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Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which Is Better?

You get big returns for a big price with the Sapphire Reserve, but the Freedom Flex offers a lot for no annual fee.

CNET'S PICK
Chase Freedom Flex℠
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Chase Freedom Flex℠

8.1/10 CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Intro Offer
$200 Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Annual fee
$0
APR
20.49% - 29.24% Variable
Rewards rate
1% - 5% 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!; 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service; Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Annual Fee
Welcome offer
5%
5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
5%
5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠
3%
3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service
1%
Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Best for
Annual Fee
Welcome offer
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Learn More

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

7.8/10 CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Intro Offer
60,000 bonus points Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
Annual fee
$550
APR
22.49% - 29.49% Variable
Rewards rate
1x - 10x Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠.; Earn 5x total points on flights through Chase Travel℠.; Earn 3x points on other travel and dining.; Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Rewards
Rewards redemption
Card perks
Annual credits
10x
Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠.
5x
Earn 5x total points on flights through Chase Travel℠.
3x
Earn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1x
Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Best for
Rewards
Rewards redemption
Card perks
Annual credits

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Chase Freedom Flex℠* might seem wildly different given their annual fees -- $550 and $0 respectively -- but on closer look they seem surprisingly similar. The reward structures are oddly alike, and both target travel and dining purchases.

However, the value of those rewards are very different, given the Sapphire Reserve’s redemption bonus when using Chase Travel℠.

At the end of the day, the Chase Freedom Flex does a good, affordable impression of the more premium Sapphire Reserve, offering similar rewards without the sting of a high annual fee. That’s why we think it’s the better option for the broadest segment of people.

But if you spend a lot on travel and dining over the course of the year, the Sapphire Reserve will offer a better overall return, and includes some extra perks.

Comparing annual fees

Winner: Chase Freedom Flex

An annual fee is an investment. You’re putting in money with the expectation of a greater return in the future. The issue is that the return is never guaranteed. With credit cards, lots of things could change -- from your income to your spending habits -- that would impact the expected return from your rewards.

That’s why we tend to favor no-annual-fee rewards credit cards -- there’s very little risk involved. As long as you always pay off your balance to avoid interest charges, the returns you earn are all “profit.”

Welcome bonuses

Winner: Chase Freedom Flex

To compare two very different welcome bonuses, we considered the relative return on investment of each. With the Freedom Flex, you earn $200 after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months. That’s 40% of the required spending back in your pocket. 

With the Sapphire Reserve, you earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, worth $900 when redeemed for travel through Chase Travel℠. That’s about 22% of the required spending. Otherwise, redeeming the Sapphire Reserve’s welcome bonus for cash back would give you a $600 return -- only 15% of the required spending. The relative value of the Freedom Flex is significantly better either way.

Of course, if you typically spend $4,000 in a three-month period, you’d may rather have $900 worth of travel through Chase Travel℠ compared to $200 cash. But from a purely objective perspective, we prefer the Freedom Flex’s welcome bonus.

Rewards

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

This is surprisingly close. When comparing a $550-annual-fee card with a no-annual-fee card, you’d think it’d be drastically different, but the Freedom Flex packs a surprising punch. 

That being said, there are two main reasons the Sapphire Reserve comes out ahead. The first is the 3x points on “other travel” you earn when booking airlines, hotels, car rentals, trains, buses, taxis and more outside of the Chase Travel portal (earn elevated rewards on travel purchases after earning the $300 annual travel credit). 

The second reason is that the Freedom Flex’s quarterly bonus categories is a bit awkward, given the inconsistencies. The rotations can sometimes include odd combinations, like gas stations, movie theaters, car rentals and select live entertainment. The current categories through June 2024 include Amazon.com, hotels and restaurants -- you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined spending each quarter when you activate. 

Every once in a while, you’ll get some outsized returns from those rotating categories but it’s just a bit too random to count on for consistent value. 

Redemption

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

This is where the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a clear advantage. When redeeming points through the Chase travel portal, you get 50% more value, making 1 point worth 1.5 cents. Even though the reward rates are similar, this redemption boost makes the rewards you earn significantly more valuable. You do still have the option to redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards points for a statement credit, but they’ll be worth 1 cent each in that case.

Additional perks and credits 

Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Sapphire Reserve also comes out ahead when it comes to perks and credits, but that’s to be expected with a $550 annual fee card. The $300 annual travel credit is a particularly great perk, given how quickly you can essentially recoup some of the annual fee.

And for those who like to use airport lounges, you get to take advantage of a Priority Pass Select lounge membership.

How Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Chase Sapphire Reserve® compare to other cards

There’s also a lower annual fee version of the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is less expensive, but it also has less impressive features. Primarily, the point-redemption bonus for redeeming for travel through Chase Travel℠ is cut in half, and it earns fewer rewards overall.

However, it still has the coveted 1:1 point-transfer rate, which makes it one of the most rewarding options at its fee level. If you don’t feel like paying the Reserve’s hefty annual fee, the Sapphire Preferred might fit more easily into your budget.

CNET’S PICK
Chase Freedom Flex℠
Learn More

Chase Freedom Flex℠

8.1/10 CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Intro Offer
$200 Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Annual fee
$0
APR
20.49% – 29.24% Variable
Intro Purchase APR
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Rewards rate
1% – 5% 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!; 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service; Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Learn More

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

7.8/10 CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Intro Offer
60,000 bonus points Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
Annual fee
$550
APR
22.49% – 29.49% Variable
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Rewards rate
1x – 10x Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠.; Earn 5x total points on flights through Chase Travel℠.; Earn 3x points on other travel and dining.; Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Learn More

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

8.6/10 CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Intro Offer
60,000 bonus points Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
Annual fee
$95
APR
21.49% – 28.49% Variable
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Rewards rate
1x – 5x 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠.; 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries.; 2x on all other travel purchases.; 1x on all other purchases.

The bottom line

Yes, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a lot more than the Chase Freedom Flex when considering the rewards, redemption and annual credits. But that’s to be expected, given the high annual fee.

The real question is, which card is primed to offer good value for the most people? Given its solid reward rates and $0 annual fee, the Chase Freedom Flex is a low-risk way to big travel and dining rewards.

FAQs

You can redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for statement credits, which are akin to cash back. However, your points will only be worth 1 cent each when redeemed for a statement credit, versus 1.5 cents each if redeemed for travel through Chase Travel℠.

The quarterly rotating category has previously included Target, gas stations, Amazon.com, gym memberships, grocery stores and more. There’s generally a deadline about two weeks before quarter end to activate the rotating category. As long as you activate the bonus category within the allotted time frame, you’ll earn rewards on your spending for that entire quarter.

Users can activate the 5% cash back on quarterly bonus categories by visiting chase.com/ultimaterewards or chase.com/freedomflex. You can also use the App, sign up for an email reminder, or visit a Chase location. You must activate this rewards category each quarter.

*All information about the Chase Freedom Flex has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

Joe Van Brussel is a freelance writer for CNET Money, where he deciphers obfuscatory credit card offers and breaks them down so consumers actually know what belongs in their wallet. He also covers other aspects of personal finance, from life insurance and loans to tax software and the impact of broader economic trends on individuals. Joe believes the United States will win the World Cup in his lifetime, and wishes New York City apartments came standard with thick, noise-reducing windows.