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CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. We may receive a commission through the LendingTree affiliate network if you apply and are approved for a card, but our reporting is always independent and objective.

If you’re looking for a way to increase your cash back, airline miles or hotel points, look no further than Chase credit cards. Chase is known for offering excellent rewards, lucrative sign-up bonuses and even money-saving benefits. Fortunately, Chase also offers a slew of popular credit cards, which means there’s a card for everyone.

The one major downside to keep in mind is that Chase’s credit cards fall under what is colloquially known as the “5/24” rule. This is an unpublished Chase rule, but it essentially means that if you’ve gotten five or more credit cards across all banks in the last 24 months, your applications for new cards from Chase will be automatically denied.

Most people don’t apply for credit cards that often, so you likely won’t have to worry too much about 5/24. But now that you know the rules, let’s take a look at our list of the best Chase credit cards in 2021.

The best Chase credit cards in 2021

Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for cash back
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best sign-up bonus
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for travel perks
Chase Freedom Flex: Best for rotating categories
The World of Hyatt Credit Card: Best for hotel elite status
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: Best for companion flights
IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: Best for reward stays
United Explorer Card: Best for airline miles
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Best for businesses

Why did we choose these as our best Chase credit cards for 2021? Let’s dive into the details of each card and see how they compare to one another.

Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for cash back

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is by far the best Chase credit card for earning cash back. With 1.5% in cash back on every purchase, you can use the Freedom Unlimited anywhere and know you’ll earn at least 1.5% cash back on everything you buy.

But last year, Chase added a trio of bonus categories to this card, making it even more valuable. Chase Freedom Unlimited card holders now also earn 5% on travel purchases made through Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining (including eligible food delivery services) and 3% at drugstores.

To top it all off, new Chase Freedom Unlimited card applicants can currently earn $200 in bonus cash back after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months after opening the account.

And this no-annual-fee card provides an opportunity to earn an even higher return if you prefer to trade in your cash back for travel rewards. That’s because if you pair the card with a more premium Chase Ultimate Rewards card — such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve — you can convert the cash back to flexible travel points at a 1-to-1 ratio.

Your converted points can then go even further by booking travel through the Chase travel portal or transferring them to one of Chase’s 13 airline and hotel travel partners, such as Hyatt or United. Thanks to this flexibility, frequent flyer website The Points Guy values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents apiece. So instead of earning just 1.5% cash back, you could effectively end up with a 3% return if you pair your Freedom Unlimited to the right Chase card and use your points for travel.

Other benefits of the Chase Freedom Unlimited include purchase protection and extended warranty protection, a complimentary three-month subscription to DashPass and 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022.

Now, the Freedom Unlimited’s 1.5% cash back rate isn’t quite as good as the 2% total return you’d earn with the Citi® Double Cash Card, which offers 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay your statement. But there are also bonus categories on the Chase Freedom Unlimited, and the opportunity to earn premium Ultimate Rewards points is worth extra to many people.

Sign-up bonus: Earn $200 in bonus cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.

Learn more and apply for the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Chase Sapphire Preferred: Best sign-up bonus

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great first card for those interested in travel rewards.
iStock
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great first card for those interested in travel rewards.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best starter credit cards for those looking to earn travel rewards. The card offers a relatively low $95 annual fee, a robust sign-up bonus, and a number of popular bonus categories and benefits.

New customers who apply now for the Chase Sapphire Preferred can earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months after opening the card. That’s the highest sign-up bonus you’ll find across all of Chase’s personal Ultimate Rewards credit cards, and the highest we’ve ever seen on the Sapphire Preferred itself.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll earn 2 points for every dollar you spend on travel and dining purchases, 5 points per dollar on Lyft (from now through March 2022) and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

Plus, if you book travel with Chase Sapphire Preferred points through the Chase travel portal, or use the card’s “Pay Yourself Back” tool to redeem points for purchases at grocery stores, dining establishments (including delivery and takeout) and home improvement stores, you’ll get 1.25 cents per point in value through at least September 30, 2021. That means the sign-up bonus alone is worth $750 toward travel or the “Pay Yourself Back” categories.

Related: New redemption options added to Chase Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred credit cards.

But since you can also transfer points to 13 different airline and hotel partners, you can potentially get even more value. When used this way, Ultimate Rewards points are worth as much as 2 cents apiece according to The Points Guy, which could bring the sign-up bonus value up to a whopping $2,000.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred also includes a much more expansive purchase and travel protection benefit than you’ll see with the Chase Freedom Unlimited. When you use your Sapphire Preferred card on eligible purchases, you’ll be covered against damage or theft for 120 days from the time of purchase, and receive an additional year of coverage with a manufacturer’s warranty of three years or less.

