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Chase bank has some very appealing rewards credit cards that are often considered some of the best travel cards, and it can be hard to choose the best one. Some cards offer cash back rewards, (like the Chase Freedom Unlimited®) while others are focused on travel benefits (like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card). It’s worth noting that Chase raised the bonus to 80,000 points on the Sapphire Preferred and have introduced a new Freedom Flex no annual fee card.

This expert Chase Freedom Unlimited® vs Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card comparison review will help you pick the best Chase rewards credit card for your spending habits. Both of these cards are some of the most popular picks for a reason. Let’s take a look at what each has to offer.

Sunrise over Central Park
This Chase Freedom Unlimited vs Chase Sapphire Preferred review can show you how these two cards can work together so you can experience places like a beautiful sunrise over Central Park. Credit: Denise Soulame

Chase Sapphire Preferred – At Least $1000 in Travel

  • Annual fee: $95
  • Foreign transaction fee: 0%
  • Signup bonus value: 80,000 bonus points ($1000 in award travel or $800 in cash rewards) after spending $4,000 in travel in the first 3 months of account opening
  • Key features: 25% travel redemption bonus, 1:1 airline and hotel point transfers, travel insurance

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the better option if you redeem your points for travel rewards. You earn unlimited 2 points per $1 on travel and dining, 5x points on Lyft rides through March 2022, and 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 (must activate by 12/31/21). All non-bonus spending earns 1 point per $1. Your points are most valuable when redeemed for travel.

The annual fee is $95 per year and the foreign transaction fee is 0%. It also comes with a signup bonus of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points by spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening. This bonus is worth $1000 in award travel.

Redeeming Rewards Points for Travel

The winner of the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Freedom Unlimited comparison comes down to how valuable each point is for your preferred redemption option.

Each point is worth 1 cent when redeeming cash statement credits, gift cards, and Amazon.com shopping credits. However, your points are worth at least 1.25 cents each when booking award travel. With the Chase Freedom Unlimited, your points are only worth 1 cent each for any redemption.

You can also use your points to pay for eligible purchases through the end of 2020, with the Chase Pay Yourself Back feature.

Because of the value of points, the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit score needed may be slightly higher, though it’s not impossible.

25% Travel Redemption Bonus

Your points are worth 25% more when booking award travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, making 10,000 points worth $125. However, the same 10,000 points are only worth $100 if you redeem your points for cash rewards to cover recent purchases.

1:1 Airline and Hotel Point Transfers

Another Chase Sapphire Preferred perk that the Freedom Unlimited doesn’t have is the 1:1 point transfers. You can transfer your points in 1,000-point increments to airline and hotel partners. Booking award flights directly through the airline are almost always the most valuable way to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Here are the current 1:1 transfer partners:

  • Aer Lingus
  • British Airways
  • Emirates
  • Flying Blue
  • Iberia
  • JetBlue
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • IHG
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • World of Hyatt

You can find some of your best value by transferring your points and booking first class or business class seats.

Additional Travel Benefits

This card offers some valuable trip protection benefits that can save you thousands if your trip gets delayed or canceled:

  • Up to $10,000 per person ($20,000 per trip) in non-refundable travel purchases for delayed or canceled travel under covered reasons
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred rental car insurance benefits for collision and theft damage
  • Baggage delay insurance up to $100 per day for 5 days
  • Trip delay reimbursement (up to $500 per ticket) for essential purchases

$1000 Signup Bonus

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card signup bonus is 80,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening. This bonus is worth $1000 when booking award travel on the Chase travel portal thanks to the 25% travel redemption bonus. Each point can be worth more than 1.25 cents each when you transfer them to a 1:1 partner.

Note that you won’t qualify for this bonus if you currently own the Chase Sapphire Reserve or have earned a Sapphire bonus within the last 48 months. This is also known as the Chase 5/24 rule.

Chase Freedom Unlimited – No Annual Fee

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%
  • Signup bonus value: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening; earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year
  • Key features: Earn up to 5% back on every purchase

The best way to describe the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is its a cash back credit card that gets at least 1.5% back on every purchase. Cardholders earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases. There is no limit to how much cash back can be earned.

You also have the option of redeeming your points for cash, gift cards, award travel, and Amazon.com shopping points. Your points are only worth 1 cent each for any redemption option.

Getting at least 1.5% back and no annual fee makes this one of the best travel credit cards with no annual fees. However, the 3% foreign transaction fee means this card isn’t a good option for international travel.

Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, cardholders also have DoorDash and Lyft benefits. These include 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022 and 3 months of DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service that offers unlimited $0 delivery fees, and reduced service fees on orders of $12 or more.

Redeeming Points for Cash or Travel

Aside from the signup bonus, for every $1 you spend, you earn at least 1.5 rewards points. Points are redeemable for cash back, gift cards, Amazon.com shopping points, and booking award travel on the Chase travel portal.

But unlike the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you don’t get a 25% travel redemption bonus or have access to 1:1 point transfers. The good news is that no matter how you redeem your points, they are always worth 1 cent each. So, 10,000 points are worth $100 in cash or travel rewards.

One way to have a redemption value higher than 1 cent each point is to also own the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. You see, Chase lets you pool your rewards points but only on your cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points. For this reason, it is one of the best Chase credit cards.

Additional Benefits

This card offers some additional card benefits to protect your shopping purchases:

  • 120 days of purchase protection for theft and damage up to $500 per claim
  • Extended warranty protection on select purchases

Signup Bonus

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® signup bonus is the ability to earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Also, you can earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

Apply for the Sapphire Preferred or Freedom Unlimited?

These two cards cater to different spending habits. Both cards earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points which are redeemable for cash, travel, gift cards, or Amazon.com credit.

Either card requires a minimum 670 credit score to have the best approval odds. Both of these cards also fall under the Chase 5/24 rule. Even with a good credit score, Chase will decline your application if you have opened or been listed as an authorized user on 5 or more credit cards in the last 24 months.

When to Apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred First

If you are near the 5/24 threshold, you should consider applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card first if you redeem your points for award travel. Although you pay a $95 annual fee, the 25% travel redemption bonus, 1:1 point transfers, and 80,000-point signup bonus can be well worth it.

After waiting several months, you can apply for the Chase Freedom Unlimited® to earn at least 1.5 points per $1 on all non-bonus purchases. Cardholders earn 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining (including takeout and eligible delivery services), and 3% back at drugstores. The Sapphire Preferred only earns 2 points per $1 on travel and dining and 1 point for everything else.

When to apply for the Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is the better option if you prefer cash rewards. Earning at least 1.5% back on every purchase is one of the best cash back rates.

Although you don’t get a 25% travel redemption bonus or 1:1 point transfers, these two options are not worth the $95 annual fee for infrequent travelers.

Who Wins: Chase Freedom Unlimited vs Chase Sapphire Preferred?

Is Chase Sapphire better than Chase Freedom? Both the Sapphire Preferred and Freedom Unlimited make it easy to earn more rewards from your daily spending. The Sapphire Preferred is the better option because of the flexible travel redemption options if you book award travel on a regular basis. But the Freedom Unlimited is better if you don’t want to worry about an annual fee and still want to earn unlimited cash back on all of your purchases.

Which card do you prefer: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (travel rewards) or the Chase Freedom Unlimited® (cash rewards)?

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Josh Patoka
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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 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, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 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.

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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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