All About Product Switching [2019] Ricky September 30, 2019

All About Product Switching [2019]

I originally wrote this article back in February 2018. Here’s an update for 2019 with some new guidance based on recent data points.

In this article, we’ll look at the technique of “product switching”, which allows you to earn multiple signup bonuses with one financial institution without incurring additional credit checks, and also helps to improve your credit score and keep it in good health.

In This Post

What Is Product Switching?

Whenever you put in an application for a new credit card, the lender pulls your credit file and assesses your creditworthiness. That’s known as a “hard pull”, and too many of these inquiries can affect your credit score in the short term, hampering your ability to open even more cards and obtain even more welcome bonuses.

On the other hand, with certain financial institutions, if you already hold a credit card product you’re allowed to “switch” to another product without getting another credit check done. After all, the financial institution isn’t issuing you additional credit – you’re simply transferring your existing credit limit to a different credit card product.

Typically, product switching can only be done over the phone, since applying for a card online would constitute a new credit application (although as you’ll see below, there’s one important exception to this). Customer service representatives of banks that allow product switches are all familiar with the practice and can quite easily help you get it done.

The exact details and procedures vary from bank to bank, but in general, product switches are useful for two reasons:

  1. They allow you to obtain signup bonuses without incurring a credit hit

  2. They allow you to continue extending your average age of accounts (AAoA) on your credit file, since you will be switching away from an existing account rather than closing it

Essentially, a product switch replaces one of your existing credit cards with another, but on your credit file it’s as though nothing happened. Your existing tradeline continues to build up history and contribute to the robustness of your overall credit file, and you get to sidestep the (albeit very minor) credit impact of closing an account and opening up a new one, while in some cases earning a hefty signup bonus as well.

Let’s take a look at the major financial institutions that issue points-earning credit cards and their positions on product switches, to help you maximize your gains. Keep in mind that this information is gathered from anecdotal evidence (“data points”) as well as my own experiences. If your experiences vary from those detailed here, as always please do share in the comments. 

RBC

RBC is probably the most friendly bank among the Big 5 banks of Canada when it comes to product switches, as they make it easy to switch your card online and they are known to award the signup bonuses on product switches as well.

You can freely switch between some decent cards, such as the RBC Avion Visa Infinite, the RBC British Airways Visa Infinite, the RBC WestJet World Elite MasterCard, and the RBC Cathay Pacific Visa Platinum, earning the publicly available signup bonus each time. In fact, I was even encouraged by an RBC banking representative to do exactly this.

You can initiate a product switch easily on your RBC account dashboard via the “Switch a Credit Card” link on the right-hand side.

 

Then you simply select your existing card and then the card you’d like to switch to, and you’re on your way:

The problem is that RBC credit cards don’t consistently offer first-year fee waivers, so unless you want to pay annual fees for your points, you’ll have to get a little creative in your thinking. The first way to get your annual fee waived is via the well-documented “Visa Infinite competitor promotion”. Basically, if you hold an RBC Visa Infinite product and you ring them up and tell them you have another Visa Infinite from a competing bank, chances are they’ll be willing to waive your annual fee right then and there.

You could also try opening an RBC VIP Banking account, which waives the annual fee on one premium travel credit card. This account costs $30/month, but what you can do is open the bank account, use it to waive your credit card fee, and then close the bank account within 1–2 months. This makes your net outlay in the region of $30-60, rather than $120 or more. 

Finally, there have been some data points of RBC offering pro-rated annual fee refunds as well, which can help you offset the annual fee if you were to cancel or switch a card less than one year after obtaining it.

TD

TD is well known for allowing product switches rather generously. In fact, the terms and conditions on their premium travel credit cards, the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite and the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite, contain the following verbiage:

If you have opened an Account in the last 6 months, you will not be eligible for these offers.

In the past, TD pretty much followed this rule to a tee, and allowed people to earn signup bonuses on every new application or product switch if it’s been at least six months since their most recent signup bonus.

However, there have been a few recent data points that TD’s getting a little upset at people pushing the envelope on the six-month rule, and the product-switchers haven’t been receiving the signup bonus as a result. I’d therefore recommend extending the timeline a bit – let’s say 9–12 months between product switches – to be on the safe side.

