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 especially true right now, given that the card is offering an improved welcome bonus.
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 it to be so valuable, and how you can maximize value with it.
Chase Freedom Unlimited Card Basics For September 2021
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 recently got a great new welcome bonus that consists of two parts:
- $200 cash back (or 20,000 points) after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months
- 5% cash back (or 5x points) on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) for the first 12 months, on up to $12,000 in spending
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.
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.
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.
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 was overhauled for the better in 2020. It’s not often we see improvements made to cards without any sort of negative changes, but that’s exactly what 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 Lyft Rides
The Freedom Unlimited is offering 5% cash back on Lyft rides (or 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 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 3x Ultimate Rewards points). This is an awesome bonus category, since drugstores isn’t a category where you otherwise see many cards offering bonuses.
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 United States, the Freedom Unlimited does have 3% foreign transaction fees, so I don’t recommend using this card outside the US.
Maximizing The Freedom Unlimited
The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers 1.5% cash back on everyday purchases, and 3-5% cash back in select bonus categories. However, you can do much 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 Chase arrives 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:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (review)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (review)
- Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (review)
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:
- If you have the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred, points can be redeemed for 1.25 cents each towards a travel purchase
- If you have the Sapphire Reserve, points can be redeemed for 1.5 cents each towards a travel purchase
- Through September 30, 2021, Chase is offering a “Pay Yourself Back” feature, whereby Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed at the same rate towards grocery store and dining purchases (this feature could very well be extended)
That increases the value of your points by 25-50% right there.
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:
Aer Lingus AerClub
Air Canada Aeroplan
Air France-KLM Flying Blue
World of Hyatt
British Airways Executive Club
Southwest Rapid Rewards
Virgin Atlantic FlyingClub
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.
Freedom Unlimited Card Benefits
For a no annual fee card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers an excellent welcome bonus and generous rewards structure, and on top of that 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 United States manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of three years or less.
You’re covered for new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft of up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
With Chase Credit Journey you get unlimited access to your credit score and more. This is free for Chase customers.
One of the great features of Chase cards is access to Chase Offers, which provides savings on purchases with all kinds of retailers. This program has saved me a significant amount of money.
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:
- You’re paying a single $550 annual fee on the Sapphire Reserve
- You’re earning 3x points on dining and travel and 1.5x points on all other purchases
- You’re getting a $300 annual travel credit
- You’re getting a Priority Pass membership, giving you airport lounge access
- You get 10x points on Lyft rides and a 12 month Lyft Pink membership
- You get a 12 month DoorDash DashPass, and a $60 annual DoorDash statement credit for 2021
- You get travel protection, no foreign transaction fees, and car rental coverage
- You get a Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check credit
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 drugstores, 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?
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, 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.
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.
And now is a great time to apply for the card, given that it’s offering an improved bonus that includes both bonus points for general spending, as well as bonus points on grocery store purchases.