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Credit card showdown: Citi Double Cash vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Aug. 18, 2022
10 min read
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.


You might think you need to pay an annual fee to get a good rewards credit card. But with offerings such as the Citi® Double Cash Card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited from two top credit card providers, you can earn cash back without paying for the privilege.

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Both of these cards offer very good cash-back rates on everyday purchases. While the Citi Double Cash earns a higher rate of 2% back (1% when you buy and 1% as you pay) compared to 1.5% on the Chase Freedom Unlimited, the latter can make up for that with even higher rates in certain bonus categories (up to $20,000 spent in the first year). Both cards also allow you to convert your cash back into valuable transferable points for even more value.

How do these cards compare to each other? Which one makes it easiest to rack up the cash rewards fast? We’ll take a look at how two of the best credit cards stack up in a head-to-head comparison.

Comparing Citi Double Cash and Chase Freedom Unlimited

FeatureCiti Double CashChase Freedom Unlimited
Sign-up bonusEarn $200 cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first six months of account opening.Earn an additional 1.5% on all purchases up to $20,000 within the first year (value of up to $300 cash back).
Everyday spending earning rate2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you use the card and 1% when you pay5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3% on dining (including takeout and eligible delivery services) and at drugstores; 1.5% unlimited on all other purchases.
Bonus categoriesNone.Travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal, dining (including takeout and eligible delivery services), and drugstores.
Transfer partners3 if you only hold the Double Cash or 18 if you also hold a premium Citi card.None if you only hold the Chase Freedom Unlimited or 14 if you also hold a premium Chase card.
Annual feeNone.None.
Foreign transaction fees3% of each transaction (USD).3% of each transaction (USD).
Other benefitsAccess to special events through Citi Entertainment; Citi Identity Theft Solutions; Lost Wallet service; 24-hour fraud protection; zero liability purchase protection against unauthorized charges; digital wallet capabilities.Unlimited access to your credit score and credit information through Credit Journey; zero liability protection for unauthorized purchases; purchase protection (up to $500 per claim with a maximum of $50,000 per account); extended warranty protection; three months of DashPass.

Sign-up bonus

Citi Double Cash: This card has a limited-time offer. Right now, you can earn $200 cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first six months of account opening. This is the first time in a long while that we have seen a welcome bonus on this card.

Chase Freedom Unlimited: This card is offering a welcome bonus of an additional 1.5% back on all purchases within the first year, up to $20,000 in total spending. This welcome bonus could potentially be worth up to $300. However, be aware that the bonus is only available to new cardholders and only if you have not collected a sign-up bonus for the same card within the past 24 months.

Winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited if you max out the total value.

Earning

Citi Double Cash: 1% cash back when you make a purchase and 1% as you pay, for a total of 2% on every purchase.
Chase Freedom Unlimited: Straight 1.5% back on everything, plus 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining and 3% back at drugstores.

(Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
(Photo by Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images)

Winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited. While you can earn slightly more on all non-bonus spending with Citi than with Chase, the 3% rate on dining and drugstores will likely edge out Citi Double Cash for most cardholders.

Redeeming

Both cards have multiple options for redeeming your cash back (including a statement credit or direct deposit) or points through the cards’ respective rewards portals.

Citi Double Cash: You can cash in your rewards for a statement credit, direct deposit, travel rewards and gift cards. You can also use your rewards to pay your mortgage or a student loan held by Citi.

However, if you also have a card like the Citi Premier® Card, you can combine your rewards from the Citi Double Cash with those from the Premier. This effectively converts the Citi Double Cash’s rewards to fully-transferable ThankYou points with additional transfer partners. Since TPG values full Citi ThankYou points at 1.8 cents, having both the Citi Premier and the Citi Double Cash can allow you to get a 3.6% return on your spending with the Double Cash card.

Related: The ultimate guide to Citi ThankYou Rewards

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Use your ThankYou points on things like JetBlue flights. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Chase Freedom Unlimited: Chase makes it easy to redeem rewards through the Ultimate Rewards portal — but only when paired with a Chase Ultimate Rewards card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve.

For maximum value, you can transfer your points to one of the many Ultimate Rewards transfer partners. Since TPG values Chase points at 2 cents apiece, you can effectively convert your 1.5% cash-back rewards from the Chase Freedom Unlimited into 1.25 or 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points (with the Sapphire Preferred or Reserve, respecitvely) which gives you a return of 2.5% or 3% on your everday spending (not factoring in the bonus categories).

Otherwise, you can choose from cash back deposited directly into your bank account or a statement credit, where each cent earned gives you a cent back toward your credit card balance.

Chase users can also choose a gift card at the same rate. Gift cards start as low as $5, which means you can start redeeming once you’ve accrued just 500 cents. You can also spend your points on Amazon, but they are only worth 0.8 cents each. It’s smarter to buy an Amazon gift card at the higher rate of 1 cent per point.

You can also make a charitable contribution to a wide variety of 501(c)(3) corporations with your Chase points.

Winner: Tie. Both the Citi Double Cash and Freedom Unlimited offer similar cash-back redemption options as well as the ability to transfer your points for more value when you have an accompanying higher-end card.

Other benefits

Neither of these cards offers top-tier benefits such as a fee credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, cellphone protection or rental car insurance. But considering these cards also carry no annual fee, the benefits aren’t necessarily lacking.

Citi Double Cash: Citi emphasizes security and credit management with a roster of benefits that include a digital wallet and virtual account numbers to make online purchases more securely. You’ll also have 0% liability on unauthorized purchases, early fraud warning notifications and free access to your FICO credit score. Citi’s Lost Wallet service can replace your Citi card in as little as 24 hours and also provide you with emergency cash (subject to your card’s cash-advance limit).

This Mastercard really shines, though, with the Citi Entertainment program. You can gain VIP access to concerts, sporting events, and other entertainment experiences.

Related: The best credit cards for entertainment spending

Chase Freedom Unlimited: Like the Citi card, the Freedom Unlimited offers zero liability on unauthorized purchases and unlimited access to your credit score through Chase’s Credit Journey program. You also get purchase protection of up to $500 on every purchase, with a maximum of $50,000 in claims, and extended warranty protection, giving you peace of mind when you use your Chase card to shop.

Added last year, Chase’s partnership with food delivery service DoorDash gives Freedom Unlimited cardmembers a complimentary DashPass for three months. The DashPass provides unlimited free delivery on all DoorDash orders $12 and up.

Winner: Tie. The benefits for both cards seem largely comparable, with multiple fraud protection benefits and a host of convenient features. Chase wins out with the extended warranty and purchase protection. But if you’re looking for unique experiences, the Citi Entertainment program delivers.

Bottom line

Both cards stand as solid cash-back rewards cards for everyday use, and they both offer the ability to combine your earnings with higher-tier cards.

Getting the Chase Freedom Unlimited will help you get the most out of your spending thanks to a number of valuable bonus categories and a 1.5% boost to your first-year rewards for new applicants.

On the other hand, the Citi Double Cash Card offers a simple, straightforward cash-back rate without worrying about bonus categories, which makes it easy to shop and earn rewards.

Either one is a great option for users looking for competitive returns without an accompanying annual fee.

Related reading

Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox, Juan Ruiz and Christina Ly.

Featured image by (Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases