Full Review of Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card
Flat 1.5% earnings rate with bonus earning spending categories
Three decent introductory offers
Flexible redemption options
Other cards offer higher flat rewards rates
- Flat Earnings Rate with Bonus Earning Categories: The Chase Freedom Unlimited rewards structure now allows you to earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining including takeout and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases. For instance, the Chase Freedom Unlimited’s sister card, the Chase Freedom Flex, offers 5% cash back on select categories that rotate every three months but those high rewards require registration, and might not earn as much as Freedom Unlimited rate over the long run. However, like Unlimited the Freedom Flex also earns 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining including takeout and drugstores, and then 1% on all other purchases, so Flex is definitely worth consideration if you're willing to register for its bonus spending categories each quarter.
- Three Decent Introductory Offers: This card's cash bonus offer, while relatively small, is easy to earn. You'll earn $200 cash back when you spend $500 in the first three months, which essentially represents a remarkable 40% return on your spend. Second, you can earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. On top of that, you’ll get an introductory 0% APR on purchases for 15 months, a respectable length for such an offer.
- Flexible Redemption Options: While the Chase Freedom Unlimited is technically a cash-back credit card, you actually earn rewards in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points. That slightly complicates tallying the value of your rewards, since you need to multiply the points by a cent apiece to see what they’re worth as a credit to your statement, a deposit into a U.S. checking or savings account, a gift card, or for purchasing items from the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. More complex math is required to calculate their (reduced) value on Amazon.com or to make Apple purchases, where in both cases points are worth 0.8 cents apiece. A plus to earning points is that you can transfer them, on a 1:1 basis, to potentially earn more than you would on cash rewards. Transfer options include other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards that earn points. This allows you to earn points with the Chase Freedom at high rotating rates, and then transfer them to another Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards points and offers better travel redemption options.
- Other Cards Offer Higher Flat Rewards Rates: This card’s 1.5% cash back on non-bonus category purchases is better than the norm, but not the best such rate out there. As examples, the Citi Double cash card, which also has no annual fee, provides 1% cash back on purchases plus 1% cash back when you pay your balance and the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature offers 2.5%, but comes with a $59 annual fee. You'd need to be patient before those cards would yield better overall gains than the Chase Freedom Unlimited, however. Where most people would earn its $200 bonus almost immediately, neither of these competitors have any introductory offer. That means you’d need to rely on their higher cash back rates to put you into the black with them compared with the Chase Freedom Unlimited. By our calculations, you'd have to charge at least $25,900 to the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature before you’d be ahead compared with the Chase Freedom Unlimited, and that assumes you could spend that much within a year—and so a single $59 annual fee. For the Citi Double Cash, a whopping $40,000 in spending would be required.
This Card is Best For
Seeks to maximize cash back earnings across spending categories
Prefers uncomplicated rewards with single rate for all spending
Resists or refuses an annual fee on principle or due to cost
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is designed for people who want a relatively simple rewards program that pays solid returns along with some compelling new bonus earning categories. If you’re looking for a top-of-wallet credit card that won’t require extra legwork to maximize its value, this one should be on your radar.
The card is especially worth considering if you have other cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, since you can pool your points from all such cards to squeeze more value out of them.
With the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, for instance, you’ll get 25% more value when you redeem your rewards for travel through Chase. And the Chase Sapphire Reserves gives you 50% more.
Also, note that the three cards mentioned also allow you to transfer your points to select airline and hotel loyalty programs at a 1:1 ratio. Depending on how you redeem them from there, you could potentially get even more value out of your points.
Finally, the card can be worth it for people looking for a relatively long introductory 0% APR promotion on purchases and a bonus that won’t break the bank to earn.
Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card Bonus
The card offers $200 cash back when you spend $500 in the first three months with the card. With such a low spending requirement—a minimal $167 per month—it should be easy even for people on a tight budget to reach the needed spending to earn the reward. It also offers the ability to earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
Rewards Earning Details
This card’s rewards could hardly be simpler on most spending. It earns a flat 1.5% cash back on spending that is not part of its enhanced bonus category rewards, which now includes the ability to earn 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase and 3% on dining and drugstore purchases.
Rewards Redemption Details
The Chase Freedom gives you five options when it comes to redeeming your hard-earned rewards. The simplest option is to request cash back in the form of a statement credit or direct deposit. With this option, you can redeem anytime and for any amount.
You can also use your points to buy gift cards or book travel, though the minimum redemption amount can vary. The final two options include purchasing Apple products through Chase Ultimate Rewards or using points to shop on Amazon.com.
