Edited by: Nick Ellis
& Kellie Jez
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Chase stands out as a highly-respected card issuer that continually enhances its credit card products to reflect the demands and preferences of today’s consumers.
When shopping habits shifted to everyday purchases, for example, Chase responded by adding bonus categories for everyday purchases to a number of its products.
Additionally, to acknowledge the need for and encourage charitable giving, Chase added the ability to redeem points earned on several cards for statement credits for eligible charitable donations.
As the issuer’s portfolio of cards continues to evolve, so do your choices. You can select an everyday no-annual-fee card that still earns well on every purchase you make or a premium Chase card that comes with all the travel benefits you’ll ever need.
No 2 Chase cards illustrate your range of choices much better than the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. And, while you might feel you have to decide which card is better for you at this moment in time, keep your mind open to the possibility that these cards may work best in tandem.
Let’s take a look at these 2 popular Chase credit cards, how they earn rewards, redemption options you can expect, benefits and protections that come with each card, and how the cards can complement each other.
Here’s an abbreviated comparison of the key features and benefits of both of our featured cards.
|Feature or Benefit||Freedom Unlimited Card||Chase Sapphire Reserve Card|
|Top Travel Benefits and Protections||
|Top Shopping Benefits and Protections||
|Annual Fees and Authorized Users||
Immediately after approval for either the Freedom Unlimited card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you’ll have an opportunity to earn a welcome bonus.
Here are the current welcome offers:
This all-purpose cash-back card offers great bonus categories, including bonus points for every purchase you make!
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is easily one of the best cash-back credit cards on the market. There aren’t many no-annual-fee credit cards that offer multiple great bonus categories like 5% back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% back on all other purchases.
When paired with other Chase cards in the Ultimate Rewards family, you can transfer that cash back into points if you wish – making it one of the most lucrative cards in your wallet.
A top player in the high-end premium travel credit card space that earns 3x points on travel and dining while offering top luxury perks.
If you’re looking for an all-around excellent travel rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is one of the best options out there.
The card combines elite travel benefits and perks like airport lounge access, with excellent point earning and redemption options. Plus it offers top-notch travel insurance protections to keep you covered whether you’re at home or on the road.
Don’t forget the $300 annual travel credit which really helps to reduce the annual fee!
Each of our featured cards earns rewards on every purchase you make and bonus earnings on specific category purchases. The Freedom Unlimited card earns rewards first as points that can be redeemed for cash-back. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card earns Ultimate Rewards points directly.
Here’s how the earning potential compares between our featured cards:
|Earnings Category||Freedom Unlimited Card||Chase Sapphire Reserve Card|
|Flights Purchased via Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal||
|Car Rentals, Hotels, and Dining Booked via Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal||
|All Other Travel||
|Restaurants Worldwide, Takeout, and Eligible Delivery Services||
|Select Peloton Purchases||
|All Other Purchases||
A key strength of the Freedom Unlimited card is its elevated earnings on non-bonus category purchases, but you’ll also earn well when using the Ultimate Rewards portal to book travel. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card functions more as a premium travel rewards card, delivering strong earnings on travel purchases and restaurants worldwide.
Both the Freedom Unlimited card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card earn points that can be redeemed in several ways. Here are the choices you’ll have at redemption time with each of our featured cards.
|Redemption Option||Freedom Unlimited Card||Chase Sapphire Reserve Card|
|Redeem for Travel via Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal||Yes, at a value of 1 cent per point||Yes, at a value of 1.5 cents per point|
|Transfer Points to Hotel and Airline Partners||No, only when paired with a premium Ultimate Rewards-earning card||Yes|
|Pay Yourself Back||Yes, on select charity donations at a value of 1.25 cents per point||Yes, on various rotating categories at a value of 1.25 to 1.5 cents per point|
|Statement Credits/Cash||Yes, at a value of 1 cent per point|
|Gift Cards, Merchandise, Shopping at Select Retailers||Yes||Yes|
Rental car insurance can be secondary (you must first file a claim with other applicable insurance) or primary insurance that kicks in right away at the time of loss. The Freedom Unlimited card comes with secondary car rental insurance while the Chase Sapphire Reserve card comes with primary car rental insurance.
With either card or coverage level, you must pay for the entire rental with your card and decline the rental agency’s CDW/LDW coverage. You’ll then be eligible for rental car coverage for damage, theft, loss of use, and towing. Terms and conditions apply.
If your covered trip needs to be canceled or is interrupted due to a covered reason, you could receive up to $10,000 per covered person, up to $20,000 per covered trip. If your trip is delayed more than 6 hours or results in an overnight stay, you could receive up to $500 per ticket for lodging and covered incidentals.
You could receive up to $1,500 per covered person, up to $6,000 per coverage trip, if your trip needs to be canceled or is interrupted due to a covered reason. The Freedom Unlimited card does not offer trip delay coverage.
Have access 24/7 to emergency assistance should something go wrong during your travels. Services include translator, legal, and medical referrals, assistance with emergency transportation, help with ticket replacement, lost luggage, and more.
In addition to the travel benefits and protections listed above, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card offers these additional benefits/protections:
With complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, you’ll have access to over 1,300 locations worldwide. You’ll also be able to bring 2 additional guests. This benefit also applies to authorized users on the card.