You’ll also get primary rental car coverage with the Sapphire Preferred, which can save you money since you can decline the collision insurance option on your next car rental. You’re also eligible to be reimbursed if your trip is canceled or delayed for a covered reason (though unfortunately a pandemic typically isn’t one of those reasons) or your baggage is delayed or lost.

Finally, as an added bonus, all Chase Sapphire Preferred card holders can receive up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through December 31, 2021 as well as complimentary DashPass membership for a minimum of one year, as long as you activate it by December 31, 2021.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Read CNN Underscored’s review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Learn more and apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for travel perks

The Ambassador Transit Lounge in Singapore's Terminal 2, accessible with the Chase Sapphire Reserve's Priority Pass membership.
Priority Pass
The Ambassador Transit Lounge in Singapore's Terminal 2, accessible with the Chase Sapphire Reserve's Priority Pass membership.

Even if you’re staying away from the skies right now, it’s still a great time to earn points for future travel, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve is hard to beat for the premier traveler. Despite the card’s expensive $550 annual fee, you’ll find that the points add up quickly, and the benefits can easily outweigh the fee.

Normally, the card earns 3 points for every dollar you spend on travel and dining, 10 points per dollar spent on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and 1 point per dollar on everything else. But for a limited time between November 1, 2020, and April 30, 2021, you’ll also earn 3 points for every dollar spent on grocery store purchases, up to $1,000 per month in combined purchases.

Related: Chase Sapphire credit cards earn bonus points on groceries for a limited time.

On the redemption side, points earned with the Chase Sapphire Reserve are worth slightly more than what you’ll get with the Sapphire Preferred. While you can transfer your points to the same 13 airline and hotel partners, your points are worth 1.5 cents apiece instead of 1.25 cents apiece when used for travel via the Chase travel portal or through the “Pay Yourself Back” categories through September 30, 2021.

To help offset the annual fee, the Sapphire Reserve also comes with a $300 annual travel credit (which you can also use for gas and grocery store purchases through December 31, 2021), up to $60 in statement credits on DoorDash purchases in 2021 and up to $120 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership in 2021. You’ll also receive a complimentary Priority Pass airport lounge membership and up to $100 in credits when you apply for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

The purchase and travel benefits on the Chase Sapphire Reserve are similar to those that you’ll find on the Sapphire Preferred, but with one slight difference: trip delay protection. While many Chase credit cards offer trip delay protection, the benefit generally doesn’t kick in until your flight is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay. With the Sapphire Reserve, however, you’ll have access to this benefit at the six-hour mark instead.

That’s quite a big difference, and one reason to use the card for all of your airline travel. Even if you book a flight with airline points or miles, as long as you pay for the taxes on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll get the same trip delay coverage.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Learn more and apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Chase Freedom Flex: Best for rotating categories

The new Chase Freedom Flex card requires a little more planning, but if you can maximize the card’s rotating bonus categories, you can use it to earn some great cash back or even travel rewards.

With the Freedom Flex, you’ll earn 5% cash back in bonus categories that rotate every three months, on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter. The Freedom Flex bonus categories for April through June are gas stations and home improvement stores, which should make it easy to earn as much as $75 in bonus cash back, since many home improvement stores sell gift cards to other third-party merchants, such as Amazon.

But the Chase Freedom Flex also features the same three permanent bonus categories as the Chase Freedom Unlimited: 5% on travel purchases made through Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining (including eligible food delivery services) and 3% at drugstores, plus 1% cash back on all other purchases. So even if you can’t take advantage of the rotating categories in a given quarter, you’ll still be earning extra cash back in other categories.

The Chase Freedom Flex also comes with purchase protection and extended warranty protection, plus a 0% introductory APR on all purchases for 15 months from account opening (you’ll pay a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74% after the intro period ends). So it can be helpful if you need to carry a balance for a while because you’ve recently lost your income.

You’ll also receive 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022 and a complimentary three-month DashPass membership, which waives delivery fee on select DoorDash orders over $12. And just like the Chase Freedom Unlimited, if you also have a premium Chase Ultimate Rewards credit card, you can convert any cash back earned from the Freedom Flex into Ultimate Rewards travel points, making your rewards worth potentially even more than if you just use them for cash back.

