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2021 Comparison: The Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. the Chase Freedom Flex Credit Card

Updated Apr 12, 2021 | Published Jan 26, 20219 min read

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At a glance

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Freedom Flex℠ are both great. The Sapphire Preferred is better for travelers, while the Freedom Flex is more suited to people who spend on a wide array of purchases. However, they can work very well together too.

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The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Review) and the Chase Freedom Flex℠ (Review) are designed with two different kinds of spenders in mind.

The Sapphire Preferred targets customers who travel at least several times a year, while the Freedom Flex caters to customers who spend money on a wide variety of purchases. But your choice doesn’t have to be permanent. If you get the Freedom Flex, which has no annual fee, and decide the Sapphire Preferred might actually suit you better, you can upgrade to it, and vice versa.

However, these cards can work together to produce a higher return for your spending. So if you don’t feel like choosing, you could always grab both. But if you’re torn between which card would work best for you, I’m sure we can help with that decision.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$95
Regular APR15.99% - 22.99% Variable

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR14.99% - 23.74% Variable

What Are the Main Differences?

Chase Sapphire Preferred Chase Freedom Flex
  • Made of metal
  • Made of plastic
  • Annual fee: $95
  • Annual fee: $0
  • 2X points on travel and dining
  • 5% cash back on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, Lyft rides, and in rotating bonus categories
  • 3% cash back at restaurants and drugstores
  • 25% point bonus for redeeming through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 1.25¢ per point; 1:1 transfer rate to Chase’s travel partners
  • Each point is worth 1¢; no transfer options
  • More travel protections
  • Better benefits for general spending

Keep in mind that because there’s no annual fee, you could always get the Freedom Flex first and then decide later on if you want to add the Sapphire Preferred to your wallet as well.

You could use the Freedom Flex for its considerable reward potential while making your decision. Should you decide you’d like to increase your rewards even further, you could then apply for the Sapphire Preferred, especially if you spend a lot of money on both dining and travel.

The Rewards

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Spending Rewards
  • 5X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on Lyft rides (through March 2022)
  • 2X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar for:
    • Travel
    • Restaurants
    • Groceries (up to $1,000 spent per month; through 4/30/21)
  • 1X Ultimate Rewards point per dollar on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus
  • 80,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months; up to $50 in statement credits toward grocery purchases in the first year

The Sapphire Preferred provides rewards for all of your needs while you’re away from home. You’ll earn on dining, Lyft rides, plane tickets, hotel stays, taxis, trains, and more. So if you often find yourself traveling, this card would suit you well.

After you’ve earned your points, you can redeem them through Chase Ultimate Rewards for a 25% bonus, something the Freedom Flex doesn’t offer.

The transfer options are another great aspect of the Sapphire Preferred. Points transfer in a 1:1 ratio, which is excellent considering some other major reward programs, like American Express Membership Rewards, sometimes skimp on the transfer rates. Your partner points could be worth much more than 1 cent, giving you access to more potential value from the card. It opens up plenty of other redemption options for your rewards.

The welcome bonus is also typically larger than the Freedom Flex’s.

Insider tip

If you have the Sapphire Preferred and you’re looking for an even more impressive travel card, you can upgrade to the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review). It has a higher annual fee, but it provides stronger perks like an annual travel credit, a bigger redemption bonus, and improved rewards.

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Spending Rewards
  • 5% cash back on:
    • Travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • Lyft rides (through March 2022)
  • 5% cash back in rotating categories, up to $1,500 in spending each quarter, then 1%
  • 3% cash back at:
    • Restaurants
    • Drugstores
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus
  • $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months

The Freedom Flex doesn’t share the Sapphire Preferred’s travel focus, and instead earns on a wide array of purchases. Despite not focusing on travel, it still earns 5% cash back for it as long as you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

While that’s more than what the Sapphire Preferred offers, you won’t receive a travel redemption bonus or gain access to any point transfer options. And the Sapphire Preferred earns on all travel, not just what you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards, giving you a lot more flexibility.

That being said, the Freedom Flex is more suited to the general spender. The potential rewards could very easily outweigh the Sapphire Preferred’s. There are several more rotating 5% reward categories to accompany the static categories, as well.

These rotating categories cover a lot of ground, with the 2020 categories including things like gym memberships, streaming services, Amazon purchases, and more. And despite the $1,500 spending limit, it’ll still yield plenty of cash back, so that doesn’t really take away from the Freedom Flex’s potential. Even with the limit, the categories push the reward potential of the Freedom Flex far past what the Sapphire Preferred can offer.

However, there is a way you could use both cards to increase your earnings even more. But we’ll get into that a bit later on.

Here are the quarterly 5% bonus categories for 2021, compared to what was offered in 2020:

Quarter 2021 Categories 2020 Categories
January – March
  • Wholesale Clubs
  • Streaming Services
  • Internet, Cable, Phone Services
  • Gas Stations
  • Streaming Services
  • Internet, Cable, Phone Services
April – June
  • Gas Stations
  • Home Improvement Stores
  • Grocery stores
  • Fitness club and gym memberships
  • Streaming services
July – September
  • TBA
  • Amazon.com
  • Whole Foods Markets
October – December
  • TBA
  • Walmart
  • PayPal
Insider tip

If you have the old Chase Freedom® (Review), you can upgrade to the Freedom Flex for little hassle. However, in general it would be best to simply apply for the Freedom Flex without upgrading, so you can qualify for the welcome bonus.

And there’s one more card in the Chase Freedom family — the Chase Freedom Unlimited® (Review). It features the same static rewards as the Freedom Flex, but with no rotating categories. It also earns 1.5% cash back for non-category purchases.

Redeeming

Although each card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, the redemption options are quite different.

The Freedom Flex only features basic redemption methods, like statement credits and gift cards, with no transfer options. Each point with the Freedom Flex will be worth 1 cent at the most. The Chase Sapphire Preferred has the Freedom Flex beat in this regard.

With the Sapphire Preferred you can transfer your points to net a higher cash back equivalent. If you can find a value of 2 cents or more, you’d get a cash back equivalent of at least 10% for Lyft rides and 4% for travel and dining.

Or you could redeem your points for travel expenses through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal for a 25% bonus. That’d make each point worth 1.25 cents.

The airline and hotel partners that you can transfer points to from the Chase Sapphire Preferred, all at a 1:1 rate, are:

Airline Travel Partners
Aer Lingus AerClub British Airways Executive Club Emirates Skywards Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM Iberia Plus
JetBlue TrueBlue Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards United MileagePlus Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Hotel Travel Partners
IHG Rewards Club Marriott Bonvoy World of Hyatt

The Freedom Flex is cut off from those options and offers no redemption bonus. Instead, you can:

  • Redeem for statement credits
  • Redeem for gift cards
  • Redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Use your rewards for purchases
  • Transfer your rewards to another Chase card, as we explain in a following section

How Much Would You Earn?

One of the best ways to compare these cards is by looking at each one’s earning potential.

Here are some examples of annual spending, breaking down some of the more useful bonus categories for each card. Each point for the Sapphire Preferred is valued at 1–2 cents. The Freedom Flex’s rewards are just expressed as cash back.

For travel spending, we’re assuming you can book through Chase Ultimate Rewards with the Freedom Flex. If you can’t, you’ll earn less in rewards for this category. We’re also assuming quite a lot of travel spending; if you won’t spend as much on travel, your overall reward value will skew more towards the Freedom Flex.

Travel Rewards
Card Annual Spending Rewards Value
Sapphire Preferred (2X points) $7,000 14,000 points $140–$280
Freedom Flex (5% cash back for travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards) $7,000 $350 $350
Freedom Flex (1% cash back for travel booked directly) $7,000 $70 $70

 

Lyft Rewards
Card Annual Spending Rewards Value
Sapphire Preferred (5X points) $250 1,250 points $12.50–$25
Freedom Flex (5% cash back) $250 $12.50 $12.50

 

Dining Rewards
Card Annual Spending Rewards Value
Sapphire Preferred (2X points) $1,000 2,000 points $20–$40
Freedom Flex (3% cash back) $1,000 $30 $30

 

Drugstore Rewards
Card Annual Spending Rewards Value
Sapphire Preferred (1X point) $300 300 points $3–$6
Freedom Flex (3% cash back) $300 $9 $9

In addition to the categories above, with the Freedom Flex you’ll also gain a rotating selection of 5% categories, up to your first $1,500 spent per quarter, then you earn 1%. That means for three months you’ll earn 5% cash back on the following categories with the Freedom Flex, and then 1% for the remaining nine months. The rewards values are calculated with this in mind.

