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Why you should (or should NOT) upgrade your Chase Freedom credit card

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Why you should (or should NOT) upgrade your Chase Freedom credit card

Joseph HostetlerWhy you should (or should NOT) upgrade your Chase Freedom credit cardMillion Mile Secrets Team

Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

Over the years, readers have continued to inquire about one important aspect of the miles and points hobby. It’s something called “product changing,” and it’s got a lot to do with free travel. If you misunderstand it, you’ll cheat yourself out of potentially thousands and thousands of dollars in hotel stays, business class flights, and plenty more.

Chase issues by far the most popular travel rewards credit cards. A common question we receive is guidance as to whether one should upgrade the no-annual-fee Chase Freedom® to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®. This is an example of a “product change” — switching your current card to a similar card issued by the same bank.

There are very compelling reasons on both sides of this argument. By the end of this post, you’ll know exactly what you should do. I’ll explain what you stand to gain and lose by upgrading your Chase Freedom.

Upgrading cards at inopportune times could mean you missing out on enough points for a free trip to the Maldives. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)

Why you should not upgrade your Chase Freedom

You can have both cards

These cards serve different purposes. The Chase Freedom is a powerhouse for earning Chase points on rotating categories (5 points per dollar on up to $1,500 in spending each quarter when you activate your card, then 1 point per dollar) like Amazon, gas stations, supermarkets, streaming services and more. The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve are perfect for dining and travel. You can hold both cards at once, so why wouldn’t you? It’ll ensures you’ll get bonus points for more of your spending.

Read our post on Chase Sapphire Preferred approval tips to give yourself the best chance of a successful application.

You won’t earn a welcome bonus

This is very important. When you upgrade the Chase Freedom to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you are disqualifying yourself from earning the card’s sign-up bonus. Currently, the Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. We estimate Chase points value to be around 2 cents each, meaning you’ll forfeit around $1,200 in free travel by upgrading.

This is a gigantic reason not to upgrade your cards. You won’t be eligible to earn the Chase Sapphire Preferred bonus until 48 months after the date you upgraded your Chase Sapphire Preferred.

You’re on the hook for an annual fee

This point is positively moot if you know how to use the cards. Remember, the goal here is to save money.

Despite a $550 annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is worth it for most of us. But if you intend to product change your no annual fee Chase Freedom, make sure the Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits will save you more money than you’re spending. Remember, you’re not even earning the card’s sign-up bonus when you upgrade.

Why you should upgrade your Chase Freedom

Chase “5/24 rule”

One rule you must know is that if you’ve opened five or more cards — from any bank — in the past 24 months (excluding certain small business cards), Chase won’t approve you for a new credit card.

Perhaps you want all the feature of the Chase Sapphire Preferred, but you’ve already applied for five cards in the past two years. After all, the Chase Freedom is inferior to the Chase Sapphire Preferred. You can redeem its points with valuable Chase transfer partners like Hyatt and Southwest. You can book travel through the Chase Travel Portal for 1.25 cents per point. You’ll receive top-notch travel protection when you book your flight with the card.

If you’ve collected a whole bunch of points/cash back with the Chase Freedom and you want to use them for travel, you can upgrade your card.

Upgrading doesn’t show up as a hard pull on your credit

When you upgrade a credit card, it doesn’t appear on your credit report as a new card:

  • Chase will let you keep your same credit card number
  • The information attached to the card will be transferred
  • It won’t show up as a new account

As far as the credit bureaus are concerned, you still have the Chase Freedom.

Bottom line

As with everything in the miles and points world, whether you should upgrade your Chase Freedom is situational. Most of the time, however, you shouldn’t upgrade your cards. Upgrading means you won’t have a chance to earn the welcome bonus worth tens of thousands of points. Welcome bonuses are a points enthusiast’s best friend.

If you’re above the Chase “5/24 rule,” and you’ve got a lot of points on your Chase Freedom, it could certainly be a good idea to upgrade your card to a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Let us know if you plan to upgrade your Chase Freedom. And subscribe to our newsletter for more miles and points guidance like this delivered to your inbox.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.

More Info

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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what would be the impact of possibly upgrading to a CSP from Freedom to take advantage of the transfer then shortly thereafter downgrade (and recover a prorated rate of the AF) and go back to the Freedom? I only ask as I have about 100,000 UR points, but no transfer cards (Ink, CSP)

I was wanting to take out a Freedom card due to the rotating bonuses. With the changes to Chase I doubt I’d get approved. I have a Sapphire and an Ink card. I was thinking of closing my Sapphire (my husband also has one we can use) and then I could transfer my Freedom points to my Ink. Would Chase change my Sapphire to a Freedom card? I realize I would not get the 20,000 sign up points.

I was planning to doing the opposite – switch out my Sapphire Card for a Freedom. My husband has the the Ink Plus, can’t I transfer my Freedom points to him and he can use them to transfer points to UR partners? I thought only one of us needed a card that can transfer.

I’m not finding much use for the Sapphire card. I have a card that gives me 3X on restaurants, and other cards give us more points on hotels and airlines too. Besides, if Chase isn’t going to allow me to get a Freedom in addition to the Sapphire ( 6 new cards in the last 2 years) the Sapphire has to go.

In May we opened up a Checking, 2 Savings accounts, and a safety deposit box w/Chase, and were planning to slowly transfer over our banking from US Bank, who we’ve been with for over 20 years. But now I see no reason to have a banking relationship w/Chase if we can no longer get any of their credit cards. We are low level churners, and don’t do any MS, but we spend plenty on our credit cards since my husband owns a business.

I have the chase ink cash, chase freedom and a sapphire card that is 11 months old and I need to decide whether to keep the sapphire. It’s a $95 fee. With the quarterly bonuses from chase freedom I can net 20 to 30k a year in points. The ink cash I get 30k for the promotion plus 5% on office supply, where I buy about 5k a year in gift cards which nets 25k points. So that’s 75k+ in potential UR points I could use at the travel portal at 1 cent per point (instead of the 1.25 cent per point with sapphire if I transferred) but potential biggest loss is not being able to transfer to United, Southwest or Hyatt or Marriott. The quick math seems to suggest paying the annual fee is worth more on the return with the 1.25 cents per UR point. And the transfer to partners is super valuable for flexibility. Plus if my wife got an Ink Cash in the future (iffy considering Chase’s new rules) she could transfer to my sapphire account. Bit of a tough call. Any advice?

@Denis — my experience transferring points from Freedom to an Ink card: usually the ultimaterewards.com Web site gives me difficulties in making the request (system just kind of freezes, and the buttons no longer work). So I just secure message Chase CS and make my request (“Please transfer xxx pts from Freedom # xxxx, To Ink Plus # xxx”), and they do it manually right away.

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