Chase Freedom Unlimited or Citi Double Cash: Which Is a Better No-Annual-Fee Cash Back Card?

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Chase Freedom Unlimited or Citi Double Cash: Which Is a Better No-Annual-Fee Cash Back Card?

JasonChase Freedom Unlimited or Citi Double Cash: Which Is a Better No-Annual-Fee Cash Back Card?Million Mile Secrets Team

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One of the simplest ways to learn the basics of rewards credit cards is to start with a no-annual-fee card.   

There are lots of excellent cards with no annual fee that earn cash back.  These cards are very easy to understand!  And who doesn’t like earning a little bit of extra cash?!

Two great no-annual-fee cash back cards are the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and the Citi® Double Cash Card.  While they’re similar in many ways, there are key differences between the cards for those looking to get the highest return on your spending.

The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited® has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Vs Citi Double Cash
Don’t Blindly Apply for a Cash Back Card! Take a Deeper Look at the Card’s Potential, so You Can Get More Bang for Your Buck!

Chase Freedom Unlimited vs Citi Double Cash

Link:   Citi Double Cash Card

Link:   Our Review of the Citi Double Cash Card

Link:   Chase Freedom Unlimited

Link:   Our Review of the Chase Freedom Unlimited

Here are the important questions to ask when deciding between the Citi Double Cash and Chase Freedom Unlimited.

  • Will you spend more or less than $30,000 on the card in the first year?
  • Do you have an annual fee Chase Ultimate Rewards card?
  • Are you under the Chase “5/24” rule?
  • Which card is better to keep long term?

Here are the important details for each card:

CardSign-Up BonusEarn Rate
Chase Freedom Unlimited®- $150 bonus (15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $500 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase
Citi® Double Cash Card- Currently doesn't have a sign-up bonus- Earn 1% cash back on all spending

- Earn another 1% cash back when you make payments, as long as you meet the minimum payment on your monthly statement

So what exactly does all of this mean to you?  Here’s what to consider before you apply.

1.   Will You Spend More or Less Than $30,000 in the First Year?

Neither of the 2 cards has any category spending bonuses.  So the rewards you earn will stay the same regardless of the purchase you’re making.

Below is what you would earn with each card if you spend $30,000 within the first year:

 Chase Freedom UnlimitedCiti Double Cash
Sign-Up Bonus$150 after meeting minimum spending requirements$0
Cash Back From $30,000 Spending$450 ($30,000 in purchases X 1.5% Cash Back)$600 ($30,000 in purchases X 1% + $30,000 in payments X 1%)
Total$600 (60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points)$600

Both cards will earn you the same amount of cash back in the first year if you make $30,000 in purchases.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited’s sign-up bonus makes it more valuable if you expect to spend less than $30,000 in the first 12 months of having the card.  But the Citi Double Cash is more rewarding if you’ll spend $30,001+ because of its higher earning rate.

But this analysis can change depending on your credit card strategy.

2.   Do You Have an Annual Fee Chase Ultimate Rewards Card?

The Citi Double Cash earns cash back, which you can redeem for a check, statement credit, or gift cards.  It’s as simple as earning 1% cash back when you make a purchase and an additional 1% cash back when you make a payment of at least the minimum payment amount.  That said, we ALWAYS recommend paying your balances in full each month because interest charges on outstanding balances can offset the value of any rewards you earn.

Meanwhile, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card earns 1.5% cash back (1.5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points) per $1 spent.  You can redeem these points for 1 cent each for cash back, gift cards, or travel through the Chase portal.

Now here’s the secret!  If you have an annual fee Chase Ultimate Rewards card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, the rewards you earn with the Chase Freedom Unlimited can be worth MUCH more!


You can move points from the Freedom Unlimited to another eligible Chase card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card or Chase Ink Business Preferred.  This way, your points are worth 25% more toward travel through the Chase portal.  And if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, points will be worth 50% more when you book airfare, hotels, or rental cars through the Chase travel portal.

So 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points linked to your Chase Freedom Unlimited account are normally only worth $400 in rewards if it’s the only card you have.  But combining the points to another Chase credit card can make the same points worth $500 or $600 in travel!

But the potential for more value doesn’t stop there.  Folks with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Business Preferred, or Chase Sapphire Reserve card can transfer points directly to travel partners, like United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, or Hyatt.

The Points You Earn With the Chase Freedom Unlimited Can Get You Huge Travel Savings If You Have Another Eligible Chase Card. Because You Can Combine Points and Transfer them Directly to Travel Partners Like Hyatt to Book Free Hotel Stays!

