Is The Chase Freedom Unlimited Right For You?

Filed Under: Chase, Credit Cards
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The Chase Freedom Unlimited® (review) is one of the most rewarding credit cards out there for everyday spending, though it’s not a card that everyone should have, in my opinion.

In this post, I wanted to take a look at who should and shouldn’t consider picking up this card. This is especially relevant right now, as the card is offering an improved bonus for new cardmembers.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Basics

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

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Return on spending: 1.5x points (or 1.5% cash back) 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%

Freedom Unlimited’s Increased Welcome Bonus

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is offering an improved welcome bonus:

  • Earn 20,000 points (or $200 cash back) after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months
  • Earn 5x points (or 5% cash back) on groceries for the first 12 months, on up to $12,000 of spending

The part of this bonus that’s new is the 5x points on groceries for the first 12 months, which should prove especially valuable given how consumer spending has evolved.

Who Wouldn’t Benefit From Freedom Unlimited

On the most basic level, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a cash back card, earning 1.5 cents back per dollar spent. While that’s decent, 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 significantly better return. As of recently these rewards can even be converted into ThankYou points, but that’s neither here nor there for the purposes of this example.

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 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 20,000 points are worth $200 cash back. You get that same value no matter what you choose to redeem for, whether a statement credit, travel purchase, or gift card.

However, if you have the card in conjunction with one earning Ultimate Rewards points — the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (review), Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card (review), or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (review) — 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 15,000 points are worth $225 towards travel, rather than $150.

Through September 30, 2020, you can even redeem these points towards dining and grocery purchases at the higher rate, thanks to Chase’s new “Pay Yourself Back” feature.

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:

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 is a way to get outsized value, especially for luxury vacations (if/when that’s something you’re able to do and are comfortable with). For example, you could transfer 30,000 points to World of Hyatt for a free night at the Park Hyatt Maldives.

Or you could transfer as little as 50,000 points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club for a Delta business class ticket from the US to Europe.

You can find more about all the ways to redeem Ultimate Rewards points and why I value them so highly in my Ultimate Guide to Ultimate Rewards.

Have The 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 Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Preferred — 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. 😉

Downgrade To The 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 Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve 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 and 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.

Freedom Unlimited Summary

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.

At the moment it could still make sense even if you’re using it that way, though, given that you can earn 5% back on groceries for the first 12 months.

The good news is that if you’re using the Freedom Unlimited in conjunction with another card (especially the Sapphire Reserve), you’re doing things right. You’re using what I consider to be the single best card for non-bonused spending 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). At the moment you can even redeem at that rate towards groceries and dining.

And then there’s the icing on the cake, which is the 5x points on grocery store purchases for the first 12 months, on up to $12,000 of spending.

Apply Now for the Chase Freedom Unlimited®!

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  1. With leisure travel way down this year and many staying home or just driving to a beach nearby, why bother about travel CC? Cash back at 2% (and no annual fee) sounds much more attractive than potential 2.25% on travel. Note that 2.25% return pitched by Lucky does not account for annual fees one has to pay to get that.
    One can use Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature for 2% cash back. Note that if you have investments with Fidelity your return rate goes up by additional 0.25, 0.5, and 1.0% depending on assets. For 3% cash back return one has to have $2+M of eligible assets with Fidelity.

  2. In my opinion, Hyatt card is better return for first $15k non-bonus spend. Hilton Surpass is better return for next $15k if free night redeemed at very high-end property ($300+/nt). Both have better welcome bonuses. Working on welcome bonus for any card is better than 2.25% back on CFU. Also, CSR just isn’t a keeper card at $550 annual fee given the fierce competition from Amex Green 3x/Gold 4x on premium side and US Bank Altitude Go 4% on no annual fee side. If CSR doesn’t make sense on its own, that kills the CFU as a sidecar.

  3. Although Ben posits that the Thank You transfer points are neither here nor there, they make all the difference in this calculus between double cash and freedom unlimited.

    Let’s say you like Virgin Atlantic or KLM. Both are transfer partners of Chase and Citi. So why would you take 1.5 points instead of 2 points?

    Historically, I would have said that United MP would turn the needle, but they’ve really turned that into a Delta program, so I don’t acquire any miles, nor would I burn transferrable miles on that program anymore. Hyatt does have a good proposition, but I earn plenty on my Hyatt card and through the program to keep me with several hundred thousand points.

    In addition to partner challenges, I think Chase’s card proposition on earnings are behind. Citi Premier earns 3x miles on travel (for the most part) for only $99 /year. What does Sapphire Reserve earn you for that category at $550 / year? The travel credit and Lyft/DoorDash gimmicks they run don’t make up for it by a long shot.

  4. @ docntx – I’ve had both previously. I believe it’s fine as long as you’re able to apply.

  5. @ Andrew-Thank you… I thought there are newer restrictions by Chase, meaning you could only have one acrd of each kind… One Sapphire not both Reserve and Preferred. one Freedom, not Freedom and Freedom Unlimited.w

  6. Andrew – A few points
    1) This year, Chase Sapphire Reserve is still really $150 ($300 restaurant credit, plus the $100 fee reduction), and theIr promotions this years (1.5 cent redemptions, etc) have been very valuable
    2) Chase Freedom has had some strong 5x categories this year
    3) Having the flexibility to transfer to Hyatt is a huge deal. For those that don’t have the Hyatt card, having UR is critical
    4) Citi transfer partners are fine, but no domestic airlines (aside from JetBlue), no hotels, and they are losing the 1.25 cent travel redemption
    5) Lyft and such are good bonuses for the time being

    For the next year or so, CSR is a great card to hold in conjunction with both freedom cards. So are Citi Premier and Citi Double Cash. The question is whether you need the CSR, or whether you can downgrade to the Chase Sapphire Preferred. With all of the credits and discounts, CSR is still worth it 100% right now. In a year or two you can still downgrade to CSP and transfer points to Hyatt or United or whatever occasionally.

  7. For normal cashback folk, Double Cash > CFU, straight up (quick maths!)

    For the “advanced users” who has some other premium cards, it gets a little more complex and I would say that by themselves CFU = Double Cash roughly, and CSR/CFU/CF Trifecta overall beats any combination of Citi cards. $300 travel credit, Priority Pass, x1.5 redemptions and primary rental insurance are still very important perks in my book.

    sign up bonus, is of course, icing.

  8. I agree with Anthony that CSR is still good for at least another year or two (cost vs. benefits).

    Docntx, the basic Chase rules are you can have both Freedom and Freedom Unlimited so long as:

    1. You are under 5/24.
    2. You can only receive the SUB on each of those cards once per 24 months.
    3. You can’t apply for a second of either card- you will have to cancel or product change one before applying for a new one if you want to earn the bonus again after 24 months.
    4. Chase may require you to lower the credit limit on one or more cards to get another card from them, depending on how the total credit line extended (across all Chase cards).

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