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There’s something about earning 1X point per dollar on any purchase that just makes me sad. Yes, there’s always the standard 2% cash back card option — certainly, a good play for some folks — but points are my game and I want to earn lots of them.
Before the Chase Freedom Unlimited® was launched in 2016, fans of Ultimate Rewards points often found themselves earning only 1X on many purchases — even with a slew of bonus categories across other cards.
Let’s take a look at what the Freedom Unlimited has to offer and how it can unlock even more value when paired with other Ultimate Rewards cards.
Earn 1.5X Ultimate Rewards on everything
It doesn’t get much simpler than this. All purchases with the Freedom Unlimited earn 1.5X points per dollar. While the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card both have very useful travel and dining bonus categories, we often make purchases online or at stores that fall in a kind of no man’s land.
The Freedom Unlimited gives these purchases a nice bump of a half a point per dollar. Sure, a half a point might not seem like much but think about what that could mean. If you spend $10,000 on the Freedom Unlimited, that would earn you 15,000 instead of 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points.
That’s the difference between 2 and 3 nights at a Category 1 Hyatt property. For those who prefer a property that’s a bit nicer, 10,000 points will only get you a night at a Category 2 property while 15,000 will get you a night at a Category 4.
Pair with other Chase cards for better travel options
If you only have the Freedom Unlimited, the 1.5X is actually 1.5% cash back that can be redeemed for a statement credit, in the Chase travel portal at 1 cent per point or for gift cards — bleh!
However, if you hold a premium Ultimate Rewards credit card, the points you earn with the Freedom Unlimited can be combined. This will allow you to get better rates in the travel portal and access to travel partners.
Make sure you pair it with one of these cards to get the most bang for your buck:
Redeeming points with the Chase travel portal
As mentioned above, the standard redemption rate in the portal is 1 cent per point. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Preferred, though, your points will be worth 1.25 cents each. With the Sapphire Reserve, you get an even better rate of 1.5 cents per point in the portal.
This means pairing it with the Sapphire Reserve makes each purchase with the Freedom Unlimited worth 2.25% in the portal.
Transferring points to airline and hotel partners
While using the Chase travel portal can be an excellent way to use your points, you might be able to get even more value out of them by transferring to one of the airline or hotel partners (generally, just Hyatt).
|Aer Lingus Aer Club||IHG Rewards Club|
|Air France/KLM Flying Blue||Marriott Rewards|
|British Airways Executive Club||Ritz-Carlton Rewards|
|Iberia Plus||World Of Hyatt|
|Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club|
You can move your points from the Freedom Unlimited to one of the cards mentioned above. In doing so, you’ll be able to transfer to any of Chase’s partners. Now, you’ll be able to take advantage of fun sweet spots in Virgin Atlantic’s award charts or other great ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards to fly across the world.
Unlike many credit cards, the bonus with the Freedom Unlimited bonus isn’t really what I find exciting. The standard bonus is $150 cash back after spending $500 in 3 months. That $150 is worth 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points which is nice but not great for a bonus.
Since the card doesn’t have an annual fee, it’s not that surprising but it’s still not the most exciting bonus. When it comes down to it, the real value is in the long-term use of the card.
Other cards to consider
If earning flexible points is your goal, Amex has a couple Membership Rewards cards — one personal card, one business card — with no annual fee that could be nice alternatives.
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card earns 2X points per dollar at grocery stores up to $6,000 per calendar year. Additionally, you’ll earn a 20% bonus on your points earned each billing cycle if you make 20 purchases with the card during that cycle. This means even non-bonus category spend will earn 1.2X points per dollar.
On the business card side of things, The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express earns 2X Membership Rewards points per dollar on all purchases up to $50,000 per calendar year.
Speaking of business cards, if you want to earn Ultimate Rewards and could use a business card that earns 1.5X instead, the Chase Ink Business Unlimited℠ Card could be a good choice. It’s basically the Freedom Unlimited for businesses.
Is the Freedom Unlimited right for you?
While I usually give the green light for Ultimate Rewards cards if you haven’t run into the Chase 5/24 rule yet, I’d give this one a bit more thought. While other Ultimate Rewards cards often come with strong welcome bonuses, the Freedom Unlimited is an exception.
If you have business expenses, you’ll probably want to lean towards the Ink Business Unlimited, as the better welcome bonus tips the decision in its favor, and you’ll still get 1.5X going forward. Again, you’ll have to be under 5/24 to be eligible for this card.
As Chase has some other valuable cards including co-branded United, Marriott and Southwest cards, you’ll have to weigh the impact of each on your personal travel goals.
Chase Freedom Unlimited vs Chase Freedom
One other important variable when deciding whether to get the Freedom Unlimited is the Chase Freedom. Neither card comes with an annual fee and pairs well with any of the premium Ultimate Rewards cards.
However, the Chase Freedom earns 5X points per dollar on quarterly bonus categories up to $1,500 per quarter. With these bonuses, you could earn up to 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points if you max out each quarterly category — a total of $6,000 per year.
To give you some perspective, you’d have to spend $20,000 on the Freedom Unlimited to earn 30,000 points. Of course, you might not get maximum use out of each quarterly bonus category that comes with the Freedom so your breakeven point might be different.
Additionally, if you’ll just have a lot of spend with merchants that don’t earn bonus points, the Freedom Unlimited will come out ahead with its earn rate of 1.5X.
I happen to have both of these cards. In any given year, I probably max out three of the four quarterly bonus categories with the Chase Freedom. I use the Freedom Unlimited for plenty of other expenses including monthly health insurance payments, oddly enough.
As with any decision to get a credit card, you’ll want to consider both the welcome bonus and the long-term benefits of the Freedom Unlimited. For me, I get more than enough use out of it to make it a staple in my wallet — have to earn those Ultimate Rewards points!
Others may find that the Chase Freedom’s quarterly 5X categories are more than enough to take care of their needs and that’s totally understandable.
If you aren’t eligible to open the card because you’ve already hit 5/24, I’d suggest looking to Amex if you want to ensure you’re earning more than 1X on all of your spending.
How are you leveraging the Freedom Unlimited?