Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred: Which of These Powerhouse Cards is Best for You?

Both cards have their own unique benefits. Here’s a closer look at them.
Last updated Oct 8, 2021 | By Miranda Marquit
Woman weighing her options

FinanceBuzz is reader-supported. We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

With all the options out there, shopping around for a new credit card can be overwhelming. But if you’re looking for a rewards card that fits your needs, the Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred are both worth considering. These cards each have their own benefits and perks as well as different rewards programs. What works best for you likely depends on the types of rewards you’re looking for.

Here’s a look at how the two cards compare, how they’re different, and whom each is best for.

In this article

Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred

Each of these Chase credit cards has a different rewards program and perks, so it makes sense to compare your options and figure out what works best for you. Here’s a high-level overview of both cards:


Chase Freedom Unlimited Chase Freedom Unlimited
Chase Sapphire Preferred Chase Sapphire Preferred
Annual fee $0 $95
Sign-up bonus Earn a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months, plus earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart; up to $12,000 in the first year) Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Earning rate 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases
Redemption methods Redeem for statement credit or deposit, gift cards, Amazon.com, or travel Redeem for travel, merchandise, gift cards and cash back. Also offers 1:1 transfers to partners
Intro APR 0% for 15 months Not offered
Travel perks Not offered
  • Up to $50 in annual statement credits for hotel stays through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 1:1 airline and hotel transfer partners
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Auto rental collision waiver
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Trip delay reimbursement
Other benefits Not offered
  • An annual points bonus equal to 10% of total card spend from the previous year
  • Extra points on Lyft rides
  • DashPass membership from DoorDash
Foreign transaction fee 3% None
Recommended credit score Excellent, Good Excellent, Good
Learn how to apply Learn how to apply

What both cards excel at

While these two cards are from the same credit card issuer, they're aimed at different types of consumers, so it’s no real surprise that there aren’t a lot of commonalities between the two. That said, both offer value to cardholders. 

With the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you earn cashback rewards on every purchase. What you actually earn are Chase Ultimate rewards points and you earn bonus points on certain purchases. This can all be redeemed as cash rewards.

If you’d prefer to earn points for future trips, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best travel credit cards on the market. Cardholders earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be redeemed for future travel, merchandise, gift cards, or cash back. Points also transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Chase travel partners.

Because both of these credit cards are issued by Chase, they offer purchase protection and extended warranty protection. But that’s where the overlap ends.

Unlimited Cash Back

Intro Offer

$200 cash back

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

up to 5% cash back

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • $200 sign-up bonus
  • Bonus rewards on travel, dining, and drugstores
  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (up to $12k in your first year)
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases

Drawbacks

  • Has foreign transaction fee
Card Details
  • Earn a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months, plus earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart; up to $12,000 in the first year)
  • 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases
  • Intro purchase 0% offer: 0% for 15 months then 14.99% to 23.74% (variable)

Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited: 6 important differences

Here’s a close look at some of the key differences between these credit card offers.

1. Type of rewards

As mentioned, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a cashback rewards card. It offers 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases. It’s possible to redeem the rewards as cash in the form of a statement credit or have them directly deposited into an account of your choice. 

Additionally, since what you're actually earning are Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you can connect the Chase Freedom Unlimited to Amazon’s Pay with Points program and use them to pay for Amazon purchases at checkout. And if you're a Chase Sapphire cardholder, you can transfer points to your Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred account to get even more value. 

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, cardholders earn 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases. 

Additionally, cardholders have a number of redemption options: gift cards, merchandise, travel, and cash. When you use them to book travel through the Chase travel portal, your points are worth 25% more. You can learn more about this card's amazing travel benefits by reading our Chase Sapphire Preferred review.

Because of the high rewards rate on bonus categories like Chase travel purchases, dining, and drug store purchases, and the flexibility to transfer rewards to the Sapphire cards to make them stretch further, the Chase Freedom Unlimited also has a lot to offer when it comes to rewards and is on our list of the best cashback credit cards.

2. Sign-up bonus

Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Freedom Unlimited come with lucrative sign-up bonuses. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. That’s a value of $600 when redeeming for non-travel rewards, or $750 when you redeem for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

With the Chase Freedom Unlimited, cardholders can get this sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months, plus earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart; up to $12,000 in the first year). If you don’t think you’ll meet the spending threshold for the Sapphire Preferred, it might make sense to choose the Freedom Unlimited instead.

3. Annual fee

If you’re looking for a card with no annual fee, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a better choice. There’s a $0 annual fee with this card, making it inexpensive and allowing you to earn cash back without having to worry about whether the rewards will offset a recurring annual cost. You can learn more about this card by checking out our Chase Freedom Unlimited review.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred, on the other hand, charges an annual fee of $95. However, for those who travel frequently and redeem rewards for the 25% bonus, it can be relatively easy to offset the cost of the annual fee, especially if you consider the $50 annual hotel credit.

