What do you do when your credit card just doesn't meet your needs anymore? Perhaps you have an airline or hotel rewards program that isn't relevant anymore, you are paying annual fees that aren't worth the benefits you receive, or you now qualify for a card with a better interest rate.

If you are in need of a different card, Jordan Goodman, the personal finance expert and author known as "America's Money Answers Man", has two words of advice for you: "Shop around."

There are plenty of credit card offers to choose from – but before you decide to switch card providers, consider a product change with your current card issuer. Contact your card issuer's Customer Service department. Tell them why you plan to drop your existing card and what your goals are for a new card. They may have another card in their line that fits your needs and they may be willing to extend a good offer to retain you as a customer.

Staying with your current care company can provide several advantages, if your current card issuer is willing to accommodate you. A card issuer can simply shift the account to the new card without closing your old account and opening a new one. This prevents a small credit score drop, since a longer average age of active accounts factors positively into your credit score.

You can also maintain your credit card number, avoiding a series of changes to all of your automatic payment accounts. Your credit limit may be preserved. If your new card shares the same rewards program as the old one, you may be able to transfer existing rewards balances.

Each card issuer will handle the transition differently. Be prepared to negotiate for all the perks that you want to retain, and be clear on the terms of the new card offering. Keep in mind that a "downgrade" – for example, switching from an annual fee card to a card with no annual fee but fewer corresponding benefits – will be easier than a lateral move (for example, trading a travel rewards card for a cash-back card) or an upgrade to a superior card.

There are two primary disadvantages to a product change – the loss of sign-up bonus opportunities and accrued rewards, along with the need for a full credit check (otherwise known as a "hard pull") that will temporarily drop your credit score.

If you are going to change cards, the hard pull really isn't an issue because any new card issuer will pull the same full credit check. With a good history on your card, you may be able to convince your current card issuer to waive the hard pull because you have demonstrated responsible behavior and low risk. In addition, the positive effect of maintaining your account history may partially offset any drop from a hard pull.

Rewards may be retained if you are changing to a card with similar programs. However, the bonuses are another story. Your current card issuer is unlikely to offer you the sign-up bonuses designed to bring in new customers (but there's certainly no harm in asking). You will have to do your own evaluations on whether some other card issuer's signing bonus and perks outweigh the benefits of staying with your current issuer's offering.

When you are ready to switch credit cards, give your existing card issuer a chance to make a good offer – but if they can't match offers that are available elsewhere and their product change advantages are not as important to you, make the move. The key is to review the options and negotiate to find the card that works best for you, whether it's with your existing card issuer or a new one.

If you want more credit, check out our list of credit card offers.


Photo ©iStockphoto.com/martin-dm

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