As a leading financial institution, Chase’s expertise extends far beyond its credit card offerings. For this reason, establishing a relationship with Chase and having access to the Chase portfolio of products can prove to be valuable over the long term.
Securing and managing a rewards-earning Chase credit card, however, can be an excellent tool for establishing a foundation with Chase, though this decision does beg the next question of which card would be an appropriate first card.
Today, we’re going to focus on that exact question and provide you with 2 excellent card recommendations.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Freedom Flex℠ are both good choices for a first-time rewards-earning card, especially if you’re a traveler. Even occasional travelers will find value with either card.
Up next, we’re ready to dive into the details, compare the attributes of these popular cards, and see how each measures up as a valuable travel rewards card.
The Value of a Welcome Bonus
You can expect to receive a welcome bonus after meeting minimum spending requirements within the first 3 months after card approval with either the Chase Sapphire Preferred card or the Freedom Flex card. Welcome bonuses allow you to accumulate a large number of points or cash-back quickly.
While the Chase Sapphire Preferred card generally offers a much larger welcome bonus than the Freedom Flex card, the card does charge an annual fee and has a higher minimum spending requirement.
The value of your welcome bonus will vary depending on your redemption choice, but we estimate the value of Ultimate Rewards points at approximately 2 cents each.
Welcome offers change, as well as the spending requirements, so it’s important to check out the most recent offer before applying. This is a prudent step for any credit card you’re considering.
Here are the most recent offerings for our 2 featured cards:
Bottom Line: Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and Freedom Flex card offer a welcome bonus that can be earned by meeting minimum spending requirements within the first 3 months after card approval. The value of the welcome bonus will vary depending on the card and how you ultimately redeem your rewards.
A key factor to receiving value from a specific card is that its bonus-earning categories match up with your spending mix. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card and Freedom Flex card offer similar bonus-earning categories, but you’ll want to pay attention to the differences to determine if your biggest expenses will be earning big rewards.
The Freedom Flex card, for example, has quarterly bonus categories that rotate. These categories can include supermarkets, warehouse clubs, PayPal, Amazon, home improvement, and many more. You’ll also find 5% cash-back earnings at gas stations in the first year. Maximizing spending in these categories could give the card an edge.
Here are the earning categories for both of our featured cards:
|Earning Category||Chase Sapphire Preferred Card||Freedom Flex Card|
|Travel Purchased via Chase Travel Portal||5x points per dollar spent||5% cash-back|
|Restaurants, Eligible Takeout, and Delivery||3x points||3% cash-back|
|Select Streaming Services and Online Grocery Store Purchases||3x points||1% cash-back|
|Drugstores||1x points||3% cash-back|
|Quarterly Rotating Bonus Categories||N/A||5% cash-back on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter|
|Gas Stations||1x points||5% cash-back on up to $6,000 in purchases during the first 12 months after card approval|
|Lyft Rides||5x points through March 2025||5% cash-back through March 2025|
|All Other Purchases||1x points||1% cash-back|
Bottom Line: The Chase Sapphire Preferred card and Freedom Flex card both offer the same level of earnings on travel via the Chase travel portal, dining, takeout, food delivery, and on Lyft rides. The extra earnings on quarterly bonus categories, drugstores, and at gas stations with the Freedom Flex card could add significant extra earnings if your spending matches these categories. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card has the edge on streaming services and at online grocery stores.
You’ll have plenty of flexibility at redemption time with either the Chase Sapphire Preferred card or the Freedom Flex card.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns Ultimate Rewards points, while the Freedom Flex card, marketed as a cash-back card, actually first earns its rewards as points. Those points can subsequently be redeemed for cash-back, travel, and the additional options listed below.
|Redemption Option||Chase Sapphire Preferred Card||Freedom Flex Card|
|Travel via Chase Travel Portal||1.25 cents per point||1 cent per point|
|Transfer Points to Travel Partners||Transfer to airline and hotel partners to redeem for award flights and free hotel nights||N/A, points earned on the card must be transferred to a premium card in order to then transfer to travel partners|
|Pay Yourself Back for Charitable Contributions||Reimburse yourself for select charitable contributions at the rate of 1.25 cents per point through December 2022|
|Pay Yourself Back — Rotating Categories||Reimburse yourself at the rate of 1.25 cents per point (categories vary)||N/A|
|General Statement Credits||1 cent per point|
|Additional Redemption Options||Cash-back, gift cards, Amazon and Apple shopping, Chase Experiences|
Bottom Line: The Chase Sapphire Preferred card has broader redemption options than the Freedom Flex card as its Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for travel via the Chase travel portal for 1.25 cents each or transferred to airline and hotel partners to purchase flights and free hotel nights. The Freedom Flex card can only redeem points for 1 cent each for travel and points cannot be transferred to travel partners directly.
