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I currently have a Visa United Mileage Plus card, but I think I'd get a better deal with a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. What is the best way to switch and not impact my credit score?

By , CardRatings contributor
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Your tastes and habits change over time, and so should your credit card. However, it's common to worry about the impact on your credit report if you apply for a new account. Take advantage of your current issuer's customer service team and a little-known loophole in common credit score algorithms to hunt for a better rewards credit card.

In your case, both your current airline credit card and your desired rewards credit card come from the same lender: Chase. The bank's been aggressive about recruiting new customers for its rewards cards over the past few years. Television viewers have seen plenty of ads for both the Freedom and Sapphire brands, while frequent fliers can barely escape promotions on partner airlines that include British Airways and Southwest.

Opening a new credit card account will drop your credit score, but FICO officials say "not by much" and "not for long." The three factors that cause the most short-term disruption to your credit score:

  • The number of new credit lines opened in the last year
  • Too much available credit, or too many active credit lines
  • A "hard pull" on your credit report, meaning a full review of your credit at your request instead of a bank's

Here's where your existing relationship with Chase can really pay off. They may already have "pre-approved" you for your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card by combining a "soft pull" with the transaction history from your existing United MileagePlus Explorer Card card. The better your relationship with Chase, the more likely a representative there can help segue you to an alternate rewards credit card that will save you money.

Be forewarned, however, that closing your United MileagePlus account could have a bigger impact on your credit score than opening a new line of credit. If your airline credit card is one of the oldest accounts you maintain, it's holding your credit score up like a tent pole. On the other hand, if you have a few older relationships in your credit history, you're safe to swap one card for another with little penalty. After a few months of responsible use, your score should return to normal.

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