Chase Freedom versus Freedom Unlimited: Side-by-side comparison (with a clear winner)

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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 (hint: both cards just released bombshell offers).

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

Which card is better? Chase Freedom versus Freedom Unlimited

  • Best intro offer: Tie
  • Best earning: Chase Freedom
  • 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 Card, 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 $200 (20,000 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.

However, they also come with an extra element in the offers that could net you 60,000 more points! I’ll explain.

Winner: Tie

Best earning rate

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

The Chase Freedom Unlimited, on the other hand, 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

However, during your first year of cardmembership, you’ll also earn 5% back on grocery stores on up to $12,000 in spending.

If you’ve got the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you’ll earn 3.5% more than usual for these purchases. That means you could earn up to $420 (42,000 Chase points) extra with this offer, if you managed to spend $12,000 on groceries during your first cardmember year.

Similarly, if you’ve got the Chase Freedom, you’ll earn 4% more than usual for these purchases (unless the current rotating bonus categories include groceries, we presume).

$12,000 in grocery store spending shouldn’t be difficult, considering grocery stores often sell gift cards from Amazon and gas stations. You could even buy a regular Visa gift card and use it just about anywhere! And because the Chase Freedom gives you the potential to earn 5% on other rotating categories at the same time gives it an edge over the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

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 Card into either of these cards.

Bottom line

The Chase Freedom and the Chase Freedom Unlimited are nearly identical. So the answer to 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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Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for The Points Guy.

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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