Chase Freedom Unlimited® vs. Chase Freedom®: Which Should You Pick?

These two popular cash-back cards earn premium rewards and include a big sign-up bonus. But which is right for you? Learn more with our in-depth guide.

Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Chase Freedom® are commonly found in the wallets of cash-back credit card users for a few reasons. First, both cards have lucrative cash rewards programs: Chase Freedom® is one of the highest cash-back credit cards in bonus categories, while Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers the flexibility of unlimited 1.5% cash rewards. Second, both cards include a deep bench of valuable perks, such as a $0 annual fee, a long 0% intro APR offer, and a big cash sign-up bonus with a low spending hurdle for qualification.

But which cash rewards credit card is right for you? We’ll compare the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Chase Freedom® side by side to determine which may be the best cash-back credit card for your needs. Let’s dive in.

Side by side comparison

Chase Freedom Unlimited® Chase Freedom®
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
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
Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website

Read Full Review
Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website

Read Full Review

Credit Rating Requirement: goodexcellent

Credit Rating Requirement: goodexcellent

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: 17.24% - 25.99%, variable Regular APR: 17.24%-25.99%, 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 17.24-25.99%. 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 17.24-25.99%. 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

Show More Arrow graphic to expand and collapse content
Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website

Show More Arrow graphic to expand and collapse content
Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website

Chase Freedom Unlimited® benefits at a glance

Sign-up bonus -- Earn a $150 cash rewards sign-up bonus after spending just $500 within three months of account opening. Earn an additional $25 bonus by adding an authorized card user who makes at least one purchase during the bonus qualification period.

Ongoing cash-back rewards -- Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

Annual fee -- $0 annual fee.

Chase Freedom® benefits at a glance

Sign-up bonus -- Earn a $150 cash rewards sign-up bonus after spending just $500 within three months of account opening. Earn an additional $25 bonus by adding an authorized card user who makes at least one purchase during the bonus qualification period.

Ongoing cash-back rewards -- 5% bonus cash back on bonus-category spending each quarter (up to $1,500 worth) in rotating categories you activate, and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Annual fee -- $0 annual fee.

Sign-up bonuses

Both cards offer the exact same sign-up bonus: a big cash bonus of $150 with a low spending threshold, requiring you to spend just $500 on new purchases. Many competing cards have the same spending hurdle but cut the bonus down to $100; the competitive higher bonus is one reason these cards are so popular.

Both cards also include a $25 bonus when you add an authorized user who makes at least one purchase during the first three months. A word of caution is warranted: Cardholders are on the hook for each other’s spending habits, so there are risks to consider before you authorize another user.

Cash rewards programs

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® cash rewards program differs from the Chase Freedom® cash rewards program in that the former pays a higher flat rate of 1.5% for all purchases, whereas the latter provides 5% cash back (although capped) in rotating bonus categories. That makes Chase Freedom®’s cash-back calendar a lucrative perk if you can make the most of these categories.

Chase Freedom®’s 2018 cash-back calendar includes the following essential categories:

  • January to March -- Gas stations and internet/phone/cable services
  • April to June -- Grocery stores, PayPal, and Chase Pay®
  • July to September -- Gas stations, Lyft, and Walgreens
  • October to December -- Department stores, Wholesale clubs, and Chase Pay®

Comparing the two cards’ cash rewards programs will highlight how each version suits different needs; reviewing two sample budgets will help you understand which card can make your money work harder for you. Let’s run some calculations.

Monthly credit card budget:

  • Scenario 1: $200 monthly budget for bonus categories, and $2,800 monthly budget outside of bonus categories.
  • Scenario 2: $500 monthly budget for bonus categories to max out spending caps each quarter, and $2,500 monthly budget outside of bonus categories.

Chase Freedom Unlimited® cardholders would earn cash rewards worth $540 each year in both scenarios, since all purchases yield the same rate.

Chase Freedom® cardholders would earn a lower amount of $456 each year in budget scenario 1, and a higher amount of $600 in budget scenario 2.

The higher amount of cash rewards in the second scenario shows that cardholders who make the most of bonus categories can earn more rewards each year on the Chase Freedom®.