We’ll look at a few examples from the 2020 selection of categories:

 

Grocery Rewards
Card Annual Spending Rewards Value
Sapphire Preferred (1X point) $4,000 4,000 points $40–$80
Freedom Flex (5%/1% cash back) $4,000 $80 $80

 

Gas Rewards
Card Annual Spending Rewards Value
Sapphire Preferred (1X point) $3,000 3,000 points $30–$60
Freedom Flex (5%/1% cash back) $3,000 $60 $60

 

Streaming Service Rewards
Card Annual Spending Rewards Value
Sapphire Preferred (1X point) $300 300 points $3–$6
Freedom Flex (5%/1% cash back) $300 $6 $6

Now let’s see the total rewards, side by side, after subtracting the Sapphire Preferred’s annual fee:

Card Annual Spending Annual Rewards Annual Rewards Value (Annual Fee Deducted)
Sapphire Preferred $15,850 24,850 points $153.50–$402.00
Freedom Flex $15,850 $267.50–$547.50 $267.50–$547.50

As you can see, if you were to redeem your rewards through normal means with the Sapphire Preferred, they couldn’t hold a candle to the Freedom Flex’s cash back. Assuming you were able to book through Chase Ultimate Rewards with the Freedom Flex, even if you were to transfer your points to Chase’s travel partners with the Sapphire Preferred, you could earn a higher cash back equivalent with the Freedom Flex.

Keep in mind the value range for the Sapphire Preferred assumes you’re getting between 1 cent per point at the low end and 2 cents per point at the high end. And while 2 cents is a good number to aim for, you could find an even higher value which would increase your return.

If you weren’t able to book through Ultimate Rewards with the Freedom Flex, going from the examples above, your rewards would obviously be significantly lower. The Sapphire Preferred would likely out-value the Freedom Flex if you were to utilize point transfers and found a value of 2 cents per point or more.

However, if you were simply to redeem your rewards with the Sapphire Preferred through normal means (not recommended), you’d earn more with the Freedom Flex even if you didn’t book your travel through Ultimate Rewards.

But there is a way to use both cards to maximize your rewards. By getting both, you’d gain access to the Freedom Flex’s wide array of bonus categories and the Sapphire Preferred’s redemption and transfer options.

How Do the Benefits Compare?

While these two cards have the same issuer, they belong to different card networks.

The Sapphire Preferred is a Visa Signature, while the Freedom Flex is a World Elite Mastercard.

And because benefits are doled out by both the credit card issuer and the network, the Chase Freedom Flex and the Chase Sapphire Preferred share a few of their benefits but also have some discrepancies.

One of the larger discrepancies lies within their rental car insurance coverage. While both cards share this benefit, they come from different providers meaning the terms vary.

The coverage provided by the Chase Sapphire Preferred is primary, while the Freedom Flex provides secondary coverage to its cardmembers. That means if an accident happens the Sapphire Preferred would cover everything, without having to go through your own private insurance provider. Secondary coverage only kicks in after your own insurance has been exhausted.

The Sapphire Preferred also has some travel protections and perks that the Freedom Flex doesn’t. Cardholders will get the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, trip delay reimbursement, baggage delay reimbursement, and lost luggage reimbursement. So it’s safe to say the Sapphire Preferred is better suited for travelers. It also features a longer DoorDash membership (known as a DashPass).

The Freedom Flex, which is better suited for a general spender, features benefits like monthly Lyft credits, 5% cash back at Boxed Wholesale, and cell phone protection.

You can see the complete list of benefits for each card below:

Chase Sapphire Preferred Chase Freedom Flex
Year-long DoorDash membership Three-month DoorDash membership
Chase Offers Chase Offers
Shop through Chase Shop through Chase
$60 Peloton membership credit ShopRunner membership
Chase Credit Journey Chase Credit Journey
Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection Boxed Deals
Visa Signature Concierge Mastercard World Elite Concierge
Direct access to customer support Lyft Credits
Fandango discount
Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance
Primary Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver Secondary Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver
Travel and Emergency Assistance Services Travel and Emergency Assistance Services
Trip Delay Reimbursement Cell Phone Protection
Baggage Delay Insurance
Lost Luggage Reimbursement
Purchase Protection Purchase Protection
Extended Warranty Extended Warranty
Insider tip

If you’re curious about the more intricate differences between Mastercard and Visa, we have a page that can help.

How Do the Terms and Fees Compare?

