Chase Freedom vs Chase Freedom Unlimited: What You Need To Know (2019)

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This article has been reviewed and deemed factual by our content auditor with 8 years of banking experience.

Article Approved By Banking Expert

This article has been reviewed and deemed factual by our content auditor with 8 years of banking experience.

Everyone wins in the Chase Freedom vs Chase Freedom Unlimited debate, because both are top-notch cash back credit cards.

Chase offers a vast assortment of lucrative rewards credit cards, each with top-notch cash back and bonus point systems.

Note: most Chase credit cards have strict eligibility requirements.

But, if you want generous cash-back on everyday spending then Chase Freedom, or its sibling Chase Freedom Unlimited, might be just what you’re looking for.

FICO score low? Here’s how to boost your credit score overnight.

And, in this in-depth review, we will look at how these Chase cards work, highlight their similarities–and their differences. So you can make a well-informed decision when picking the best credit card for your needs.

Chase Freedom vs Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom vs Chase Freedom Unlimited

From American Express, Capital One, Citi, Discover and Chase, every brand has its own irresistible cash back rewards program.

Regardless of who your credit card issuer is, the basic premise behind the best credit cards for cash back is the same–it incentivizes your shopping habits by enabling you to earn back a percentage of the amount spent using your credit card.  There are typically 3 types of cash-back models:

  1. Flat-rate cash back credit cards: Earn the same cash-back on every purchase. 
  2. Tiered cash-back cards: Cash back percentage varies between categories, with some spending-sections, like gas and groceries, giving you a greater amount in rebates than others.
  3. Rotating bonus-category credit cards: While similar to tiered-cash back cards, the one distinctive property of a rotating bonus credit card is that the high cash-back categories change frequently, like every quarter. With the basics out of the way, let’s take a look at what Chase Freedom vs Chase Freedom Unlimited offerings are.

About The Chase Freedom Credit Card

Chase Freedom is a rotating bonus cash back credit card where the bonus categories change every quarter. It offers a cool $150 bonus once you spend $500 within 3 months from account opening.

  • Rotating Bonus: Earn 5% cash back if you spend up to $1,500 in combined purchases on quarterly rotating bonus categories. Earn a 1% cash back on all the other purchases made through your Chase Freedom credit card.

2019 Calendar for 5% Cash Back Quarterly Categories

January-March Gas Stations, Tolls, Drugstores
April-June Grocery Stores (Walmart and Target not included), Home Improvement Stores
July-September Gas Stations, Select Streaming Services
October- December            TBD
  • No annual fee: Pay $0 in annual fees to enjoy the perks associated with your Chase Freedom credit card.
  • 0% APR for 15 months: Get a 0% APR for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then 17.24%- 25.99% variable APR.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee: Get 3% balance transfer fee for the first 60 days within account opening (minimum $5); after that, pay 5% on the amount transferred.
  • Cashback rewards never expire: Redeem your cash reward anytime. They will never expire as long as your account stays open.
  • Multiple ways to redeem: Redeem your rewards as a statement credit, or a direct deposit to your U.S checking and savings account. Or, shop with your earned points on Amazon. That, or exchange them for gift cards to your favorite shopping or dining spots. You can also use them as travel credits when booking through Chase

About The Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a type of flat-rate cash back credit card. It offers 3% cash back on every purchase you make within the first year up to $20,000. That means, you can earn up to $600 in cash backs. From second year on, the cash back percentage drops to a flat 1.5% on all purchases. 

    • No annual fee:  Pay $0 in Annual Fees to use all the benefits that come with your credit card. 
    • 0% APR for 15 months: Get a 0% APR on balance transfers and purchases for the first 15 months. After that, 17.24%- 25.99% variable APR will be applied on purchases, and a bank transfer fee of 3% of the transferred amount on a minimum of $5.
    • No expiration on cash back rewards:  Your reward points do not expire as long as the account stays open, and there’s no required minimum to redeem points.
    • Flexible Cash back Rewards: Redeem points as a statement credit, or initiate a direct deposit to your U.S checking and savings account. You can also use it to shop at Amazon, or redeem it for gift cards and to book your travel through Chase.

Similarities: Chase Freedom vs Chase Freedom Unlimited Card

A quick look at the features will tell you that both cash back credit cards have several features in common. 

  • Both cards have $0 in Annual fee and there is no expiration for your cash back rewards.
  • They offer a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months.
  • Subsequently, their regular APR varies between 17.24%- 25.99%.
  • Although high, if you pay your credit card bill in full every month, this interest rate will not affect you. 

Chase Freedom vs Chase Freedom Unlimited: both cards charge 3% for foreign transaction fees.

And, both Chase credit cards require applicants to hold good to excellent credit score to qualify.

Investor? Consider opening Chase brokerage accounts.

Chase Freedom vs Chase Freedom Unlimited: both cards offer the same reward redemption options.

You can either convert your points into cash, redeem them in gift cards, or transfer your chase ultimate reward points between chase credit cards as long as they are part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards Cards program.

Some of the best credit cards in this program includes Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, Ink Business Unlimited credit card, and Ink Business Preferred credit card.

Differences: Chase Freedom vs Chase Freedom Unlimited

If you are a predictable shopper who doesn’t want to limit their spending habits to the rotating categories, then Chase Freedom Unlimited might be more up your speed. This card offers a flat-rate of 3% cashback on all first-year purchases worth up to $20,000, and then 1.5% cash-back from second year on.

  • Initial bonuses:  Chase Freedom credit card offers $150 in bonus if your purchase amount reaches $500 in total within the first 3 months. Chase Freedom Unlimited doesn’t offer any such bonus but it does give you the potential to earn 3% in cash back for purchases made during the entire first year. 
  • Ongoing rewards: to earn 5% cash back with Chase Freedom, you will have to align your purchase decisions to the bonus categories activated for that month. Purchases that are outside those categories will only give you a 1% cash back.

Chase Freedom vs Chase Freedom Unlimited: while Chase Freedom offers maximum rewards, Chase Unlimited provides unfailing consistency with its flat-rate cash back percentage.

Chase Freedom vs Chase Freedom Unlimited: with Freedom, the primary bonus categories are grocery, department stores and gas stations.

But, you can’t be certain that the category in rotation during that month will complement your needs. Along with that, using Chase Freedom, you have to personally activate categories in rotation to receive a 5% cash back for that quarter. There’s no such hassle with Freedom Unlimited. It applies the rewards rate automatically on your purchases.

Conclusion: Chase Freedom vs Chase Freedom Unlimited

Here’s the bottom line. While Chase Freedom does have an upper hand with a sign-up bonus and a higher cash back percentage, Chase Freedom Unlimited gives you 3% the first year. Then, it falls to a still-great 1.5%, which makes up for its lack of an upfront bonus.

Don’t forget to consider realistically how much you plan to spend the first year. Because to unlock Chase Freedom Unlimited’s 3% cash back, you’d have to spend at least $20,000. Chase Freedom only requires you to spend $1,500 per quarter (or $6000 in total) to qualify for the reward. But your shopping options will be at the mercy of the categories in rotation for that quarter.

Chase Freedom vs Chase Freedom Unlimited: if you still have trouble choosing between the two credit cards, you can always consider getting both. These two cards work very well together. You can take advantage of Chase Freedom’s 5% rotating categories-based cash back. That, while using Chase Freedom Unlimited to get 1.5% cash back on everything else.

Remember: to maximize your value, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to one account. Or, just redeem them all at once.

Brian Roberts

Brian Roberts

Editor at CarefulCents
Featured in The Washington Post and published in Entrepreneur, Forbes, Business Insider, Time, Inc., CNBC and others.