Is it worth downgrading to the Chase Sapphire no annual fee card?

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Credit card annual fees are no fun. Especially when so many compelling cards are fee-free, deciding when it’s worth it to pay a card’s annual fee can be a daunting task.

But instead of outright canceling a credit card when your annual fee is billed, you might be able to downgrade the card to a no-annual-fee card. We’ll discuss some of the pros and cons of the Chase Sapphire card — a great no-annual-fee alternative for folks who want to avoid paying the fee on their Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve® cards.

Review of the no-annual-fee Chase Sapphire card

You may have never heard of the Chase Sapphire (no-annual-fee) card because it gets less attention than the other card in the Sapphire family. But the Chase Sapphire card is a great card with strong earning categories that might make sense for you.

The Chase Sapphire card earns 2x Ultimate Rewards on dining and on purchases made through the Chase travel portal. All other purchases are “unbonused” and earn 1 point per dollar spent. Overall, this is a simple, no-annual-fee card with some bonuses for dining and travel. But the card is valuable because you can still earn Chase Ultimate Rewards on everyday spending.

You can then combine your earned Ultimate Rewards with any other Chase “premium” credit card (such as the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card). This would unlock the ability to transfer Ultimate Rewards to travel partners or to redeem them as part of the Chase Pay Yourself Back option for increased value.

No-annual-fee Chase Sapphire vs other the other Sapphire cards

The Chase Sapphire card might best be described as the simplest and cheapest (no annual fee) card in the Sapphire lineup. On the other end of the spectrum, the “ultra-premium” Chase Sapphire Reserve card carries a $550 annual fee. The Chase Sapphire Preferred (our overall pick for best credit card) has a more reasonable $95 annual fee.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is expensive but offers incredible earning potential, redemption options, and other perks. My favorite benefit is the $300 annual travel credit which automatically reimburses you for travel purchases such as airfare, hotels, and car rentals (up to $300 annually). Additionally, spending on the Sapphire Reserve earns 3x Ultimate Rewards for all travel and dining purchases.

The Sapphire Reserve also increases the value of all your Ultimate Rewards points to at least 1.5 cents per point because of increased redemption options. For example, you can leverage Pay Yourself Back to redeem your points for 1.5 cents each or spend your points through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal for the same value (1.5 cents per point).

The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2x Ultimate Rewards for all dining and travel purchases–not restricted to bookings made through the Chase travel portal. You can also use Pay Yourself Back and book travel with points, though both return an increased value of 1.25 cents per point. 

Finally, both the Preferred and Reserve cards unlock the ability to transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards to travel partners such as United and Hyatt. And it’s no secret that we love having flexible points currencies that can be used with a number of different partners!

Chase Sapphire vs other no annual fee Chase cards

If you’re set on avoiding annual fees, Chase offers other credit cards without annual fees which could be a good option for downgrading. Specifically, there are cards in the Chase Freedom “family” with no annual fee which may be a good fit for your needs.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is probably my favorite no annual fee card from Chase because it offers 1.5% cash back (1.5x Ultimate Rewards points) on all purchases. But the increased earning on every purchase means that there are no additional bonus categories.

On the other hand, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ card offers 5% cash back (in the form of Ultimate Rewards) in rotating quarterly categories on the first $1,500 in purchases each quarter you activate. These are awesome and are typically for easy-to-use bonus categories such as groceries, gas, and online marketplaces (such as Amazon.com). You also earn 5% back on travel purchased through the Chase portal and 3% back on all dining purchases. 

For more details, see our review of the Chase Freedom Flex card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited card.

FAQs about the Chase Sapphire no annual fee card

Why do we recommend downgrading to this card instead of canceling?

If possible, we recommend that you keep credit cards open for longer periods of time to increase your average age of accounts. This can improve your credit score and your relationship with Chase as you will be a long-term customer.

Can anyone apply for the Chase Sapphire no annual fee card?

Surprisingly, you cannot apply for the Chase Sapphire card directly. You can only access this card via a product change (such as downgrading your Chase Sapphire Preferred card).

Is the Chase Sapphire card metal like the others?

Unfortunately, the Chase Sapphire card is not metal (darn!). But for folks who are downgrading, you can continue to use your old card (such as a metal Sapphire Reserve) because the card number will stay the same. Here are some tips for disposing of a metal card, if you choose to do so.

Bottom line

Chase offers numerous valuable credit cards, but some of them carry a pricey annual fee. If you’re considering canceling a card because of an upcoming annual fee, consider downgrading the card to avoid the fee instead.

The Chase Sapphire card is a strong option, but I prefer the increased earnings and bonus categories of the Chase Freedom family of cards. Whatever you decide, we always recommend keeping accounts open to maintain your banking relationships and increase your credit score over the long term.

Jake Pearring is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, he covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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