That’s why knowing your spending habits is a major factor in deciding on a card: Running through a few months of bank statements can help you see which card could earn you the most cash rewards.

Redemption options

Both cards allow for flexible redemptions for cash back that can be applied as statement credits, or pocketed for cash (by check or via bank transfer).

A more sophisticated strategy can stretch the value of cash rewards: For example, you might carry a companion Chase Sapphire Preferred® card, and convert cash back earned on either Freedom®-branded card to Ultimate Rewards points, Chase Sapphire Preferred®’s travel rewards currency (more on that below).

Fees

Both Freedom®-branded cards cut your out-of-pocket costs for essential credit card needs, and they’re practically the same from a fee perspective. The annual fee for both cards is $0; foreign transactions incur a 3% fee. Balance transfers are charged a 3% ($5 minimum) fee for both cards.

0% intro APR offers

Each of the two cards offers a long 0% intro APR -- 15 months for balance transfers and purchases -- a time frame that beats many competitors’ offers, which tend to max out at nine to 12 months (or are simply nonexistent).

A 0% intro APR offer deepens the bench of perks available with these two cards; it can be valuable if you want to get out of debt faster, or if you are looking to float the up-front cost of a big-ticket purchase.

The case for carrying both

Chase credit cards have also become popular companion cards for cardholders who optimize the total rewards. Carrying both a Chase Freedom Unlimited® and a Chase Freedom® can increase overall cash rewards.

That’s because you earn more cash back by using Chase Freedom® for 5% bonus-category purchases, and Chase Freedom Unlimited® for all other purchases to earn 1.5% back. Remember, if you just carried Chase Freedom®, your purchases outside of bonus categories would earn an inferior 1% rate. Plus, applying for both cards means you could secure two sign-up bonuses, worth $300 combined.

Chase's 5/24 rule

Chase wants to minimize the number of card “churners” it approves, so cardholders won’t use a card just to qualify for the bonus and subsequently ditch the card. That’s where Chase’s 5/24 rule comes into play. It’s widely documented, though not confirmed by Chase, that applications may be denied from cardholders who have applied for more than five new cards in a 24-month span. This rule is important to keep in mind, both when applying for a single Chase credit card and when implementing the various companion strategies already highlighted.

Suggested credit scores

Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Chase Freedom® are both targeted towards people with good credit (670+ FICO score) and better.

But it’s worth noting that people with credit scores as low as the mid-600s have reported securing approval for Freedom®-branded cards; other factors are also considered in the approval decision, including current credit utilization and reported income.

Which card should you pick?

Clearly, Chase credit cards offer a ton of value and they include versatile, competitive options for many cardholders. But that’s not to say you can’t go wrong with either card -- choosing the wrong one could result in leaving money on the table.

And that gets at the core differentiator between these two cards. If you can make the most of 5% bonus-category purchases on the Chase Freedom®, you’re likely to earn more rewards from that card; if your budget is more varied (or you prefer the simplicity of flat-rate rewards), you may get more value from the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. All other fees and perks are equal, so they should not weigh into your decision.

Lastly, you may also benefit by implementing a Chase companion-card strategy. You could focus on earning more cash rewards by carrying both the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Chase Freedom® card.

Great for: Bonus cash rewards Chase Freedom®

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
Apply Now
Secure lock icon

On Chase's Secure Website

Our Bottom Line

The marquee feature is the fact that this offer earns up to 5% cash back, but the card is packed with a deep bench of perks that is rare in the cash back category. It's a leading pick no doubt.

Read Full Review
Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent
What we Like:
  • Cash sign-up bonus
  • Earn up to 5% cash back
  • 0% intro APR offer for 15 months
  • No annual fee
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 17.24%-25.99%, variable
  • Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 15 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 months
Highlights
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 17.24-25.99%. 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
Show More Arrow graphic to expand and collapse content

Great for: One-card wallet Chase Freedom Unlimited®

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
Apply Now
Secure lock icon

On Chase's Secure Website

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.

Read Full Review
Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent
What we Like:
  • Big cash sign-up bonus
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back
  • 0% intro APR offer for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 17.24% - 25.99%, variable
  • Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 15 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 months
Highlights
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 17.24-25.99%. 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
Show More Arrow graphic to expand and collapse content