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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 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.
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.
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.
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.