(Note that, unlike submitting a new credit application, there’s no real harm done when you initiate a product switch and don’t receive the bonus – you’ll just have to wait until next time and hope that your account hasn’t been “flagged” to never receive a product switch signup bonus again.)

Furthermore, the TD All-Inclusive Banking Account comes with a fee waiver on one premium credit card. If you have $5,000 to park in this account (thus waiving the monthly chequing fees), you can successfully flip-flop between the two products without paying any annual fees at all.

This is as close to free as it’s gonna get – no annual fees, no credit checks, just (at least) 15,000 Aeroplan points and 20,000 TD points flowing into your account on a regular basis.

You’ll also want to think about how to use up your TD Rewards points before switching from the First Class Travel to the Aeroplan card. There’s been data points that unused TD Rewards points simply get converted to Aeroplan miles at a 4:1 ratio, which may or may not be their optimal usage.

If you find this strategy too aggressive, you can also downgrade your Aeroplan or First Class Travel card to a TD Green Visa (which has no annual fee), and then upgrade back to the premium card sometime later once you’re eligible for the bonus again.

Note that unless you have the TD All-Inclusive Banking Account to waive annual fees, typically TD doesn’t allow you to enjoy first-year fee waivers on product switches, even if it’s part of the current public offer. For example, even though the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite currently offers a first-year fee waiver, but if you try to switch to it, chances are that you won’t be given the fee waiver (there are few isolated incidences of success, so ultimately your mileage my vary).

CIBC

CIBC allows product switches, but we’ve heard mixed reports as to whether they award the signup bonuses when you’re switching between cards. Some reports indicate that the bonuses can only be awarded on brand-new applications, while others have reported being able to easily switch to a new card and receive the publicly available offer at the same time (including first-year fee waivers!)

It seems very much dependent on the agent who’s helping you over the phone and how they process the product switch in their system.

 

In any case, since product switches are always allowed, one surefire way to improve your credit score is to downgrade your oldest CIBC cards to no-fee cards that will help increase the age of your credit file.

Say you’ve applied for a CIBC Aventura Visa Card for Business and earned the signup bonus on that one. Six months in, downgrade it to something like the CIBC Dividend Visa, and keep it around. You can later try your luck at upgrading the card to another points-earning card and getting a signup bonus there as well.

(In fact, my assistant Rachel recently downgraded her Aventura Visa Infinite to the no-fee Aventura Card, and then upgrade it back to the Aventura Visa Infinite six months later, and was successful in getting the public signup bonus on the upgrade of 15,000 Aventura points + $120 travel credit, thus effectively offsetting the $120 annual fee, all for no additional credit hits.)

Another thing I wanted to say about CIBC is that they’re by far the most lenient bank when it comes to receiving annual fee waivers just by asking nicely. On multiple occasions when I’ve called in to cancel a card, I’ve been offered my next year free just for keeping the account open. Even if you’re submitting a brand-new application on a card with an annual fee, it doesn’t hurt to try asking if they’ll waive the fee for you on the spot!

MBNA

The issuing bank behind the Alaska Mileage Plan and Best Western Rewards MasterCards has a peculiar set of rules when it comes to product switching. It would be truly fantastic if we could freely switch between the above MBNA cards and nab the signup bonus each time, but alas that’s not the case.

However, MBNA does allow you to downgrade from a premium credit card, such as the Alaska or BW Rewards cards, to one of their basic no-fee cards. (Upgrading is also theoretically possible but almost certainly won’t come with a second welcome bonus.)

Combine that with MBNA’s unique policy of allowing you to “split off” existing credit limits to create a new tradeline when you’re originally declined for a credit card application, and you have a winning formula. You can downgrade your Alaska cards to no-fee cards after three months or so, and then keep that credit limit handy in case you need to split your credit limits to get your next Alaska account approved.

You can find more details about this strategy in this post on MBNA Alaska credit card strategies. This is an unconventional use of the product-switching technique, but it does allow you to power through those MBNA Alaska bonuses faster than the traditional six-month cycle.

American Express

American Express doesn’t allow product switches in the meaningful sense – each new card has to be accompanied by a new credit application. Just imagine how lucrative it’d be if you could switch from the Business Gold to the Platinum to the Business Platinum and back, all without incurring any credit hits.

The flipside to this is that although American Express takes a hardline stance on product switches, they remain the only issuer to offer a meaningful referral program. For example, consider the Business Platinum and the Business Gold – it wouldn’t be beneficial at all to product-switch between the two even if you could obtain the signup bonus, since you’d be much better off submitting a new application and getting the referral bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points on the Business Platinum.

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The only situation in which American Express allows product switches is that they will occasionally tempt cardmembers with upgrade offers, say from the Gold Rewards Card to the Platinum Card. These offers are usually accompanied with small MR points bonuses, although my experiences indicate that the offers pale in comparison to the full signup bonuses you’d receive with a new application, so it’s rarely a good idea to take them up.

BMO / Scotiabank

As far as I’m aware, neither BMO nor Scotiabank allow cardholders to obtain signup bonuses on product switches in the meaningful sense. They may allow you to downgrade existing cards to no-fee cards in order to preserve the credit history, but any repeat signup bonuses will need to be obtained through a new credit application.

These two issuers tend to have the weakest bonuses out of the Big 5 banks, though, so there’s not much value being lost there.

Conclusion

Once you’ve delved deep into the world of cycling through credit card signup bonuses, you begin to look for more advanced ways to maximize your earnings while minimizing your costs (in the form of annual fees and credit inquiries).

Product switching is a key tool in the arsenal of anyone who’s looking to travel on points, particularly if you’re serious about keeping your credit file in tip-top shape while doing so. In general, you’ll have the most success with RBC, TD, and CIBC, so pick up the phone (or log in to your RBC dashboard) and set those switcheroos in motion!

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Signup bonus
15,000 RBC Avion points
Annual fee
$120
59 Comments
  1. Avatar
    susan

    Hi Ricky, Thank for a great article. I have had my RBC visa infinite for 19 years ! yep. Gonna product switch finally, as far as you know, if I switch to Westjet mastercard, do I keep my history, even though its a Visa to a mastercard ? The rep on phone was a little confused I think, lol.

    thanks for your help ! , Susan

  2. Avatar
    Andy

    兄弟,文章写的真好,清楚明白。一个问题是换卡的时候是不是要把之前的点数都用掉?Aeroplan肯定不需要,但是各个银行自己的点数在换产品的时候会清零吧。

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Aeroplan, WestJet 等产品不需要用掉,但是各家银行的点数需要先转换到航空公司或者先申请另外一张同样的产品,再换。

  3. Avatar
    Tommy

    Very informative post Ricky. I was wondering if I switch from my RBC WJ to RBC BA, do I only get sign up bonus or do I also get the minimum spending requirement bonus?

    1. Avatar
      Khaled

      Same question here , will be very interesting DP to share. Thanks

  4. Avatar
    julien

    Hello!
    Just got off the phone with CIBC to product switch my Aerogold Visa Business into … well anything, really. I was told they can’t switch from a business card to any other kind of card (bus or personal – zilch), and that this rule is relatively new. Will try in-branch to see if anything can be done and report back.

  5. Avatar
    Kevin

    Hi Ricky or Andrew,

    I tried calling in RBC to do a product switch from my RBC Visa Platinum to Visa Infinite, and the CSR mentioned that I am not eligible to receive the sign-up bonus (as it’s only for new applicants). I’ve mentioned that I had the platinum since 2015, but they wouldn’t budge. Do you have any tips/ suggestions on what I should do? Should I just attempt the online product switch regardless?

  6. Avatar
    Johnny

    I was able to product switch my RBC Low Rate Visa to the Visa Infinite Avion over the phone. I had to call twice in order to get them to waive the first year annual fee.

    I was told both times that the fee waive was only applicable to new signups. I mentioned having a Visa Infinite from TD (complete lie) and that they were able to waive the fee for me upon signing up. First rep did not budge at all so I hung up and called in again. Spoke to the second rep and she gladly waived the fee. The only thing she couldn’t do is honour the bonus 5000 reward points after spending $1000 within 3 months. I did get the 15,000 points for switching though.

