Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred: Which is Best for You?

Both cards have their own unique benefits. Here’s a closer look at them.
Last updated May 29, 2020 | By Miranda Marquit
Woman weighing her options

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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.

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Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred

Each of these 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
Annual fee $0 $95
Sign-up bonus Earn a $150 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Earning rate 1.5% cash back Up to 5X points
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
  • 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
  • Extra points on Lyft rides
  • DashPass membership from DoorDash
Foreign transaction fee 3% None
Credit needed Excellent, Good Excellent, Good

What both cards excel at

These cards are 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, you earn straightforward cashback rewards on every purchase.

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

Unlimited Cash Back

Benefits

  • $150 sign-up bonus
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases
  • 5% cash back on Lyft rides
  • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases


Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited: 5 important differences

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

1. Type of rewards

As mentioned, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a straight cashback rewards card. It offers unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. It’s possible to redeem the rewards for a statement credit or directly deposited into an account of your choice. Additionally, you can connect the Chase Freedom Unlimited to Amazon’s Pay with Points program and use them to pay for Amazon purchases at checkout.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, cardholders earn 5X on Lyft rides, 2X points on eligible dining and travel, and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases. Additionally, rewards can be redeemed for gift cards, merchandise, travel, and cash. When you use them to book travel through the Chase travel portal, your points are worth 25% more.

Because of the ability to get a bonus on travel, along with the increased earnings on travel and dining, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers an overall advantage when it comes to rewards.

2. Sign-up bonus

The Chase Sapphire Preferred also comes with a more lucrative sign-up bonus than the Chase Freedom Unlimited. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, 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 earn a $150 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months. 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.

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.

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 for 15 months on purchases. 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: Sapphire Preferred

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.

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.

If you’re looking for a simple card that earns consistent cash back, the Freedom Unlimited has solid benefits that can make sense for you. You earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases and don’t have to worry about tiers or rotating categories. On top of that, the spending threshold to qualify for the sign-up bonus is fairly low.

On the other hand, if you spend more on travel and dining, the Sapphire Preferred has benefits that can make more sense. 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. 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.

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

Yes, you can switch from the Freedom Unlimited to the Sapphire Preferred. 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 is best for those who want straight cashback rewards. With the Freedom Unlimited, you don’t have to worry about an annual fee. If you just want a simple and straightforward program, 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 a card likely to provide you with the best return for each dollar spent on your card, and be sure to pay off the card each month to avoid interest charges.

#1 Travel Rewards Card

Benefits

  • 60,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 2X points on eligible dining and travel purchases
  • 3x points on grocery purchases — up to $1,500 per month (ends June 30, 2020)
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits