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Chase Freedom vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited: Cash Back Showdown

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer.

If you're looking for a new cash back credit card, the Chase Freedom® and the Chase Freedom Unlimited® should be two of your top choices. Both cards have no annual fee and are part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. For people who value simplicity, we recommend the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. If you prefer to maximize rewards on your spending, the Chase Freedom® is a better choice.

Difference Between the Chase Freedom® and the Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Whether to choose the Chase Freedom® or Chase Freedom Unlimited® depends on your spending. The Chase Freedom® card offers 5% back on categories that rotate each quarter, up to $1,500 in spending. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers 1.5% back on every dollar spent—no matter the category—with no spending limit on rewards.

Chase Freedom®Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Chase Freedom®
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Annual Fee$0$0
Rewards5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarterUnlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase.
Best For...People looking to maximize rewardsPeople who value simplicity
Rewards FormUltimate RewardsUltimate Rewards
Purchase APR16.74% - 25.49% Variable16.74% - 25.49% Variable

It's important to note that both cards earn Ultimate Rewards points and not straight cashback. These points can be redeemed for gift cards, statement credit and cash back at a rate of 1 cent per point. If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can also redeem Ultimate Rewards points for travel on the Chase portal, or you can transfer your points to travel partners.

For Maximizers: 5% on Rotating Categories

On Chase's Secure Website

Chase Freedom®

On Chase's Secure Website
  • 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!
  • 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 16.74 - 25.49%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • 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!
  • 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 16.74 - 25.49%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
16.74% - 25.49% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Excellent
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

Our Thoughts

The Chase Freedom® is an excellent card for people who have expenses that fall under the rotating categories. In years past, the quarterly categories have included gas stations, grocery stores, department stores, Lyft, Walgreens, wholesale clubs and mobile payment services like Apple Pay and Google Pay. You can see examples of the old categories below, and you can view the current calendar by clicking here.

The rotating category calendar for 2018

You'll get the most value out of the Chase Freedom® if you can max out the rotating categories each quarter—i.e., spend $500 each month in the eligible category for a total of $1,500 per quarter. With the 5% rewards rate, you'll get a total of $75 back per quarter when you hit the $1,500 spending cap. That's a total of $300 cash back per year.

For Simplicity: 1.5% on Every Purchase

On Chase's Secure Website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

On Chase's Secure Website
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5
  • No annual fee
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5
  • No annual fee
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
16.74% - 25.49% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Excellent
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

Our Thoughts

While the Chase Freedom® is designed for people with predictable expenses in certain categories, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a card that can be useful for anyone. Regardless of category, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® earns 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per purchase with no caps on spending. In contrast, the Chase Freedom® earns only 1 point per dollar on purchases that aren't in the rotating bonus categories and 1 point per dollar once the $1,500 spending cap is hit.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is particularly great as an everyday card, regardless of the other payment options you have in your wallet. Almost every credit card earns 1% back on purchases outside of their bonus category, whereas the Chase Freedom Unlimited® earns 1.5% back on all purchases. Plus, you can increase the value of the cash back you earn with the Chase Freedom Unlimited® when you pair it with a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve® and redeem your rewards for travel.

Why Not Both?

If you have a good credit score and are responsible with managing credit, you'll get the most value by opening both the Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited®. Neither of the cards has an annual fee, and both excel in different areas. For example, once you hit the $1,500 spending max on the Chase Freedom®, you can switch to the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. Plus, you can use the Chase Freedom Unlimited® for all purchases that aren't in the rotating bonus category of the Chase Freedom®.

Compare Cash Back Credit Cards

Use the tool below to see how each card works for your budget. You can click the gear icon to adjust the spending for each category. If you want more card options, you can also check out our list of Top Cash Back Cards of 2019.

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Assumptions based on $1,430 monthly spend
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{"cardCategory":"rewards","cardIds":"35,1054,1093,65","initialResultsLimit":5,"endpoint":"https:\/\/creditcards.valuepenguin.com\/api\/creditcards\/models\/rewards","onCurrent":"true"}

FAQs About the Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Check out the information below if you have unanswered questions about the Chase cash back cards.

What's the difference between Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited®?

Both the Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited® are consumer rewards credit cards with no annual fee. The difference is that the Chase Freedom® earns 5% on quarterly rotating categories, while the Chase Freedom Unlimited® earns 1.5% back on all purchases.

Can I upgrade my Chase Freedom® to a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card?

Yes. Both the Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited® can be upgraded to a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. You can request an upgrade by contacting Chase. However, we'd recommend keeping the no annual fee card and adding a Chase Freedom Unlimited® to maximize your rewards.

Can I change my Chase Freedom® to a Chase Freedom Unlimited®?

Yes. You can request a product change from a Chase Freedom® to Chase Freedom Unlimited® and vice versa. However, we'd recommend getting both cards to benefit from both the 5% back on rotating categories and 1.5% unlimited cash back on all purchases.

Can I have the Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited®?

Yes. You can have both cards at the same time, and we recommend doing so to maximize your rewards.

Can I use Chase Freedom Unlimited® on international trips?

Both the Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited® can be used internationally with a 3% fee in U.S. dollars on each transaction. Other Chase cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve®, have no foreign transaction fees.

Can you transfer Chase Freedom Unlimited® points?

You can transfer points earned on the Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited® to Chase's travel partners only if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Can I withdraw money from my Chase Freedom Unlimited®?

Yes. For a fee, you can get a cash advance from both the Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

Can I downgrade my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to a Chase Freedom Unlimited®?

Yes. You can downgrade both the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® to either of Chase's no-fee cash back card options.

Comments and Questions

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).