One thing to remember is that you must activate the rotating bonus categories each quarter, so this card does require you to be organized. And although the Chase Freedom Flex is a no-annual-fee card, it does come with a 3% foreign transaction fee, so it’s not the card to take with you on international trips once travel starts to open up again.

Sign-up bonus: Earn $200 in bonus cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.

Learn more and apply for the Chase Freedom Flex.

World of Hyatt Credit Card: Best for hotel elite status

Earn Hyatt elite status faster with the World of Hyatt Credit Card.
Hyatt Hotels
Earn Hyatt elite status faster with the World of Hyatt Credit Card.

Hyatt continues to feature one of the top hotel loyalty programs for many people. Despite the chain’s footprint not being as large as Marriott’s or Hilton’s, its reward points hold value and its benefits are top-notch. The program also allows World of Hyatt Credit Card holders to work their way up the ladder to money-saving benefits and other perks, which could truly garner the royal treatment during your stay.

With the World of Hyatt Credit Card, you’ll earn 2 elite qualifying nights for every $5,000 you spend on the card, and 5 elite night credits annually. Typically, you need to earn 60 qualifying nights per year to get top-tier Hyatt Globalist status, which means World of Hyatt Credit Card holders only need 55 qualifying nights. However, in 2021, they slashed their tier requirements in half, which means you only need to earn 30 qualifying nights for Globalist status, or just 25 nights if you have the credit card.

Another benefit of the World of Hyatt Credit Card is that you’ll receive a complimentary reward night, valid at a category 1-4 property, every year starting at your card’s first anniversary. Despite a $95 annual fee for the card, the yearly certificate is potentially worth much more, and should easily outweigh that cost. You can even earn a second reward night certificate each year by spending $15,000 on your card within your card holder year.

Sign-up offer: Earn up to 60,000 bonus points — 30,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening the account, plus 2 bonus points for every dollar you spend on purchases that earn 1 bonus point, up to $15,000 in the first six months after opening the account.

Learn more and apply for the World of Hyatt Credit Card.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: Best for companion flights

Use the Southwest Premier card to help earn the Southwest Companion Pass.
iStock
Use the Southwest Premier card to help earn the Southwest Companion Pass.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card might not earn the highest number of points on your everyday purchases, but it’ll help you get one step closer to earning the coveted Southwest Companion Pass. With the Companion Pass, another individual can fly with you for free (plus taxes) on every single flight you take on Southwest from now through the end of 2022.

Normally, you need to earn 125,000 Southwest qualifying points in a calendar year to get the pass, but for 2021, Southwest is giving its frequent flyers a boost. For those members who already had a Southwest frequent flyer account open as of January 1, the airline is depositing 25,000 qualifying points automatically. This means you only need to earn 100,000 qualifying points by the end of 2021 to earn the pass.

Related: What’s the Southwest Companion Pass, and should you get one?

Best of all, points earned from the Southwest Premier card count for the Companion Pass. This includes not only points earned from everything you buy on the card, but also the 40,000 bonus points new card holders can earn after spending $1,000 in purchases within the first three months after they open the card. You can also couple this card with one of Southwest’s business credit cards and potentially earn the pass with just two credit card approvals.

Sign-up offer: Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Learn more and apply for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card.

IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: Best for reward stays

The IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is a card that should be in every traveler’s wallet, although it shouldn’t be pulled out too often. The card is currently offering a 125,000-point bonus offer and a reward night certificate after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months. The certificate can be used for a one-night stay any IHG property that costs up to 40,000 points per night.

With IHG points worth about 0.5 cents apiece according to The Points Guy, this offer is worth a total of up to $825 toward IHG stays — $625 from the points themselves and up to $200 with the certificate.

Although that’s not nearly as much value as some other Chase sign-up bonuses on our list, the card’s benefits will allow you to get even more from it. For instance, one of the best perks of the IHG Premier is that you get another reward night certificate every year starting 12 months after you first open the card.

As with the first certificate, you can redeem these certificates at any IHG hotel that normally costs up to 40,000 IHG Rewards points based on IHG’s rewards nights chart. Some notable properties that fall into that category include the InterContinental Hotel Lisbon, the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa, the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba and the Hotel Indigo San Diego Del Mar, just to name a few. Often, these certificates can even be used during peak times when hotels are quite pricey, making the card’s $89 annual fee well worth it.

Related: Earn 125,000 bonus points and a reward night certificate with the IHG Premier credit card.

