Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Is It A Top Cashback Card Contender?

Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Is It A Top Cashback Card Contender?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

Editor's Rating

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If paired with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Freedom Unlimited has the potential to be the best flat-rate cash back card.
  • On Chase's Secure Website
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Editor's Rating

?
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If paired with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Freedom Unlimited has the potential to be the best flat-rate cash back card.
  • On Chase's Secure Website
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Citi is an advertising partner.

For those who prefer simplicity, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers a high rate of cash back on every purchase — not to mention a little extra on some types of purchases. The card was recently updated to offer additional cash back on dining, drugstores and travel purchases, giving it the edge over a surfeit of 1.5% cashback cards.

Your rewards never expire and the annual fee is $0. Plus, you can pair the card with another Chase credit card to unlock even more value from your rewards.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

  • On Chase's Secure Website

$0

14.99% - 23.74% Variable

Excellent/Good

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
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Chase Freedom Unlimited® review: Unlimited 1.5% cash back

$200 sign-up bonus offer

When applying for a card with a $0 annual fee, you may think that it won't offer a good sign-up bonus. That's not the case with the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card. You'll Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. And earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

There are three main restrictions to the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card's sign-up bonus. You will not be approved if you currently have a Chase Freedom Unlimited® card. If you've received a sign-up bonus from this card within the past 24 months, your application will be denied. And this card is subject to the Chase 5/24 rule, so consumers who have opened more than five Chase credit cards in the past 24 months should not apply.

Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on most purchases, and extra on others

Many credit cards have complicated rewards structures or caps on the number of rewards you may earn. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® card is very simple. You Earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases. Rewards are issued in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points. You don't have to register for limited-time promotions or check if a store qualifies for bonus cash back.

There is no limit to the amount of cash back you may earn with the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card. By comparison, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ card has a limit on its 5% cash-back bonus categories each quarter you activate. However, you'll only earn bonus rewards on the first $1,500 in purchases each quarter.

When using the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card while traveling, keep in mind that it charges a foreign transaction fee of 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars of each transaction in U.S. dollars. For example, a $100 purchase will show up as $103 on your statement.

Cashback rewards never expire

All the rewards earned with the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card never expire. Compare that to the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, where your rewards expire after 12 months if you haven't earned cash back from purchases or payments during that time.

As long as your account remains open, you can continue to accrue rewards or redeem them for cash, gift cards, travel or purchases at Amazon.com. If you decide to close your account and have other credit cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can transfer the points to those accounts to keep them active.

Pair with other Chase cards for even more value

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® card is advertised as a cashback credit card. However, when you pair your rewards with certain Chase credit cards, you can unlock even more value.

For example, you can transfer your Chase Freedom Unlimited® points into your Chase Sapphire Reserve® account. If you book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal with those points, then each point is worth 1.5 cents. You can also transfer your points to airline and hotel partners. When paired with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, you're effectively earning 2.25% cash back toward travel on every purchase that you make.

Through the Chase travel portal, you can book flights, hotels, rental cars, attractions and more with your Chase Ultimate Rewards points. These flexible points are a great way to purchase travel instead of using cash.

Some customers choose to transfer their Chase Ultimate Rewards points to partner airlines and hotels. All point transfers are on a 1:1 basis, so 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points converts into 1,000 airline miles or hotel points.

There are 10 airline transfer partners:

  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Flying Blue Air France KLM
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

There are three hotel programs from which to choose:

  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • World of Hyatt

When you pair the Chase Freedom Unlimited® with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, you get the best of both worlds. You can spend with these cards to maximize their bonus categories, such as travel, dining, and internet and telephone purchases, then make all your other purchases with the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card.

Introductory 0% APR on purchases

If you need to carry a balance, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers an introductory 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases (after that, it's a 14.99 - 23.74% Variable APR).

It is best to avoid carrying a balance because credit card interest rates can be high. But the introductory 0% APR offer is a great way to save money in the right situation. You can make purchases that you need extra time to pay off, such as a home improvement project or college tuition.

ValuePenguin's verdict: Valuable rewards on everyday purchases

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers cash back on all your purchases with no limit on how much you can earn — no matter where you shop. You Earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases. Unlike the Chase Freedom Flex℠, you don't have to worry about registering for quarterly promotions. And, you can earn extra on a few types of purchases, including dining, making it a little better than the usual 1.5% cashback card.

The program is simple and straightforward, yet it offers additional value when paired with other Chase products. Points can be redeemed for cash back, travel, gift cards or Amazon.com purchases. There is a $0 annual fee, and points do not expire as long as your account remains open.

Alternatives to the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card

Although the Chase Freedom Unlimited® credit card offers unlimited 1.5% cash back on most purchases, there are reasons why you should consider a different card. Some competing no-annual-fee credit cards offer higher cash-back rates while others avoid pesky charges, including foreign transaction fees.

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ card

  • On Chase's Secure Website
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For rewards maximizers, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ card offers the same bonuses on travel and dining purchases as the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, plus a rotating 5% cashback category. Chase Freedom Flex℠ cardholders Earn 5% cash back on eligible purchases in rotating categories, 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.

While the Chase Freedom Flex℠'s earning rate on purchases outside its bonus categories is low (only 1%), its 5% rotating category offers massive earning potential for savvy cardholders. If you max out the $1,500 limit each quarter, that's $300 in bonus cash back each year.

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

  • On Citibank's Secure Website
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The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer approaches cash back in a unique way. You Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases. The cash-back rewards can be directly deposited into a Citi or non-Citi account, applied as a statement credit to your credit card or mailed to you as a check.

Rewards from this $0 annual fee card have become more valuable, too. Instead of cashing out your rewards, you can now convert your cash back into Citi ThankYou Points. You receive 100 ThankYou points for every $1 you convert, and the minimum conversion amount is only $1. Once converted, your points can be used to book travel or transfer to any of Citibank's 15 airline partners, which include Air France, JetBlue, Qantas and Singapore Airlines.

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer does not offer a sign-up bonus. However, it does Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases. which is more than the Chase Freedom Unlimited®'s 1.5%. It is not subject to the Chase 5/24 rule, but Citibank does have its own 24-month rule, which applies to some of its cards.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • On Capital One's Secure Website
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The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card is another cash-back credit card that offers 1.5% Cash Back on every purchase, every day with a $0 annual fee. You can earn One-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. The minimum spend requirement is the same as the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card. Rewards earned from the card can be redeemed for cash or to cover recent purchases or purchase gift cards.

Unfortunately, it does not offer any bonus categories — 1.5% cashback is the highest you can earn — so the rewards aren't quite up to par with the Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

On the bright side, cardholders can redeem their cashback rewards anytime — and for any amount. Rewards earned do not expire as long as the account remains open. For people who have reached the Chase 5/24 limit, this credit card is a good alternative. Capital One does not have published rules prohibiting applicants from getting approved if they've signed up for more than five new credit cards in the past two years.

Travelers will like the foreign transaction fee when using this card: None. This benefit makes the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card a better credit card to use than the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card for international transactions.

Joe Resendiz

Joe Resendiz is a former investment banking analyst for Goldman Sachs, where he covered public sector and infrastructure financing. During his time on Wall Street, Joe worked closely with the debt capital markets team, which allowed him to gain unique insights into the credit market. Joe is currently a research analyst who covers credit cards and the payments industry. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in finance.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). ValuePenguin does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).

  • On Chase's Secure Website
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