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Updated September 28, 2017

Review: Chase Freedom vs Freedom Unlimited

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Does Chase Freedom or Freedom Unlimited make more sense? Read this in-depth comparison of these cashback cards to learn which is better. The answer may surprise you.

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The Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited are two of the most popular cash back cards.

Both have no annual fee, a generous sign-up bonus, and tempting cash reward structures. The main difference is that Chase Freedom gives you 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories, while the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a flat 1.5% cash back on everything.

Which one is better for you? We'll do a full run-down comparing the two cards so you can make your own choice.

Overview

Before we get into the meat of the comparisons, let's do a quick rundown of how the cards work:

 

Chase Freedom

Chase Freedom Unlimited

 

Interest Rates and Fees

Introductory APR for Purchases0% introductory APR for 15 months0% introductory APR for 15 months
Introductory APR for Balance Transfers0% introductory APR for 15 months0% introductory APR for 15 months
Purchase APR16.49% to 25.24% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors16.49% to 25.24% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Balance Transfers APR16.49% to 25.24% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors16.49% to 25.24% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Annual Fee$0 annual fee$0 annual fee
 

Benefits and Features

Cash Back DealIntroductory Bonus Cash Back: Earn a $150 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.Introductory Bonus Cash Back: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Cash BackCash Back Rewards: Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.Cash Back Rewards: Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic!
Bonus Cash BackBonus Cash Back: Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Bonus Categories for 2018:
January - March 2018: Gas stations, internet/cable/phone services and Chase Pay, Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay
April - June 2018: PayPal, Chase Pay and Grocery stores
 

Chase Freedom: Pricing information including interest rates, benefits and fees was obtained on April 20, 2018 from published websites and is believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.

Disclaimer: The information for the Chase Freedom has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

  • Chase Freedom gives you 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories on up to $1,500 in combined purchases every quarter. All other purchases earn 1% cash back.

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited gives you 1.5% cash back on all purchases, with no cap on how much you can earn.

In this review, we will take a more in-depth look at the similarities and differences, as well as why you may like one over the other.

Why Either Card Is Good Choice

  • $150 bonus: Both cards offer a $150 bonus after you spend just $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. This is a generous bonus for cards with no annual fee.

  • $25 bonus for adding an authorized user: Both cards give you the opportunity to earn an extra $25 when you add your first authorized user and they make a purchase within the same first 3-month period.

  • 0% introductory APR for 15 months: Both cards offer 0% introductory APR for purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months. After that, there is a 16.49% - 25.24% Variable APR. Note: the balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum.

    The promotional APR is a great way to get a break on high interest rates if you are planning to make some larger purchases or have debt to pay off. Just be sure to pay off any balances before the intro period ends.

  • No annual fee.

Tip: Both cards are in the Ultimate Rewards family. You get the cash back as UR points, which can then be used as statement credit, direct deposit, or gift cards. And another huge plus: if you have one of the premium UR cards (Chase Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred), you can also combine your points, which will allow you to use the points for more value on the Chase travel portal, or be transferred 1:1 to airline and hotel partners.

Why you may prefer Chase Freedom

This is a popular card for good reason. Here is why you may like the Chase Freedom:

  • 5% cash back bonus categories. This is the main draw of Chase Freedom. 5% bonus categories are a huge deal. It's hard to find cards that offer more than this, especially with no annual fee.

    This is how it works: Every quarter (every 3 months), there are bonus categories that will earn 5% cash back, while all other purchases earn 1%. You can get 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in the bonus categories, which equals up to $75 bonus cash back every quarter. After that, you go back to the 1% cash back rate.

    Calendar: The bonus categories are usually popular spending categories. For example, in 2017, they had:

    • Q1 (January - March 2017): Gas stations and local commuter transportation
    • Q2 (April - June 2017): Grocery stores and drugstores
    • Q3 (July - September 2017): Restaurants and movie theaters
    • Q4 (October - December 2017): Walmart and department stores

    Categories and merchants are announced before the start of each quarter.