    All in all, very simple process and I recommend doing this over the phone prior to switching your card. If switching online, you may have less leverage in getting your annual fee waived since you’ve already committed to switching over.

  7. Avatar
    Carlo

    Hi Ricky, question on PS’ing with RBC. For example switching from the Avion VI, when I look at the points from their site they are called RBC Rewards points, and is called exactly the same as the points from my RBC Signature Rewards Visa. If I want to preserve the points from Avion, would switching to the Signature Rewards Visa card work?

  8. Avatar
    Steve

    I tried to product switch from a TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite to a TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite at the end of August. I was told over the phone that I would not receive the advertised sign-up bonus, but a reduced bonus. I had the Aeroplan card for at least two years, and had previously switched from the First Class Travel Visa Infinite at that time. New policies at TD?

  9. Avatar
    Francis

    I try to switch to RBC avion from RBC westjet to get the current offer annual fee waive and 15 000 points+5000 points. The representative said he was not even able to give the regular 15 000 point on product switch and that I needed to wait for an offer in the tap "offer for you" in my online banking account to even get the ongoing welcome bonus. I try to argue but no luck. I was expecting that they will a least offer the 15 000 welcome bonus point easily.

  10. Avatar
    wiffle

    How long should you wait before product switching back to a premium product? i.e. if I product switched down to the no-fee alternative in January, am I safe to try and go back up to a more premium product now?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Should be fine to give it a go. As a general rule of thumb, six months is a safe holding period before "making moves" of any kind.

  11. Avatar
    Mendy Igel

    If I will downgrade a TD Aeroplan infinite card to an Aeroplan platinum will I get the 15,000 bonus?

    1. Avatar
      Jacob

      Wondering the same thing!
      Did you end up getting it?

  12. Avatar
    Jeffrey Pedersen

    A few weeks ago, I product switched from a TD Aeroplan Infinite card, which I’ve had for many years, to the Infinite Privilege, assuming I’d get the 50K welcome bonus. Here in Quebec, that’s 25K on first use, the remaining 25K in 3 months (no minimum spend). Just checked my Aeroplan account, and the Welcome Bonus is only 10K, not 25K. I assume that I’m being hosed because going from Infinite to Privilege is not considered a new card?

  13. Avatar
    Pascale

    Ricky (or Andrew): You wrote: "Basically, if you hold an RBC Visa Infinite product and you ring them up and tell them you have another Visa Infinite from a competing bank, chances are they’ll be willing to waive your annual fee."

    I don’t understand what you mean. Let’s say I have a RBC Visa B.A. that I like to switch to Visa Infinite Platinum. I call RBC and tell them that I have a TD Visa Infinite card? Why would they waive the fee?

    1. Avatar
      Andrew

      Sure, I’d be happy to clarify that. Based on my experience and what I’ve read, this makes more sense for new applications or a first time upgrade not when doing a product switch from a card that had an annual fee.

      As an example, if I applied for the RBC Avion Visa Infinite card through the public offer and had to pay the annual fee, there’s a chance I could get the annual fee waived by calling in after receiving it and mentioning my competing premium card. (Obviously this isn’t a great example since RBC has been having the FYF promotion on the Avion through certain links).

      I personally used this when upgrading my basic RBC Visa to the Avion Visa Infinite and was asked to pay the annual fee. I mentioned I had other premium cards and the rep was willing to process a fee waiver for me.

      Hope that clarifies things for you!

    2. Avatar
      Alex

      Hi,

      I will add my 2 cents if you dont mind. I am usually able to get the fee waived on my RBC Avion Visa card ($120) 2/3 or 3/4 years. When I go on big trips it is usually around the time my visa fee is due and what I do is sign up for the VIP banking package for a month or 2 and that pays for my RBC avion card.

      The other times when I dont have that option but have a competing visa premium card I just call them up and ask for it. From experience this works only about 1 out of 3. I have not been able to get it more frequently than that or know of anyone that has.