Travel Benefits and Protections
Travel benefits and protections can save you money and provide coverage when your trip is canceled or disrupted for a covered reason.
Here are the travel protections you’ll find on both the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and the Freedom Flex card:
- Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver — Pay for your entire car rental with your card, decline the rental agency’s CDW/LDW coverage, and receive coverage for damage or theft. Coverage provided with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is primary while coverage with the Freedom Flex card is secondary, meaning you would first need to file a claim with any other applicable insurance before card coverage kicks in.
- Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption Insurance — If your trip is canceled or interrupted for covered reasons, you could receive up to $10,000 per person, $20,000 per trip with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card or up to $1,500 per person, $6,000 per trip with the Freedom Flex card.
- Roadside Assistance — With 1 call and paying just 1 flat fee, you can receive standard towing (up to 5 miles), tire changing, jump-starting, lockout service, and fuel delivery (cost of fuel not included).
Beyond the travel protections these 2 cards have in common, you’ll find these additional benefits/protections on the individual cards:
Additional Travel Benefits and Protections — Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
- $50 Hotel Statement Credit — Book your hotel via the Chase travel portal and receive a statement credit once each card anniversary year.
- Visa Signature Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection Benefits — Enjoy an upgraded room (when available), daily breakfast for 2, late checkout (when available), a $25 food and beverage credit, plus VIP status.
- Trip Delay Reimbursement — For trips that have a delay of more than 12 hours, or overnight, you could receive up to $500 for eligible incidental expenses.
- Baggage Delay — Receive up to $100 per day, maximum of $500, for eligible incidental expenses, if your baggage is delayed more than 6 hours.
- Lost Luggage Reimbursement — Receive up to $3,000 if your luggage is lost or stolen.
Additional Travel Benefits and Protections — Freedom Flex Card
- World Elite Mastercard Hotel Benefits — Enjoy early check-in and late checkout (subject to availability) and an upgraded room at Mastercard Luxury Hotels and Resorts, including all-inclusive properties. You’ll also receive breakfast for 2 and an on-site amenity (value up to $100). Additional benefits at all-inclusive properties include an on-site experience (value of up to $250), an in-room amenity, and VIP service.
Bottom Line: The Chase Sapphire Preferred card with primary car rental insurance (versus secondary), higher trip cancellation/interruption benefits, its hotel credit, and baggage insurance is clearly the better card for travel benefits and protections over the Freedom Flex card.
Shopping Benefits and Protections
Since both the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and Freedom Flex card are issued by Chase, you’ll find similar benefits and protections.
Here are some of the shopping benefits and protections you’ll find on both cards:
- Purchase Protection — Purchase an eligible item with your card and receive coverage for theft, accidental damage, or “involuntary or accidental parting” for 120 days from the date of purchase. Coverage is limited to $500 per item, $50,000 maximum per account.
- Extended Warranty — Eligible items with manufacturer’s warranties for 3 years or less will receive 1 additional year of coverage.
- Chase Offers — Log in to your Chase card account and receive money-saving offers from select retailers.
- Shop through Chase — Utilize the Chase shopping portal to earn additional Ultimate Rewards points on your purchases. Select Ways to Earn, then Shop through Chase in your online Chase account.
- DoorDash DashPass — Receive a complimentary that includes reduced fees and free delivery with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card through December 31, 2024. If the DashPass is activated during 2024, it will expire 1 year from date of activation. The Freedom Flex card comes with a complimentary 3-month membership and the option to receive an additional 9 months at a 50% discount. Must activate by December 31, 2024.
- Monthly GoPuff Credit — Receive up to $10 each month in statement credits when shopping via the GoPuff app through December 2023.
- Instacart Benefits — Cardholders are eligible for a free 3 or 6-month Instacart+ membership plus a $10 or $15 quarterly credit.
Additional Shopping Benefits and Protections — Freedom Flex Card
- Cell Phone Protection — Pay for your monthly cell phone service with your card and receive up to $800 per claim if your phone is damaged or stolen. There is a $50 deductible for each claim and a limit of 2 claims per 12-month period, for a total of $1,000 maximum.
- Introductory 0% APR on Purchases — Enjoy an interest-free period for eligible purchases for up to 15 months after card approval. After that, normal interest rates as stated in the card table at the beginning of this article will apply.
Bottom Line: The Chase Sapphire Preferred card and the Freedom Flex card offer similar shopping benefits and protections. The Freedom Flex card, however, offers cell protection and an introductory 0% APR on purchases, both of which are not found on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
Annual Fees and Authorized Users
In order to balance the benefits you’ll receive with any costs incurred for holding a rewards-earning credit card, you’ll want to consider annual fees and any charges for adding authorized users to your card.
Here’s how the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and Freedom Flex card compare in this category.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card charges a $95 annual fee, which is actually modest for a travel rewards-earning card. The Freedom Flex card does not charge an annual fee.
Adding Authorized Users
There is no charge to add authorized users to either the Chase Sapphire Preferred card or the Freedom Flex card.
Bottom Line: The Chase Sapphire Preferred card packs plenty of earning potential, flexible redemption options, and benefits into its card for just a $95 annual fee. The Freedom Flex card does not have an annual fee but has great earning power, good-value redemption options, and useful benefits such as cell phone protection. Neither card charges a fee to add authorized users.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card vs. Freedom Flex Card — Summary
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card and the Freedom Flex card are obviously cards that can provide value for the right cardholder.
However, we’ve covered a lot of information, so let’s look at how the cards compare overall.
Here’s what you can expect regarding earnings, redemptions, and both travel and shopping benefits/protections on these 2 cards:
|Benefit||Chase Sapphire Preferred Card||Freedom Flex Card|
- 5x points on travel purchased via the Chase travel portal
- 3x points at restaurants (worldwide), eligible takeout and delivery services
- 3x points on select streaming services and online groceries
- 5x points on Lyft rides through March 2025
- 1x points on all other purchases
- 5% cash-back on travel purchased via the Chase travel portal
- 5% cash-back at gas stations, up to $6,000 in purchases within the first year after card approval
- 3% cash-back at restaurants, eligible takeout and delivery services, and drugstores
- 5% cash-back on rotating quarterly bonus categories, up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter
- 5% cash-back on Lyft rides through March 2025
- 1% cash-back on all other purchases
- Redeem points for travel via the Chase travel portal for 1.25 each
- Transfer points to airline and hotel partners
- Cash-back, statement credits, gift cards, Amazon and Apple shopping, experiences
- Redeem for 1 cent each for travel via the Chase travel portal
- Transfer to premium Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning cards for potential elevated redemption value
- Cash-back, statement credits, gift cards, Amazon and Apple shopping, experiences
|Travel Benefits and Protections|
- Primary car rental insurance
- Trip cancellation/trip interruption ($10,000 per person, $20,000 per trip)
- Roadside assistance
- $50 hotel credit via the Chase travel portal
- Visa Signature Luxury Hotels & Resorts benefits
- Trip delay reimbursement
- Lost or delayed baggage
- No foreign transaction fees
- Secondary car rental insurance
- Trip cancellation/trip interruption ($1,500 per person, $6,000 per trip)
- Roadside assistance
- World Elite Mastercard Luxury Hotels and Resorts benefits
|Shopping Benefits and Protections|
- Purchase protection, extended warranty
- Chase Offers, Shop through Chase
- DoorDash DashPass
- Monthly GoPuff credit
- Instacart benefits (varies by card)
|Additional Shopping Benefits and Protections|
- Cell phone protection
- Introductory 0% APR for purchases; regular APR applies thereafter
|Annual Fees and Authorized Users|
- $95 annual fee, no additional fee to add authorized users
- $0 annual fee, no additional fee to add authorized users
Everything Else You Need To Know
Chase has an unwritten rule that if you have been approved for 5 cards (or more) within the past 24 months (from any issuer), you will not be approved for a Chase card (known as Chase’s 5/24 rule).
While the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and Freedom Flex card both offer earnings on every purchase you make, the Freedom Flex card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee. This makes the card a poor choice for international travel.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is issued as a Visa Signature card and the Freedom Flex card is a World Elite Mastercard.
You may have difficulty deciding which of our featured Chase rewards-earning cards is right for you, when actually, the combination of both cards could offer the greatest value. Having the bonus-earning categories on everyday purchases with the no-annual-fee Freedom Flex card and transferring those points to the Chase Sapphire Preferred card for increased redemption value allows you to benefit from the best of both cards.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card, compared to other travel rewards cards, offers a lot of value for a lower $95 annual fee.
Additionally, if you’re a frequent international traveler, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card would make a better travel companion as it does not charge foreign transaction fees.
And if you consider the route of applying for both cards, you’ll want to read up on Chase’s 5/24 rule.