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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 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 card is better for you? I’ll compare them side by side to help you figure it out.
Which card is better? Chase Freedom versus Freedom Unlimited
- Best Sign-Up Bonus: Tie – Both have identical bonuses
- Best Point 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
Chase Ultimate Rewards are fantastic because they’re so flexible. Yes, you can redeem them for cash back at 1 cent per point. But if you have other cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, your Chase points value increases. You can:
- Redeem them through the Chase portal for travel at a value of 1.25 cents per point
- Convert them to airline miles or hotel points with 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.
Best earning rate
The Chase Freedom Unlimited has a simple and consistent return rate. You’ll earn:
- Unlimited 1.5% back (1.5 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar) on all purchases made with the card
And with the Chase Freedom, you’ll earn:
- 5% back (5 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar) on up to $1,500 in combined spending in rotating categories each quarter when you activate the bonus
- 1% back (1 Chase Ultimate Rewards point per dollar) 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 (7,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) each quarter ($1,500 X 5%), for a total of $300 cash back (or 30,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) per year ($75 X 4 quarters), 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 1 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.
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.
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.
Lowest foreign transaction fees
Best worldwide acceptance
The Chase Freedom and the Chase Freedom Unlimited are both Visa 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.
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.
- 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.”
Note: You can also change the Chase Sapphire Preferred into either of these cards.
Aside from a different way to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, the Chase Freedom and the Chase Freedom Unlimited are nearly identical. So the best card 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% (1.5 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar) 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 (7,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) 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.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments. And subscribe to our newsletter for more card comparisons like this.