In this article, we’ll look at the technique of “product switching”, which allows you to earn welcome bonuses on credit cards 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?
- 1. RBC
- 2. TD
- 3. CIBC
- 4. MBNA
- 5. American Express
- 6. BMO / Scotiabank
What Is Product Switching?
Most of the time, getting a new credit card involves submitting a brand-new application for the credit card, which typically results in a “hard inquiry” on your credit file.
However, 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.
In general, product switches are useful for two primary reasons:
- If a credit card’s annual fee is coming up and you don’t feel justified in paying it, product-switching to a no-fee card (otherwise known as “downgrading” a card) allows you to extend your average age of accounts (AAoA) on your credit file and continue to post strong payment history and utilization, rather than cancelling the card and no longer benefiting from the positive credit impact from using your card responsibly.
If you’d like to try to get a card’s welcome bonus again after having waited the required amount of time after you last got it, product-switching can help you earn the welcome bonuses without incurring new credit hits and adversely impacting the “new credit inquiries” criterion of your credit score.
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 avoid 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 policies on product switches, to help you maximize your gains.
Keep in mind that this information is gathered from anecdotal evidence (“data points”) from my and others’ experiences. If your experiences vary from those detailed here, as always please do share in the comments.
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:
RBC welcome bonuses are most reliably earned when switching between cards that aren’t part of the same family. For example, if you were to product-switch among the RBC Avion family of cards (i.e., the Visa Infinite, Visa Platinum, and Visa Infinite Privilege), you likely wouldn’t be eligible for the welcome bonus.
If you were to instead switch from one of the Avion cards to a co-branded RBC card – say, the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard, your odds of receiving the bonus would be higher.
However, keep in mind that the welcome bonus you earn when product-switching is usually the “standard” welcome bonus, rather than any limited-time elevated welcome bonuses that RBC is running.
For example, even though the trio of Avion cards have bumped up their welcome bonuses to 35,000 Avion points for much of 2021 and 2022, those higher bonuses are for new applications only.
Instead, switching to the Avion cards would only result in the historically standard welcome bonus of 15,000 Avion points – though it can still be a worthwhile move, if you’d rather conserve credit inquiries but would still like to earn some Avion points.
A similar principle applies to the WestJet RBC World Elite: the card often puts on promotions of 350 or 450 WestJet Dollars as a welcome bonus, but switching to the card typically only results in earning the historically standard 250 WestJet Dollars.
Additionally, there have been some data points of RBC offering pro-rated annual fee refunds as well, which means that you’ll only pay a portion of the card’s annual fee depending on how long you’ve held it. This can be useful if you’re interested in minimizing your fee outlay as you maximize your credit card bonuses.
|Credit Card||Best Offer||Value|
|55,000 RBC Rewards points||$1,080||Apply Now|
|55,000 RBC Rewards points||$1,080||Apply Now|
|50,000 Avios||$899||Apply Now|
|55,000 RBC Rewards points||$826||Apply Now|
|40,000 Asia Miles||$632||Apply Now|
|450 WestJet Dollars||$417||Apply Now|
TD is well known for allowing cardholders to earn welcome bonuses when switching between products. Product-switching requests must be initiated over the phone.
In fact, the terms and conditions on the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite contain the following:
If you have opened an Account in the last 12 months, you will not be eligible for this offer.
Meanwhile, the terms and conditions on the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite contain the following:
This offer is not available customers who have activated and/or closed a TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Account in the last 6 months.
TD generally follows these rules to a tee, and awards the welcome bonus to eligible cardholders who switch between the Aeroplan, TD Rewards, and Cash Back families of credit cards.
Like in RBC’s case, switching cards within the same family (say, from the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite to the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege) is less likely to result in earning the full welcome bonus.
Furthermore, the TD All-Inclusive Banking Plan 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 a reliable flow of Aeroplan and TD Rewards points on a regular basis.
If you find it too complicated to constantly switch cards between families, you also have the option of simply downgrading your Aeroplan or TD Rewards cards to a no-fee TD Visa card in a different family (such as the TD Rewards Visa Card or TD Cash Back Visa Card), and then upgrade back to the premium card sometime later once you’re eligible for the bonus again.
|Credit Card||Best Offer||Value|
|115,000 Aeroplan points||$1,278||Apply Now|
|Up to 55,000 Aeroplan points||$945||Apply Now|
|135,000 TD Rewards points||$825||Apply Now|
|20,000 Aeroplan points||$441||Apply Now|
|$290 cash back||$290||Apply Now|
|50,000 TD Rewards points||$258||Apply Now|
CIBC allows product switches, and also allows you to earn welcome bonuses on switching. However, the specific welcome bonuses that you earn are often different from the publicly available welcome bonus upon submitting a new application.