Certain award bookings with Chase travel partners can get you a lot of value for your points.  For example, my parents are visiting San Francisco in a few months.  They want to stay at the Hyatt Centric Fisherman’s Wharf where the cheapest rooms are going for ~$691 per night (including taxes) on their travel dates.

But free award nights at this hotel cost 15,000 Hyatt points.  And you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio to Hyatt.

Chase Freedom Unlimited cardholders can earn 15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points by spending $10,000 ($10,000 X 1.5 points).  Then, move points to an eligible Chase card and book a free Hyatt night, which could be worth ~$691!

With the Citi Double Cash card, you’d have to spend nearly $35,000 to have an opportunity to earn ~$691 worth of rewards.

That’s how powerful transferable points can be!  So if you like to travel and plan to get another Chase card in the future (or already have one), the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a much better option.

3.   Are You Under the Chase “5/24” Rule?

Chase has tougher application rules, which makes it difficult to get most of their cards if you have lots of new credit card accounts.  If you’re just starting out, this shouldn’t be an issue.

That said, Chase will NOT approve you for their Ultimate Rewards points earning cards if you’ve opened 5 or more credit card accounts (from any bank) in the past 24 months (NOT counting Chase business cards and these other business cards).

So if you’re over the “5/24” limit and looking to add a straightforward cash back card to your wallet, the Citi Double Cash is a great option.

4.   Which Card Is Better to Keep Long Term?

One factor used to calculate your credit score is the age of your accounts.  Opening a no-annual-fee card and keeping it open forever has the potential to boost your credit score.  This means it makes sense to keep either card open for a long time because neither has an annual fee!

Chase Freedom Unlimited Vs Citi Double Cash
Planning to Keep a Credit Card Open Year After Year Makes Sense for the Long-Term Health of Your Credit Score

But which card will get you more bang for your buck after the first year?  It depends on how much you plan to spend with the card and your travel goals.

Personally, my wife and I love earning valuable travel rewards.  That’s why I have the Chase Freedom Unlimited in my wallet and not the Citi Double Cash card.

To make the most of the points I earn with the Chase Freedom Unlimited, I also keep the Chase Sapphire Preferred in my wallet.  Paying the Sapphire Preferred‘s annual fee year after year is a no-brainer.  Besides increasing the value of my points, I also get terrific benefits like primary rental car insurance.

Which Card Should You Get?

If you already have, or are planning to apply for, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Chase Ink Business Preferred cards, then I’d recommend the Chase Freedom Unlimited card.

I’d suggest the Citi Double Cash to those of you looking for a straightforward cash back card with no plans on applying for more lucrative travel rewards cards in the future.  Or if you’re over the Chase “5/24” limit and just want add a no-annual-fee cash back card to your wallet.

If you’re still unsure which card is best for your situation, please leave a comment below and I’ll help you figure it out!

Bottom Line

The Citi Double Cash and Chase Freedom Unlimited are 2 very popular no-annual fee cash back cards.

Personally, I like Chase Freedom Unlimited more.  Because you can get significant value for the rewards you earn if you also have another eligible Chase Ultimate Rewards card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  You have the flexibility to combine points and increase their value to save BIG on travel!

But if you prefer earning straightforward cash back and don’t plan on ever opening a lucrative travel rewards card, the Citi Double Cash can be worth considering.  With this card, you earn 1% cash back when you make a purchase and an additional 1% cash back when you make a payment of at least the minimum payment amount.  That’s a great earning rate!

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

More Info

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Does either credit card have a Foreign Transaction Fee? That’s an important consideration.

I prefer the Citi Double, because it is essentially earning for me 2% versus 1 1/5%.

Author

It’s definitely way simpler and cash is more flexible too.

I have both cards. I like to build up a non-bonus spend “bank” with the DC card to cash out for incidental spend while traveling.

Nice to have both rewards & cash on hand! Good comparison, though, for a strict travel-rewards strategy.

Author

I like that strategy. It’s so easy to forget that flights and hotels are NOT the only travel expense!

travelwithpoints.blog

LOVE the Hyatt use case. I just realized a similar valuation at the Park Hyatt New York when I added a night to my previously booked stay. Transferred 30k UR points to Hyatt for a room with a rate of $1,135!

Author

It’s absolutely absurd what you can do with Hyatt points. Gonna spend 4 nights at the Park Hyatt Tokyo on points and once you factor in my wife’s Globalist status it gets even better!