Chase Freedom Unlimited Review (2020)

Filed Under: Chase, Credit Cards
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1.5% cash back
on all purchases
no
annual fee
combine points
with Ultimate Rewards cards
Annual Fee: $0

I don’t want to bury the lede — if you collect Chase Ultimate Rewards points and don’t have the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, you’re not doing it right. That’s true now more than ever before — not only is the Freedom Unlimited offering an improved sign-up bonus, but the card was recently overhauled, and is now even more rewarding.

For some context, the Freedom Unlimited was launched in 2016, and it’s one of the all around best cards for everyday spending. It’s a card that I have, and also one that I spend a lot of money on. The catch is that there’s a learning curve to using this card — for some people this will just be a good card, while for other people this will be an amazing card.

In this post I wanted to provide a detailed review of the card, so that I can share why I find the card to be so valuable, and how you can maximize value with it.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Card Basics For September 2020

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is part of the “Freedom” card portfolio, and is an excellent complement to any of Chase’s cards earning Ultimate Rewards points.

The value you get from the card will vary significantly, though, based on what other cards you have. For example, some people might only be earning rewards equivalent to 1.5% back for everyday spending with this card, while others will be earning rewards that they value at 2.5%+, which is among the best rewards rates in the industry.

Freedom Unlimited Welcome Bonus Offer

The Freedom Unlimited has a sign-up bonus of $200 (or 20,000 points) after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months.

On the surface, points can be redeemed for one cent each, but you can potentially get a lot more value than that, as these points can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points, and I value those at 1.7 cents each.

Additionally, the Freedom Unlimited is offering 5% cash back (or 5x points) on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases), on up to $12,000 spent in the first year as part of the welcome offer.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Card Eligibility

Eligibility for this card is unrelated to eligibility for any other Chase cards, so you could earn the bonus on this card, and the Freedom Flex Card, etc.

Specifically, this product is not available to those who currently have the Freedom Unlimited, or those who have received a new cardmember bonus on the card in the past 24 months.

Here are general rules on applying for Chase cards.

Eligibility for the Freedom Unlimited is independent of other cards

Chase 5/24 Rule

Chase has something that’s known as the 5/24 rule. With this, you typically won’t be approved for the card if you’ve opened five or more new card accounts in the past 24 months. If you do apply for this card, make sure you’re under that limit.

Here’s how to check your 5/24 status.

Freedom Unlimited No Annual Fee

The Freedom Unlimited has no annual fee, which is unbeatable. You can also add authorized users to the card for no fee, so that you can accrue rewards for their spending.

Earning Rewards With The Freedom Unlimited

The rewards structure of the Freedom Unlimited has just been overhauled for the better. It’s not often we see improvements made to cards without any sort of negative changes, but that’s exactly what has happened here.

Before we get into this, note that in each case the percentage cash back can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points, at a rate of one cent per point.

5% Cash Back On Grocery Store Purchases

As mentioned above, those who apply for the Freedom Unlimited right now can earn 5% cash back on the first $12,000 spent on grocery store purchases (or up to 5x Ultimate Rewards points) in the first year.

Given how consumer behavior has shifted, this is potentially extremely worthwhile, as this is one of the best credit cards for grocery store spending. Note that this isn’t a bonus category that otherwise applies to existing cardmembers.

5% Cash Back On Lyft Rides

The Freedom Unlimited is offering 5% cash back on Lyft rides (or up to 5x Ultimate Rewards points) through March 2022. That’s an excellent return on Lyft spending, especially when you consider that you can convert these rewards into Ultimate Rewards points.

5% Cash Back On Travel Purchased Through Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Freedom Unlimited is offering 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards (or 5x Ultimate Rewards points). Purchases made outside the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal will earn 1.5% cash back (1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar).

3% Cash Back On Dining

The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers 3% cash back on dining, including takeout and delivery (or up to 3x Ultimate Rewards points). This is exciting, as this essentially makes this one of the best credit cards for dining spending.

3% Cash Back At Drugstores

The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers 3% cash back at drugstores (or up to 3x Ultimate Rewards points). This is an awesome new bonus category, since drugstores isn’t a category where you currently see many cards offering bonuses, making this quite unique.

1.5% Cash Back On All Other Purchases

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is marketed as offering unlimited 1.5% cash back. The catch is that this isn’t actually that good, since there are other cards that earn 2% cash back.

But there’s a trick that allows you to convert the 1.5% cash back into 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent. Based on my valuation of points, this increases the value of rewards from 1.5% to 2.55%.

Freedom Unlimited 3% Foreign Transaction Fees

While this is a fantastic card for purchases within the US, the Freedom Unlimited does have 3% foreign transaction fees, so I don’t recommend using this card outside the US.

If you’re looking for a great card with no foreign transaction fees, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card.

Maximizing The Freedom Unlimited

In the past, the Chase Freedom Unlimited was mainly useful for earning 1.5% cash back, but now you have bonus categories that earn anywhere from 3-5% cash back. The good news is that you can do even better than that.