Another highly rated benefit is the IHG Premier’s complimentary fourth night. All card holders who redeem points for their stay will get a fourth night for no additional points. This can be used at any IHG property, regardless of the number of points it costs. Combine this with the complimentary night award and you’ll ultimately be able to book a five-night stay for the cost of three, as long as you’re staying at a property that costs 40,000 points per night or less.

Other perks of the IHG Premier card include complimentary IHG Platinum status, a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit and cell phone protection. These benefits, along with the ones listed above, are some great reasons to make sure that this card makes its way into your wallet.

Sign-up offer: Earn 125,000 bonus points and a reward night certificate after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Learn more and apply for the IHG Club Premier Rewards Credit Card.

United Explorer Card: Best for airline miles

Get a free checked bag on United flights with the United Explorer Card.
iStock
Get a free checked bag on United flights with the United Explorer Card.

The biggest concern for many people when it comes to earning airline miles is that using them can be hard. The flights you want aren’t always available, and it takes some flexibility and planning to find an ideal trip.

Fortunately, having the United Explorer Card opens up more opportunities. When searching for award flights, card holders will see expanded award availability for United flights, which means you’ll have access to more flights at a lower mileage cost.

Aside from saving you miles, this card also comes with a number of other benefits. United Explorer Card holders save money by getting a first checked bag free for you and a companion on United flights, two United Club day passes per year, 25% back on in-flight United purchases and up to $100 as a statement credit when you apply for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Related: The best credit cards for United flyers in 2021.

With the United Explorer Card, you’ll also earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend on all United purchases, as well as restaurant and hotel purchases. And right now, the card is offering an increased sign-up bonus offer and no annual fee for the first year you have the card (then a $95 annual fee starting in the second year and thereafter).

Sign-up offer: Earn up to 65,000 bonus miles — earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases within the first three months after opening the account, plus an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first six months after opening the account. This offer expires May 6, 2021.

Learn more and apply for the United Explorer Card.

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Best for businesses

Businesses can earn 3 points per dollar in several popular categories with the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.
iStock
Businesses can earn 3 points per dollar in several popular categories with the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.

If you’re looking for a business credit card, you can’t go wrong with the Ink Business Preferred. The card earns 3 points for every dollar you spend on the first $150,000 in combined purchases each account year for some of the most popular business categories:

  • Travel
  • Shipping purchases
  • Internet, cable and phone services
  • Advertising purchases made through social media sites or search engines

You’ll also have access to a unique cell phone protection benefit that covers your phone against damage or theft when you pay your entire cell phone bill with your Ink Business Preferred card. You’re then covered starting with your second billing cycle and can submit up to three claims every 12 months, up to $600 per incident with a $100 deductible per claim. It even covers everyone listed on your cell phone bill, including employees or family members.

Plus, the Ink Business Preferred has a relatively robust set of travel and purchase protections, including trip insurance, trip delay protection, primary car rental insurance and purchase protection, which covers the items you buy with the card against damage or theft for 120 days after the purchase is made, up to $10,000 per claim, with a maximum of $50,000 per year.

But one of the best reasons to choose the Ink Business Preferred is its incredible sign-up bonus. Right now, you can earn 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months after you open the card. That’s a significant amount of money to spend in three months, but for many businesses, it’s not uncommon to have that much in regular monthly expenses.

Amazingly, the Ink Business Preferred only has a $95 annual fee, surprisingly low for a card with this many perks and points. And your points can be transferred to the same Ultimate Rewards travel partners as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, or used to book travel or even for cash back.

Sign-up offer: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months after you open the card.

Learn more and apply for the Ink Business Preferred.

Which Chase credit card is best?

With so many highly rated Chase credit cards, it’s tough to choose a truly “best” card. They’re all strong in their own way, offering unique benefits that cater to different people.

If you’re looking for a card that’s simple and offers cash back, then the Chase Freedom Unlimited is the way to go. If you don’t mind paying slightly more attention to your purchases, then the Chase Freedom Flex will allow you to maximize the rewards you earn every quarter.

But if travel rewards are more to your liking, then you can’t go wrong with either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The leisure traveler will probably find the Sapphire Preferred suits them better, while those who spend a significant amount of money on travel and dining out and classify themselves as a road warrior will find value in the more expensive Sapphire Reserve.

If hotel benefits are a priority, the World of Hyatt Credit Card could potentially help you get treated like a VIP during your next hotel stay. And it’s tough to beat the annual night certificates that come each year with the IHG Rewards Premier.