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). 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 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:

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. 😉

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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  1. Could my spouse (who doesn’t have any UR cards directly) get the Freedom Unlimited, and then transfer into my UR balance on my Sapphire Reserve? Or am I better off getting the FU myself, and adding them as an authorised user?

  2. @Not Lucky
    My partner and I do that – she transfers all her Freedom Unlimited (and Chase Freedom) points directly to my CSR.

  3. There was an announcement today about a new airline coming to DFW, and AA/JL changing up some operations at ORD. But it seems that is not a priority. Instead, you write an article that probably 90% of your readers already know about because you are being sponsored by Chase. We get it, chase cards are good. Does the sun rising really merit the need of writing another article on Chase? And you are like 2 trip reports behind, like at least a month backed up. For somebody who does this as their “job” I cannot possibly understand how you can fall this far behind on providing us with new content.

  4. @Not Lucky,

    No reason for you not to get the card as well if you’re under 5/24. Why not get the 15k signup bonus and then either keep using it or dont, who cares, no af.

  5. No reason not to get a few more partners to pool more UR points. As good an argument as any i have heard for polygamy.

  6. @Abe

    can’t get a CSP if he already has a CSR. his wife should go for it, yes. basically, anyone that is eligible should have a freedom, freedom unlimited, and CSR/CSP.

  7. It would be great to see an article on your general thoughts about the timing/frequency of applying for new cards.

    I am posting to this article specifically because Freedom Unlimited 1.5x UR is most valuable for non-bonus spend, but depending on your application strategy, if you apply for a card every 3-4 months, or if you choose cards with a 6-12 month welcome bonus less frequently, then your non-bonus spend becomes much more lucrative than 1.5x UR by going toward achieving the sign-up bonus.

    This is especially the case for people in a domestic partnership who can essentially have a 10/24 and take advantage of authorized user bonuses as well.

    You somewhat touch upon this with your British Airway Chase Card article, but it would be great to have a more thorough evaluation.

    For example, my advice to @Not Lucky would be to have his wife sign up for the CSP before the Freedom Unlimited because 50K welcome bonus + 1x non-bonus spend is almost definitely more lucrative than 15K welcome bonus + 1.5x on non-bonus spend.

  8. My wife was fortunate to be at 3/24 when this card came out in April initially offering 3 points (4.5% return with a CSR) for the first year. By the time her first year anniversary comes around this card may turn out to be the best return for a first year on a card we’ve ever had, even without a signup bonus – and that’s with no MS at all.

    Once we reach year two, this is a damn good no annual fee card to hold.

  9. @ Corey,

    Yeah, I read about the Air France DFW news as well, which I’m pleased to see. We like flying out of DFW and will be following details on this development closely.

    That said, Lucky certainly has readers not as informed as you and me are on Chase cards, so I have no issue with the article. Furthermore, are you assuming lucky won’t cover the AF-DFW news tomorrow or a day or two later? Thinking you jumped the gun with your criticism.

  10. @ Corey — Chill.

    a) At this point I’m not any trip reports behind. I generally post trip reports about a month after I take the actual trips, because I post initial thoughts shortly after the trip, and I want to space things out a bit. And even if you are going to make that excuse, wouldn’t I be one trip report behind (my Estonia and Latvia trip), and not two? Or am I one trip report behind because this was published two hours after I got off an Air Italy flight for which I wrote my initial thoughts?
    b) I was flying all day yesterday without wifi. The other news will be covered today (Friday). Sorry if that’s not good enough for you.

  11. @Lucky.
    Sri Lankan airlines has a new business class product to Melbourne, You should fly this and then onto the PER- LHR Qantas flight for 2 reviews. Been waiting patiently for the latter

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