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Why the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Freedom Unlimited make the perfect duo

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Chase credit cards are very popular, partly because Chase Ultimate Rewards points are valuable and can be used in many ways.

With the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, you can use points for gift cards, statement credits, travel, and more. But redeeming points for travel through Chase transfer partners will usually result in outsized value compared to the alternative options — if you know how to use them. 

By combining a valuable everyday rewards card such as the Chase Freedom® Unlimited with a powerful travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can maximize the rewards you earn on every purchase.

Here’s why the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Freedom Unlimited are the perfect duo for those looking to earn (and burn) travel rewards.

Overview of the Chase Freedom Unlimited

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $0
Bonus: Extra 1.5% cash back on all purchases (up to $20,000 spent) in the first year
APR: Variable APR After Intro 0% APR Period
Intro Rewards Rate: 3%-6.5% Cash Back
Standard Rewards Rate: 1.5%-5% Cash Back
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $0

Intro APR: This card allows new cardholders to save money with an introductory 0% interest rate on new purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months of account opening.

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Bonus: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on all purchases (up to $20,000) in the first year of account opening. This bonus is valued at up to $300 in cash back, and increases rewards rates to: 6.5% cash back on travel booked through Chase, 4.5% back on dining (including takeout and eligible delivery services) and drugstore purchases and 3% back on all other purchases.

Rewards Rate: After the bonus 1.5% cash back intro offer period concludes, earn 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% back at drugstores and on dining purchases and 1.5% back on everything else.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? Households that prioritize cash-back rewards for everyday spending and Chase loyalists who are looking to maximize Ultimate Rewards earnings.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card

You don’t need excellent credit to get the Chase Freedom Unlimited. In fact, many cardholders report getting approved with good credit. We like that the card offers a high flat rewards rate but also provides accelerated rewards on some common everyday spending categories. You’ll also get access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, which allows you to use your cash-back earnings for travel rewards, gift cards and more.

And that sign-up bonus? Adding extra value to everyday spending categories like dining and travel help elevate this card above its competitors. Add the fact that there’s a 0% introductory APR for 15 months, an extra 1.5% cash back bonus during the first year of account holding and no annual fee, and you’ll see why the Chase Freedom Unlimited is among our favorite flat-rate cards.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card currently offers a sign-up bonus of $200 after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months of opening the account. For a card without an annual fee, that’s a solid return in exchange for a low minimum spend requirement. 

Cardholders can also earn 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back on dining (including takeout and delivery) and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash back on everything else. Plus, in the first year, you can earn 5% cash back on gas station purchases of up to $6,000 spent in the first year.

The card also has an introductory APR of 0% for the first 15 months after the account is opened on purchases and balance transfers. The APR will be between 17.24% and 25.99% after the introductory period is over, but this could be useful if you need some time to pay off large purchases before the 0% intro period ends. Keep in mind that the Chase Freedom Unlimited tacks on a 3% foreign transaction fee, so you may not want to use it on purchases when traveling abroad.

What makes the Chase Freedom Unlimited stand out as an enticing card is that the cash back you earn can be converted into travel rewards — at a ratio of 1 cent per point — if you have an Ultimate Rewards earning card —  like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. 

The ability to convert cash back to Ultimate Rewards points has the potential for immense value, as you can redeem these points for big travel purchases, rather than simply receiving cash back at a fixed rate. For now, let’s look at the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s features and see how these two cards complement one another. 

Overview of the Chase Sapphire Preferred

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $95
Bonus: 60,000 Points
APR: Variable Rate
Rewards Rate: 1X-5X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $95

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: The card offers 5x points per dollar on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining (including eligible takeout and delivery services), as well as 3x points on select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs). This card earns 2x points on all other travel spending and 1x point per dollar everywhere else. Chase broadly defines travel to include not just airfare, hotels and rental cars, but expenses like parking, tolls and public transit too.

Sign-Up Bonus: New applicants can earn 60,000 bonus points after using their card to spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. That’s $750 when redeeming points to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? People who are beginning with travel rewards cards.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred actually works like having over a dozen different rewards credit cards. That’s because this credit card allows you to transfer your rewards points into miles with 11 airlines and points with three hotel programs.

Although the Chase Sapphire Preferred might not be ideal for the most frequent travelers and highest spenders, it’s part of a family of Chase cards that has a built-in upgrade path. So when it comes time to take your travel rewards game to the next level, you won’t have to start from scratch with an entirely different credit card and rewards program.

The card has a $95 annual fee, but the $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit effectively reduces that fee to $45. Plus, the credit card allows you to continue earning points through bonus categories and a 10% anniversary points boost. But when it comes time to redeem your rewards for travel, this card really shines. You can take advantage of some really strong transfer partners such as United, Southwest, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Hyatt. Similarly, you can just book any reservation you want through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel center.