      The last option that I use to get the fee waived is to downgrade or being prepared to cancel all together.

      The last time I paid my annual fee on RBC Avion Visa Infinite card was just under 4 years ago.

  14. Avatar
    Terry

    I’ve had the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite since Feb 2019, and interested in First Class Travel Visa Infinite.
    I will rule out product switching for now as $120 AF will likely not be waived.

    If I submit a new application for TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite, will I risk not receiving the signup bonus?

    1. Avatar
      Andrew

      Hi Terry,

      Good questions, let’s take a look at the offer fine print to see if you’d be eligible. Link to the Card Details: https://www.td.com/ca/en/personal-banking/products/credit-cards/travel-rewards/first-class-travel-visa-infinite-card/

      We see in footnote 1 in the second sentence that TD defines "Account" as the "TD First Class Travel Visa Account". Reading to the 4rd sentence it notes that "If you have opened an Account in the last 6 months, you will not be eligible for this offer". Combining the definition with the T&Cs, you should be able to determine your eligibility. Hopefully that helps!

      1. Avatar
        Alex

        Hmm….so taking Terry’s situation (which is very similar to mine), having opened a TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite in Feb 2019 and doing a product switch or new application prior to June 2, 2019 to take advantage of the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite card would mean that you would not be eligible for the sign up promotion.
        That is too bad

        1. Avatar
          Andrew

          Hi Alex,

          Product switching can be a different game since financial institutions normally have their own rules regarding switching.

          Beyond that, I’d reread the definition and rules I’ve posted above since it sounds like you’d be eligible for the offer.

  15. Avatar
    DMoon

    Hi Ricky, do you by any chance have any recent DP regarding TD product switch when you already had the card before? I had the FCT first, product switched to the Aeroplan Visa Infinite on March. I want to switch it to FCT when next round of promos come (need the Aeroplan card till my trip in August). Wondering if I’d still be eligible for the promo WB or if I’ll be shafted now due to changes in their policy with Product Switches.

    1. Avatar
      Andrew

      Hello DMoon,

      TD is a bit of a mixed bag based on what I’ve seen, but one key point is the wording in the offer. You’re not eligible for the welcome bonus if you received the bonus on that card within the last 6 months. If you got the TD First Class Travel card before February (assuming you switch in August and TD doesn’t change their wording) then there’s a chance you’ll get the bonus. When you call in to do the switch, I’d go by what the rep says.

  16. Avatar
    Denbigh Patton

    Sorry, Ricky, your claim that RBC awards the publicly available Welcome Bonus is no longer accurate. I called in, before switching, and was told you’re right; I should expect the standard 15,000. Later when it wasn’t posted, I called in and was told that the earlier info was wrong. After a harangue, I was forced to endure the "special favour, just this once, but in future you won’t get it" lecture, followed by a "goodwill" post of 15,000 RBC points. Goodwill?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      I wouldn’t say your experience was the norm; as far as I’m aware, RBC remains pretty generous with product switches as of now and most of the bonuses are being awarded automatically.

    2. Avatar
      yyzbarista

      You made a mistake calling in. Now you will never receive a bonus on a product switch. That’s how I manage to switch all 3 of my cards every 6 months (I cycle WJ/Avion/BA). I stay under the radar but your time is done unfortunately. Maybe try CIBC next?

      1. Avatar
        Khaled

        Hi, when you switch to RBC BA Infinite , do you receive the 25000 avios for spending $5k or just the initial 15k only? I have a 5000$ spending that can be only paid by visa or interac . I am willing to pay the Annual fee if I can get the spending bonus ! And I don’t want a new credit hit now.

  17. Avatar
    Travis Lo

    Just to clarify, I just signed up for the TD Aeroplan two weeks ago. Does this mean if I sign up for the TD First Class I won’t be eligible to get any of the TD Expedia points (separate application)?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      You should be eligible – I believe the TD six-month restriction is talking about bonuses on the same product.

  18. Avatar
    Felix

    Is there any advantage to always hold a no-fee card of each credit issuer (AMEX, TD, etc) just for the purpose of having a presence / account at that issuer – or to build credit history?