Turning Cash Back Into Ultimate Rewards Points

While the Freedom Unlimited is a cash back card, in reality, the card earns Ultimate Rewards points. You earn 1.5x points per dollar spent, and then ordinarily each point can be redeemed for one cent cash back. That’s how they arrive at the valuation of 1.5% cash back with the card.

However, if you have the Freedom Unlimited in conjunction with another card that earns “premium” Ultimate Rewards points, then you can do significantly better. These cards include the following:

With one of those cards, suddenly your points are much more valuable. Transferring points between cards is easy and can be done online. You can learn more about that process in this post.

Redeem Ultimate Rewards Points For 1.25-1.5 Cents Towards Travel

There are a couple of ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards points. The first is that you can redeem Ultimate Rewards points towards the cost of a travel purchase through the Chase Ultimate Rewards website:

That increases the value of your points by 25-50% right there.

Redeem Ultimate Rewards points for a flight in JetBlue Mint

Transfer Ultimate Rewards Points To Airline Partners

Personally, the way I like to redeem Ultimate Rewards points is to transfer them to airline and hotel partners, which include the following:

AirlinesHotels
Aer Lingus Aer ClubIHG Rewards Club
Air France/KLM Flying BlueMarriott Bonvoy
British Airways Executive ClubWorld Of Hyatt
Emirates Skywards
Iberia Plus
JetBlue TrueBlue
Singapore KrisFlyer
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
United MileagePlus
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

This can be the best way to redeem points towards premium travel experiences. If you want to redeem for first or business class travel or stay at luxury hotels, this option is for you.

Transfer points to Hyatt for a stay at Calala Island

Freedom Unlimited Card Benefits

For a no annual fee card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a great sign-up bonus (especially with the 5x points on groceries for the first year) and generous rewards structure, though there are also some perks that are potentially quite valuable.

Three Month DoorDash DashPass

For having the Freedom Unlimited you can receive a complimentary three month DashPass, which is DoorDash’s delivery service membership. This provides unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee on orders of $12 or more. After that, you’ll receive 50% off DashPass for the next nine months.

You need to activate this perk by December 31, 2021.

Extended Warranty Protection

You can extend the time period of U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of three years or less.

Purchase Protection

You’re covered for new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft of up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.

Credit Journey

With Chase Credit Journey you get unlimited access to your credit score and more. This is free for Chase customers.

Chase Offers

One of the great features of Chase cards is access to Chase Offers, which provides savings on purchases with all kinds of retailers. The program wasn’t launched that long ago, but has already saved me a significant amount of money.

Contactless Pay

The Freedom Unlimited features contactless pay technology. This means you can pay using your card without even swiping it whenever you see the contactless pay symbol (this is more valuable in the coronavirus era than ever before).

Is The Freedom Unlimited Right For You?

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is the single card that I have historically spent the most money on. However, the key is to have the card in conjunction with either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, so that you’re really maximizing your rewards.

I wanted to look a bit more closely at the best strategy to take with the Freedom Unlimited.

Tip: Complement It With Sapphire Preferred Or Reserve

I can’t emphasize enough that having the Freedom Unlimited in conjunction with either the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve is the best card combo you can have. That’s because not only can you combine the benefits of the two cards, but this greatly increases the value you get from your Freedom Unlimited points.

For example, if you have the Sapphire Reserve and Freedom Unlimited:

Get lounge access with the Sapphire Reserve

Quick Comparison: Freedom Flex Vs. Freedom Unlimited

There are currently two Chase Freedom products you can apply for — the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Freedom FlexSM Credit Card (review). Both cards have no annual fees, so what are the major differences between the cards?

  • The Freedom Unlimited offers 1.5x points on all purchases, so is great for everyday spending
  • The Freedom offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories on up to $1,500 of spending per quarter, so it’s extra great if you spend money in those categories

The cards otherwise have overlapping bonus categories, like offering 3x points on dining and grocery stores, etc.

Personally I think both cards are worth having. If I could just have one, though, I’d probably choose the Freedom Unlimited, since it’s better for everyday spending.

Quick Comparison: Freedom Unlimited Vs. Ink Unlimited

Chase has two “Unlimited” cards — the Chase Freedom Unlimited and the Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card (review). These cards are very similar — both have no annual fee, and both offer 1.5x points. So, what’s the difference?

  • The Freedom Unlimited is a personal card, while the Ink Unlimited is a business card
  • The Freedom Unlimited offers 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, and 3x points on dining and drugstore purchases, while the Ink Unlimited doesn’t
  • The Ink Unlimited offers better car rental protection and a better sign-up bonus

Other than those differences, the two cards are very similar. I have both of these cards (yes, I have a lot of Chase credit cards).

What About The Citi Double Cash Card?

Some changes were recently made to the Citi® Double Cash Card (review), which makes this card a real competitor to the Freedom Unlimited, regardless of whether you’re looking to earn points or cash back.

The Double Cash also has no annual fee and offers 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and 1% cash back after you pay for that purchase. So you’ll earn two cents back on the dollar, rather than 1.5.

On top of that, as of recently it’s possible to convert those rewards into Citi ThankYou points at a rate of one point per cent, assuming you have the card in conjunction with one that earns ThankYou points.

