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So you just received notice that your credit card account is changing issuers. Don’t be alarmed. It’s quite normal.
Back in 2016, 11 million Costco cardholders were switched from American Express to the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi.* And in 2019, Walmart switched its credit card issuer partners from Synchrony Bank to Capital One.
Credit card companies have the right to change the issuer your account is under. You may receive a letter in the mail with a new credit card, a new logo, a different set of numbers and possibly a new credit limit. Don’t stress; it can be a smooth transition if you’re prepared.
“Don’t panic. It’s a fairly benign process,” says John Ulzheimer, a credit expert who previously worked for FICO and Equifax.
Moving your account to a new card issuer shouldn’t be a big hassle, but there are still some steps you can take to make sure the process goes smoothly.
What Is a Credit Card Issuer?
Before we get into what to do when a credit card issuer is changing, let’s look at issuers in general.
Credit card issuers are the financial institutions that extend credit to the consumer and pay merchants for charges made on that line of credit. They’re often banks, like Chase or Citi.
Your card may also have a Visa or Mastercard logo, but those companies aren’t issuers. Instead, they’re credit card networks, which coordinate transactions between issuers and merchants. Two companies fall under both categories, acting as issuer and network: American Express and Discover.
Here are some examples of credit card issuers in the U.S.:
Can Your Credit Card Change Issuers?
A credit card issuer change won’t come out of the blue if it will affect you in any meaningful way. Issuers are required to give you 45 days’ notice before your terms change in any way — including increased fees, interest rates, or minimum payments.
If you’re facing a credit card issuer change, review the terms under the new issuer. If they’re not big ones, it makes sense to stick with the new card issuer. In most cases, the change shouldn’t have a notable negative impact on your credit score.
“If the sale involves amending the terms of a cardholder agreement, advance notification of the change is required by federal law under the CARD Act of 2009,” says Bruce McClary, Senior Vice President of Communications at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC).
Fortunately, changing terms isn’t the norm, according to experts. Your rewards might be calculated differently in some cases, but that’s rare, since issuers know there’s so much competition out there. “If they make too many changes, you could flee to a competitor,” says Howard Dvorkin, CPA and chairman of Debt.com, a finance outlet.
In most cases, a credit card issuer change shouldn’t mean too much for you. Often, the new issuer will keep the terms the same and work hard to make the transition seamless for you in an effort to keep you as a customer.
“It’s happened to me many times, and several of those notices explicitly assured me nothing would change,” says Dvorkin. “My credit score never dropped for long enough for me to even notice it, and besides the aggravation of a new account number, the only change was having a shiny, new card in my wallet.”
What to Do If Your Issuer Changes
Generally, you won’t need to do much. But there are a few things you should keep your eye on during the transition to your card’s new issuer.
Once you receive the letter notifying you of the upcoming credit card issuer change, you should have some information about what the change will entail. While you wait for your new card to arrive in the mail, there are a few things you can do to ensure the process goes smoothly.
- Monitor your credit report. Your credit score shouldn’t take a hit because of your card issuer changing. “Credit scoring systems do not consider the changing of networks or issuers in the calculation of a score, but it’s a good idea to monitor your credit report closely to ensure that there are no reporting errors related to the account change,” Ulzheimer says. “Things such as incorrect account history data or delays in reporting may cause a dip in your credit score — but can be disputed.”
- Update any accounts you autopay using your card. If your issuer change means you’ll get a new credit card number (which it usually does), make sure to update that info in any accounts you have on autopay. “Failing to take this step could lead to missed payments and other, more serious consequences,” McClary says. In fact, missed payments can have a much more serious negative impact on your credit score than any issuer change itself.
- Set up your online account with the new issuer. Make sure you set up your online account with your new issuer and connect your bank account to ensure you pay on time when your bill is due. Also take note of any new due dates.
- Review changes to the card’s benefits. Take a look at the benefits you may be gaining (or losing) like travel and purchase protections and fraud monitoring. Also notice if you’re switching card networks (i.e. Mastercard to Visa), as supplemental benefits offered by the network can change, too.
As you learn more about your new account, here are some other potential changes to your terms to look out for:
- New foreign transaction fees (if your old issuer didn’t charge them)
- Higher late fee
- A higher APR
- A new or higher annual fee
- The “date opened” your issuer reports — some use the original account opening date, while others may report the date of the issuer change
- Lower-quality customer service
Ultimately, if you don’t like the new issuer or any of your card’s new terms, you’re not stuck. You can always close the newly issued card. Just be careful doing this — especially if the card is one of your oldest credit accounts and your issuer continues reporting the original open date. It could negatively impact your credit score since credit bureaus consider the average age of your credit when calculating your score — and more history is better.
Read your new card terms carefully, and make sure you understand what new benefits or rewards you might earn so you can maximize your spending accordingly. And as you prepare to make the transition to your new issuer, read the materials you receive so you’ll know exactly what impact it may have on your credit score. With a little preparation, a card change to a new issuer can be simple, and you can start using your shiny, new card seamlessly in no time.
*All information about the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi has been collected independently by NextAdvisor and has not been reviewed by the issuer.