Chase Freedom vs. Freedom Unlimited 2020: Which Is Better?

Chase Freedom vs. Freedom Unlimited:

Both cards are best known for a no annual fees and are part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. However, 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. 

Chase Freedom vs. Freedom Unlimited 2020: Which Is Better?

Both the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited offer hefty sign-up bonuses, along with cash back on everyday spending.

The difference is their rewards structures: the Chase Freedom card offers 5 percent cash back on rotating quarterly categories, while the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a flat-rate 1.5 percent cash back on everything.

In this article:

Chase Freedom 

The Chase Freedom card offers 5 percent cash back in categories that rotate quarterly – up to $1,500 – and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • High rewards rate on rotating categories
  • Large sign-up bonus
  • Can transfer rewards to other Chase cards

Cons

  • Requires some maintenance
  • Low overall rewards rate when not paired with other cards

Freedom Unlimited

The Freedom Unlimited card offers a flat rate of 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases. There’s no annual fee, and no interest on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (then a variable APR of 16.49 to 25.24 percent).

Also, the card is currently offering a $150 bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Simple to manage
  • High general rewards rate
  • Large sign-up bonus
  • Can transfer rewards to other Chase cards

Cons

  • No bonus categories to help you maximize rewards

Comparison Overview

The Freedom and Freedom Unlimited often get thrown around interchangeably because of the numerous similarities between them.

In fact, other than the earning rates, the two cards are identical. Here are how they stack up:

Card Chase Freedom Chase Freedom Unlimited
Annual fee $0 $0
Sign-up bonus Earn $200 (20,000 points) when you apply directly through Chase after spending $500 in the first three months Earn $200 (20,000 points) when you apply directly through Chase after spending $500 in the first three months
Earning rate Earn 5% back (5x points) on your first $1,500 spent in rotating quarterly bonus categories. After that, earn 1% (1x) on all purchases Earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back (1.5x points) on all purchases
Redemption options Redeem points as cash back, OR transfer them to Ultimate Rewards points if you also hold a premium Chase card (Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card) Redeem points as cash back, OR transfer them to Ultimate Rewards points if you also hold a premium Chase card (Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card)
Perks 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 14.99 – 23.74% applies. 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 14.99 – 23.74% applies.
Foreign transaction fee 3% 3%

For Maximizers: 5% on Rotating Categories

Our Opinion

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’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

Our Opinion

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.

Which Freedom Card is Better?

As is the case with most things related to earning and redeeming points, the answer is “it depends.” Personally I think both cards can be worth having in order to boost your Ultimate Rewards points balance.

There’s no downside to having both cards — they both have no annual fees, and for that matter having cards long term is good for your credit score, as it helps build your average age of accounts. So there are benefits to having both cards beyond the points earning.

If you do spend a lot in the 5x points categories, then you can earn an easy 30,000 points per year by maxing out those categories on the Chase Freedom. For many people that’s well worth it.

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 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®.

FAQs

1. 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 Freedom Unlimited® to maximize your rewards.

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

Yes. You can request a product change from a Chase Freedom® to 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.

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

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

4. 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 Freedom Unlimited®.

Bottom Line

The Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited cards are both great cash back cards that appeal to different audiences. The Freedom card is a great option for cardholders who want to maximize their rewards and the Freedom Unlimited card is a great way to go if you want to keep things simple.

However, if like travel rewards and you want to get the most bang for your buck, you should really consider applying for a trio of Ultimate Rewards cards.

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