  19. Avatar
    Felix

    BMO Product Switch?

  20. Avatar
    Claire

    For TD- do you every experience resistance from customer service agents? Surely they must think "why on earth would a customer who has held this card for 6 years with the all inclusive account (aka no annual fee) want to switch cards"?

    Also- any data points on holding two of the exact same TD cards? Would I be able to apply for a second TD Aeroplan Visa Infiniate while still holding my current one?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Rarely encountered any resistance. I’m sure you’ll have a compelling reason on hand on the off-chance you do, though.

      I was able to hold two TD Aeroplans at once, but this was a few years ago. As long as there’s six months in-between applications, you should be entitled to the bonuses.

  21. Avatar
    Philippe

    Hi Ricky,

    When you switch product with CIBC and have Aventura points left on the card, will the signup bonus add up with your current point balance, or will you lose your point balance?

    Thanks

  22. Avatar
    [object Object]

    Hi Ricky,

    Do you know how often you can try the RBC switch? I had the infinite Avion and switched it the the British Airways card about a month ago and it was easy to do plus they provided a prorated refund of my Avion fees. The purchases I already had on the Avion card switched over the the BA card and I received the BA points for those. I also have the RBC world elite and was wanting to switch that to the Avion platinum right away but I wonder if that’s too soon or if it would matter, as I hold two of their cards and I have t had the platinum before? I wish I knew about this before when the infinite Avion was free and 25k
    
    1. Avatar
      sleepyhead1965

      It matters very much. Always wait 6 months, now maybe wait 9-12 months. PS after 1 month will be an instant ban.

  23. Avatar
    Talis

    I’ve been trying for months to get MBNA to switch my Alaska MasterCard and so far I haven’t been able to get them to do it. Their last excuse was that whatever part of their computer system that facilitates switching cards was down/broken and had been for many weeks, and they had no ETA of when it was going to be back up. I’d love to hear if anyone has managed to do it recently.

  24. Avatar
    FeD

    Hey Ricky,

    If I get the TD First Class visa now, and a bonus offer for TD Aeroplan Visa comes out but in less than 6 months from now, will I be disqualified from the Aeroplan bonus signup because I received a signup offer for TD First Class < 6 months apart? Or does the rule only apply to same card types?

  25. Avatar
    Harley

    Hey Ricky thanks for the helpful info. I thought I would share my experience – I have the mbna Alaska card and I called to downgrade it to the no fee card but was told this was ‘not available right now’ which I found odd. I will try again later to talk to a different agent but I’d be interested to hear if anyone has had the same thing happen to them

    1. Avatar
      Harley

      for what it’s worth I thought I would provide an update into my situation. I talked to them again and they said that the account was too new (I opened it in the last 3 months) to be able to switch to a different product. So that would be a barrier to say switching the Alaska Airlines card to a no fee card and then re-applying for the Alaska Airlines card a few months later.

  26. Avatar
    Gwen

    When u say u cant ‘switch’ American Express cards I just switched my personal Gold to Platinum without a new application or hard check AND received the sign up bonus. They called it ‘an upgrade". I also had a US Delta Gold and did the same thing to a Delta Platinum and recieved the signup bonus. It’s switching different???

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Good point, I overlooked the fact that Amex routinely allows you to "upgrade" cards, say from Gold to Platinum. I’ll add this info to the article now. However, I don’t believe they allow you to downgrade cards, or to switch to a card in a different family in order to preserve the account without paying the fee (say if you were to switch your Platinum to a SimplyCash card).

      Also, did you get the full 60,000 MR signup bonus on the Platinum? That’s a new data point, if true. In the past, I was always offered reduced bonuses of (say) 20,000 MR along with a Gold -> Platinum upgrade.

  27. Avatar
    Anna

    How about applying for a 2nd TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite and keeping the 1st card too (not product switching) … is this even possible? And if permitted, Ricky, I am guessing TD would not waive the annual fee for the 2nd card. It would be great to take advantage of the fee waiver + 50,000 sign up bonus prior to March 1st, and if cancelling the 2nd card after one year, transferring the points 1:1 🙂

    1. Avatar