  • You don't mind changing up your spending to match the bonus categories. You can get a lot more rewards with the 5% bonus categories, but you would need to manage your spending. For example, maybe you'll eat out more often from July to September, and cook more at home the rest of the year.

  • You're organized. You must remember to activate the bonus categories each quarter. Or else you won't get the 5% bonus. You can do so online, by phone, or at a Chase bank.

For a lot of people, the 5% bonus potential is just too tempting. But for others, it's too much work. If this sounds like you, read on.

Why you may prefer Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Unlimited
Apply for Chase Freedom Unlimited
If your spending is very varied, you may find that you'll get more rewards with Chase Freedom Unlimited. Here are some reasons why it may be better for you:

  • Flat 1.5% cash back on every purchase. This is a higher than average 1% cash back amount. And the amount you can earn is unlimited.

  • Your spending is varied and consistent. Every month, you tend to spread your spending between shopping, eating out, gas, groceries, movies, etc.

  • The cash back is automatic. You don't have to activate anything. And you don't want to keep track of dates and rotating categories.

Both Do Have Downsides

Beware of these potential downsides for both cards.

  • Foreign transaction fee: Unfortunately, both cards charge a 3% foreign transaction fee. So if you're planning on traveling abroad, make sure you also have a card without this fee.

  • Balance transfer fee: There is an intro 0% APR for balance transfers for 15 months, BUT there is a transfer fee of 5% (or minimum $5). This can add up to quite a bit. Transferring a balance of $3,000 will mean a transfer fee of $150.

    If you want to pay off debt and have a large balance to transfer, consider a card with no balance transfer fee instead.

  • Credit needed: Both Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited require good to excellent credit. If your credit score for Chase Freedom Unlimited (or Freedom) is not great, consider taking a look at credit cards for people with fair credit instead.

Which Chase Freedom is Better

So how much would you need to spend in bonus categories per quarter to come out ahead with the Chase Freedom? We did some math:

Let's assume an average spend of $1,000 a month on your credit card.

  • For Chase Freedom: Let's say you manage to spend $375 in the bonus categories every quarter ($125/month), and $2,625 on everything else. This is a total of $3,000 spent each quarter, or $1,000/month.

    You would earn: ($375 x 5%) + ($2,625 x 1%) = $45 cash back per quarter

    $45 cash back each quarter means $180 a year.

  • For Chase Freedom Unlimited: You just spend an average of $1,000 a month.

    You would earn: ($1,000 x 1.5%) x 12 months = $180 a year.

In this scenario, you'd get the same cash back amount with both cards. To come out ahead with the Chase Freedom, over 12.5% of your spending needs to be in 5% bonus categories every quarter (whereas you get a consistent 1.5% rewards rate with the Chase Freedom Unlimited).

If you usually spend $1,000 a month, over $125 of that needs to be in the bonus categories. Do you think you can do that?

Should You Get Both?

Having both cards in your wallet is a good strategy too. You can maximize your cash back potential this way. You can use your Chase Freedom for the 5% bonus categories and the Freedom Unlimited for all other purchases. Not to mention you'll get 2 sets of sign-up bonuses as well.

Chase allows you to pool your points between Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, so you can combine them to get a bigger cash reward. And if you have (or plan to get) one of the premier cards (like Chase Sapphire Preferred), you can even combine points for travel rewards.

But watch out for the Chase 5/24 rule. If you've opened more than 5 cards in the past 24 months (with any bank, not just Chase), you most likely won't be approved. So if you want both cards, make sure you haven't hit this limit.

How it Compares

For 5% Bonus Categories:
Discover It is another card that offers up to 5% cash back in rotating categories. If you travel abroad, you may want to consider it because it has no foreign transaction fees. But keep in mind that Discover isn't as widely accepted as VISA.

