Is the Chase Freedom Unlimited 3% cash back offer worth waiting for?


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If you’ve been waiting to apply for the Chase Freedom Unlimited, your patience might be about to pay off. Chase has announced a few changes to the flat-rate cash back credit card, replacing its welcome offer with 3% cash back on your first $20,000 in purchases in your first year with the card (all purchases after that will earn its standard 1.5% cash back).

Here’s the kicker: The offer isn’t currently available online, meaning if you want to apply for the 3% offer before then, you’ll have to physically go into a branch. Considering Chase doesn’t have a brick and mortar in every city, you might be stuck waiting to see if the offer goes live online before you can take advantage.

While some people are chomping at the bit to get ahold of this new offer, others have questioned whether or not it’s actually a better deal.

Sign up bonus vs. 3% cash back

Let’s take a look at the difference between the two offers.

If you go online and apply for the card today, you’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases, plus a $150 welcome bonus after spending $500 in the first three months of account opening. However, if you either request the new offer in-branch or wait to see if it becomes available online, you’ll earn 3% cash back on the first $20,000 spent, and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Assuming you maximize the 3% cash back earning potential, here is how much you’ll earn by the end of your first year with each offer:

Cash Back Earned: Sign-Up Bonus (after hitting qualifying spend): Total First-Year Value:
Sign-up Bonus Offer $300 $150 $450
3% Cash Back Offer $600 N/A $600

*Calculations based on a $20,000 annual spend

If you know you’ll maximize the 3% cash back offer in the first year, you could get an additional $150 in cash back that first year.

On paper, the new offer is definitely a step up. It’s essentially doubling the current sign-up bonus offer, given you hit the $20,000 limit on 3% cash back rewards that first year. However, if you know you won’t spend that much with the card, you might want to hurry and apply for the current offer before it potentially disappears.

If you’re spending less than $10,000 a year on your credit cards (around $833 a month), the 3% cash back won’t outshine the 1.5% cash back and $150 sign-up bonus offer. With the current offer, you only have to spend $500 over the course of the first three months to qualify for the $150 bonus. You have to hit $20,000 in spend over the course of a year with the new offer to earn the full $600 in potential cash back.

At the end of the day, both offers are great — especially for a card with no annual fee. Which offer is better for you just depends on your spending habits and monthly budget.

Value of 3% cash back when you have a Chase Sapphire card

If you already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you definitely want to save a space for this card in your wallet. Chase allows you to transfer points from other Chase cards to your Chase Ultimate Rewards accounts, meaning the 3% cash back you earn your first year with the Chase Freedom Unlimited would be worth 25% more with the Sapphire Preferred and 50% more with the Reserve (when you redeem for travel through the Chase portal).

By itself: With the Preferred: With the Reserve:
First-year value of the Chase Freedom Unlimited 3% cash back offer $600 $750 $900

*Calculations based on a $20,000 annual spend

The bottom line

All in all, you can’t go wrong with either Chase Freedom Unlimited offer.

Why you should wait to see if the offer launches online: If your budget can accommodate maximizing the 3% cash back offer, it’s definitely worth waiting for.

Why you should apply now: If you don’t think you can reasonably spend $10,000 over the course of the next year, you should apply before the new offer potentially goes live online.

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