Chase Freedom vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred: Which is best for you?

It’s a question on many credit card shopper’s lips: travel rewards or cash back? While there are no easy answers to this debate, what’s true is that these two cards — Chase Freedom and Chase Sapphire Preferred — are among the most popular cards in the cash back and travel rewards categories respectively.

Even more interesting is the rewards structures of both cards. Since rewards are tracked as Ultimate Rewards points for both products, it means whichever card you go for, you’ll benefit from the flexibility of the Ultimate Rewards program. For starters, your points won’t expire for the life of your account, and you can redeem them as cash back, travel rewards, statement credits or gift cards. You can pay with your points on select merchants like Amazon, too.

With that said, these cards have some important differences to be aware of.

At a glance comparison

Chase FreedomChase Sapphire Preferred
Annual Fee$0$95
Rewards Rates5% cash back on first $1,500 purchases in bonus categories applicable to that quarter, and 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases.Two points per dollar on travel and dining at restaurants; one point per dollar on other purchases.
Sign Up Bonus$200 cash back if you spend $500 within the first three months; 0% introductory APR for 15 months on both purchases and balance transfers.Earn 60,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 on purchases within three months of account opening.
Lounge AccessNoneNone
Authorized User Fee$0$0

Standout features

Chase Freedom

  • Broad bonus categories, including gas and groceries, so you can earn points faster.
  • Flexible cash back: No minimum redemption requirements, and rewards won’t expire for the life of the account. 
  • Redeem to suit you: Receive reward points as cash back, use them to shop on Amazon, buy gift cards or transfer them for travel rewards.
  • Peace of mind in knowing you have zero liability on unauthorized purchases.
  • Protect new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft and get 12 months extended warranty. This is great for big-ticket items.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

  • Better value for reward points: These are worth 25% more when redeeming for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, so you get $1.25 instead of $1 for 100 points.
  • Make 1:1 point transfers: Transfer your Chase rewards points to your preferred travel program to build rewards more quickly.
  • Travel with confidence: You’re covered for trip cancellations, delays of 12 hours or more, auto rental collision damage waiver and baggage delay. Get emergency assistance too if you run into trouble during your trip.
  • Protect new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft and get 12 months extended warranty. Great for big-ticket items.
  • Good for international travel: Visa is widely accepted, and this card has no foreign transaction fees.
  • Flexible redemption: Rewards won’t expire for the life of the account, and you can redeem for cash back, gift cards, travel and more (redemption values vary between reward options).

The case for the Chase Freedom

Chase Freedom offers fantastic value for money. It’s outsized rewards of 5% cash back on specific categories up to $1,500 per quarter will attract many shoppers.

Since Chase Freedom’s bonus categories rotate quarterly, you’ll get opportunities to earn rewards from different types of spending. Reward categories are broad and often include groceries and gas. You could also get bonus cash back by using PayPal and Chase Pay. There’s a bit of work involved, as you’ll have to keep a close eye on the rewards calendar and activate bonus categories.

The $200 welcome bonus is an easy win, as you’ll only need to spend $500 within the first three months to qualify for it. If you’re planning on a big purchase or have an existing balance to transfer, the 0% introductory APR will save you a significant amount of interest over 15 months.

With additional features like extended warranty and purchase protection, this card is a top choice for making more of your day-to-day spending for no annual fee.

The case for the Chase Sapphire Preferred

Although the rewards rate of double points per dollar is hardly impressive, the earning structure of the Chase Sapphire Preferred feels less complicated. Bonus points apply to both travel and dining purchases, and there are no annual maximums to worry about.

Unsurprisingly, where the Sapphire Preferred really holds its own is around travel benefits. For modest or regular travelers, the 25% bonus on travel redemptions is a big incentive. To give you an idea of how this much this is worth, the generous welcome bonus of 60,000 points can be redeemed for $750 in travel rewards through Chase Ultimate Rewards (as opposed to $600 in cash back).

Unlike Chase Freedom, this card has no foreign transaction fee, making it a great traveling companion. The range of protection on offer is fantastic too. You’ve got emergency travel assistance. You’re also covered for trip cancellations, travel or baggage delays and auto rental collision damage waiver.

Another drawcard is the ability to transfer reward points to Chase’s 13 airline and hotel partners at a 1:1 ratio. It’s available with Chase Freedom too, but it’s worth mentioning because it’s a key reason why the Sapphire Preferred is often considered the best travel rewards card.

Other benefits include purchase protection and extended warranty. While it’ll set you back $95 a year, the Chase Sapphire Preferred undoubtedly offers useful perks — if you travel at least once or twice a year.

In a nutshell

The Chase Freedom is a better choice if you want to be rewarded for day-to-day spending, and are unsure about restricting your rewards for travel. The 0% introductory APR for 15 months is persuasive also.

But the Chase Sapphire Preferred will benefit even a moderate traveler to make vacations better. It comes with broad travel-related benefits and requires less effort to earn bonus points. If traveling is your passion, then you’ll get more value from the Chase Sapphire Preferred — even with its $95 annual fee.

Kristie Kwok

Kristie Kwok is a finance content writer with in-depth knowledge of the banking industry from her previous work experience in banks such as UBS, Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland. She is a qualified accountant with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, specializing in Accounting and Finance.