Chase Freedom Unlimited: A great card for beginners and pros alike
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Chase Freedom Unlimited Overview
The no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Unlimited is a perfect card for both beginner and advanced award travelers. With a fixed 1.5% return on all purchases, cardholders don’t need to keep track of bonus categories. If you pair this with a card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you can convert your rewards into fully transferable points, doubling their value. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Hidden behind advertising that focuses on cash back, the Chase Freedom Unlimited actually packs a mighty punch. At first glance, it seems like a tame card with a traditional sign-up bonus, a cash-back focus and no bonus categories — but there’s a lot more to it.
Not only does the Freedom Unlimited consistently stay near the top of my wallet but it’s also my first recommendation to people just starting to dip into the world of travel rewards. When I was in college, I found that this simple card with no annual fee was much easier to sell to my friends looking to build credit. So let’s take a look at what makes this card so deceptively great.
The information for the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Who is this card for?
If you’re new to points and miles, the Chase Freedom Unlimited can be an amazing card. Approval is relatively easy and the card helps you build a relationship with Chase so you can eventually get some of the issuer’s more valuable cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve.
The Freedom Unlimited has no annual fee, so it’s a card you can keep open for many years without paying a penny for it — and the rewards you earn with the card never expire as long as you keep it open. The card offers 120-day purchase protection and extended warranty protection that extends eligible manufacturer’s warranties by an additional year.
Keep in mind that the Freedom Unlimited is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule, which means the bank will automatically reject applicants who’ve opened five or more cards in the last 24 months. But if you have any slots left with Chase, this card is great for everyday spending, helping you mop up extra points on purchases that don’t fit into a specific bonus category.
Related reading: The best credit cards for everyday spending
The current sign-up bonus on the Chase Freedom Unlimited is $150 after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months.
That may not sound like the most impressive sign-up bonus, but keep in mind that with the Freedom Unlimited, your cash back can be transferred into Chase Ultimate Rewards points — if you already have another card that earns Ultimate Rewards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. With these cards, you can transfer that $150 cash back into 15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points and use them in the Ultimate Rewards portal. Those points are worth $300, based on TPG’s latest valuations, doubling your bonus value.
You get what you pay for when it comes to card benefits and since the Chase Freedom Unlimited has no annual fee, it’s not surprising that it doesn’t offer many perks and benefits. Still, there are a few nice features:
- 0% intro APR for the first 15 months on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99% – 23.74% applies
- Purchase protection that covers new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account
- An extended warranty that extends the time period of a U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of three years or less
- Rewards don’t expire as long as your account is open
- Tap to pay with your contactless card
- Travel and emergency assistance that can arrange legal and medical referrals or other travel and emergency assistance if you run into a problem away from home (although you will be responsible for the cost of any goods or services)
- Complimentary Visa Signature concierge service
- Roadside assistance that can dispatch help — from a tow or jump-start to a tire change, lockout service, winching or gas delivery (but you’ll need to pay for any roadside service fees)
Note that the Freedom Unlimited charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, so this is not the best card to take with you on an international vacation.
Related reading: Best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees in 2020
With the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you don’t have to keep track of bonus categories, watch your spending or worry if certain merchants code the way you’d expect them to. The card earns a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases, with no limits or caps. However, there’s one bonus situation. Thanks to Chase’s recent partnership with Lyft, you can earn 5% cash back on Lyft rides paid for with the Freedom Unlimited. When you pair that with an Ultimate Rewards card like the CSP, that could mean earning 5x points.
For the long term, 1.5% isn’t bad for a straight-up cash-back card — but it also isn’t great. If you’re only interested in a credit card that earns cash back, you’ll do better with a Citi® Double Cash Card, which offers a higher 2% cash back on all purchases (1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay). Citi now allows cardholders to convert their cash back to ThankYou Points via a linked ThankYou account.
You can redeem the cash back earned on your Chase Freedom Unlimited as a statement credit and direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts, or in the Ultimate Rewards portal for travel, shopping at Amazon.com or buying gift cards.
However, as with the sign-up bonus, you can maximize your Chase Freedom Unlimited cash back if you also have one of three other Chase cards — the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. With these cards, you can combine your Chase Freedom Unlimited cash-back points onto these three cards and turn them into full-fledged Ultimate Rewards points.
