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Capital One had carved out a nice niche for itself in the cash-back credit card market with the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card. As Samuel L. Jackson reminds you in the issuer's ubiquitous commercials, Capital One's card gives you unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day, with no special categories to manage.
In spring 2016, however, Chase elbowed its way into the space with the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, which offers unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day, with no special categories to manage. Is there an echo in here?
With identical rewards rates, the defining differences between these cards lie in their other features. Looking there, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® comes out ahead — but it's not a runaway.
Which is better for new cardholders?
If you have a big purchase to finance, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card offer similar introductory 0% APR periods.
The difference is that the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card also offers a 0% intro APR period on balance transfers. So it wins on that front.
That said, the fee to transfer a balance to the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card is 3% of the amount transferred.
Which is better on a daily basis?
Once either of these cards has been in your wallet for a while, the differences between them get considerably narrower. With both cards, every purchase earns 1.5% cash back, and there's no limit to how much cash back you can earn. There are no bonus categories to keep track of or opt into.
Here's how they compare on other features:
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® provides more flexibility in redemption options, although that might not matter if you're just looking for cash back.
With the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, you get cash back, which you can take as an account credit, use to buy gift cards or receive in check form. Unlike with many other cash-back cards, there is no minimum redemption. If you want to redeem $50 or 50 cents' worth of cash back, you can do it.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® lets you redeem for account credit, for gift cards or as an electronic deposit into your bank account. It, too, has no redemption minimum. But what you earn on this card isn't technically cash back. It's actually Chase Ultimate Rewards points. You get 1.5 points per $1 spent, and the points are worth 1 cent apiece, so the effect is the same, and everyone can call it a cash-back card.
However, you can also transfer these points to other Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for example, points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through Chase, or you can transfer those rewards to several airline and hotel loyalty programs at a 1:1 ratio.
The multiple redemption options are a point in favor of the Chase Freedom Unlimited® — assuming you have other Chase cards and are determined to squeeze every fraction of a penny's worth of value out of your points. If straight-up cash back is all you care about, the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card is just as good — and might even be better since you don't have to monkey around with converting points to cash.
Foreign transaction fees
Capital One has no foreign transaction fees on its cards, so if you're headed outside the U.S., the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card is the better choice. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® charges 3% on foreign transactions. When you think about all the things you end up spending money on when traveling abroad, from cabs to kebabs, these fees add up fast.
Making your choice
Both of these are good cards with a solid cash-back rate. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® tosses some extra goodies in the bag for new cardholders, and it gives you more redemption options, if that's your thing. The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card has the benefit of lower fees when you're globe-trotting. The 1.5% niche has room for more people than ever.