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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
Link: Citi Double Cash Card
Link: 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:
|Card||Sign-Up Bonus||Earn 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 Unlimited||Citi 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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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!
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!