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Background: I recently graduated from college. I have had a student credit card (Visa) with Wells Fargo since 2008 and it is my only credit card. Obviously, I do not want the history of this card to go away since it is my oldest account.

Being a simple student credit card, it doesn't really offer the perks that I would like (such as cash back). For this reason, I would like to apply for a Cash-Back card with Wells Fargo and close the old one, essentially upgrading my credit card with them.

Question: Will my financial institution report the new credit card as a new account to FICO and wipe out the old account or will they simply attach the new credit card to the same account and continue to report the original start date? Do financial institutions generally handle it the same way or is it a case-by-case/bank-by-bank situation?

I do plan on going in and asking in person, but I want to educate myself beforehand.

Thanks!

EDIT: Added the conclusion

The Conclusion:

I ended up waiting for a while since I wasn't in any dire need to upgrade my card to a cash-back one. During the summer, Wells Fargo automatically upgraded my college student credit card to an unsecured, real, big-boy credit card with an increase of about $1800 to the credit limit.

A few months after that (last week) I decided to see if I could use their new-found trust in me to make the card do a little more for me, I went into the local branch and spoke with a service member and she informed me that when Wells Fargo upgrades a credit card, they maintain the same account (same number and everything) and simply change the account type.

I made sure to clarify that I was not interested in risking closing the account (should I be rejected for upgrade) in three or four different ways, and she explained that that would not be an issue. Right there, at her desk, she called to upgrade the credit card to a cash-back one. The person on the other end informed her that the promotion to do that had just ended. So, apparently they have windows of time where they upgrade credit cards to cash-back/rewards and I had just missed it.

However, I was informed that these promotions come and go and that she would keep an eye out for me and once the opportunity presents itself, she will call me and ask for permission to upgrade to a cash-back card and that should be the end of that.

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You'll really have to ask your bank about this specifically. An "upgrade" or "replacement card" would likely maintain the same open date and essentially show up as the same account, but applying for a new one and closing the old one would almost certainly be reported as a new account.

I would do this carefully, and only allow it to go through if it is obviously an "upgrade". If there are two separate transactions (open a new account and close the old one) then I would not close the old one.

That said, why not just open a new account with another credit card company or bank? That's absolutely risk-free!

  • 2
    ..And while you are shopping for new cards, stop by a credit union! – MrChrister May 10 '11 at 18:54
  • It sounds like you would be opening a new account and not upgrading the one you have. Consider leaving the old one open. You can always ask for your credit limit on the old card to be reduced. – Stainsor May 11 '11 at 2:58
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    (Check the updated question for what I ended up doing). Also, the reason I didn't want to try an account with another credit card company was my credit history was short and I didn't want to risk getting rejected as I had that happen a while back. However, recently, because of my credit limit increase (and credit score increase) I decided to apply for a Discover More Card (which is cash-back) and was just (today) approved for one with a CL nearly twice what my Wells Fargo one is, so I am pretty pumped. Thanks for the advice. – Yetti Sep 15 '11 at 20:11
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One of my longest-held and most frequently used accounts didn't have a rewards program associated with it. I simply called the customer service line up (or sent an email using their secure messaging system) and asked what it would take to switch to a rewards card, and they kept my same account number, didn't generate a new hard credit card inquiry, and kept the same (relatively low, by industry standards) interest rate, which was actually better than the standard rate for that rewards card. The open date on my credit history stayed the same in that case.

So try that first. If you apply for a new card, you'll generate a new hard credit inquiry, which in itself isn't bad, but may hurt you after three or so inquiries in a two year time span. That's unnecessary in most cases when you're planning to get another account from the same bank.

There's nothing wrong with having multiple credit card accounts, especially if most of them have relatively low or no balances. While some credit rating models rated people with lots of available credit as a higher risk than people with lower total available credit and high utilization, this doesn't seem to be common anymore. Unless your "old" account has an annual fee, don't bother closing it. (And get them to remove that annual fee if there is one, unless you're getting some sort of value out of it).

The history of your existing account won't go away, but eventually it will roll off your credit history if you close it, so your oldest account would end up being the one you're about to apply for. So unless you have an annual fee or awful terms that you can't negotiate out of, there's not much of a case for closing it.

  • +1 for the story of personal experience and the advice. – Yetti Sep 15 '11 at 19:45

protected by Chris W. Rea Jul 31 '17 at 3:34

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