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
Comparing rewards structures
The Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited have very different rewards structures.
The Freedom Card offers:
- 5x points in rotating quarterly categories (registration is required), on up to $1,500 of spending per quarter
- 1x points on all other purchases
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:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (review)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (review)
- Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (review)
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
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?