Enjoy elite-style benefits such as room upgrades, early check-in/late checkout when available, daily breakfast for 2, a special onsite amenity worth up to $100, and complimentary Wi-Fi with each Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection stay. Reservations and payment must be made with your eligible Chase card.
Receive a VIP welcome and complimentary breakfast each day for each member of your party, for up to 7 days. Offer valid at 180 Relais & Chateaux properties.
Enjoy National Emerald Club Executive membership with National, plus discounts and elite-style benefits with Avis and Audi on demand. Log in to your Chase card account and register to receive the benefits.
Pay for your common carrier trip with your card and receive emergency evacuation services, up to $100,000.
Receive up to $2,500 in coverage for emergency medical or dental coverage and $75 per day for a hotel if recovery is needed (up to 5 days). There is a $50 deductible per claim.
Never worry when you’re stranded roadside — help is on the way. You’ll receive up to 4 service calls each year, for a maximum of up to $50 each. Any remainder will be charged to your card. Services include limited towing, tire changing, lockout service, emergency fuel, and more.
If your baggage is lost, you could receive up to $3,000 per covered person. For baggage that is delayed greater than 6 hours, you could receive up to $100 a day for up to 5 days for necessary incidentals.
While the Freedom Unlimited card is perfect to use while traveling domestically, the card does charge a 3% fee on foreign transactions. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card does not charge these fees, making it the card you’ll want to take with you for international travel.
Earn rewards faster and save money with both the Freedom Unlimited card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card by making purchases via the Chase shopping portal and using Chase Offers.
The Shop through Chase shopping portal offers additional earnings at select retailers that are over and above what you’d normally earn by shopping with your card. Just log in to your Ultimate Rewards online account to see the list of hundreds of stores.
Chase Offers are located in your online card account. Log in to your Chase card account, add the offers to your eligible card, and make the associated purchase to receive the statement credit offer.
With the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you’ll receive at least 1 full year of complimentary DoorDash DashPass membership when you activate your membership by December 31, 2024. You’ll receive a $5 monthly DoorDash credit, free delivery, and reduced service fees with your free membership.
Freedom Unlimited cardholders receive the same free delivery and reduced service fees with a complimentary 3-month membership but do not receive the $5 monthly credit. After the 3-month membership, cardholders can continue membership for 50% off for the next 9 months, then at full price.
If an eligible item purchased with your card is damaged or stolen within the first 120 days after the purchase date, you could receive up to $500 per claim with the Freedom Unlimited card or up to $10,000 per claim with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Each card has a limit of $50,000 per account.
Eligible items with manufacturer’s warranties of 3 years or less will receive 1 additional year of coverage.
The Freedom Unlimited card does not charge an annual fee. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card charges an annual fee of $550.
You can add authorized users to the Freedom Unlimited card for no additional charge. There is a fee of $75 for each authorized user added to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card comes with far more benefits than the Freedom Unlimited card but it also has a higher annual fee. If you’re not ready — or comfortable with — paying a higher annual fee, or you won’t use enough of the benefits on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card to validate the expense, the Freedom Unlimited card can still deliver plenty of value.
We mentioned at the beginning of this article that it wasn’t necessary to select from either of these 2 cards because the cards can work very well in tandem. If you can utilize the benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card (and don’t mind the annual fee) but still want to earn at least 1.5% on every purchase, there’s value in having both cards.
For example, you can use the Freedom Unlimited card for purchases that don’t fall within the bonus categories on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. You can then transfer those points to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and redeem them for travel for 50% more in value. You’ll also be able to then take advantage of the ability to transfer points to hotel and airline partners for potentially even greater value.
Before considering any Chase credit card, however, you should be aware of Chase’s (unwritten) rule that affects whether you can be approved for any of the issuer’s credit cards. Chase’s 5/24 rule states that you can only have a maximum of 5 credit cards issued from any source in the past 24 months to qualify for approval.
If you travel frequently, value premium travel benefits, and don’t mind paying an annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card could offer better value.
However, the Freedom Unlimited card works well as an everyday card and has no annual fee.
The better card for you will depend on the mix of your spending, which redemption options work best for you, and whether you value premium travel benefits.
Both the Freedom Unlimited card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card earn rewards in the form of points, on each eligible purchase. Rewards earned on the Freedom Unlimited card can be redeemed directly for cash-back, so the card is marketed as a cash-back card.
Rewards earned on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card are earned as Ultimate Rewards points that offer greater options and value at redemption time compared to the Freedom Unlimited card.
Points, however, can be transferred between the 2 cards (with limitations), allowing you to take advantage of the greater value offered on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card at redemption time.
You can redeem points earned on the Freedom Unlimited card for flights via the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, but you cannot transfer points to airline (or hotel) programs.
To do so, you must first transfer points to a Chase premium card that has the ability to transfer to travel partners.
Each purchase you make on the Freedom Unlimited card earns a percentage of the purchase price back in the form of points. These points can then be redeemed in several ways, including cash-back.
The points can also be transferred to Chase premium cards to be redeemed for potentially even greater value.
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