Chase’s rewards cards options are pretty difficult to top – most of them feature no annual fees, longer introductory APR periods, and a competitive cash back or points rewards option to boot. Not only that, you get big sign-up bonuses and the ability to pool rewards between your Chase products through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.The Chase Freedom and Chase Sapphire Preferred are two of Chase’s best rewards cards, offering fantastic returns on purchases – whether through cash back rewards categories or double points on dining or travel. Given the benefits of both, it can be hard to figure out which one you should take the time to apply for. Luckily, we’re here to help you compare and decide.
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Overview of the Chase Freedom
On Chase's home portal
Highlight: $0 annual fees, 5% cash back on some purchases
16.24% - 24.99%
1% - 5%
Why It’s Good
The Chase Freedom credit card is an incredibly strong rewards card that values more active cardholders who want to get the most out of targeted purchases. The 1% unlimited cash back makes it a decent everyday rewards credit card, but the rotating cadre of 5% bonus categories is practically catnip for people who want to maximize their rewards as much as they can.Along with a modest, but reachable sign-up bonus and the usual Chase perks of no annual fee, 0% introductory APR for 15 months, and participation in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, the Chase Freedom is pretty hard to beat and may be one of the better Chase credit cards out there.
Overview of the Chase Sapphire Preferred
On Chase's home portal
750 - 850
Highlight: Unlimited points earning potential, generous sign-up bonus
17.49% - 26.49%
1 - 2x points
Why It’s Good
If your rewards goals are more travel-oriented, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best travel rewards cards on the market. With double points on dining and travel, it’s pretty easy for frequent travelers to get the most out of their rewards (not to mention that the Sapphire ekes 25% more value out of your points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program).
Not only that, there’s a whopping 60,000 point sign-up bonus that is a great incentive for new cardholders to start spending on the card right away. This Chase credit card is really meant for those of you who have excellent credit, which allows for some of the perks.
Differences Between the Chase Freedom and Sapphire
While both the Freedom and Sapphire are Chase reward credit cards, they earn and spend their rewards in slightly different ways. The Chase Freedom card gives you cash back for purchases that are contingent on a rotating set of bonus categories, which you have to activate and keep track of every quarter. However, it also gives you 0% APR for 15 months, and no annual fee.
The Chase Sapphire gathers rewards in the form of points you can use on the Chase Ultimate Rewards website, with extra value gathered if you use them for travel. You get 2x points on dining and travel, so you know exactly how you’re earning your points no matter the time of year. At the same time, there’s a steep annual fee and no introductory APR period.
Chase Sapphire vs Chase Freedom: who has the better annual fee?
When it comes to fees, the Chase Freedom earns its namesake by freeing you from the common shackles of an annual fee and a high interest rate. For the first 15 months you hold this credit card, you get 0% APR, which is always welcome; after that, it goes up anywhere from 16.24% to 24.99%. That’s a pretty middle-of-the-road range for interest rates, though it pays to have excellent credit.
Due to its status as a more high-end card than the Chase Freedom, the Chase Sapphire Preferred only waives its annual fee for the first year. After that, you pay $95 a year; there are definitely higher annual fees out there, but it’s certainly more to pay than the $0 annual fee a lot of other cards offer.
What’s more, there’s no introductory APR period for this card – right from day one, you’re stuck paying a variable APR of 17.49% to 26.49%. It should be noted that this is a slightly higher range than the Freedom; to that end, it’s especially in your best interests here to pay off your balances right away and use the card responsibly.
Which credit card has the best rewards?
Both the Freedom and Sapphire have pretty nifty rewards programs. The Freedom gives you unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases, which is de rigueur for most cards of this type. However, it enhances that with a rotating set of bonus categories that switch out every quarter; when you use the card in these categories, you earn 5% in cash back rewards.
These categories range from all manner of spending types that most people can find a use for. Whether you spend it on gas, grocery stores, restaurants, or retailers like Amazon and Target, the Chase Freedom card allows you to get 5% cash back on whatever category they decide to feature. They even offer a nifty spending calendar to let you know what categories are coming.
Just like with the Sapphire Preferred, you can make more out of your accumulated rewards through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program – just pool your rewards among your various Chase products and use them where you might get the most value. (More on that later.)
Instead of giving you rewards in the form of cash back, the Sapphire Preferred gives you points. What’s more, the rewards program is a bit more reliable and evergreen than the constantly changing categories of the Freedom; you just get 1 point for every dollar spent, with double points earned on travel and dining purchases.
The real advantage comes with the Chase Ultimate Rewards program; whenever you spend rewards on travel through the Sapphire Preferred, Ultimate Rewards points gain 25% more value (1.25 points as opposed to 1 point). This lets you stretch your rewards even further, which is great for frequent travelers.
Which credit card has the best sign-up bonus?
The Chase Freedom’s sign-up bonus is nothing special, but it’s almost impossible not to reach it unless you actively don’t use the card - $150 in cash back rewards if you spend $500 in the first three months of membership. It’s not the most jaw-dropping rewards plan in the world, but if you don’t want to put yourself in massive debt just to accumulate a sign-up bonus, this is pretty good.
The Sapphire Preferred expects that its cardholders will be slightly higher rollers, so its sign-up bonus is more than a bit ambitious: you get 60,000 points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months of owning the card. That equates to $625 in travel money if you redeem it through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel tool (where you get that extra 25% value) – that’s not nothing.
However, the downside is that you still have to spend four grand in three months to get that bonus. If you’re a frequent traveler, and want a card you can use for big purchases in a short amount of time, this particular bonus might be incentive enough to join. Just remember that there’s no introductory APR period to cushion the blow of such a big balance.
Drawbacks to consider
While the Chase Freedom is profitable in terms of rewards, it also requires more finesse to get the most out of it. In order to get all the 5% rewards you can, you have to keep track of the Chase spending calendar, schedule your purchases for quarters where you can reap those rewards, and so on. It can be a lot of work for those who just want a simple everyday rewards card.
The Chase Sapphire definitely suffers from having that steep annual fee. While the first year is waived, $95 is still too much to pay for a card unless you really think you’ll get that much out and more out of its rewards. Along with no introductory APR, the Sapphire Preferred is unusually punishing for cardholders who might want to take advantage of its rewards.
This is to say nothing of the sign-up bonus which, while robust, takes a lot of spending to reach.
Who should get these cards?
The Chase Freedom card is perfect for cardholders who don’t mind putting a bit of work in to make sure they get the most out of their rewards bonuses. As long as you keep track of the category schedules, max out that $1,500 in rewards spending each quarter, and keep your balances down, this card can really pay off.
It also helps that this card benefits from no annual fee and an introductory APR that’s positively enviable – it’s a nice, low-maintenance way to get started with a card.
For frequent travelers who plan to spend their rewards on those purchases, the Sapphire Preferred is hard to beat. The extra value you get from the Ultimate Rewards program alone is worth the price of admission, and the double points for dining and travel mean the card helps practically pay for itself.
Which card should you get?
The winner: Chase Freedom
While both cards have quite a bit to offer, it’s our feeling that the Chase Freedom wins out through sheer affordability and accessibility. There’s no annual fee and no APR for 15 months, unlike the Sapphire Preferred, and its sign-up bonus is much more approachable.
Furthermore, its rewards tiers are more all-purpose, giving it more flexibility for cardholders who don’t just travel all the time. The Sapphire Preferred is great for higher-income spenders who want to subsidize their travel with credit card perks, but we think the Freedom does more things for more people overall.