Chase Freedom vs. Freedom Unlimited

Cash back credit cards are all the rage these days — for good reason. They put real money back in your pocket with every dollar you spend.

Chase has two cash back cards that stand out in a crowded credit card market: Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

These credit cards share similar names and offer many of the same perks to cardholders. However, they earn cash back in different ways.

Let’s take a closer look at what sets these Chase cards apart from each other (and from other credit cards).

Chase Freedom® vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Chase FreedomChase Freedom®
  • $150 cash bonus when you spend $500 within three months of account opening
  • 5% cash back on rotating categories, unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • No Annual Fee
  • Best For Maximizing Rewards
  • Learn More
“ChaseChase Freedom Unlimited®
  • $150 cash bonus when you spend $500 within three months of account opening
  • 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • No Annual Fee
  • Best For Simplicity
  • Learn More

 

What’s the difference between Chase Freedom® and Freedom Unlimited®?

While Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited® share many common traits, what set them apart are very different rewards structures.

Both credit cards pay you cash back on every purchase, but their rewards structures are different: Chase Freedom® pays you 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter in select categories that change, plus 1% cash back on everything else. Chase Freedom Unlimited® simply pays 1.5% back on all purchases.

Chase Freedom® Benefits

Chase Freedom Credit Card

The Chase Freedom® card earns 5% cash back in rotating spending categories for the first $1,500 in purchases quarterly.

Past spending categories have included:

  • Gas stations
  • Home improvement stores
  • Grocery stores
  • Drugstores
  • Paypal
  • Chase Pay
  • Streaming services

Any purchases in those categories after the first $1,500 will earn 1% cash back. So will any purchases outside of the bonus categories.

One way to earn even more rewards is to be strategic with the Chase Freedom® card. If the bonus category is Grocery stores or drugstores, why not buy gift cards to restaurants and other merchants? You’ll earn 5% cash back instead of 1%, essentially creating more bonus spending categories for yourself.

One catch with the Chase Freedom® card is that cardholders need to activate bonus spending categories every quarter to earn 5% cash back. Without activation, purchases will only earn 1% cash back.

Because of this, Chase Freedom® requires active monitoring to ensure you’re taking advantage of the best rewards rates. This isn’t a big deal because it takes less than a minute to activate your rewards, and Chase will send plenty of reminder emails before it’s time to activate new bonus categories.

Chase Freedom Unlimited® Benefits

Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

Chase Freedom Unlimited® has a much easier rewards program to follow. It’s a low-maintenance credit card.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® card earns unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, big and small.

There’s nothing you need to do on your end to earn rewards except using your card when paying for purchases.

There is no cap on how much you can earn. You’ll receive unlimited 1.5% cash back all year long.

How are Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited® Similar?

Beyond rewards earning, though, both Chase Freedom® cards offer similar perks. This includes a $150 cash bonus after spending $500 in the first three months. That’s one of the lowest spending requirements around.

To top it off, neither card has an annual fee attached to it, which means all of the rewards earned stays in your pocket. Rewards never expire and can be redeemed at any time.

While Visa cards are accepted worldwide, both Chase Freedom® cards carry a 3% foreign transaction fee, so they aren’t the best credit cards to use if you travel outside the U.S.

What other perks are offered by both Chase Freedom® credit cards?

  • Free access to your credit score
  • Fraud protection
  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty coverage on select purchases

Redeeming Cash Back with Chase Freedom® credit cards

Redeeming cash back is simple, whether you have Chase Freedom® or Chase Freedom Unlimited®. The same guidelines apply to both cards.

There is no minimum when redeeming cash back rewards. Cardholders can receive redemptions as a statement credit or direct deposit into a checking or savings account.

Other redemptions include shopping with points at Amazon.com or redeeming for free gift cards to popular merchants, restaurants, and more. Redemption values vary with these options.

Most people should opt for credit, direct deposit, or (when applicable) transfer to Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Earning Chase Ultimate Rewards with your Chase Freedom® credit cards

Perhaps the best perk available with both Chase Freedom® credit cards is their ability to be paired with other select Chase credit cards to maximize your rewards.

