Although all the major credit card issuers have long since jumped on the rewards card bandwagon, few have embraced it as fully as Chase. Of the two dozens credit card options Chase offers, all but one of them feature some type of purchase rewards (and the one that doesn’t, the Chase Slate®, is one of the best balance transfer cards on the market).
And it’s each card’s rewards that are the biggest differentiator between them. If you want cash back rewards, the Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited® are two strong contenders. Prefer flexible travel rewards? The Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card are the cards to beat. Of course, while the rewards are definitely the most divisive factor, other features do set the cards apart, including the credit score demographic and signup bonus.
In this article, we’ll focus on looking at the Chase Freedom vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve cards to help readers decide which one (or ones) may be the best option for them.
It May Be Easier to Qualify for the Chase Freedom®
Before you can start earning rewards with a particular credit card, you need to apply for it — and have that application approved by the issuer. In general, those with the best credit scores will have the easiest time qualifying for any credit card, but this is particularly true when it comes to the Chase Sapphire cards. These cards are deliberately designed to be for consumers with excellent credit, and average applicants have credit scores around 740.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
15.99% - 22.99% Variable
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
- 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
- Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
The Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited®, on the other hand, are intended for consumers with good to excellent credit, meaning there’s a little more wiggle room in the requirements for approval. Reviewers have reported being approved for a Chase Freedom® with credit scores as low as 645, though keep in mind that Chase will look at all facets of your credit history to make a decision.
- Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
- Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
- 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
- No annual fee
- No minimum to redeem for cash back
- Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
0% 15 Months
- Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
- Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
- Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
- 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
- 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
- No annual fee
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
One thing these Chase cards do share when it comes to qualifying is they’re all subject to Chase’s “5/24 Rule.” In essence, if you have opened five or more bank cards (e.g., credit or charge cards) within the last 24 months, your application for a Chase credit card will be automatically rejected. Some consumers have found ways around the limitation, but your experience may vary from reported accounts.
Both Cards Can Be Used to Accrue Ultimate Rewards®
On the surface, the Chase Freedom® and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (and their respective sibling cards) offer very different rewards structures. The Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited® both offer cash back rewards, while the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® provide Ultimate Rewards® points for every purchase. Cash back and points are hardly the same thing, right?
Not quite. Thanks to some Chase magic, the cash back you earn with a Freedom card can be converted into Ultimate Rewards® points at a one-to-one ratio. (Similarly, the Ultimate Rewards® points you earn with a Sapphire card can be redeemed for cash back, but this method of redemption is considered to give you the lowest per-point value.)
With rewards converting to whatever form you prefer, the real difference between the cards will come down to how you earn those rewards — and what you pay for the privilege. With the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, you’ll pay no annual fee and see a single flat-rate 1.5% cash back (or 1.5X points per $1) on every purchase you make with your card.
The Chase Freedom® card also has no annual fee, and while it has a lower 1% unlimited cash back rate, it also provides a hefty 5% cash back for purchases made within a qualifying bonus category, up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter you activate. Bonus categories are generally useful and common purchase types, like gas stations and restaurants, and rotate each quarter.
While the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card charges a $95 annual fee. For your fee, you’ll earn an unlimited 1X point per $1 on everything, plus double points on dining and travel purchases. Cardholders will also enjoy a 25% points redemption bonus, giving you a boost to your per-point value.
For an even larger fee — $550 large — the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers the same unlimited 1X point per $1, as well as triple points on travel and dining, an annual travel credit, and a 50% points redemption bonus. Reserve cardholders can also enroll in Priority Pass™ Select for access to over 1,000 airport lounges, and up to $100 application credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
In the end, the best Chase rewards card for you will come down to where you make the majority of your purchases so that you can maximize your rewards. If you spend a lot on travel and dining, for example, the Chase Sapphire cards can be extremely lucrative, despite the annual fees they charge.
If you don’t spend much on travel, the Chase Freedom® can provide significant value if you can make the most of its offered bonus categories. But if your spending doesn’t fit any particular pattern, the unlimited flat-rate rewards of the Chase Freedom Unlimited® may be your most valuable Chase rewards card pick.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Has a Bigger Signup Bonus
Another major incentive for many new credit card applicants is the big, shiny signup bonus most card issuers — including Chase — offer these days. As you might expect given their annual fees, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® have the larger signup bonuses in our card comparison, each offering a significant number of points for meeting the spending requirement within the first three months.
The Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited® aren’t without their own bonuses, however, despite the lack of an annual fee for either. Each Freedom card offers a solid signup bonus. As an added perk, the Freedom cards also come with introductory 0% APR offers, which may end up the more valuable bonus for those who tend to carry a balance.
Conclusion: Complementary Cards that Can Be Used Together
Overall, despite their differences, these popular Chase rewards credit cards have a lot in common — not the least of which is the fact that they can all be used to accrue lucrative Ultimate Rewards® points on every purchase. In fact, it’s the ability to pool your rewards from each card into the same pot of awesomeness that makes the Chase cards complementary choices for a place in your wallet.
When used together, the Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited® can give you 5% rewards in the quarterly bonus categories, plus unlimited 1.5% rewards on all other purchases. To really boost your earnings, add in a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card‘s double points on dining and travel (or, if you travel enough to make the annual fee worthwhile, the Chase Sapphire Reserve®‘s triple points), to maximize your rewards.