Card Purchase APR Balance Transfer APR Cash Advance APR
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card 15.99% - 22.99% Variable 15.99% - 22.99% Variable 24.99% Variable
Chase Freedom Flex℠ 14.99% - 23.74% Variable 14.99% - 23.74% Variable 24.99% Variable
Card Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card $95 $0
Chase Freedom Flex℠ $0 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
Card Balance Transfer Fee Cash Advance Fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater Either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater
Chase Freedom Flex℠ Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater Either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater
Card Penalty APR Late Fee Returned Payment Fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Up to 29.99% Up to $39 Up to $39
Chase Freedom Flex℠ NONE See Terms See Terms

There are a few differences within the terms that you should be aware of. First off, the Freedom Flex features an intro 0% APR for purchases, meaning your new purchases won’t accrue interest for 15 months.

You can avoid interest with the Sapphire Preferred, too. It, like most cards including the Freedom Flex, has a grace period. So as long as you pay your statement balance in full each month, the purchases you made during the previous billing cycle won’t accrue interest.

Another other important difference here is in the annual fees. While the Freedom Flex doesn’t ask for one, the Sapphire Preferred costs $95 per year.

And because the Sapphire Preferred has a focus on travel, there’s no foreign transaction fee to worry about. The Freedom Flex does carry a foreign transaction fee, so if you’re traveling overseas, just be aware you’ll be charged for every purchase you make in foreign currency.

How Can I Get the Most Out of These Cards?

For those of you who don’t want to pick between the two, these cards actually work quite well together.

Use the Freedom Flex for everything it’ll earn more rewards on, and the Sapphire Preferred where it would be more lucrative.

If you end up raking in the rewards with the Freedom Flex, you can transfer the points to the Chase Sapphire Preferred. That way, you’d gain access to both the 1:1 transfer rate and the redemption bonus for travel that the Sapphire Preferred has.

By transferring your points from the Freedom Flex to the Sapphire Preferred, you’d get both an impressive array of bonus categories and the potential to increase the value of your points. Learn more about transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points here.

If you earn 5% cash back with the Freedom Flex and then move the rewards to the Sapphire Preferred, you can then transfer the points to one of Chase’s travel partners. From there, you could find a per-point value of 2 cents or more. That would boost your cash back equivalent to 10% or more for the 5% categories, and 6% or more for the 3% categories.

The Verdict

Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Review) and the Chase Freedom Flex℠ (Review) are excellent cards, but one might be better for you depending on your spending habits.

If you’re one for adventures, the Sapphire Preferred would suit you well. It was built with travelers in mind, so if you’re often on the move, it’d be a good choice.

The Freedom Flex is better for people who spend on a variety of different things. It’s kind of a jack-of-all-trades card, and does most of them very well. But if you were to book all of your traveling through Chase Ultimate Rewards, the Freedom Flex would also be a great choice for travelers.

You could always get the Freedom Flex first to take advantage of its strong rewards program because it doesn’t have to cost you anything at all, as long as you avoid interest and other fees. Use it while deciding if you’d like to add the Sapphire Preferred to your collection later on.

After the Sapphire Preferred’s annual fee is taken care of, from the calculations above the Chase Sapphire Preferred earns $153.50–$402.00 per year, based on $15,850 in annual spending. In comparison, the Freedom Flex earns $267.50–$547.50 in rewards. So if you were to book all of your travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards with the Freedom Flex, even with the Sapphire Preferred’s transfer options, the Freedom Flex would win by a landslide.

However, if you don’t book everything through Chase’s travel portal, and can use the Sapphire Preferred’s transfer options, you’d likely be able to out-earn the Freedom Flex. But if you simply use the normal redemption options with the Sapphire Preferred, the Freedom Flex would prove the more lucrative option.

Because of these caveats, using both of these cards together would be the best option. It would both increase your reward potential and let you access the Sapphire Preferred’s redemption options, meaning you could get the best of both worlds.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$95
Regular APR15.99% - 22.99% Variable

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR14.99% - 23.74% Variable
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Written by

Evan Zimmer

Evan graduated from SUNY Oswego with a degree in journalism and creative writing. In his professional writing career, he strives for precision and comprehension in his work. He’s written news articles, blog posts, and copy, working across a slew of different mediums. With in-depth research and great care for accuracy and detail, he now works to bring you the most up-to-date credit information.

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