Why you shouldn’t upgrade your Chase Freedom credit card (and when you should)

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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 how you manage rewards credit cards. 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 credit cards are by far the most popular travel 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.

Information for the Chase Freedom card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets and has not been reviewed by the card issuer.

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 bonus categories (5x points on up to $1,500 in spending each quarter when you activate your card, then one 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 Sapphire Preferred, you are disqualifying yourself from earning the card’s sign-up bonus. Currently, the Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. We estimate Chase points value to be around 1.7 cents each, meaning you’ll forfeit around $1,020 in travel by upgrading.

These travel card bonuses are a gigantic reason not to upgrade your cards.

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 (prorated when you upgrade), 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. And the Sapphire Preferred’s annual fee is only $95 and much more reasonable.

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 credit cards), Chase won’t approve you for a new credit card.

Perhaps you want all the features 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 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.

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for The Points Guy.

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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