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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.

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 the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.

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.

Which card does it better?

Feature Winner
Annual fee Chase Freedom Flex
Welcome bonus Chase Freedom Flex
Rewards Chase Sapphire Reserve
Rewards redemption Chase Sapphire Reserve
Annual credits and perks Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Freedom Flex℠

9.5/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferEarn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
APR17.99% - 26.74% Variable
Intro Purchase APR0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Recommended Credit Excellent, Good
Reward Rates
  • 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 Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more
  • 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$0
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APR0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
Balance Transfer APR17.99% - 26.74% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign Transaction Fees 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
Penalty APR Up to 29.99%
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • 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 Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more
  • 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®

8/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferEarn 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 Ultimate Rewards®
APR20.74% - 27.74% Variable
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Recommended Credit Excellent
Reward Rates
  • Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 3x points on other travel and dining.
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Annual Fee$550
Additional Details
Balance Transfer APR20.74% - 27.74% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater
Foreign Transaction Fees $0
Penalty APR Up to 29.99%
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 3x points on other travel and dining.
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

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 Ultimate Rewards. 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 rather have $900 worth of travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards 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 Ultimate Rewards 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 (Q4 2022) include Walmart and purchases using PayPal -- you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined spending each quarter when you activate (then 1%). 

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.

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

Can I earn cash back from the Chase Sapphire Reserve?

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 Ultimate Rewards.

What rewards are included in the Chase Freedom Flex's rotating category?

The quarterly rotating category has previously included Walmart, PayPal, gas stations, Amazon.com, car rentals, 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.

How do I "activate" the rotating quarterly bonus categories?

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.

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