Since I value ThankYou and Ultimate Rewards points roughly equally, that means my go-to card for everyday spending is now mostly the Double Cash.

The reason some people may still prefer the Freedom Unlimited is because of the Ultimate Rewards ecosystem. On top of that, the Freedom Unlimited has bonus categories, which the Citi Double Cash doesn’t have.

I’d say the combination of the Sapphire Reserve and Freedom Unlimited is still better than any two card Citi combination.

Both Chase & Citi partner with Air France-KLM Flying Blue

Freedom Unlimited Summary

The Freedom Unlimited is the credit card that I’ve spent the most money on over the past few years. It’s a vital card as part of an overall strategy for earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points, especially in conjunction with the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve.

Let me make my advice as concise as possible here: if you have the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve, then you absolutely should have the Freedom Unlimited so you’re maximizing your return on everyday, non-bonused spending. Earning 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar is excellent.

There has never been a better time to get the card either, given that you can now earn 5% cash back (or 5x Ultimate Rewards points) on grocery store purchases on this card for a year. On top of that, the card now offers bonuses on dining, drugstores, and travel purchasedd through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

If you want to learn more about the Chase Freedom Unlimited or apply, follow this link.

Apply Now

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Comments
  1. @Ben – Do you think it’s now worth it to use the CSU to book travel through the Chase portal? I have the CSR too, so I’d basically be earning a 10% return on spend when I convert to UR points (assuming 1 point = $0.02). However, I’d be missing out on the travel protections of the CSR. This now almost matches the 5 points/dollar earning on flights offered by the Amex Platinum. What is your strategy for this card going forward? Those extra two points of earning over the CSR are very tempting.

  2. Greg – personally I am definitely considering throwing some airline, car rental and even boutique hotel reservations on my Freedom cards through the portal, especially now that things like change fees are waived

  3. Ben – Is the 5% back on groceries only for new cardmembers? I’m a longtime Freedom Unlimited cardmember, and my Groceries category purchases in September (as recently as two days ago) are still coding at 1.5%. (These are purchases in regular grocery stores coded as Groceries, not Target/Walmart.)

  4. @ Evan — Correct, the extra points on groceries are valid for the first year, for new cardmembers, as part of the welcome bonus.

  5. “I’d say the combination of the Sapphire Reserve and Freedom Unlimited is still better than any two card Citi combination.”

    For ongoing (after the first year), I am not clear on the reasoning. Citi Premier has 3 points per dollar for air travel, hotel, restaurants and supermarkets. It isn’t categorical ‘travel’, but it’s reasonably close for $99 / year. Double cash has a higher unbonused payout.

    Comparing AFs:
    Chase: CFU = $0, CSR = $550
    Citi: DC = $0, Premier = $99

    I mean, what does the CSR do for you? Most priority pass lounges sucked before Covid and it hasn’t improved. The airfare credit is a shell game. (“Pay us $550 and we’ll give you $300” is a bad deal any way you look at it.) And the bonus categories and multiples are very similar to Premier and even Freedom Unlimited… a $0 card.

    Soooo….. why is Chase the winner here? I’m not seeing it.

  6. Also note: if your answer is “travel insurance”, you clearly haven’t tried to redeem that before. I have with Chase, regarding Covid, and I got a goose egg.

    Trust me, I want to like Chase. I’m just not seeing how they win.

  7. Andrew, FWIW I agree to a certain extent, but there’s also no question Hyatt, UA, and Southwest make Chase more attractive for some people. Not all, but def some.

  8. @Andrew. The 1.5 cents per point Chase combo is pretty key. The insurance is key too on travel. Have used and have collected with no problem. I think insurance is one of those things you need to go in knowing what to expect. If you just assume anything that goes wrong will be covered, then yeah, you are likely to be disappointed someday when you think you should get a payout and don’t. But if you are familiar with travel insurance coverage and what it costs from AIG, Allianz or Amex travel, the Sapphire Reserve coverage is basically equivalent to policies that cost $250 per trip for a family. 4 or 5 trips a year when times are normal and it is a huge benefit.

  9. @ Andrew – the CSR allows you a 33% discount when using URs to purchase on their travel portal. AMEX, Citi, & Capital One do not have this feature. This is especially valuable if you purchase hotel rooms, rental cars, & activities.

  10. @Pam – I don’t redeem for travel as cash-equivalent – I find the outsized value tends to be with partner transfers for premium (first, business) international bookings. Chase doesn’t have a material advantage there, much thanks to United’s 2020 updates. Of course, given that our international options are extremely limited, I’ll reassess.

    @Rob – I agree, if the sentiment is that most insurance is crap. Perhaps I was an edge-case, but I experienced an incredible sickness earlier this year. Undiagnosed because Murica couldn’t get its testing act together in February / March, Chase felt free to say that I wasn’t ill. In another case, I bought a ticket to fly internationally and (again) thanks to Covid, won’t be able to travel. The fact that immigration won’t permit me in is another uncovered event.

    You’re correct that insurance doesn’t cover either case, and yet… what is insurance for if it can’t handle extraordinary circumstances? (Obvious answer: making companies money.)

    To each their own, but I do not find that a compelling benefit.

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