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® Card 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.
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 Sapphire Preferred
|Sign-up bonus||Earn an extra 1.5% cash back on all eligible purchases, on up to $20,000, in the first year||Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months|
|Earning rate||5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases||5X points on Lyft rides 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 (then 19.49% - 28.24% (variable))||Not offered|
|Foreign transaction fee||3%||None|
|Recommended credit score||Excellent, Good||Excellent, Good|
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.
Find more information in our Chase Freedom Unlimited review.
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% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash back 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 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 an extra 1.5% cash back on all eligible purchases, on up to $20,000, 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 (then 19.49% - 28.24% (variable)). 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.
Find more information in our Chase Sapphire Preferred review.
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 want cash back rewards, choose the Chase Freedom Unlimited
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% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases. On top of that, the sign-up bonus does not require a minimum spend. If you spend most of your money on purchases like dining out and groceries (as opposed to travel booked outside the Chase portal), then you could earn more rewards with the Chase Freedom Unlimited card than the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
For example, let’s say you spend $5,000 on gas, utility bills, and clothing. If you used the Chase Freedom Unlimited card for all of your purchases, you’d earn $75 in cash back ($5,000 x .015 = $75), which is also redeemable as 7,500 Ultimate Rewards points.
If you spent the same amount on those same items and used the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you’d earn just 1X points per $1 spent, which gives you 5,000 points. If you redeem those points for statement credits or bank deposits rather than travel arrangements, your rewards would be worth just $50. (5,000 x .01 = 50) Of course, if you redeemed those points for travel, they’d be worth $62.50 (5,000 x .0125 = 62.50), but that’s still less than the Freedom Unlimited’s $75 value.
Pro tip: Again, the smartest thing to do is to have both of these credit cards. You could earn those 7,500 points with your Freedom Unlimited, then transfer them to your Sapphire Preferred. So you maximize earnings with the Freedom Unlimited, but then take advantage of the 25% redemption bonus of the Sapphire Preferred. That means your 7,500 points would be worth $93.75, which is the best deal of all.
If you frequently travel, choose the Chase Sapphire Preferred
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.
If you're a very frequent traveler, you might even consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card. Points earned with this card hold even more value and it also comes with an annual $300 travel credit that makes up for a large part of it's $550 annual fee.
FAQs about Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred
What credit score is needed for a Chase Freedom Unlimited card?
Your credit score will need to be good to excellent to get approved for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card.
What credit score do you need for a Chase Sapphire Preferred card?
To qualify for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you will need a credit score that is good to excellent. That means your credit score needs to be 700 or above.
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.
When choosing between the Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred, carefully consider your needs and how you spend your money:
- For frequent travelers, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers travel benefits and extra value for your points. These perks help make the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s annual fee worth paying.
- If you don’t travel often, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a better option for you. Plus, you’ll earn a healthy rewards rate on every purchase you make.
Still can’t decide? These cards are both considered to be among the best rewards credit cards, so you might consider signing up for both. Because the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has no annual fee, there’s no cost to use it.
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
Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
5X points on Lyft rides 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
- Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
- 5X points on Lyft rides and 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
- Has annual fee
- Typically need to spend thousands to reap rewards
- Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
- 5X points on Lyft rides 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