Chase Freedom Unlimited® Review: A Value-Packed Cash-Back Credit Card

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

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Great for: Unlimited cash rewards and no annual fee Chase Freedom Unlimited®

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Our Bottom Line

One card to rule them all is the name of the game here. This offer includes unlimited 1.5% cash back, plus other valuable perks and fee-friendly features that make it a solid contender if you're wanting to maintain a one card wallet.

Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent
Highlights

  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.99-25.74%. Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee

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Cardholders loyal to one issuer can reap generous rewards, which is the case with Chase Freedom Unlimited®. But this cash back credit card is also a good option if you’re new to the Chase brand.

I applied for this credit card for its flexible cash rewards program, the $0 annual fee, and its lengthy 0% intro APR offer, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s dive in to learn more about Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

Why you can trust me

Throughout the past decade I’ve held 19 credit cards and earned thousands of dollars of cash rewards and sign-up bonuses, all while maintaining excellent credit and not paying a dime of interest. I also created The Ascent’s credit card ratings philosophy from scratch. The philosophy is geared toward cutting nuisance fees and finding offers that earn premium rewards, all to help you conquer your financial goals faster.

The most important factors for cash back cards

I’m a firm believer that only a few things should be weighted when making a financial decision, the rest is mostly noise. Cash back credit cards are no exception. Potential applicants should hone in on the following factors:

  • Size of the sign-up bonus and quality and flexibility of the ongoing rewards program
  • Inclusion of a 0% intro APR offer
  • The annual fee
  • Credit score required for approval

This is the highest level “lens” through which we choose our top picks. Note, many cardholders have differing needs and the below in-depth review covers factors outside of the listed scope, so you can make an informed decision for what may matter most to you.

Why I applied for Chase Freedom Unlimited®

The 15-month 0% intro APR offer for purchases and $150 sign-up bonus were the primary reasons I chose this offer. Both benefits helped float the cost of a large purchase that I didn’t want to pay upfront. I made a vow when I was young to avoid credit card interest fees at all costs and choosing this offer kept me true to my word. Chase’s Ultimate Rewards® program was also a key factor as it’s one of the most versatile rewards programs on the market.

What I like about Chase Freedom® Unlimited

$150 cash sign-up bonus -- The hurdle for grabbing the $150 new cardholder bonus is rather low. Simply spend at least $500 in the first three months from account opening to unlock your $150 cash bonus.

1.5% cash-back rate -- 1.5% cash back is table stakes for cash-back cards, but the flexibility of Chase’s rewards currency, Ultimate Rewards® points, makes that common cash back rate more enticing.

Ultimate Rewards® points flexibility -- Cash back is earned in the form of Ultimate Rewards® points that can be transferred to other Chase credit cards to increase the yield (more on that below) or redeemed for the following.

Redemption Value Per Point Yield
Cash back $0.01 1.5%
Gift cards Up to $0.011 1.65%
Shop with points at Amazon $0.008 1.2%

Note, the array of gift card redemption options should satisfy many consumers’ tastes but only a select few offer conversion better than $0.01 per point. The de facto conversion for the majority of gift cards is on par with cash back at $0.01 per point.

$0 annual fee -- With thousands of credit cards available, card issuers must be competitive and one of the best ways to do so is by reducing fees, which Chase smartly did with this offer.

0% intro APR for purchases -- New purchases benefit from a 0% intro APR for 15 months, one of the longer offers out there for cash-back cards. 

0% intro APR for balance transfers -- Balance transfers also receive the same 0% intro APR for 15 months for balance transfers.

Shop through Chase® -- You can start your purchase journey through Chase and be rewarded with up to 30% extra cash back. The rundown of partners is vast and covers many popular retailers.

Credit Journey -- Chase cardholders can monitor their credit score for free with Credit JourneySM, which includes a Transunion credit score updated weekly. The service also offers a simulator to estimate how your credit score would change based on several common scenarios.

What could be improved

Balance-transfer fee -- Balance transfers incur a fee of 3% ($5 min.). We’d suggest looking elsewhere for a balance transfer credit card if you’re wanting to pay off debt faster  by avoiding a fee.

Chase Freedom Unlimited® credit score

Chase Freedom Unlimited® is designed for people with good credit and better, with a credit score of at least 700. That’s not to say applicants with lower scores can’t secure approval. In fact, some people have reported approval with a FICO score in the low to mid-600s. Credit scores are heavily weighted in the approval decision, but the reality is other factors also play a role.

What you need to know about Chase’s 5/24 rule

As mentioned, credit scores are only one factor that inform an approval decision. Chase’s 5/24 rule is another important factor. If you have opened five or more credit cards in the past 24 months, then you won’t be approved for a Chase credit card. The 5/24 rule is meant to dissuade credit card churners from applying solely to take advantage of a sign-up bonus.

