Credit card showdown: Citi Double Cash vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited
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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 makes 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
|Feature||Citi Double Cash||Chase Freedom Unlimited|
|Sign-up bonus||None.||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 rate||2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you use the card, and 1% as you pay||5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 5% back on Lyft rides through March 2022; 3% on dining (including takeout and eligible delivery services) and at drugstores; 1.5% unlimited on all other purchases.|
|Bonus categories||None.||Travel booked through Ultimate Rewards portal, Lyft rides, dining (including takeout and eligible delivery services), and drugstores.|
|Foreign transaction fees||3% of each transaction (USD).||3% of each transaction (USD).|
|Other benefits||Access 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.|
*Transfer partners only available when cardholder also has a premium Citi or Chase card.
Chase Freedom Unlimited offers 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.
The Citi Double Cash has no sign-up bonus at this time.
Winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited. With no bonus on the Citi Double Cash, Chase obviously wins this category.
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 and 5% on Lyft rides through March 2022. Plus, bonus categories and earnings such as 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining and 3% back at drugstores.
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 could edge out Citi Double Cash for some cardholders.
Both cards have multiple options for redeeming your cash back, including a statement credit, 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. You’ll need at least 2,500 points, worth $25, to cash out.
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 1.7 cents, having both the Citi Premier and the Citi Double Cash can allow you to get a 3.4% return on your spending with the Double Cash card.
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. 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. You can also make a charitable contribution to a wide variety of 501(c)(3) corporations with your Chase rewards.
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.
The Freedom Unlimited offers the most flexibility and greatest reward is by transferring your cash back to a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, where points are worth 1.25 cents or 1.5 cents toward travel purchases (respectively). However, for maximum value, you should 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 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points, which gives you a return of 3% on your spending — not factoring in the bonus categories.
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.
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 bad.
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.
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.
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 can be a great option for users looking for competitive returns without an accompanying annual fee.
- Best cash-back cards.
- Best rewards credit cards.
- How to maximize your Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
- The ultimate guide to Citi ThankYou Rewards.
- The power of the Chase Trifecta.
Additional reporting by Juan Ruiz and Christina Ly.
Featured photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy.
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