Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Freedom Flex

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 updated its already popular Chase Freedom Unlimited® with appetizing bonus categories on top of its traditional flat-rate rewards.

But which of these cash back credit cards work best 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 steady 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 3 months of account opening Earn a $200 bonus when you spend $500 within 3 months of account opening
Rewards Rate
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly bonus categories after activation (then 1%), 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 5% back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases and 1% back on all other purchases
  • Earn 5% back on Lyft rides through March 2022
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases and 1.5% back on all other purchases
  • Earn 5% back on Lyft rides through March 2022
Intro APR 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.99% to 24.74% 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.99% to 24.74%
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 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

The Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Freedom Flex offer the same welcome bonus; 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.

Both cards also allow you to earn 5 percent cash back when you buy groceries (not including Target or Walmart purchases) up to $12,000 in the first year. If you own a premium Chase credit card, the $500 minimum spend is worth 20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. You can also earn up to 60,000 points with your grocery purchases in the first year—a value of $400 to $1,600 toward travel according to valuations from The Points Guy.

Rewards rate winner: It depends

It’s hard to compare these two cards in terms of their rewards schemes. The advantage of the Chase Freedom Unlimited is its 1.5 percent back on all non-bonus spending, while the Chase Freedom Flex offers 5 percent back after activation on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly bonus categories (then 1 percent).

Also, both cards offer the same long-term bonus categories—5 percent back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 3 percent back on dining and drugstore purchases—as well as 5 percent back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in your first year.

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 the 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.

The Chase Freedom Flex offers 5 percent back in rotating quarterly categories after activation, 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 the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Freedom Flex come with no annual fee, which makes them easy cards to keep for the long haul.

No-annual-fee credit cards can be beneficial if you don’t charge a lot on your card but still want to earn rewards on your spending.

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 non-refundable 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. This is a flexible way to get the most redemption value through Chase Ultimate Rewards and Chase travel partners.

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 October to December 2021 on Walmart and PayPal purchases.

Let’s say you use your credit card for the following purchases in Q4 of 2021:

  • $500 per month on Walmart and PayPal purchases
  • $400 per month in grocery store purchases
  • $250 per month on dining at restaurants
  • $800 per month in miscellaneous expenses

With the Chase Freedom Flex, you would earn $181.5 in rewards over three months—$75 in rewards for Walmart and PayPal purchases, $60 in rewards for grocery spending, $22.50 in rewards on dining at restaurants and $24 on rewards for miscellaneous spending.

With the Chase Freedom Unlimited, on the other hand, you would earn $141 in rewards over three months—$22.50 in rewards for Walmart and PayPal purchases, $60 in rewards on grocery spending, $22.50 in rewards on dining at restaurants and $36 in rewards on miscellaneous purchases.

This example shows how your spending and rewards might look in a quarter where you max out the Chase Freedom Flex quarterly bonus category. You should keep in mind, however, that things might look different in quarters where the bonus category doesn’t align well with your spending.

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

Why should you get Chase Freedom Unlimited?

The 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 the 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 with no annual fee), an auto rental collision damage waiver, travel and emergency assistance services and more.

Redemption options

With the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you’ll qualify for flexible redemption options, including cash back, statement credits, gift cards, merchandise and travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. If you have a premier travel credit card like the 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?

The 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 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, an auto rental collision damage waiver and travel and emergency assistance services.

You’ll also get cell phone 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 five rides in a calendar month, 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 Ultimate Rewards and more. Consider pairing 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.

How to pick between the Chase Freedom Flex and the Chase Freedom Unlimited

Choosing between the Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited might boil down to one question: Which is more important to you—maximizing your rewards with a little work or having a hassle-free way to earn cash back?

Why you might choose the Chase Freedom Flex card

If you have the time and the proficiency to manage its rewards categories, the Chase Freedom Flex card gives you the opportunity to earn rewards at a higher rate.

You can earn 5 percent cash back in rotating categories such as online retailers, grocery stores, wholesale clubs and gas stations (after activation and up to $1,500 each quarter, then 1 percent). That’s on top of the bonus cash back you get in year-round categories like dining, drugstore purchases and Ultimate Rewards travel.

The 5 percent cash back rate is one of the highest yields in the marketplace, but it may require savvy planning to max out each quarterly bonus category. It may also depend on how well your spending habits align with the quarterly bonuses and how much effort you’re willing to put into planning your purchases.

Why you might choose the Chase Freedom Unlimited card

The Chase Freedom Unlimited may be your best option if you’re looking for a simple, everyday cash back card with a generous rewards rate. With this card, you’ll earn 1.5 percent cash back on general purchases without having to deal with rotating categories, earnings caps or quarterly activation.

Of course, you’ll still earn 5 percent cash back on travel you purchase through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 3 percent back on dining and drugstore purchases.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited may not provide you with the highest potential for rewards, but it’s a good fit for those looking for better-than-average rewards without all the fuss.

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 offered 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.