Chase Freedom Unlimited® vs. Chase Freedom Flex℠

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Chase has offered some of the best travel and rewards credit cards on the market for years, and the issuer’s cash back options are no exception. To align with last year’s fresh addition—the Chase Freedom Flex℠—Chase also updated its already popular Chase Freedom Unlimited® with appetizing new bonus categories on top of its traditional flat-rate rewards.

But, which of these two cash back credit cards works better for your needs? That really depends on your spending style and how much work you want to put into earning rewards.

Both cards come with no annual fee but the Chase Freedom Flex rewards seasonal expenses with rotating quarterly bonus categories, while the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a rocksteady 1.5 percent back for each dollar you spend. Both cards boost earnings in categories like dining and drugstore purchases, as well as travel purchases made through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

If you are considering a new cash back credit card and are wondering which of these two options to pursue, keep reading to see how they compare.

Main details

Features Chase Freedom Flex Chase Freedom Unlimited
Welcome bonus Earn a $200 bonus when you spend $500 within three months of account opening Earn a $200 bonus when you spend $500 within three months of account opening
Rewards Rate
  • Earn 5% back on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly bonus categories after activation (then 1%), as well as 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases and at least 1% on other purchases
  • Earn 5% on Lyft rides through March of 2022
  • Earn at least 1.5% back for each dollar you spend; also earn 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases
  • Earn 5% back on Lyft rides through March of 2022
Intro APR 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74% 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74%
Annual fee $0 $0

Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Freedom Flex highlights

Both of these cash back cards can be rewarding in their own right but the right one for you depends on your normal spending habits and rewards goals. The following section highlights how these two cards compare in some of the most important categories.

Welcome bonus winner: Tie

Both Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Freedom Flex offer the same welcome bonus amount. Once you sign up, you’ll earn a $200 cash bonus when you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

This bonus is very generous when you consider the fact that many other cash back cards with no annual fee only offer bonuses of $150 with the same minimum spending requirement.

Rewards rate winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited (but barely)

It’s hard to compare these two cards in terms of their rewards schemes but we do believe Chase Freedom Unlimited comes out ahead very slightly in this category due to the fact you earn at least 1.5 percent back on all non-bonus spending. In the meantime, the Chase Freedom Flex offers 5 percent back after activation on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly bonus categories, followed by 1 percent back on regular purchases. Also, both cards offer the same new, long-term bonus categories—5 percent back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 3 percent back on dining and drugstore purchases.

If you spend a lot of money on regular purchases (i.e., utility bills, kids’ sports, day care, insurance, etc.) that don’t typically earn bonus rewards, then Chase Freedom Unlimited could easily leave you with more rewards in the end. After all, earning an unlimited 50 percent more in rewards on all regular purchases has the potential to lead to a larger rewards balance.

Chase Freedom Flex offers 5 percent back in rotating quarterly categories after activation instead but this is capped at just $1,500 in spending per quarter (then 1 percent). This means you can only earn a maximum of $75 in bonus rewards in rotating categories four times per year.

Annual Fee winner: Tie

Both Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Freedom Flex are offered with no annual fee, which makes them easy cards to keep for the long haul.

Travel perks winner: Tie

Both of these cash back cards offer trip cancellation and interruption insurance. If your trip is canceled or cut short due to sickness, severe weather or other covered circumstances, you can be reimbursed up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip for prepaid tickets and nonrefundable passenger fares.

Note, however, that both cards also charge a 3 percent foreign transaction fee, which can add up quickly if you travel abroad often. If you’re a frequent traveler, we suggest pairing either of these cards with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which comes with no foreign transaction fees.

By pairing these two cards, you can also pool your points in your Sapphire Preferred account for better travel redemptions through Chase or even 1:1 transfers to airline and hotel partners like Southwest Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, Marriott Bonvoy and IHG Rewards.

Which card earns the most?

Which of these rewards credit cards can help you earn the most cash back really depends on how much you spend each month and which categories you tend to spend the most in. The following example shows how you might end up with more rewards with one of these cards over the other.

Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Freedom Flex spending example

Imagine for a moment you use your credit card for all your regular spending and household bills. You also use your credit card to take advantage of the Chase Freedom Flex bonus categories from July to September 2021 for grocery stores (excluding Walmart and Target) and select streaming service purchases.

Let’s say you use your credit card for the following purchases in Q3 of 2021:

  • $400 per month in grocery store purchases
  • $250 per month on dining at restaurants
  • $50 per month on select streaming services
  • $800 per month in miscellaneous expenses

With Chase Freedom Flex, you would earn $114 in rewards over three months—$60 in rewards for grocery spending, $22.50 in rewards on dining at restaurants, $7.50 in rewards on select streaming services and $24 on rewards for miscellaneous spending.

With Chase Freedom Unlimited, on the other hand, you would earn $78.75 in rewards over three months—$18 in rewards on grocery spending, $22.50 in rewards on dining at restaurants, $2.25 in rewards on streaming services and $36 in rewards on miscellaneous purchases.

This example shows how your spending and rewards might look in a quarter where you could get close to maxing out Chase Freedom Flex quarterly bonus category. However, you should keep in mind how things might look different in quarters where the bonus category doesn’t align well with your spending.

Keep in mind, also, that Chase Freedom Unlimited has its own 5 percent cash back category instead of the rotating categories the Flex offers: travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards. If travel is part of your budget each quarter, that may tip the scales more toward the Unlimited for you.

If you spend a lot more on regular, non-bonus purchases or don’t anticipate maxing out any bonus categories each quarter, then Chase Freedom Unlimited’s 1.5 percent back on regular purchases is likely the better choice.

Why should you get Chase Freedom Unlimited?

Chase Freedom Unlimited comes with some pretty hefty perks for a no-annual-fee credit card. Here are some of the reasons you should consider signing up.

Additional benefits

Once you sign up for Chase Freedom Unlimited, you’ll get plenty of benefits outside of zero liability protection. You’ll also get purchase protection against damage or theft good for 120 days on eligible items, extended warranties on items that qualify, trip cancellation and interruption insurance (a fantastic deal for a card no annual fee), auto rental collision damage waiver, travel and emergency assistance services and more.

Redemption options

With Chase Freedom Unlimited, you’ll qualify for flexible redemption options, including cash back, statement credits, gift cards, merchandise and travel through Chase. If you have a premier travel credit card like Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can also get more value for your rewards when you use points to book with Chase or transfer points to popular Chase Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel partners.

Recommended credit score

You need good credit or better to qualify for this rewards credit card, which typically means having a FICO score of 670 or higher.

Why should you get the Chase Freedom Flex?

Chase Freedom Flex is a World Elite Mastercard, so it comes with a handful of unique benefits compared to the old Chase Freedom card. Here are some of the reasons you should consider signing up.

Additional benefits

The new Chase Freedom Flex comes with many of the same benefits as the Chase Freedom Unlimited, including purchase protection, extended warranties, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver and travel and emergency assistance services.

You’ll also get cellphone protection when you pay your phone bill with your credit card, as well as other World Elite Mastercard benefits, including $10 in Lyft credits each time you take 5 rides in a calendar month, 5 percent in cash rewards on Boxed.com purchases, a free ShopRunner membership and more.

Redemption options

This card also lets you redeem your rewards for cash back, statement credits, merchandise, travel through Chase and more. You can also pair this card with a Chase travel credit card for superior redemption options.

Recommended credit score

You need good credit or better to qualify for this rewards credit card, which typically means having a FICO score of 670 or higher.

The bottom line

In the end, make sure to take a closer look at each card option, then decide whether you want to focus on maximizing bonus categories or earning a higher rewards rate on all regular purchases.

Also, take the time to compare all the other credit cards offers on the market today. With some basic research, you’ll be earning cash back in no time.

The information about Chase Freedom has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer
Holly Johnson began her career working in the funeral industry, which may make you wonder why she works in personal finance now. Yet, the funeral industry taught the author everything she needs to know about the value of one's money and time. Johnson left the mortuary business a decade ago in order to explore her passion for personal finance and travel the world, and since then, she and her husband have built a debt-free lifestyle that has them on the path to retire very wealthy in their 40s. Holly's love of budgeting also led to the creation of her debt payoff book, “Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love."
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