4. Intro 0% APR

When comparing the Chase Freedom Unlimited vs Chase Sapphire Preferred, don’t forget to consider the 0% intro APR. In this area, the Chase Freedom Unlimited shines. There is a 0% introductory APR on purchases for 15 months after account opening. There is no intro APR for the Sapphire Preferred, so you won’t see a break on interest charges with this card.

5. Foreign transaction fees

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you don’t have to worry about foreign transaction fees. This card is designed for travel, so you don’t have to worry about a fee on purchases you make abroad.

On the other hand, with the Freedom Unlimited, you pay a 3% foreign transaction fee. If you plan to travel overseas, you might be better off using a different card for the trip.

6. Transfer partners

While both of these cards earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points on qualifying purchases, only the Chase Sapphire Preferred allows you to transfer those points to hotel partners and other travel partners. Having this transfer ability unlocks a lot of potential value since you can search for the best redemptions and have your choice from a number of different hospitality brands.

Current Chase travel partners include the following airline loyalty programs: Aer Lingus AerClub, Air Canada Aeroplan, British Airways Executive Club, Emirates Skywards, Flying Blue Air France KLM, Iberia Plus, JetBlue TrueBlue, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.

And the following hotel loyalty programs are also Chase transfer partners: World of Hyatt, IHG Rewards Club, and Marriott Bonvoy.

Our #1 Travel Card

Intro Offer

60,000 points

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

up to 5X points

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 60,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 5X points on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 10% anniversary point bonus each year
  • $50 annual credit on hotel stays booked through Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
  • Typically need to spend thousands to reap rewards
Card Details
  • Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases

Which card should you choose?

For the most part, deciding between the Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred is more about what types of rewards you want. Another consideration is whether you travel enough to make the Sapphire Preferred annual fee worth it, though it's not hard to offset with the $50 annual hotel credit and everyday spending.

If you’re looking for a card that earns generous cash back rewards, the Freedom Unlimited has solid benefits that can make sense for you. You earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases. On top of that, the spending threshold to qualify for the sign-up bonus is fairly low.

On the other hand, if you travel often and the bonus categories make sense for you, the Sapphire Preferred has benefits that might be a better fit. The annual fee is relatively low, and it’s fairly easy to offset, especially if you redeem your rewards for travel through the Chase portal.

Plus, with no foreign transaction fee and travel insurance, this card is a good choice for frequent travelers. As long as you use the card for regular spending, pay it off each month to avoid interest charges and redeem your points for travel, there’s a good chance the Chase Sapphire Preferred is more than worth its annual fee.

FAQs about the Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred

Which is better: Chase Freedom Unlimited or Chase Sapphire?

When deciding between the Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred, it’s really about personal preference. If you value cash back and don’t want to pay an annual fee, the Chase Freedom Unlimited makes more sense. You also don't have to deal with rotating categories with the Freedom Unlimited, so it's easy to use for everyday spending. However, if you travel frequently and want flexible travel redemptions, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a better choice that offers solid value even with an annual fee. You also don't have to worry about rotating categories with this card, plus it comes with some travel perks.

Can you switch from Chase Freedom Unlimited to Chase Sapphire Preferred?

Yes, you can upgrade the Freedom Unlimited to the Sapphire Preferred (in fact, you can upgrade from either Freedom card to either Sapphire card). However, you need to call the customer service line to find out whether you qualify. If you qualify, Chase will not subject you to a new credit check. A word of caution, however: you will not be eligible for the Chase Sapphire Preferred sign-up bonus if you switch products.

When should I use the Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Sapphire Preferred?

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is best for those who want to earn cashback rewards. With the Freedom Unlimited, you don’t have to worry about an annual fee. If you want generous cash back, the Freedom Unlimited can be a good choice.

Which Chase credit card is best?

There is no one Chase credit card that is the best. When evaluating cards, it’s important to consider your needs and whether an annual fee is worth it. There are plenty of Chase credit cards to choose from, so there’s likely one that will meet your needs.

Bottom line

When choosing between the Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred, carefully consider your needs and how you spend your money. Pick the rewards credit card that is likely to provide you with the best return for each dollar spent, and be sure to pay off the card each month to avoid interest rate charges.

Our #1 Travel Card

Intro Offer

60,000 points

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

up to 5X points

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 60,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 5X points on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 10% anniversary point bonus each year
  • $50 annual credit on hotel stays booked through Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
  • Typically need to spend thousands to reap rewards
Card Details
  • Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases

Author Details

Miranda Marquit Miranda Marquit has been covering money for more than a decade and is a nationally-recognized financial expert and journalist, appearing on CNBC, NPR, Forbes, Yahoo! Finance, FOX Business, and numerous other outlets.