For the most part, you'll get the same value regardless of how you redeem your rewards: each point is worth 1 cent. But with online shopping through Amazon.com, your points are worth just 0.8 cents apiece. And if you transfer points to some other Chase cards—including Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve and Ink Business Unlimited—you may get "above par" value from them, at least for certain purchases.
Points can also be moved, at a 1:1 ratio, to one of Chase's travel partners if you have another Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards, like Chase Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, or Ink Business Unlimited. That can be very advantageous if you're a member of a loyalty program and find a good deal through a travel partner. By leveraging your Ultimate Rewards points to take advantage of limited-time offers through Chase’s travel partners, you might be able to greatly increase the value of a point.
Here's a list of Chase's partners:
- Aer Lingus AerClub
- British Airways Executive Club
- Emirates Skywards
- Flying Blue Air France KLM
- Iberia Plus
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- United MileagePlus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- IHG Rewards Club
- Marriott Bonvoy
- World of Hyatt
To give you an idea of the value you can get, used to buy hotel stays World of Hyatt points are worth roughly 2.22 cents on average, and United MileagePlus miles are worth 2.16 cents each exchanged for flights, according to Investopedia's value calculations. Depending on where you transfer and how you redeem your rewards from there, you may be able to get more or less than those averages.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
First, be sure to use your card as much as possible, at least for purchases on which one of the other cards you own do not offer a higher rewards rate.
To potentially earn more rewards, consider adding to your wallet other cards that offer higher bonus rewards rates for certain purchases than the 1.5% rate of this card. For example, you could pair the Chase Freedom Unlimited with the Chase Freedom, which offers rotating quarterly categories on which you can earn 5% cash back. You could then use the Chase Freedom for its current bonus categories and the Chase Freedom Unlimited for everything else.
Adding other Chase rewards cards can also help you redeem rewards as points at a better rate than 1:1. Points can be transferred between the card on which they were earned to other Chase cards on which you’ll make more on them.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve offer 1.25 cents or 1.5 cents per point, respectively, when you use rewards to book travel through Chase. So the points per dollar you earn with the Chase Freedom Unlimited becomes 25% more valuable when transferred to buy travel through your Chase Sapphire Preferred, meaning you’re technically getting an even higher rewards rate. And if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the 50% value boost on travel redemptions, which is tough to beat.
Finally, if you like the card and think it may suit your friends and family members, recommend it to them. For each person you refer and gets approved, you'll receive $100 cash back, up to $500 total each year (The Chase Freedom Flex card also offers a referral bonus of $100 per referral).
- Purchase protection
- Extended warranty protection
- Rental car insurance
- Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
- Travel and emergency assistance services
Chase ranks fourth in J.D. Power's 2019 Credit Card Customer Satisfaction study behind Capital One, Discover and American Express. That said, its overall rating is only slightly higher than the average among all national credit card issuers.
The bank provides free access to your VantageScore credit score through its Credit Journey program, but you can sign up at no charge for that score even if you don’t have a Chase credit card. Also, keep in mind that many major card issuers provide free access to your FICO credit score, which is more likely to be used by lenders.
Chase offers 24/7 customer service via phone, which is standard for the credit card industry. You can also send a secure message through your online account if the matter isn't urgent. For general account management, you can use the Chase mobile app.
Chase allows cardholders to lock and unlock their card through the mobile app, a handy feature that can be helpful if your card is lost or stolen. While other card issuers offer it, it's not a standard option.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is also contactless, which means that you can tap your card to a contactless credit card reader instead of swiping or inserting it. This feature provides a secure and faster checkout experience, and it’s not available from all credit card issuers.
Hidden Fees to Watch Out For
For the most part, the fees for the Chase Freedom Unlimited are standard for the industry.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a solid choice as a single cash-back credit card that offers above-the-norm rewards of 1.5% on non-bonus spending, 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase and 3% on dining and drugstore purchases. Because it’s technically a points card—in that rewards are actually received in that form, rather than in cash—it also provides more flexibility than a typical cash-back card to maximize earnings.
You have options to transfer the points to Chase partners, for example, or to another Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning travel credit card on which you might earn a boost in points. As such, it’s worth considering as a companion to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred, all of which offer such bonuses.
Even for those who have no other Chase cards, and don't necessarily spend a lot, the Chase Freedom Unlimited's easily earned bonus, compelling first year bonus rewards on grocery store purchases up to $12,000 and decent introductory 0% APR promotion on new purchases can make it a fine bet.