Is The Chase Freedom Unlimited Right For You?

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The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is one of the most useful credit cards out there for everyday spend, though it’s not a card that everyone should have, in my opinion.

So in this post I wanted to take a look at who should and shouldn’t consider picking up this card.

The basics of the Chase Freedom Unlimited

Here are the basic things to know about the Chase Freedom Unlimited:

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Welcome bonus: 15,000 points after spending $500 within three months
  • Return on spend: 1.5x points per dollar spent
  • Value of points: Each point can be redeemed for one cent, though in conjunction with another card can be worth more
  • Foreign transaction fees: 3%

Who wouldn’t benefit from the Freedom Unlimited

On the most basic level, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a cash back card. The 15,000 point welcome bonus gets you $150, while the card offers 1.5 cents back per dollar spent. While that’s alright, it’s not great, and you can definitely do better.

For example, the Citi® Double Cash Card also has no annual fee and offers 1% cash back on every purchase, and then an additional 1% cash back when you pay for those purchases. So that card offers a return that’s about a third better.

Some might even prefer to get a premium card that offers the equivalent of 2% cash back that can be redeemed towards travel, like what’s offered by the Capital One Venture Card.

That’s because the card has a welcome bonus of 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening (each mile can be redeemed for a cent towards a travel purchase, or can even be transferred to an airline partner at a ratio of up to 2:1.5). Then the card has a $95 annual fee that’s waived for the first year, though it offers other great benefits, like no foreign transaction fees, up to 10x points on hotels.com purchases, and more.

Regardless of which path you choose, there’s no reason to earn 1.5% cash back when you could be earning 2% cash back on a variety of cards.

Who would benefit from the Freedom Unlimited

What makes the Chase Freedom Unlimited so interesting is how much the value of the card can change based on what other card you have in conjunction with it. Having the right other card to go along with it improves the value proposition by at least 50%, making it an industry leading card.

Ordinarily if you have the Freedom Unlimited, points can be redeemed for a penny each, meaning that 15,000 points are worth $150 cash back. You get that same value no matter what you choose to redeem for, whether a statement credit, travel purchase, gift card, or whatever.

However, if you have the card in conjunction with one earning Ultimate Rewards points — the Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardChase Sapphire Reserve® Card, or Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card — then you can convert the points earned on the Freedom Unlimited into Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio. This can easily be done online for free, and it’s an instant process.

Have the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card? Suddenly those 15,000 points are worth $225 towards travel rather than $150.

And I’d say that’s the minimum value you should get out of those points. You can then also transfer the points 1:1 to any of the following partners:

AirlinesHotels
Aer Lingus Aer ClubIHG Rewards Club
Air France/KLM Flying BlueMarriott Rewards
British Airways Executive ClubRitz-Carlton Rewards
Iberia PlusWorld Of Hyatt
JetBlue TrueBlue
Singapore KrisFlyer
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
United MileagePlus
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

This is a way to get outsized value, especially for luxury vacations. For example, you could transfer 25,000 points to World of Hyatt for a free night at the Park Hyatt Maldives.

Or you could transfer as little as 70,000 points to United MileagePlus for a one-way business class ticket from the US to Asia.

Already have the Chase Freedom Unlimited? It’s not too late

If you’re someone who has been using the Chase Freedom Unlimited® as a cash back card for whatever amount of time without realizing you could get a lot more value, there’s good news.

If you pick up one of the cards that outright earns Ultimate Rewards points — the Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardChase Sapphire Reserve® Card, or Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card — you can transfer over all your points to that card, and benefit from the increased value.

That’s the case even if you earned all of those points before you applied for the new card. So don’t feel bad. You’ve actually been using the right card all along, you just didn’t know it. 😉

You can also downgrade to the Chase Freedom Unlimited

There’s potentially another option for acquiring the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, beyond outright applying for the card.

In theory you should be able to product change some other Chase personal cards, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card, to the Freedom Unlimited.

You’ll need to phone Chase to see what’s possible, but as a general rule of thumb as long as you’ve had a card for at least a year, you can product change it.

For example, having the combination of the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card and Chase Freedom Unlimited® could make sense, as the former gives you access to Ultimate Rewards and has great bonus categories, while the latter offers 1.5x points per dollar spent.

Bottom line

If you’re using the Chase Freedom Unlimited® independently as a cash back card, you could probably be doing better with another card. The card offers the equivalent of 1.5% back, when other cards offer 2% back.

The good news is that if you’re using it in conjunction with another card (especially the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card), you’re doing things right. You’re using what I consider to be the single best card for non-bonused spend without any sort of caps on how many points you can earn per year.

You’re earning 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent, which can be redeemed for 1.5 cents each towards a travel purchase (for a return of 2.25% per dollar spent), or can be transferred to an Ultimate Rewards airline or hotel partner (where I think you can get even more value).

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Comments

  1. One thing i like about the freedom unlimited is when I am in doubt of getting the 3x on my CSR or 4x on my AMEX, i can at least fall back to my CFU to ensure I get some sort extra points towards my UR balanace

  2. The FU is a weird card. I wouldn’t have it if it weren’t free. I keep it in my wallet but basically never use it. (It serves the category “Unbonused spend but this place doesn’t take Amex”, which is a tiny sliver of my spending.)

  3. Also I just noticed that Lucky needs to learn how to nickname his cards on the Chase website. “CREDIT CARD”? Come on, n00b!

  4. @dbeach – the Combine points feature (in the UR portal) doesn’t pick up nicknames (otherwise assigned on the dashboard) unless you know of a fix?

  5. Hey Lucky, I’m a Singaporean reader. Really enjoy your posts and works, your site is part of my daily reading diet. I realised that pictures of Singapore Airlines seem to appear more frequently as key visual of a post, even if the post has nothing to do with the airline. Is there a reason why? I mean I’m Singaporean and I’m proud of the airline, but Qatar and Emirates are great and seems to be more well liked by you too. Anyway, my observation is purely based on impression and may be wrong. Love your works. Don’t intend to challenge anything. Just curious. 🙂

  6. @Pam: On my account it does. I just tested it out by moving points from “Freedom Unlimited” to “Sapphire Reserve”. The only catch is that for reasons I haven’t been able to fathom you can’t assign a nickname to a business card. But if the card has a nickname it shows up. Maybe it didn’t work with the old website design, but it definitely does now.

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