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American Express Credit Cards Upgrade/Downgrade Strategy

Get over $4100 in free hotel stays with this strategy!

In the world of Credit Cards, there’s cards with “Annual Fees” and those with “No-Annual Fee”. However with most banks changing their terms and conditions on how you can get the sign-up bonuses for cards, there’s a trick that most aren’t aware of that can help them maximize their money’s worth (and bonuses).

Lifetime Bonus Rule

Let’s understand this “language” found on most credit card applications with sign-up bonuses on a minimum spend requirement.

Whenever you proceed to apply for a new card with American Express, always read the fine print because you will see that the bonus you will receive will be once for the lifetime for the applicant. So if you applied for the American Express Gold Card once before, or will do so today and had/will receive a sign-up bonus, you will be ineligible to receive such a bonus ever again to your name.

Personal Cards affected:

  • AMEX Platinum
  • AMEX Gold
  • Gold Delta SkyMiles
  • AMEX EveryDay
  • AMEX EveryDay Preferred
  • Hilton Honors
  • Hilton Honors Aspire
  • Hilton Honors Surpass
  • Blue Delta SkyMiles
  • Blue Cash Everyday
  • Blue Cash Preferred

Business Cards:

  • Business Platinum Card
  • Business Platinum Delta SkyMiles
  • Hilton Honors Business
  • Business Gold Delta SkyMiles

Strategy: Hilton Credit Cards Example

So given this information, what can you – the applicant do ? Well there is a game plan that I’ll go over and hopefully you’re able to understand and implement – if you so choose.

Let’s say you wish to maximize your Hilton points over a period of time but do not wish to keep paying for the cards long term – unless the status offered by the highest tier Ascend Card is of use (Diamond Status). If you wish to learn more about the Hilton Aspire Card by AMEX, click here.

Hilton Honors (No AF)

Your strategy will start with applying for the No-Annual Fee AMEX Hilton Honors Card to collect it’s sign-up bonus. You may use the link below to get an increased 95,000 Hilton Honors offer compared to the 75,000 public offer on $1000 spend in the first 3 months.

Upon meeting the sign-up bonus for this card, you may proceed to apply for the next card. Mind you the Honors card is the only No-Annual Fee card and it plays an important role which I’ll circle back to in the future.

Hilton Honors Surpass

The next card on the list is the American Express Hilton Honors Surpass Card which has a $95 Annual Fee but a higher sign-up bonus. While the public offer is 125,000 Hilton Points, if you use the link below, you will receive a sign-up bonus of 140,000 Points. An additional benefit of the card is the automatic Gold Status as well as a free weekend award night (on spending $15,000 on the card in a calendar year).

Hilton Honors Aspire

The Aspire Card – as covered in this article is the highest tiered Hilton card offered by American Express with an annual fee of $450. However, the card’s credits ($600 every year), Airport Lounge access as well as automatic Diamond Status membership which enables you to (almost everytime) get free room upgrades (when available).

If you decide this is card, you also get a high sign-up offer of 150,000 Hilton Points using the link below.

Future Upgrades/Downgrades

After holding the Hilton Honors Card for a year, you’ll start receiving upgrade offers in your account. These bonuses will generally be to the card’s next level and a sign-up bonus with minimum spend will be offered. If you’re ready to, you can proceed to apply for the higher tier card AND upgrade the no-annual fee card. This has to be done together otherwise you will be unable to double-dip on sign-up bonuses.

Flow Chart

Today: Apply Hilton Honors

One Year from now: Upgrade to Ascend card and/or apply for Ascend

Year two: If you get upgrade offer on Ascend to Aspire, do so and then downgrade the other annual fee card(s) to no-annual fee Hilton Honors card.

The plan is to upgrade and downgrade cards so that you don’t end up paying too much in annual fees and also get the sign-up bonuses.

If you think downgrading is a hassle, you may consider calling American Express Retention ( Ph: 800.452.3945 ) and asking for a retention offer.

A retention offer may be them giving you partial statement credits to offset the annual fee or points. They may give you a condition to spend certain amount in a period of time or may not set any condition. It never hurts to ask for a retention offer a month before your next annual fee is about to hit.

Don’t cancel a card if they don’t give you an offer, just downgrade and sock-drawer it (keep it active, not pay a fee and let it keep adding to your credit history).


This is definitely not a “few months” strategy, it requires time, patience and planning to implement and execute but will work in your favor once you work it out.

The sign-up bonus earn potential alone is 95,000 + 2×140,000 + 2×150,000 = 675,000 Hilton Honors Points worth atleast $4100 in potential hotel stays or more.

You may find links to all the mentioned cards in this page alone. They help support and pay for the website which I run to help every reader maximize the value of their money!

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