 

Chase Freedom

Discover It

 

Interest Rates and Fees

Introductory APR for Purchases0% introductory APR for 15 months0% introductory APR for 14 months
Introductory APR for Balance Transfers0% introductory APR for 15 months0% introductory APR for 14 months
Purchase APR16.49% to 25.24% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors13.49% to 24.49% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Balance Transfers APR16.49% to 25.24% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors13.49% to 24.49% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Foreign Transaction Fee3% of each transaction in U.S. dollarsNo foreign transaction fee
Annual Fee$0 annual fee$0 annual fee
 

Benefits and Features

Cash Back DealIntroductory Bonus Cash Back: Earn a $150 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.Introductory Bonus Cash Back: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year (only for new cardmembers).
Cash BackCash Back Rewards: Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.Cash Back Rewards: 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Bonus Cash BackBonus Cash Back: Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Bonus Categories for 2018:
January - March 2018: Gas stations, internet/cable/phone services and Chase Pay, Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay
April - June 2018: PayPal, Chase Pay and Grocery stores
Bonus Cash Back: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in rotating categories that change each quarter (requires free and easy sign-up for 5% Cashback Bonus)*
Limitations apply*. See issuer's website for additional program details.
Bonus Categories for 2017:
October - December 2017: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Amazon.com & Target
Bonus Categories for 2018:
January - March 2018: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Gas Stations & Wholesale Clubs
April - June 2018: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Grocery Stores
July - September 2018: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Restaurants
October - December 2018: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Amazon.com & Wholesale Clubs

Chase Freedom: Pricing information including interest rates, benefits and fees was obtained on April 20, 2018 from published websites and is believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.

Discover It: Pricing information including interest rates, rewards, benefits and fees was obtained on April 2, 2018 from published websites and is believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.

Disclaimer: The information for the Chase Freedom and Discover it® Cash Back has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

For Flat Rate Cash Back:
If you pay your bills on time and always pay the full amount, you could get more cash back with Citi Double Cash. However, it doesn't have a sign-up bonus and there is no intro APR for purchases. And you cannot pool your points with other cards, whereas the Chase Freedom cards let you combine points with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards.

 

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Citi Double Cash

 

Interest Rates and Fees

Introductory APR for Purchases0% introductory APR for 15 monthsN/A
Introductory APR for Balance Transfers0% introductory APR for 15 months0%* introductory APR for 18 months*
Purchase APR16.49% to 25.24% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors15.24% to 25.24%* (Variable) based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Balance Transfers APR16.49% to 25.24% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors15.24% to 25.24%* (Variable) based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Annual Fee$0 annual fee$0 annual fee
 

Benefits and Features

Cash Back DealIntroductory Bonus Cash Back: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. 
Cash BackCash Back Rewards: Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic!Cash Back Rewards: Earn cash back twice on every purchase: 1% cash back when you buy; plus an additional 1% cash back as you pay for those purchases

Citi Double Cash: Pricing information including interest rates, rewards, benefits and fees was obtained on June 19, 2018 from published websites and is believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.

Disclaimer: The information for the Citi® Double Cash Card has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Bottom Line

It is hard to beat the 5% cash back that Chase Freedom offers, but only if you can spend enough in the rotating categories. Otherwise, the flat 1.5% cash back offered by Chase Freedom Unlimited is more versatile.

Chase Freedom Unlimited
Apply for Chase Freedom Unlimited
At Chase's Secure Site
Intro APR for PurchasesIntro APR for Balance TransferRegular APRAnnual Fee
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
16.49% - 25.24% Variable
$0

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

Disclaimer: The information for the Chase Freedom, Discover it® Cash Back, and Citi® Double Cash Card has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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Chase Freedom Unlimited Rewards

With 1.5% cashback on everything, Chase Freedom Unlimited lets you rack up rewards fast. Learn other ways to earn tons of points and your redemption options.
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CreditDonkey is a credit card comparison website. We publish data-driven analysis to help you save money & make savvy financial decisions.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed on this page are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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CreditDonkey does not know your individual circumstances and provides information for general educational purposes only. CreditDonkey is not a substitute for, and should not be used as, professional legal, credit or financial advice. You should consult your own professional advisors for such advice.