Indeed, CIBC seems to rotate through various “global migration offers” on a quarterly basis, which are non-public offers for upgrading cards within or between card families.
Only CIBC’s phone representatives can access these offers and help you process them when initiating a product switch.
For example, in February 2021, I elected to upgrade my CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite to a CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege. Upon calling in, I was informed that I could earn a welcome bonus of 45,000 Aeroplan points if I wanted to upgrade:
- 25,000 Aeroplan points upon first purchase
- 20,000 Aeroplan points upon spending $3,000 in the first four months
This upgrade offer was markedly different from the publicly available welcome bonus on the Visa Infinite Privilege card at the time. 45,000 Aeroplan points for no additional credit inquiry was a pretty awesome deal indeed!
Similar offers are usually available on the Aventura family of cards as well, so it always pays off to give CIBC a call and see whether there are any migration offers available if you’re trying to decide what to do with your CIBC cards.
As you might expect, you’ll mostly encounter these offers when considering whether to upgrade a card to a higher tier, and not when downgrading a card to a lower tier.
Still, downgrading your older CIBC cards can help to increase the age of your credit file and set yourself up for future upgrade opportunities.
Let’s say that you’ve applied for a CIBC Aventura Visa Card for Business and earned the signup bonus on that one. Six months in, you could downgrade it to something like the no-fee 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.
One more thing about CIBC: in my experience, 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 – so it never hurts to ask!
|Credit Card||Best Offer||Value|
|45,000 Aeroplan points||$920||Apply Now|
|90,000 Aeroplan points||$676||Apply Now|
|40,000 CIBC Aventura points||$513||Apply Now|
|Up to 80,000 CIBC Aventura points||$373||Apply Now|
MBNA allows you to downgrade from a higher-tier credit card, such as the Alaska or Best Western cards, to one of their basic no-fee cards.
Note that you were allowed to freely downgrade cards in the past, but now, you need to be targeted for a downgrade offer, which only shows up from time to time, for this to work.
If you’re able to downgrade to a no-fee card, then you can combine this 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 for a winning formula.
You’d be able to downgrade your Alaska cards to no-fee MBNA cards like the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard, and then keep that credit limit handy in case you need to split your credit limits to get another Alaska Airlines Mastercard account approved in the future.
This is an unconventional use of the product-switching technique, but it does allow you to earn further MBNA Alaska welcome bonuses at an effective pace.
5. 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.
The only situation in which American Express allows product switches is that they will occasionally tempt cardmembers with upgrade offers – say, from the American Express Gold Rewards Card to the American Express Platinum Card.
These offers are usually accompanied with some amount of Membership Rewards points as an upgrade bonus, although the offers generally pale in comparison to the full signup bonuses you’d receive by applying for the card directly.
And since American Express operates with a “once-in-a-lifetime” policy on welcome bonuses, it’s rarely a good idea to take on a suboptimal upgrade offer compared to going for the full welcome bonus on a new application.
It’s worth noting that while product-switching doesn’t play a major role with American Express in Canada, the possibility of maximizing upgrades and downgrades is more prominent with Amex US south of the border.
And since Amex Canada has historically tended to follow in the footsteps of its American big brother, I wouldn’t be surprised to see American Express introducing some more meaningful upgrade and downgrade opportunities in Canada in the future.
6. BMO / Scotiabank
Unfortunately, neither BMO nor Scotiabank allow cardholders to obtain welcome bonuses on product switches in the meaningful sense.
These issuers may allow you to downgrade existing cards to no-fee cards in order to preserve the credit history, but any welcome bonuses would need to be obtained through a new credit application.
However, BMO and Scotiabank tend to have the weakest bonuses out of the Big 5 banks anyway, so there’s not much value being lost here.
Once you’ve delved deep into the world of maximizing credit card signup bonuses, you begin to look for more shrewd ways to maximize your points earnings while minimizing your costs in the form of annual fees and credit inquiries.
In that respect, product switching is a key tool in the arsenal of anyone who’s looking to travel on points while keeping their credit file in tip-top shape.
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!