Chase Freedom® vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Please Note: Information about the Chase Freedom® has been collected independently by TheSimpleDollar.com. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

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 Chase Freedom Unlimited® card – which offers cash back rewards instead of rotating bonus categories.

Chase Freedom Unlimited® Learn more

Created as an alternative to the Chase Freedom® card, and to stack up head-to-head with cards like the Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard® (currently unavailable) 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 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.

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In this article

    How Both Freedom Cards Work

    If you’ve researched any cash-back card offers in the past, you probably already know how the traditional Chase Freedom® 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 and wholesale clubs. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

    For 2020, bonus categories include gas stations and internet/cable/phone services (January through March). 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:

    The Chase Freedom Unlimited® card takes an entirely different approach to how it doles out rewards. Instead of offering “bonus categories,” earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Also earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. This makes the card a smart option if you don’t like keeping track of rotating categories, or if you would rather earn rewards no matter what you buy.

    Beyond the earning tiers we highlighted here, you’ll find very few differences in how these cards work. 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®
    Signup Bonus?YesYes
    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 and wholesale clubs. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
    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
    Annual Fee$0$0

    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 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.

    But if you mostly forgot about the bonus categories and spent just $250 in them each quarter, the Chase Freedom® would leave you with – 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.

    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.

    Editorial Note: Compensation does not influence our recommendations. However, we may earn a commission on sales from the companies featured in this post. To view our disclosures, click here. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers. Reasonable efforts are made to present accurate info, however all information is presented without warranty. Consult our advertiser’s page for terms & conditions.

    Image Credit: filadendron/Getty Images

    Methodology

    SimpleScore

    The SimpleScore is a proprietary scoring metric we use to objectively compare products and services at The Simple Dollar.

    For every review, our editorial team:

    • Identifies five measurable aspects to compare across each brand
    • Determines the rating criteria for each aspect score
    • Averages the five aspect scores to produce a single SimpleScore

    Here’s a breakdown of the five aspect scores and their rating criteria for our review of the best credit monitoring services of 2020.

    Why do some brands have different SimpleScores on different pages?

    To ensure the SimpleScore is as helpful and accurate as possible, we developed unique criteria for every category we compare at The Simple Dollar. Since most brands offer a variety of financial solutions, their products and services will score differently depending on what we’re scoring on a given page.

    However, it’s also possible for brands to have different SimpleScores across multiple pages on The Simple Dollar. For instance, if we compare Experian’s ID theft monitoring services using SimpleScore, it scores a 4 out of 5. However, if we apply our SimpleScore methodology for credit monitoring services, Experian scores a 4.4 out of 5. Each unique criteria results in separate SimpleScores for multiple brands based on what we’re comparing.

    Questions about our methodology?

    Email Hayley Armstrong at hayley@thesimpledollar.com.

    Basic plan price

    We award brands who have lower monthly costs for credit monitoring services with higher scores in our methodology.

    Premium plan price

    We award brands who have lower monthly costs for credit monitoring services with higher scores in our methodology.

    Perks

    Who doesn’t like a nice perk? We awarded brands with higher scores if they offered perks to customers, such as free trials, family plans, discounts for annual billing and more than two pricing tiers.

    Customer support

    The SimpleScore system rewards brands that have multiple channels of support so customers can contact representatives in a variety of way.

    Mobile app rating

    We compared brands based on their mobile app ratings as an average of Google Play and iOS App Store ratings.

    Holly Johnson

    Contributing Writer

    Holly Johnson is a frugality expert and award-winning writer who is obsessed with personal finance and getting the most out of life. A lifelong resident of Indiana, she enjoys gardening, reading, and traveling the world with her husband and two children. In addition to The Simple Dollar, Holly writes for well-known publications such as U.S. News & World Report Travel, PolicyGenius, Travel Pulse, and Frugal Travel Guy. Holly also owns Club Thrifty.