Simply by combining the Chase Freedom Unlimited with the Sapphire Reserve you will vastly improve your return on this card. In that case, you’ll earn 1.5x points for all spending on the Chase Freedom Unlimited and redeem those points at a minimum rate of 1.5 cents each with the Sapphire Reserve at the Chase travel portal, thereby guaranteeing yourself an effective 2.25% return (1.5 points per dollar multiplied by 1.5 cents per point = 2.25 cents per dollar).
In either case, you’re already getting more value per point than the 1 cent each you’d get by redeeming them for cash back. But then there’s another possibility: By transferring your points to Chase’s amazing airline and hotel partners, you’ll open up ultra-high-end redemptions that would be almost impossible to get otherwise, such as Lufthansa first-class flights to Europe or even Singapore Suites to Asia.
The ability to get this sort of premium-cabin redemption is why TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each and also why the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a key part of both the Chase trifecta and the Chase quartet of credit cards, making it part of the most powerful combination of cards you can have in your wallet. The Freedom Unlimited is a strong card on its own, but it gets much more rewarding when paired with a Chase Sapphire and possibly an Ink to fully maximize your bonus categories and redemption options.
For more on how to maximize your Ultimate Rewards redemptions, see the following guides:
- How to maximize your Chase Ultimate Rewards points
- Sweet spots: The best ways to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points
- Best Ways to Redeem Chase Points on Oneworld airlines, SkyTeam airlines and Star Alliance airlines
- Maximizing Chase Ultimate Rewards points for domestic travel
- How to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for hotels
- Using Chase Ultimate Rewards points for activities
What cards compete with the Chase Freedom Unlimited?
There are two cards that give the Chase Freedom Unlimited a run for its money, offering ways to earn valuable transferable points without paying an annual fee.
The first is the Chase Freedom, which currently offers a $200 sign-up bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months. The Freedom and Freedom Unlimited cards are remarkably similar, with the only real difference being the earning structure. The Freedom Unlimited earns unlimited 1.5% cash back. The Chase Freedom earns 5% cash back on your first $1,500 in purchases each quarter you activate, in rotating categories that change every quarter (again, the cash back comes as 5x Ultimate Rewards points). Although 5x is certainly better than 1.5x, the $1,500 cap and changing categories can make it tough to fully maximize the Freedom’s benefits. You’ll have to look at your own spending patterns to see whether the Freedom or the Freedom Unlimited makes sense for you.
The other obvious competitor is the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express. This no-annual-fee card offers a 10,000-point welcome offer after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first three months, and earns 2x on your first $6,000 in spend at U.S. supermarkets each year, then 1x. The information for the The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
One major advantage that the EveryDay card has over the Freedom Unlimited is that you can transfer points from the EveryDay card to American Express’ airline and hotel partners without needing to have any other Amex cards.
The other unique benefit of the EveryDay card is that you’ll earn a 20% bonus on your points when you make 20 or more purchases in a billing cycle, but that still falls short of the flat 1.5x rate that the Freedom Unlimited earns unless you’re mostly making small purchases at grocery stores. TPG values Amex Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, so you’ll get the same value per point with either card.
One final competitor is the Discover it Miles. Even though this card doesn’t earn transferable points, it does have a sign-up bonus that competes with the Freedom Unlimited. In particular, the Discover it Miles offers 1.5 miles per dollar spent but matches your miles at the end of your first year. While the Freedom Unlimited only offers 1.5% cash back, the Discover it Miles will match all of your first-year spending for a return of 3% that year. However, Discover it Miles are only worth 1 cent each, with no opportunity to boost their value.
Premium cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve offer an incredible amount of value; it takes pages to describe all the perks, bonuses, benefits and redemptions options. That’s not a complaint, but there’s something to be said for simplicity. The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a great card for everyday, non-bonus spending, and can provide incredible value when paired with a premium Chase card.
So if you’re just starting out with credit cards and want to build up valuable travel points quickly, the Freedom Unlimited card should be high on your list.
Additional reporting by Liz Hund.
Featured photo by The Points Guy
WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.