Chase Freedom Unlimited® vs. Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom Unlimited®’s sister card, Chase Freedom®, holds down a spot as one of the 10 most popular credit cards by application volume. For cardholders keeping a thin wallet, we’d suggest considering if this offer makes sense instead.

The main difference between the two offers is Chase Freedom®’s higher rewards rate where purchases earn up to 5% back (capped at $1,500 of spending each quarter, 1% back thereafter) in rotating categories you activate. All else earns at the base rate of 1%.

Otherwise, the cards are practically twins and include the same sign-up bonus, $0 annual fee, and 0% intro APR offer. Cardholders who can make the most of the quarterly 5% cash back categories will earn more with Chase Freedom®, so it’s worth crunching your budget numbers to nail down the right option.

Chase Freedom Unlimited® Chase Freedom®
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4.5 stars Info icon We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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Star Review Icon = Poor
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4.5 stars Info icon We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Excellent
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Good
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Star Review Icon = Poor
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Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent

Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent

Bonus: $150 after spending $500 within three months Bonus: $150 After Spending $500 Within Three Months
Rewards Program: Unlimited 1.5% cash back Rewards Program: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate, 1% on all else
Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 15 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 months Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 15 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 months
Regular APR: 16.99% - 25.74%, variable Regular APR: 16.99% - 25.74%, variable
Annual Fee: $0 Annual Fee: $0

Highlights:

  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.99-25.74%. Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee

Highlights:

  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.99-25.74%. Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee

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The case for carrying a Chase companion card

As mentioned, the Ultimate Rewards® program’s versatility (namely, transferring points between Chase cards) makes Chase a slam dunk for many cardholders, including those who prefer to carry multiple cards to max their earnings. The following two Chase companion cards are commonly carried along with Chase Freedom Unlimited® to earn more rewards.

Chase Freedom® as a companion -- Recall, Chase Freedom® earns up to 5% in quarterly rotating categories and 1% on all other purchases whereas Chase Freedom Unlimited® earns 1.5% on all purchases. Cardholders will amp up the rewards earned when placing bonus category purchases on Chase Freedom® while reserving all other purchases for Chase Freedom Unlimited® to earn 1.5%.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® or Chase Sapphire Reserve® as a companion -- If travel rewards are your end goal, then carrying both cards can make sense. That’s because rewards earned on Chase Freedom Unlimited® can be easily transferred to a Chase Sapphire Preferred® for 25% or a Chase Sapphire Reserve® for 50% more value (both, when redeemed through Chase’s travel portal). The fully-baked yield on your Chase Freedom Unlimited® purchases then increases to 1.875% or 2.25%.

Points Scenario Bonus Fully-Baked Yield
Redeemed on Chase Freedom Unlimited® 0% 1.5%
Transferred and redeemed on Chase Sapphire Preferred® travel 25% 1.875%
Transferred and redeemed on Chase Sapphire Reserve® travel 50% 2.25%

A word of caution if this strategy is enticing. Be sure you have your budget locked down so that you’re not racking up debt at double-digit interest rates for the sake of earning rewards at far lower rates. This is a money-losing proposition. Carrying multiple credit cards introduces complexity to your budget, so thinking through how to stay on track should be considered before diving in.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Chase Sapphire Reserve®
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4.5 stars Info icon We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Best
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Excellent
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Good
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Fair
Star Review Icon = Poor
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon
4.5 stars Info icon We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Best
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Excellent
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Good
Star Review Icon Star Review Icon = Fair
Star Review Icon = Poor
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Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent

Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent

Bonus: 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Worth $625 redeemed for travel through Chase's portal. Bonus: 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Worth $750 redeemed for travel through Chase's portal.
Rewards Program: 2 points per $1 on travel and dining, 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. 25% more points for travel booked through Chase's portal. Rewards Program: 3 points per $1 on travel and dining, 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. 50% more points on travel booked through Chase's portal.
Intro APR: Purchases: N/A Balance Transfers: N/A Intro APR: Purchases: N/A Balance Transfers: N/A
Regular APR: 17.99% - 24.99%, variable Regular APR: 17.99% - 24.99%, variable
Annual Fee: $95, waived first year Annual Fee: $450

Highlights:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

Highlights:

  • Earn 50K 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®
  • Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
  • $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✓®

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How to apply

The online application process mirrors what other card issuers will require for a completed application, including the below.

  • Name and address
  • Employment, income, and housing type (rent vs. own)
  • Phone, email address, and date of birth
  • Social security number

Once this info has been collected Chase will instantly deliver a credit approval decision in the form of an approved or denied application or a request for more information to confirm details provided.