Why the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Freedom Unlimited Cards are the Ultimate Beginner Duo

A photo to accompany a story about the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Freedom Unlimited credit cards Illustration/NextAdvisor
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Having a credit card that matches your lifestyle and budget is a key part of a healthy financial strategy. And sometimes having two is a great way to maximize the rewards you get from both. 

That’s the case with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. When combined, those two cards — the first a travel rewards card with a $95 annual fee, the second a cash back card with no fee — can help you unlock free travel faster.

That’s because they earn rewards at elevated rates in different categories, and also because you can turn the cash back into points, which have a higher value when redeemed for travel. But that’s only possible if you have both cards.  

Pro Tip

If you pair credit cards, make sure they earn elevated rewards in different categories, so you can really maximize your earnings.

These two cards together are arguably the perfect combination for beginners in the world of travel rewards, especially those without debt and who have some level of confidence using travel rewards credit cards responsibly. Using both of these cards strategically on many of your normal purchases can help you earn more points — that you can later redeem for free flights and hotels — than you would with one card. (You’ll pay just taxes and fees on award travel.)

Let’s take a closer look.

How the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Freedom Unlimited Work Together

The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Freedom Unlimited cards are two of our favorite beginner-level credit cards. They offer different perks and benefits that can be beneficial for the right cardholder.

Chase Sapphire Preferred: Quick Look

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a $95 annual fee travel rewards credit card. It earns 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel booked with Chase; 3x points on dining (including eligible takeout and delivery), select streaming services, and online grocery purchases, 2x points on travel not booked with Chase, and 1x points on everything else.

It comes with added perks like up to $50 annually toward hotel stays booked through Chase, up to $60 in Peloton membership credits, and a year of DoorDash Dash Pass membership, worth up to $9.99 per month (activate by 12/31/21). These benefits alone would more than offset the annual fee, if you use them. 

You can also score a 60,000-point welcome bonus after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening. That’s worth up to $750 when you redeem points toward travel.

Chase Freedom Unlimited: Quick Look

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a no-annual fee cash back credit card. It earns 5% cash back on travel booked through the Chase travel portal, 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash back on everything else. You’ll also get a $200 bonus after spending $500 within three months of account opening.

While the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a cash back card, if you have either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you can convert those earnings into Ultimate Rewards points to unlock even greater value.

  • Intro bonus:
    60,000 points
  • Annual fee:
    $95
  • Regular APR:
    15.99% – 22.99% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site.
  • Intro bonus:
    $200
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    14.99% – 23.74% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site.
  • Intro bonus:
    80,000 points
  • Annual fee:
    $95
  • Regular APR:
    15.99% – 23.99% (Variable)
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site.

Combining the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Freedom Unlimited Cards

Typically, converting your cash back to points with the Freedom Unlimited card will yield a fixed rate of 1 cent per point. However, you can transfer points earned with the Freedom Unlimited to the Sapphire Preferred within the Ultimate Rewards portal. Doing so will yield 1.25 cents per point when redeemed for travel, giving you a 25% increase in the value of your points.

With that in mind, we recommend using your Chase Freedom Unlimited card for dining and drugstore purchases, as well as travel purchases booked through the Chase portal. You’ll want to use the Chase Sapphire Preferred for travel purchases not booked through the portal, streaming services, and online grocery purchases. For any spending that doesn’t fall within bonus categories, you can use your Freedom Unlimited for a baseline 1.5% back.

That way, you’ll be able to maximize your earnings by putting your spending on the card that will earn the greatest amount of points possible.

Why Should You Pair Credit Cards?

Each individual credit card has its own perks, and the right combination of credit cards can complement each other, especially in terms of benefits and earning rates. For example, one card might earn more points on dining while another might be better for everyday purchases or come with credits that you can use for travel. 

While having more than one credit card can help you maximize earnings, it’s important to pay your bills on time and in full so you won’t accrue a balance on which you’d pay a high interest. If balances pile up, the cost of interest can negate any of the rewards or benefits that come with your card. Ideally, when applying for a credit card with a welcome offer or a signup bonus, you should have a plan ready for how you’ll meet the spending requirements in the allotted time, without overspending.  

How Quickly Can You Apply for Both Cards?

Because each of these cards have a three-month period to obtain the welcome bonus offer, we don’t recommend applying for both at once. Evaluate your spending and budget to determine which makes sense for you to apply for first — if you have an upcoming trip, for example, you may want to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred first to maximize travel points rewards.

Then, if your budget allows, you can apply for the second card and work toward its bonus. That way, you can hit the minimum spending requirement to earn bonus points or cash back on each one individually. Just remember, high-interest debt balances are much more costly than any bonus offer, so be careful not spend more than you can afford just to earn a sign-up bonus.

You’ll also want to keep in mind Chase’s 5/24 rule. This policy limits potential cardholders who have opened five or more personal cards across all banks and issuers (including non-Chase, such as American Express) within 24 months from opening an additional Chase card. So if you find yourself within this timeframe, you’ll need to wait until 24 months from the opening of your last card have passed.