Updated on 08.30.17

Chase Freedom® vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited®

The best cash-back credit card for your needs depends on your spending style and your personal tastes, and card issuers like Chase know this. To compete with other cards in the cash-back market, Chase has the card – which offers a flat rate of rewards instead of rotating bonus categories.

Created as an alternative to the , and to stack up head-to-head with cards like the Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard® and the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, the new Chase Freedom Unlimited® card is another great cash-back option for consumers to consider.

But how does the new Chase Freedom Unlimited® card compare to the traditional Chase Freedom®? And which Freedom card is best for your unique spending style?

Below, we’ll explain the benefits of each card, comparing both earning structures and determining each card’s ideal customer. If you like both Freedom cards in theory but can’t quite decide between them, keep reading for our take on these two popular cash-back options.

How Both Freedom Cards Work

If you’ve researched any cash-back card offers in the past, you probably already know how the traditional works. With this card in your wallet, you earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months like gas stations, restaurants, and wholesale clubs. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

For 2016, bonus categories include gas stations and transportation (January through March), grocery stores and wholesale clubs (April through June), restaurants and more (July through September), and holiday shopping and more (October through December). If you love taking advantage of these bonus categories and are excellent at maximizing them, the Chase Freedom® card can be a really smart choice. Here are a few more details to scan through:

Chase Freedom®

Highlights:

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 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 like gas stations, restaurants and drugstores
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee

The card takes an entirely different approach to how it doles out rewards. Instead of offering “bonus categories,” it offers a flat rewards rate of unlimited 1.5% cash back on every dollar you spend. This makes the card a smart option if you don’t like keeping track of rotating categories, or if you would rather earn a flat rate of rewards no matter what you buy. Here’s a rundown of this card’s benefits so you can compare:

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Highlights:

  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee

Beyond the earning tiers we highlighted here, you’ll find very few differences in how these cards work. Both offer the same signup bonus after you spend $500 within 90 days, and both let you redeem points for gift cards, cash back, or purchases made through Amazon.com. Plus, neither card charges an annual fee, and both cards let you transfer points to travel partners when you pair them with a card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

The following chart shows just how similar these cards really are. Aside from how you earn your points, the two Freedom cards are nearly identical:

Chase Freedom®Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Annual Fee$0$0
How You Earn RewardsEarn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months like gas stations, restaurants, and wholesale clubs. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.Unlimited 1.5% cash back
How to Redeem PointsRedeem for cash back, gift cards, or purchases made through Amazon.comRedeem for cash back, gift cards, or purchases made through Amazon.com
Can you transfer to Chase Ultimate Rewards if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Plus for Business?YesYes
Signup Bonus?YesYes

Here’s How Many Points You Could Earn with Each Card

But that doesn’t mean both cards will lead to the same outcome, and here’s where things get tricky. To find the right Freedom card for your wallet, you have to take a holistic look at your spending style. Since the signup bonus and rewards program are identical, the only way to get the most bang for your buck is to figure out which card would let you earn more points.

Here’s an example to consider:

Let’s say your monthly credit spending amounts to around $2,000. You use your card for groceries, gas, utility bills, insurance, and miscellaneous expenses, and then pay off the bill right away. At the end of the year, you’ll have spent $24,000 on credit – and, of course, avoided interest entirely by paying your credit card in full every single month.

If you were crafty enough to stay on budget but still maximize each quarter’s bonus category, you’d have 48,000 points racked up at the end of your first year. That’s worth $480 in cash back or gift cards, and that doesn’t even include any signup bonus you might have earned.

If you put all of your expenses on the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card, on the other hand, you would earn a flat 1.5% on the $2,000 you spent on credit each month. After 12 months, you would have only 36,000 points – or $360 in rewards – to pull from.

If you don’t maximize each of the Chase Freedom®’s bonus categories, however, the story looks rather different. If you only managed to spend $750 in each quarter’s bonus category but your spending totals remained the same, for example, you would have 36,000 points nestled safely in your account – the same number of points you’d earn with the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card.

But if you mostly forgot about the bonus categories and spent just $250 in them each quarter, the Chase Freedom® would leave you with fewer points at the end of the year – just 28,000 points, or $280 in cash back rewards.

Which Freedom Card Is Right for Your Wallet?

As I’m sure you have surmised by now, the most lucrative card really depends on your spending style and your ability to maximize bonus categories offered by the Chase Freedom®. If you regularly spend money on this year’s bonus categories and know you can easily reach $1,500 in category spending each quarter, then the Chase Freedom® is a no-brainer. On the other hand, if you don’t spend much in or more of the rotating categories, or know you’ll probably forget to use the card on the right category at the right time, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card might be a better bet for you.

Beyond the way these cards dole out points, there is almost no way to distinguish between the two. And in reality, they are both good options worth considering. While one card might help you earn more points your first year, both offer meaningful rewards that you can earn without paying an annual fee.

Most importantly, both cards pair extremely well with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card – the card we consider the top travel credit card year after year. By pairing the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card with either Freedom card, you can maximize the number of points you can spend in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, transfer points to popular loyalty programs like Hyatt, IHG, and Southwest at a 1:1 ratio, and book travel through the Chase portal at a 20% discount.

Credit Card Directory

If you’re not sold on either Freedom card, make sure to check out the rest of the cards in our credit card directory. Researching cards and comparing offers is the best way to find the ideal card for your needs.

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