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When comparing different credit cards, you’ll often find Chase bank to have several of their cards listed as some of the best. 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). To help you better understand which card might be better for you, we are going to compare the Chase Freedom Unlimited vs Chase Sapphire Preferred cards—two of the very best!

Chase Freedom Unlimited vs Chase Sapphire Preferred

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. One card can get you several cash back rewards on every purchase while the other earns coveted Ultimate Rewards® points. Let’s take a look at what each has to offer.

Sunrise over Central Park; freedom unlimited sapphire preferred
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 – $750 in Award Travel

  • Annual fee: $95
  • Foreign transaction fee: None
  • Signup bonus value: New Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 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. Your points are actually most valuable when redeemed for travel since this card comes with a 25% travel redemption bonus when you book travel through the Ultimate Rewards program.

The Sapphire Preferred earns unlimited:

  • 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards® (excluding hotel purchases that qualify for the $50 Anniversary Hotel Credit)
  • 3x points on dining (including eligible delivery services, takeout, and dining out)
  • 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target®, Walmart®, and wholesale clubs)
  • Also 3x points on select streaming services
  • 2x points on all other travel purchases
  • 1x point per $1 spent on all non-bonus purchases 

There is a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit. It comes in the form of a statement credit that will automatically be applied to your account when your card is used for hotel accommodation purchases made through the Ultimate Rewards program, up to an annual maximum accumulation of $50. This can be a nice hotel credit card option if you want flexibility. 

Plus, on each account anniversary, you’ll earn bonus points equal to 10% of your total purchases made the previous year. So, if you spend $25,000 on purchases, you’ll get 2,500 bonus points.

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 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.

Points are also worth 25% more when redeemed for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories with the Chase Pay Yourself Back feature

1:1 Airline and Hotel Point Transfers

Another Chase Sapphire Preferred perk 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 Air Canada
  • British Airways
  • Emirates
  • Air France KLM Flying Blue
  • Iberia
  • JetBlue
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • 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 Offer

New Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

This bonus is worth $750 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 Offer: New Chase Freedom Unlimited® cardholders can earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything they buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) – worth up to $300 cash back!
  • 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 unlimited:

  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3% cash back on dining 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 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.

Redeeming Points for Cash or Travel

For every $1 you spend, you earn at least 1.5 rewards points. Points are redeemable for cash back, gift cards, 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

New Chase Freedom Unlimited® cardholders can earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything they buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) – worth up to $300 cash back! That means new cardholders can enjoy:

  • 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards® (Chase’s premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards, and more)
  • 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 4.5% on dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery service)
  • 3% on all other purchases

New cardholders earn this extra 1.5% cash back on up to $20,000 spent in the first year.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited or Chase Sapphire Preferred?

These two cards cater to different spending habits. Both cards earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points which are redeemable for cash, travel, gift cards, or 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 want to redeem your points for award travel. This means you can basically offset travel fees with your points. Although you pay a $95 annual fee, the 25% travel redemption bonus, 1:1 point transfers, and signup bonus can be well worth it.

Then, perhaps after waiting several months, you can try for the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

When to Try for the Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is the better option if you prefer cash rewards and won’t find the travel perks to be useful. 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 perks are not worth the $95 annual fee for infrequent travelers.

Chase Freedom Flex

Before we conclude, it’s worth noting that Chase also has 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.

You may also want to visit our comparison of the Chase Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited if you prefer these no annual fee options over the $95 annual fee Sapphire Preferred.

Who Wins?

Is Chase Sapphire Preferred better than Chase Freedom Unlimited? 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 cashback 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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12 Comments On "Chase Freedom Unlimited vs Chase Sapphire Preferred (2023)"
  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|


  7. Ken B|

    I have both the Sapphire and the Freedom Unlimited. I’m trying to figure out how best to use these two together. Categories aside, Freedom gives me 1.5% back on all purchases verses Sapphire at 1%, but I’m thinking that 10% Sapphire Anniversary Bonus would counteract any benefit from using the Freedom. So, why should I even use the Freedom card?

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      Hi Ken, thank you for your question, and my apologies for the delay in response. I also have both cards. The bonus can make more sense if you’re a big spender on the Preferred. The anniversary bonus makes each point worth 0.1%. As an example, you’ll get 2,500 bonus points if you spend $25,000 during your cardmember year. With that in mind, the best advice I can give is to consider your spending (and maybe any upcoming spending) and consider how you want to redeem your rewards, then take it from there.

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