The Citi® Double Cash Card and Chase Freedom Unlimited® both offer boosted cash back earning opportunities on all purchases for no annual fee, yet the overall structure and offerings of each card will determine which option is best for your spending habits.
Card comparison overview
|Features||Citi Double Cash Card||Chase Freedom Unlimited|
|Welcome bonus||N/A||Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) – worth up to $300 cash back.|
Citi Double Cash Card vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited highlights
Here’s a closer look at the similarities and differences between these two cash back credit cards to help you determine which is a better choice for your lifestyle.
Welcome bonus winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is the clear winner here: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) – worth up to $300 cash back. On the other hand, the Citi Double Cash doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus.
Rewards rate winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited
The Freedom Unlimited offers much more in terms of rewards compared to the Citi Double Cash. Before the card’s 2020 rewards program update, the Chase Freedom Unlimited was a standard flat-rate cash back card like the Double Cash, but it strictly earned 1.5 percent on all purchases.
The card now earns an unlimited 5 percent cash back rate on Chase Ultimate Rewards travel, 5 percent back on Lyft purchases through March 2022, 5 percent back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year as well as an unlimited 3 percent back on dining and drugstore purchases. Plus, you still earn the card’s staple 1.5 percent cash back rate on purchases that fall outside of its bonus categories.
While the Citi Double Cash’s up 2 percent cash back rewards rate (1 percent as you buy and an additional 1 percent as you pay) is one of the highest you’ll find for flat-rate cards, it’s hard to compete with Freedom Unlimited’s slightly lower 1.5 percent on all purchases combined with its additional everyday bonus categories. In the battle for supremacy between the Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Citi Double Cash, the former comes out on top in this category.
Still, the Citi Double Cash is a good choice for cardholders who only want to maximize one flat-rate category or who need a little extra motivation to pay off their credit card bill each month. Once again, in order to earn the full 2 percent cash back rewards from the Citi Double Cash, you must pay off the balance you owe each month.
Annual fee: Tie
No competition here. Neither the Citi Double Cash nor Chase Freedom Unlimited charges an annual fee (and they do so without robbing you of valuable card benefits).
Some similar rewards credit cards charge annual fees of around $95 per year while offering decent perks. That’s not the case here; you can try out either card for free and still enjoy a multitude of benefits.
Balance transfer winner: Citi Double Cash
The Freedom Unlimited offers a 0 percent introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers (15.24 percent to 23.99 percent variable APR after). Intro Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater in the first 60 days.
If you transfer your balances to the Citi Double Cash, you’ll get one of the longest balance transfer offers available: 0 percent intro APR for 18 months (with a 14.74 percent to 24.74 percent variable APR thereafter). Keep in mind you’ll also owe a 3 percent balance transfer fee (minimum of $5).
Intro APR on purchases winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited
As noted above, the Freedom Unlimited carries a 0 percent intro APR on purchases for 15 months (15.24 percent to 23.99 percent variable APR after), while the Citi Double Cash does not offer an intro purchase APR period.
This round between the Citi Double Cash card vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited is pretty cut and dried with the title of “winner” going to the Freedom Unlimited.
Which card earns the most?
Considering the finer points each card offers, it’s best to look at true-to-life scenarios that represent typical spending patterns to maximize your cash back. If you only look at welcome bonuses or cash back rewards structures, you could miss out on additional factors that determine the best choice for you.
Citi Double Cash vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited spending example
Say you spend the following in your first 12 months of owning the Freedom Unlimited:
- $200 a month on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- $200 a month on dining
- $50 a month on drugstore purchases
- $100 a month on Lyft purchases
- $1,167 a month on all other purchases
In doing so, you’ll earn $480 in cash back rewards, or $680 in rewards, when you include the welcome bonus. Note, if you already own a Chase credit card eligible for Ultimate Rewards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can increase your rewards’ value by up to 50 percent when redeeming for travel through Chase.
If you spend the same amount of money ($1,717 per month) with the Citi Double Cash for a year, you’ll earn just over $412 in cash back rewards (as long as you’re paying your balances on time to earn the full 2 percent cash back rate).
Why should you get the Citi Double Cash?
The Citi Double Cash is extra beneficial to those who’ve been burdened with debt on other high-interest credit cards.
A full 18 months to pay off a transferred balance can contribute a lot to your peace of mind (14.74 percent to 24.74 percent variable APR thereafter), but you should be prepared to end the debt cycle and pay your balances in full if you want to maximize the card’s up to 2 percent in cash back rewards.
The main appeal of Citi Double Cash is its 1 percent cash back “earn when you buy” plus 1 percent back as you pay as well as the intro APR offer, but you may qualify for extra Mastercard benefits.
The Citi Double Cash has a few different ways to redeem points: you can request a check for at least $25; redeem rewards for a statement credit of at least $25; or redeem for a credit to a Citi savings account, Citi checking account or to a checking account you’ve used to pay a Citi credit card bill at least twice.
You can also convert your cash rewards to ThankYou points and use them to book travel or make purchases with authorized retailers.
Recommended credit score
To apply for this card, you should have a good to excellent rating on your credit history (typically a FICO score of 670 or better).
Why should you get the Chase Freedom Unlimited?
The Chase Freedom Unlimited might be worth it if your main focus is the amount of rewards you can earn or if you have a large purchase planned for the near future.
By owning this card, you get a stellar cash back rewards structure plus earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) – worth up to $300 cash back!
You might also consider comparing the Chase Freedom Unlimited with the Chase Freedom Flex, which offers similar rewards but allows you to earn 5 percent back on up to $1,500 in spending in activated quarterly bonus categories (then 1 percent).
The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers three months of DashPass subscription services (meaning when you order food over $12 on DoorDash, you won’t pay delivery fees). After that, the next nine months of DashPass are 50 percent off (activate by March 31, 2022). Plus, you’ll get 5 percent cash back rewards on Lyft rides through March 2022.
Outside of branded partner perks and Visa benefits, the Freedom Unlimited card comes with a rich platter of purchase and travel protections, including its prized trip cancellation/interruption insurance.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited lets you redeem your points for cash, gift cards, travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards or shopping with Amazon. For a limited time, you’ll also be able to redeem your points with an extra 25 percent value for charitable contributions. Chase points don’t expire as long as your account remains open.
If you already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve in your wallet, remember you can boost your cash back by transferring it to Chase Ultimate Rewards points at the rate your respective Sapphire card earns.
Recommended credit score
To qualify for the Freedom Unlimited, it’s best to have a good to excellent credit score of 670-850 (FICO).
The bottom line
So, which is better, the Citi Double Cash or Chase Freedom Unlimited? The choice of which card is best for you depends on whether you’re more motivated by rewards potential and the flexibility to transfer rewards between cards or the opportunity to pay off debt without accumulating interest.
If simply earning maximum cash back rewards is your goal, the Freedom Unlimited will offer more long-term value than the Citi Double Cash. But, if you’d rather have an uncomplicated cash rewards card with an impressive cash back rate and no restrictive categories to deal with, the Citi Double Cash may be worth it for you.