Your cash back rewards can be converted to Chase Ultimate Rewards points if you have a premium Chase card. This includes Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and Chase Ink Business Preferred.

Chase Ultimate Rewards is one of the best credit card rewards programs available today. Ultimate Rewards Points are valuable, especially when used to book travel through the Chase travel portal.

There’s also an option to transfer points to Chase’s 13 travel partners, which include:

  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Emirates Skywards
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Iberia Plus
  • World of Hyatt
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Bonvoy

Some travel partner programs have a transfer rate of 1:1, giving you access to travel access across the globe.

If none of these travel partners match up with your travel plans, you can book with other airlines and hotels directly through Chase.

You can also rent cars and book cruises and other vacation packages too.

Can I have both Chase Freedom® and Freedom Unlimited®?

chase freedom vs chase freedom unlimitedYes, you can. Instead of having to choose between Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited®, why not get both?

This allows you to earn 1.5% cash back on most of your everyday spending, but strategically take advantage of 5% cash back in popular spending categories when it makes sense.

Paired with premium Chase cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and Chase Ink Business Preferred, you’ll be able to pool all of your points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

This is considered by many credit card experts as the most valuable “travel currency” you can have. You’ll be able to maximize your rewards to the fullest with both Chase Freedom® cards.

If you do plan to get both Chase Freedom® credit cards, one thing to keep in mind is the Chase 5/24 rule. Basically, the 5/24 rule states that if you have opened five credit cards within the past 24 months, you will NOT be approved for any Chase credit card (with some exceptions).

It’s good to know where you stand before applying. Because of the 5/24 rule, I recommend getting valuable Chase cards before you exceed the 5/24 limit.

Should I get both Chase Freedom® and Freedom Unlimited®?

Because there are no annual fees attached to either Chase Freedom® credit card, people can maximize their rewards earning potential by strategically using both cards.

If you love to earn cash back rewards or use credit card rewards for travel, it makes sense to add both cards to your wallet.

If you already have an all-purpose credit card you use for everyday spending, you may just want to add Chase Freedom® to your wallet.

But if you have the room, both cards are valuable tools to earn cash back rewards.

Is Chase Freedom® or Freedom Unlimited® better?

The cards offer many of the same perks, but the best card for you depends on your spending habits. It’s more about your preference than one card being better than the other.

Both Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited® offer valuable rewards earning opportunities, and a generous credit card sign-up bonus. Either card would be a solid choice for your next rewards credit card.

Is Chase Freedom® a good credit card?

Yes, Chase Freedom® is a good credit card. Cash back credit cards are a popular option among consumers, and Chase Freedom® is often their first choice.

It offers extra rewards earning in spending categories that many people use every day. Plus, any other spending still earns cash back too.

Between cash back, the sign-up bonus, and no annual fee, Chase Freedom® is a good credit card to have.

Which Chase Freedom® Card should you get?

The right Chase Freedom® card for you is the one that offers rewards that match up to your spending habits and personality.

Chase Freedom® requires a little more work upfront, but also offers higher earning rates in select rotating spending categories.

If you can max out rewards on all four bonus categories throughout the year, you will probably earn more rewards with the Chase Freedom® card. If you already have an everyday credit card and don’t need unlimited cash back, Chase Freedom® is the way to go.

Chase Freedom Unlimited® is easy to use and earns an unlimited 1.5% APR on all purchases.

If your spending varies from month to month, Chase Freedom Unlimited® gives you solid rewards no matter how you spend your money. You can’t go wrong by adding either credit card.

Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited® both offer tons of value to cardholders. Choosing the best card depends on if you want to active you want to be with tracking your spending and rewards earning.

If you’d rather not worry about it, then Chase Freedom Unlimited® is the better choice. If you like the idea of higher earning rates in categories you spend in the most, then Chase Freedom® may be better for you in the long run.

What’s your favorite cash back credit card? Let us know in the comments.

David Weliver

David Weliver

David Weliver is the Credit Cards Editor at Millennial Money. He is the Founder of Money Under 30 and is widely regarded as one of the top credit card rewards experts in the world. David has been writing about personal finance and credit cards since 2006 and been featured in The New York Times, NPR, USA Today, Forbes, and many others.
David Weliver

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