Introduced over 10 years ago, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card remains one of the market’s best travel rewards credit cards. The card is great for frequent travelers and those that only hit the road a few times a year. That’s because it awards cardholders generously in the following popular bonus categories:

  • 5x points on Lyft rides and travel
  • 5x points on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3x points on dining, streaming services and online grocery purchases
  • 2x points on all other travel
  • 1x point on all other purchases

The Chase Sapphire Preferred also features an elevated welcome offer of 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months. The sign-up bonus alone is worth a minimum of $750 in value toward travel.

Aside from the card’s bountiful earning rates and welcome offer, cardholders are treated to an abundance of perks in exchange for its moderate $95 annual fee. Cardmember perks such as a 10% points bonus on their cardmember anniversary, a $50 annual hotel credit when they book through Chase Ultimate Rewards, several travel protections, such as primary auto rental insurance, baggage delay reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement, purchase protection and more.

Why You Should Combine the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Sapphire Preferred Cards

friends high five on vacation
iStock

Combining these two cards not only accelerates the rate at which you earn valuable travel rewards in a variety of spend categories that you can use later for free flights and hotels, but you end up paying only one annual fee since the Chase Freedom Unlimited does not carry one.

Here are a few good reasons why you should have both a Chase Freedom Unlimited and a Chase Sapphire Preferred card:

You’ll Earn More Bonus Points in More Categories

An obvious reason why the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards make a good match is that they complement one another in offering distinctive bonus categories. Between the two, cardholders can earn bonus points in the following categories: 

  • 5x points on travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards Travel portal
  • 5x points on Lyft rides through March 31, 2025
  • 3x points on dining
  • 3x points on select streaming services
  • 3x points on online groceries (except Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs)
  • 3% cash back at drugstores
  • 2x points on all other travel purchases 
  • 1.5% cash back on everything else

With a broad list of everyday bonus categories, cardholders are guaranteed a minimum earning rate of 1.5x points per dollar on every purchase. And since Chase Ultimate Rewards points are by and large worth 2 cents each, the 1.5% cash back on all non-bonus spending results in a value of 1.5x points per dollar spent, which is a minimum of 3% return on your spending with these two cards.

To Increase the Value of Your Points

When you pair a cashback card like the Chase Freedom Unlimited or Chase Freedom Flex with a Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, the cash back earned from a Chase Freedom card can be converted and combined to form valuable points that can be redeemed for travel. Once the points have been combined, you can then redeem them by transferring them to one of Chase’s 14 transfer partners — such as United, Hyatt or British Airways — and book your travel.

By transferring cash back earned from the Chase Freedom Unlimited to your Chase Sapphire Preferred account, your points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through Chase, a 25% increase. You can get even more value out of your points by transferring them at a 1:1 ratio to transfer partners for a potentially higher gain. 

You’ll Pay Only One Annual Fee

As we alluded to earlier, these two cards aren’t just strong earners together; they are compatible in other ways. Both deliver excellent bonus categories and a myriad of complementary ways to use your points, but best of all —  you’re only on the hook for one annual fee of $95. 

There are several no-annual-fee credit cards that earn more than 1.5% cash back on all purchases. But being able to convert cash back into valuable Ultimate Rewards points for outstanding travel redemptions is why these two cards make an ideal pair when teamed up.

Before You Apply for a Chase Card

Before jumping headfirst into an application for the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you should be aware of Chase’s 5/24 rule. Chase has stringent application guidelines on who can or cannot be approved for one of their cards.

To put it simply, Chase has an unpublicized rule that states you cannot have applied for 5 credit card accounts (or more) in the last 24 months, or your application for new credit will almost certainly be denied (with a few exceptions). Keep this rule in mind when timing your application.

Bottom Line

The Chase Freedom Unlimited Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card complement one another to amass Ultimate Rewards points. The Ultimate Rewards program provides the flexibility to convert cash back earned from the Chase Freedom Unlimited into valuable travel rewards points (when combined with a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred). What’s more, the Chase Sapphire Preferred sign-up bonus of 60,000 points can help you hit the ground running in accruing Ultimate Rewards points. 

If you have just begun to dip your toes into travel rewards, these two cards can be a perfect starting point for those who yearn to use points for travel. Combined, there may not be a stronger duo than these two in the credit card market.

While we work hard on our research, we do not always provide a complete listing of all available offers from credit-card companies and banks. And because offers can change, we cannot guarantee that our information will always be up to date, so we encourage you to verify all the terms and conditions of any financial product before you apply.

Juan Ruiz
Juan Ruiz
Juan has been writing and editing stories involving credit cards, loyalty programs, travel, and personal finance topics for more than 10 years. In addition to working and contributing to a number of outlets including The Points Guy, Forbes, and Business Insider, Juan was recently the editor-in-chief at Money Under 30, where he led a team of personal finance journalists. He is also an adjunct professor at Florida International University and a licensed real estate professional.

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