in very handy when you’re wandering through Europe and you need to use an unmanned kiosk or payment machine (like you’ll find at many gas stations).  Almost any other credit card won’t work with them.

I’m downgrading this card to the no annual fee version (the Barclaycard Arrival), because it’s also Chip + PIN enabled.  I can have my favorite feature without paying an $89 annual fee!

The Hazards of Downgrading a Card

Not All Cards Can Be Downgraded

When you downgrade a card, you must make sure there is a no-annual-fee equivalent.  In other words, there must be a card in the same “family” that comes with no annual fee.  For example:

You’ll also find that many airline and hotel credit cards can’t be downgraded.  They don’t have a no-annual-fee equivalent.

You Might Be Forfeiting a Welcome Bonus

If you downgrade your Chase Sapphire Preferred to a Chase Freedom, you then will not be eligible to earn the Chase Freedom welcome bonus as long as you currently hold the card.

Downgrading Is Not Automatic

When you request a downgrade, the bank reviews your account and decides if you’re eligible.  Banks typically require your account to have been active for at least 1 year before downgrading.

Downgrading Is Easy!

I’ve downgraded cards in the past with Chase (and I think Barclays) simply by sending a secure message through the bank’s website.

I’ve seen some data points saying Chase has insisted you call them if you want to downgrade, but I’ve been successful as recently as 6 months ago.  Just state the card you have, as well as the appropriate no-annual-fee version of the card, and they should message you back in a couple days to confirm the change.  That’s it!

Check out this guide on how to send the banks a secure message.

I’d love to hear your experience downgrading credit cards.  It’s a great way to ditch the annual fees without any negative consequences to your credit score!

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Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for The Points Guy.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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