Chase Freedom Unlimited vs Citi Double Cash: Which is a better no-annual-fee cash back card?

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

Let’s take a closer look at the Citi Double Cash vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited.

No matter which card you choose, regular spending can quickly amount to hundreds. (Photo by i viewfinder/Shutterstock)

Chase Freedom Unlimited vs Citi Double Cash

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®- $200 bonus (20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on purchases
Citi® Double Cash Card- Currently doesn't have a sign-up bonus- Earn 2% cash back on purchases

- Earn 1% cash back when you buy plus 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.

Are you under the Chase “5/24” rule?

Chase has tougher application rules, making it difficult to open 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.

Chase won’t approve you for the Chase Freedom Unlimited if you’ve opened five or more credit cards (from any bank) in the past 24 months (not counting Chase business cards and most other business cards). This is referred to as the Chase “5/24” rule. If you’ve opened five or more cards in the past 24 months, go for the Citi Double Cash.

Will you spend more or less than $30,000 in the first year?

Neither of the two cards has any category spending bonuses. 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
Welcome Bonus$200 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.

But this analysis can change depending on how you use your rewards. Here’s an example.

Do you have an annual fee Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi ThankYou points earning 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.

If you’re paying an annual fee on a card that earns Citi ThankYou points, you can actually transfer your cashback to that card (1 cent = 1 Citi ThankYou point), and then transfer those points to valuable Citi transfer partners like Flying Blue (the loyalty program of KLM and Air France) or Turkish Airlines.

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

Similar to the Citi Double Cash, if you have a Chase Ultimate Rewards card with an annual fee, 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 Sapphire Reserve®. You can then redeem your points with Chase transfer partners like Southwest, Hyatt, or United Airlines. Or, you can book travel through the Chase Travel Portal, which also increases your Chase points value over just redeeming for cashback.

Which card should you get?

If you already have, or are planning to apply for, cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, 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. You can read our

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. I personally have both. You can read our Citi Double Cash review here. And read our Chase Freedom Unlimited review here.

Bottom line

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

Personally, I like Chase Freedom Unlimited more. 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. And I like Chase transfer partners better than Citi ThankYou points. You have the flexibility to combine points and increase their value to save big on travel!

If you prefer earning straightforward cash back and don’t plan on ever opening a lucrative travel rewards card, the Citi Double Cash Card is the better card long-term. 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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Meghan Hunter is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, he covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

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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Michelle Giles
7 months ago

I just got a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, not knowing anything about cash back cards. Should I keep the Sapphire and get the Freedom Rewards or just get the Freedom Rewards? I will probably spend around $30k this year. I’m also closing a AmEx Platinum because of the annual fee. Will any of this hurt my credit?

Kevin Davis
8 months ago

As another has said (a bit bluntly perhaps) you can now redeem your Citi Double Cash for Thank You points. I’m not sure what the value is if you aren’t a citi cardholder otherwise. Point well taken about the comparative value of the travel cards. I’m kind of torn between those benefits because the citi transfer partners are relatively lackluster (IMHO).

Pythagoras
8 months ago

Lmao you did the ez math and then escaped the actual math and where value can be had on a combination with TY/UR earning product

Rob
8 months ago

This article completely ignores the fact that citi double cash now has the ability to earn thank you points which can be transferred to the citi prestige.