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The main difference between the two cards is their rewards structures (one offering flat-rate rewards and the other rotating categories). Otherwise, the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited share a lot in common; no annual fee, the chance to earn $150 cash back when you spend $500 in your first three months from account opening and a zero percent introductory APR offer on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (16.49 percent — 25.24 percent variable thereafter).
Card comparison overview
|Features||Chase Freedom Unlimited||Chase Freedom|
|Welcome bonus||Earn $150 cash back when you spend $500 in your first three months from account opening||Earn $150 cash back when you spend $500 in your first three months from account opening.|
|Rewards rate||Earn an unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase||Earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories you activate each quarter|
|Introductory APR||Zero percent introductory APR on purchases and balance transfer for 15 months (16.49 percent — 25.24 percent variable APR after that)||Zero percent introductory APR on purchases and balance transfer for 15 months (16.49 percent — 25.24 percent variable APR after that)|
Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Freedom highlights
With quite a few shared attributes, the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited leave little to rival against. Here’s a breakdown of which card brings home the gold for welcome bonus worth, on-going rewards value and introductory APR offer.
Welcome bonus winner: Tie
There isn’t much competition when it comes to each card’s welcome bonus. Both the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited offer $150 cash back when you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening. You also receive the same options to redeem your rewards (highlighted below), in case you’re big on deciphering the best redemption rates.
We like the relatively easy-to-reach spending requirement, seeing as similar cards offer bonuses merely $50 more, yet for a $1,000 spend prerequisite.
On-going returns winner: It depends
The Freedom Unlimited offers an unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase, making it a great choice for day-to-day purchases. Those that prefer a more laid-back, easy-to-use card will appreciate the lack of bonus categories to track and activate.
The Freedom, on the other hand, gets you 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in combined bonus category purchases each quarter, then 1 percent. This card may require a little more attention to detail, but it won’t go unappreciated by cash back maximizers.
One thing to note: Big spenders that can easily meet the Freedom’s $1,500-per-quarter cap may want to look elsewhere. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for example, offers an unlimited 2X points on restaurant and travel purchases and 1X points on everything else.
Introductory APR offer winner: Tie
Both the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited get you a zero percent introductory APR offer on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (16.49 percent to 25.24 percent variable APR thereafter). As long as you complete your payoff within the 15-month window, the variable APR won’t mean much to you.
Should you be interested in completing a balance transfer with either card, there’s a 3 percent introductory balance transfer fee ($5 minimum). After 60 days of your account being open, the balance transfer fee raises to 5 percent and a $10 minimum. This is a pretty standard fee amount compared to similar cards; Just be sure to complete your transfer early on to avoid the higher fee.
Which card earns the most?
The question on everyone’s mind: Which card holds the most value? As much as we would like to give a clear-cut answer, it really depends on your spending habits and rewards-earning preference.
The Freedom Unlimited is a great option if you prefer a “one size fits all” credit card and plan on using it for everyday purchases. Meanwhile, the Freedom is ideal if you’re interested in tracking rotating bonus categories and maximizing your points’ value.
Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Freedom spending example
Spending $1,500 a quarter within the Freedom’s 5 percent category will earn you $300 worth of cash back for the year. When you include the card’s welcome bonus, that’s up to $450 in cash back earned by the end of your first year of card ownership.
By spending the same amount with the Freedom Unlimited, you’ll earn $90 in cash back within 12 months and up to $240 in total cash back by the end of your first year when you include the welcome bonus.
If you easily spend more than $1,500 every three months, the Freedom may hinder your rewards-earning potential. After meeting that cap, you’ll only earn 1 percent back on your purchases.
Say, for example, you continued spending past the $1,500 cap and instead spend $3,000 a quarter. In doing so, you’ll earn an additional $60 with the Freedom (for a total of $510 earned your first year) and an extra $90 with the Freedom Unlimited (for a total of $330 earned by the end of your first year).
Why you should get the Chase Freedom Unlimited
Those in need of a go-to credit card with no rotating categories to activate and track will appreciate the Freedom Unlimited’s flat-rate cash back on every purchase.
The card will be especially helpful for all those in-between purchases that don’t fall into a specific spending category.
Why you should get the Chase Freedom
The Freedom may take a bit more upkeep, but if you enjoy the rewards-maximizing hustle of ever-changing categories, this card is your match.
The year is almost wrapped, but if you activate the Chase Freedom bonus category by December 14, 2019, you can earn rewards on department stores, PayPal and Chase Pay®.
Both cards offer a host of security perks, like zero liability protection (meaning you won’t be held accountable for unauthorized charges made to your account), purchase and fraud protection, fraud alerts and extended warranty protection of three years or less on eligible warranties.
With the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited, you have four redemption options: Cash back, gift cards, travel and shopping with points at Amazon.
When you redeem for cash back, you can choose between statement credit or a direct deposit into your checking or savings account. To redeem for travel, book through Chase Ultimate Rewards for flights, hotels, car rentals and more.
We don’t recommend shopping with points, seeing as each point is worth $0.002 less compared to other redemption options.
Recommended credit score
Both cards require a good to excellent credit score to apply (670 — 850).
Why not double up?
Super spenders might consider combining the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited to further boost their rewards’ potential.
Instead of earning 1 percent cash back on purchases made outside of the Freedom’s 5 percent category (or purchases that exceed the quarterly spending cap), you can use the Freedom Unlimited to earn 1.5 percent cash back.
Whatever you do, don’t apply for both cards at once. Doing so may signal to issuers that you’re a risky borrower, and two hard credit checks may result in a temporary decrease in your score. Also keep in mind Chase’s 5/24 rule, which states that anyone who has opened five personal credit cards within the past 24 months (no matter the issuer) will not be approved for a sixth Chase credit card.
The bottom line
There’s no clear-cut winner when matching up the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited, but the difference in the cards’ rotating and flat-rate rewards structures may tilt one card in your favor versus another.