Two cards. Two different uses. The Citi® Double Cash Card and Chase Freedom are both no annual fee rewards cards, but depending on what you value most out of your rewards card, their worth varies.
If you’re interested in maximizing your rewards potential or earning a significant sign-up bonus, the Chase Freedom is a good pick. If you’d rather swipe (or insert) your card without racking your brain to remember which rewards category you’d earn more cash back in each month, you’re probably better off with the Citi Double Cash.
You’ll never know the best option for you until you do your research. Luckily, we’ve done it for you.
|Citi Double Cash||Chase Freedom|
|Sign-up bonus||N/A||$150 cash back|
|How to earn bonus||N/A||Spend $500 within the first three months|
|Rewards||1% back on purchases and then another 1% when you pay for that purchase.||5% back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases on rotating quarterly categories. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases|
|Introductory offer||0% intro APR for the first 18 months on balance transfers||0% intro APR for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers|
|Balance transfer fee||$5 or 3% of the transferred balance — whichever is greater||$5 or 3% of the transferred balance — whichever is greater|
|APR after intro period||15.49% – 25.49% variable||16.49% – 25.24% variable|
Here are the details:
Citi Double Cash Card
The Citi Double Cash offers an unlimited 1% cash back on purchases, then another 1% when you pay off your purchase. In other words, you’ll get 2% cash back for being a responsible cardholder. There’s no limit on how much cash back you can earn — just make sure to pay off your balance in full each month.
There’s a longer introductory APR on balance transfers for this card compared to the Chase Freedom (0% intro APR for 18 months, 15.49% – 25.49% variable after), and all balance transfers need to be completed within four months of account opening. Either way, you’ll need to pay either a 3% fee on the amount being transferred or $5, whichever is greater.
Enjoy benefits like Citi® Private Pass®, which gets you access to VIP events like concerts, sporting events and more, along with a guaranteed pass on your first late fee (should you forget to pay).
You can redeem your cash back for statement credits or checks, but you won’t be able to transfer your cash back to hotel or airline partners. So, if you’re big on travel, it’s best to consider other cards.
Are you ready to track rotating rewards categories? The Chase Freedom offers 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories (up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter when you activate) and an unlimited 1% back on everything else.
Similar to the Citi Double Cash, the Chase Freedom doesn’t charge an annual fee. And when you spend $500 within your first three months of card ownership, you’ll earn a $150 sign-up bonus.
In order to make the most of the Chase Freedom, you must be willing to put in the effort. Each quarter, the 5% cash back category changes — and you must activate each quarter in order to receive the 5%. For January through March of 2019, you must activate by March 14 in order to receive rewards. You can find category activation dates for the rest of 2019 here.
If you usually carry a balance, the APR charges will end up outweighing the benefits of the Chase Freedom. Additionally, if you’re planning to shift debt from another card to the Chase Freedom, bear in mind there’s a 3% intro fee ($5 minimum) when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, and a 5% ($5 minimum) ongoing balance transfer fee. There is a 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers (16.49% – 25.24% variable thereafter).
This card offers more redemption options than the Citi Double Cash — you can redeem cash back for points at Amazon, gift cards or travel when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. As for benefits, you’ll enjoy purchase protection, zero liability protection, fraud alerts and more, making it easier to catch unauthorized purchases and protect yourself from the aftermath.
Which card is right for you?
So, the Citi Double Cash or the Chase Freedom? As always, it all comes down to what you intend to use the card for.
The 5% cash back category and 1% on everything else from Chase Freedom may seem like the better rewards structure at first glance. Yet due to the $1,500 cap on purchases each quarter in the 5% category, you may end up earning nearly the same amount using the Citi Double Cash.
The Chase Freedom is the only card of the two to offer a sign-up bonus, but it could be a nuisance to track which category you’ll earn cash back in every quarter. Plus, In order to receive the 5% cash back each quarter, you have to remember to activate the rewards category. If you forget to activate, you’ll earn only 1% cash back — or, in other words, if you consider yourself a forgetful person — the Chase Freedom may not be your pick.
The Citi Double Cash is definitely the more easy-to-use card of the two, but it will take a bit of patience. You’ll get an unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases and then another 1% once you pay off the purchase. There’s no sign-up bonus, but your rewards potential is practically the same as that of the Chase Freedom if you use it often enough.
Both cards offer an introductory APR on either purchases, balance transfers or both. The Citi Double Cash intro offer on balance transfers is longer than the Chase Freedom’s, but either way, you’ll need to pay $5 or a 3% fee on balance transfers. Keep in mind that these types of fees can eat into your APR savings if you aren’t careful.
Use cases and rewards breakdown
The most you can earn with the Chase Freedom bonus categories each quarter is equivalent to $75, or $300 a year. As for the Citi Double Cash, there’s no cap on how much you can earn.
For example, if you spend $300 a month each month on groceries using the Citi Double Cash and pay off the balance, with the current Citi ThankYou® Points valuation, you’ll earn $72 for the year.
If the Chase Freedom was offering 5% cash back on groceries for a certain quarter, then 1% on groceries for the rest of the year, you’d end up earning $45 for the quarter and $27 for the rest of the year — equal to $72 overall. The cash back rewards for both cards end up being the same, but what may tip you over the edge is the $150 bonus you’d receive from the Chase Freedom for hitting $500 in purchases within the first three months.
When it comes down to it, both the Citi Double Cash and Chase Freedom are solid choices for cash back rewards cards. If you’d rather swipe and forget about it (while still earning a good amount of cash back), we recommend the Citi Double Cash. But if you’re more interested in maxing out your cash back category and earning a sign-up bonus, we’d go with the Chase Freedom.
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