Chase Freedom Vs. Freedom Unlimited: Which Is Better?

Filed Under: Chase, Credit Card Comparisons
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Two of Chase‘s best no annual fee cards are the Chase Freedom® (review) and Chase Freedom Unlimited® (review).

While the cards are used by many independently, in reality they’re great complements to one another, and also great complements to other cards. They’re especially great in conjunction with cards earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points, since you can convert Freedom & Freedom Unlimited rewards to Ultimate Rewards points.

Given the similar names of both of these cards, I know some people get confused about what the differences are between the cards, and I wanted to take a closer look at the differences in this post. So let’s look at various aspects of the products, including the annual fees, rewards structures, and more.

Similarities between the Freedom & Freedom Unlimited

Let’s start with the similarities between the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited, because they have a lot in common, from the annual fees (or lack thereof), to the welcome bonuses, to the approval odds.

Both cards have no annual fee

Both the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited are no annual fee cards, so this an area where the two cards tie, as neither card should cost you anything to hold onto.

Both cards have the same welcome bonus

The two cards are offering identical welcome bonuses. Both offer $150 cash back (or 15,000 points) after spending $500 within three months.

Those are decent welcome bonuses for a no annual fee card, though nothing too exciting. Ultimately these are cards you get for the long term value they can offer you, rather than for the bonuses.

Both cards have the same approval odds

Your odds of being approved for both of these cards are the same. Both are Chase cards, so are subjected to the typical rules for Chase cards, plus some other rules:

  • Chase has the 5/24 rule, so you won’t be approved if you’ve opened five or more new card accounts in the past 24 months
  • For both cards the welcome bonuses are only available to those who don’t currently have the card, or who haven’t received a new cardmember bonus on the card in the past 24 months

Can you have the Freedom & Freedom Unlimited?

You sure can! The two cards are considered separate products, so you can not only have both of these cards long term, but you can also earn the bonuses on both cards. Just remember that Chase typically won’t approve you for more than two cards every 30 days.

The rule mentioned above about 24 months applies to each individual card. In other words, having opened the Freedom doesn’t mean that you can’t get the Freedom Unlimited anytime after that.

Differences between the Freedom & Freedom Unlimited

So, what’s different between the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited? Only one thing, really — the rewards structures of the two cards.

Comparing rewards structures

The Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited have very different rewards structures.

The Freedom Card offers:

The 5x points categories rotate, and just to give you a sense, this quarter they include gas stations, internet, cable, and phone services, and select streaming services.

The Freedom Unlimited Card has a more straightforward rewards structure, and offers 1.5x points per dollar spent on all purchases, with no bonus categories.

So there’s no right or wrong answer as to which is better, since it all depends on your spending patterns.

Personally I think if I could only get one, I’d choose the Freedom Unlimited since it’s more well rounded, given that it earns 1.5x points on all purchases.

Tip: use Freedom Cards in conjunction with Ultimate Rewards

A major point of confusion with the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited is that the cards advertise their rewards as cash back. So the 5x points on the Freedom is really advertised as 5% cash back, while the 1.5x points on the Freedom Unlimited is really advertised as 1.5% cash back.

What’s going on here? Well, if you have either of the cards in addition to one of the cards earning Ultimate Rewards points, you can transfer these rewards into Ultimate Rewards points at a ratio of one cent per point. Cards that accrue Ultimate Rewards points include the:

So 5% cashback converts into 5x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar with one of the above cards. See this post for how that works.

Which Freedom Card is better?

As is the case with most things related to earning and redeeming points, the answer is “it depends.” Personally I think both cards can be worth having in order to boost your Ultimate Rewards points balance.

There’s no downside to having both cards — they both have no annual fees, and for that matter having cards long term is good for your credit score, as it helps build your average age of accounts. So there are benefits to having both cards beyond the points earning.

If you do spend a lot in the 5x points categories, then you can earn an easy 30,000 points per year by maxing out those categories on the Chase Freedom. For many people that’s well worth it.

Personally I also think the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Freedom Unlimited are the best card duo out there for maximizing rewards. You’ll pay a single annual fee and will:

  • Earn 3x Ultimate Rewards points on dining and travel (worth a minimum of 4.5% towards travel)
  • Earn 1.5x Ultimate Rewards on all other purchases (worth a minimum of 2.25% towards travel)
  • Will receive all kinds of great benefits with the Sapphire Reserve, ranging from a Priority Pass membership, to great travel and car rental coverage

Bottom line

Both the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited are excellent complements to any card earning Ultimate Rewards points. The cards have the same welcome bonuses, both don’t have annual fees, etc.

Personally I think both cards are worth having. If I had to pick just one, I’d say that for the average person with the Sapphire Reserve, the Freedom Unlimited is an unbeatable complement, so that you can earn 1.5x points on your everyday spending.

If you do spend a lot in the rotating 5x points categories, then the Freedom is an excellent option as well.

Which do you prefer — the Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited?

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  1. Best to have both, but if you only get one, Freedom Unlimited is best. You can use it for everything that other cards don’t offer as a bonus. The rotating categories on the Freedom are too much of a crapshoot. Some quarters you can earn a lot of points, other times the bonuses are completely worthless.

  2. Hello. I got the freedom card a few days ago. I have the every day card from AMEX and that is my daily non bonus spend card, whereas the freedom card can be used for the bonus spend categories like gas or internet this quarter.

  3. As you can see in the screenshot, the rotating categories can be a challenge

    How much do people spend on gas in a quarter? Not too much.
    Sure I know some people do, but I’d guess most top out at $100/month or so
    (I have an EV so could be very wrong here)

    I could be wrong, but I’d guess most of us have phone, internet, streaming, etc on Auto Pay
    So cumbersome to deal with that

    Unless, that is, you can prepay your phone/internet for a year?
    (Still not sure that’s worth it)

    Just seems like a lot of work. Worth it if you’re interested/dedicated

  4. I agree it depends but find it interesting you’re pumping these cards when you just did a post in which you said your non bonus general spend is on the double cash card. They must have increased their referral bonus for the new year.

    If a person is collecting MR and URs, there’s absolutely no reason to have a freedom unlimited unless you can’t get a BBP. I would have a CSR and freedom and a BBP from Amex for general spend.

    Citis TY program isn’t worth delving into outside of sign up bonus’ IMO.

  5. And Ben not trying to be critical but these recycled posts are getting old. I have noticed multiple people have asked how to actually use some currencies (LifeMiles comes to mind) but instead of posting useful information you’ll post some recycled post from a year ago about how useful their website now is (it isn’t).

  6. and citi double cash is better than either of these two with 2x and transferrable with citi premier or prestige.

  7. It’s a good idea to eventually get both, but I prefer CFU for consistency.

    Yes, Citi’s double cash earns more cash back but it doesn’t have 50% bonus on travel like the CFU paired with CSR, and no US domestic airline partner… that’s a big deal IMO for most people

  8. @JRMW: Stripes, Circle K, Cefco, and a number of other convenience store chains will code as “gas” and let you buy gift cards with a credit card. I’ll probably pick up some Amazon and eBay cards in March.

  9. They’re different. One is best on everyday purchases and the other is best if you spend enough in the rotating categories. Redemption is best if you hold the Reserve card as you can merge the points together.

  10. @s – you are misinformed but please keep using your double cash as it must work well enough for you.

    But please it’s not as good as either of these cards. Anyone in their right mind, unless over 5/24, would prefer UR over TY points. And 2.25% beats 2% using my math.

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