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Chase Freedom versus Chase Freedom Unlimited: Side-by-side comparison

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Chase Freedom versus Chase Freedom Unlimited: Side-by-side comparison

Joseph HostetlerChase Freedom versus Chase Freedom Unlimited: Side-by-side comparisonMillion Mile Secrets Team

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It’s no secret that our favorite rewards program is Chase Ultimate Rewards. Every MMS team member carries the Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited (or both) in their wallet. They’re some of the best no annual fee credit cards, each with great earning potential. With either cash-back credit card you can earn lots of Chase Ultimate Rewards points on your everyday spending.

Plus, because there’s no annual fee, they’re free to keep forever. This will increase the length of your credit history and can potentially boost your credit score. So which of these Chase credit cards is better for you? I’ll compare them side by side to help you figure it out.

Information for the Chase Freedom, Ink Business Preferred and Chase Freedom Unlimited cards has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets and has not been reviewed by the card issuer.

Which card is better? Chase Freedom versus Freedom Unlimited

  • Best sign-up bonus: Tie – Both have identical bonuses
  • Best earning: Chase Freedom® – If you spend a lot in rotating quarterly bonus categories
  • Best redemption value: Tie – Pair either card with another Chase card for more value
  • Lowest annual fee: Tie – Both have no annual fees
  • Lowest foreign transaction fees: Tie – Both cards charge foreign transaction fees
  • Best worldwide acceptance: Tie – Both are Visa cards with worldwide acceptance
Both the Chase Freedom and the Chase Freedom Unlimited earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which could get you to Maui to drive the beautiful road to Hana. (Image via Shutterstock)

Chase Ultimate Rewards are fantastic because they’re so flexible. Yes, you can redeem them for cash back at one cent per point. But if you have other cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, your Chase points value increases because you can redeem them through the Chase portal for travel at a value of 1.25 cents per point. You can also convert them to airline miles or hotel points with the Chase transfer partners.

Best sign-up bonus

Both credit cards have identical sign-up bonuses: Earn a $150 welcome bonus (15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months after account opening. This is a tremendously accessible bonus for just about everyone – as long as you spend at least $167 each month with your card, you’ll qualify for the bonus.

Winner: Tie

Best earning rate

The Chase Freedom Unlimited has a simple and consistent return rate. You’ll earn:

  • Unlimited 1.5% back on all purchases made with the card
  • 5% back on Lyft rides through March 2022

And with the Chase Freedom, you’ll earn:

  • 5% back on up to $1,500 in combined spending in rotating categories each quarter when you activate the bonus
  • 5% back on Lyft rides through March 2022
  • 1% back on everything else

If you will be spending $1,500 per quarter ($6,000 per year) in popular rotating 5x bonus categories (which in the past have included restaurants, gas stations, mobile wallets, department stores and Amazon), you can potentially earn more cash back (or Ultimate Rewards points) with the Chase Freedom. You can earn up to $75 cash back each quarter, for a total of $300 cash back (or 30,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) per year, in addition to your non-bonus-category spending.

Suppose you plan on spending $20,000 annually on either card, making the most of the 5% bonus categories every quarter. Your yearly earnings would look something like the following:

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited: $300 cash back ($20,000 X 1.5%)
  • Chase Freedom: $440 ($6,000 X 5% = $300 cash back + 1% cash back on an additional $14,000 = $140)

In this comparison, you would earn more cash back/points using the Chase Freedom if you spend the maximum each quarter in the bonus categories. But for some, the hassle of tracking rotating categories isn’t worth it. So it really comes down to your personal preference and spending habits, and how comfortable you are with tracking categories.

Winner: Chase Freedom

Best redemption value

Both the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Freedom cards earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which you can redeem for cash back or travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a value of one cent per point. In other words, redeeming 10,000 points would equate to $100 in cash back or travel.

But if you also have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, you can combine your points to one of these cards and redeem points at a rate of either 1.25 or 1.5 cents per point (depending on the card) through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal.

You can also move your points to valuable Chase transfer partners, like Hyatt or United Airlines, for potentially more value. This is the best way to use Chase points.

MMS team members continue to keep the Chase Freedom card because it has no annual fee and the 5x Chase points in the rotating categories are often in common categories like Amazon and gas stations.

