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Chase bank has some of the best travel cards, even when travel isn’t widely available in 2021. It can be hard to choose the best one. Some of Chase’s best cards offer cash back rewards, (like the Chase Freedom Unlimited®) while others are focused on travel benefits (like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card).

Update: there’s a new 80,000 bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred!

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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 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 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.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.

This expert Chase Freedom Unlimited® vs Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card comparison review will help you pick the best Chase 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
These two cards can work together so you can experience places like a beautiful sunrise over Central Park. Credit: Denise Soulame

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – $1000 in Award Travel

  • Annual fee: $95
  • Foreign transaction fee: 0%
  • Signup bonus value: 80,000 bonus points (worth $1000 in award travel or $800 in cash rewards) after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening; Additionally, new cardholders can earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within the first year 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%.

New Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholders can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, worth $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus, they can earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within the first year of account opening.

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.

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 Chase transfer partners:

  • Aer Lingus
  • Aeroplan (expected in late 2021)
  • 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

Signup Bonus

New Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholders can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, worth $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus, they can earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within the first year 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.

New Chase Sapphire Preferred Perks

Additional Chase Sapphire Preferred benefits include unlimited deliveries with no delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with a DoorDash DashPass subscription. Activate your card by December 31, 2021. 

Cardholders also earn 5x points on Lyft rides, through March 2022. Through April 30, 2021, cardholders automatically earn 2x points per $1 spent at grocery stores, up to $1,000 per month.

Plus, cardholders can earn up to $60 in statement credits on Peloton Digital and All-Access Memberships through December 31, 2021.

Points are worth 25% more now through April 30, 2021, when redeemed for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories with the Chase Pay Yourself Back feature. Points are also worth 25% more when redeemed through the new Chase Dining hub in Ultimate Rewards, also through April 30, 2021.

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
  • Key features: Earn up to 5% back on every purchase

The best way to describe the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is it’s 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,
  • 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.

It’s worth noting that Chase has also introduced the Chase Freedom Flex℠ no annual fee card. It also comes with cashback perks that may be more suited to your spending. You can learn more about it in our Chase Freedom Flex review.

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.

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 680 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 Try for the Chase Sapphire Preferred First

If you are near the 5/24 threshold, you should consider trying 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 signup bonus can be well worth it.

After waiting several months, you can try 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. Unless there is a promotional bonus category offer available, the Sapphire Preferred only earns 2 points per $1 on travel and dining and 1 point for everything else.

When to Try 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
Advertisement

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

recommended-cart-post-image
APPLY NOW
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 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.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.

The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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.

10 Comments On "Chase Freedom Unlimited vs Chase Sapphire Preferred (2021)"
  1. Joy Jenkins|

    Finding it impossible to get a definitive answer!
    I have a Chase Saphire card since for several years.
    I have a Chase Freedom Unlimited card which is new.
    Which one is best for purchasing groceries.
    Thank you

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      I would go with the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

  2. Joe|

    What is currently better for dining? Are the 2x points on the sapphire more valuable than the 3% cash back on the freedom unlimited? I have both cards.

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      The Freedom Unlimited since you can transfer your Freedom points to the Sapphire Preferred.

  3. Nick|

    I just got both cards, from everything I can uncover there is really no reason to use the Sapphire card over the Unlimited once you have both. is this correct? is there a situation I should be using the Sapphire over the unlimited?

    1. Josh Patoka|

      The Sapphire Preferred earns more points when you book travel directly from the airline, hotel, or rental car agency (2 points vs 1.5 points). The Sapphire Preferred can also have better partner benefits (like Lyft rides, DoorDash DashPass, etc.)

      Otherwise, the Freedom Unlimited earns more points on purchases and you can then transfer them to the Sapphire Preferred for better travel redemption options.

  4. Anonymous|

    Thank you Josh!

  5. CSP/CFU/CFF Cardholder|

    CSP until 4/30/21, it’s 2% back on groceries, after that CFU at 1.5% indefinitely.

  6. ANON|

    The bonus is after $4000 in general spending not just travel spend. Quick little typo.

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      Thanks!

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