Winner: Tie

Lowest annual fee

Both the Chase Freedom and the Chase Freedom Unlimited have no annual fee. Keeping no-annual-fee cards long term will increase the average age of your accounts, which can help raise your credit score. Here’s more about the best no annual fee credit cards.

Winner: Tie

Lowest foreign transaction fees

Both the Chase Freedom and the Chase Freedom Unlimited charge foreign transaction fees. So they’re far from the best credit cards for traveling abroad.

Winner: Tie

Best worldwide acceptance

The Chase Freedom and the Chase Freedom Unlimited are both Visa credit cards. So they’ll both be equally accepted around the world. But again, these cards aren’t the best pick for overseas spending. Instead, consider one of the best no foreign transaction fee credit cards.

Winner: Tie

Important notes

Both cards are subject to the Chase 5/24 rule. If you’ve opened five or more credit cards from any bank within the previous 24 months (not counting certain small business cards), you won’t be approved for either of these cards. So you should carefully consider when and how you apply for Chase credit cards.

Also, if you convert your Chase Freedom card to Chase Freedom Unlimited (or vice versa), you will not be eligible for the welcome offer. Converting your card instead of opening a new card means:

  • You can keep the same credit card number
  • The information attached to the card would be transferred
  • It won’t show up as a new account on your credit history

It only makes sense to convert from one card to the other if your current card doesn’t match your spending habits and you aren’t able to earn the welcome bonus. Or if you really want the card but don’t want it to count toward the “5/24 rule.” You can also change the Chase Sapphire Preferred into either of these cards.

Bottom line

The Chase Freedom and the Chase Freedom Unlimited are nearly identical. So which cash back card is worth it for you really comes down to how you prefer to earn your rewards. Do you like the set-it-and-forget-it convenience that comes with the Chase Freedom Unlimited, which earns 1.5% on all purchases? Or do you prefer the idea of earning more points every quarter by activating rotating bonus categories like grocery stores and Amazon?

I personally use the Chase Freedom card to earn $75 per quarter by spending $1,500 combined in bonus categories. Then I use other cards to earn the most points for the rest of my day-to-day spending.

Most of the team keeps both the Chase Freedom and the Chase Freedom Unlimited year after year because the cards have no annual fee. Check out our post on the best no-annual-fee credit cards if you’re looking for a card that can help increase your average length of credit history and potentially boost your credit score.

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Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • One Year Complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value). Complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.

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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I got in on the Freedom Unlimited 3% deal for the first $30,000 spend so that is my go to card outside of Blue Cash Preferred 6% for groceries.

Apparently I need one of these cards in order to transition from the Preferred card to the Reserve card. I think I have decided on the Freedom card due to the rotating bonus categories .
Can someone point me to an article showing the steps to get the new Reserve card with the bonus points and preserve the the points in my current Preferred account. Thanks for any help.

Hi. You don’t need one of these cards to get the Reserve. Ideally you would “product change” to one of them from the Preferred (I would go with straight Freedom). Unfortunately, while you can get the Reserve you will not be eligible to receive the 50k sign on bonus unless you wait 24 months after moving from Sapphire Preferred. Regardless, you need one or the other in order to convert anything earned on the Freedom cards to Ultimate Rewards. So, be sure to obtain the Reserve before product changing so you don’t lose any previously earned points from the Preferred.

I’m confused why you’re *comparing* them, as if you can only get one or the other? That’s like saying which is better, food or water? I prefer earning the most number of points, and the obvious way to do that is, just have both of them (and also other cards), and use whichever one is better at the time?

Joseph Hostetler

Haha, a true miles & points disciple! Yes, having all available cards is certainly the answer. We still think it’s necessary to have the cards face off, so you can understand how to use each one.

Absolutely, and the point acknowledging the fact that some can’t be bothered to “manage” the quarterly categories is a fair one. I thrive on it.

I only put bonus quarterly spend on the Freedom card. Nothing more. So the 20k yearly spend is not a good comparison for me. All other non bonus daily spend goes on the Citi Double Cash card. Both no annual fee so a good combo. Must have one of the Chase premium cards to make those points work for you though….

Joseph Hostetler

All fine points! If you don’t mind my nosiness, do you prefer cash back over travel rewards? I only ask because depending on which premium Chase Sapphire card you have, you could get a better return from putting your spending on a Chase Freedom Unlimited instead of a Citi Double Cash.

You make a good point and I’m probably leaving some points on the table.