Chase Freedom Flex vs. AmEx Blue Cash Cards: Flex Wins Out, Mostly

All three are quality cards that feature useful bonus spending categories. The Flex likely delivers the most value to the most people, with some exceptions.

Gregory KarpOctober 13, 2020
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If you’re looking for big cash back from a credit card, chances are you’re considering the Chase Freedom Flex℠ or one of the two “Blue Cash” cards from American Express.

They’re all quality cash-back cards, so the question is, which to choose?

American Express Blue Cash Everyday Credit Card
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American Express Blue Cash Preferred Credit Card
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Chase Freedom Flex
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For most people, rewards for spending will be the deciding factor — although one card carries an annual fee, which is unusual for a cash-back card and will be a turnoff for some.

The short answer: The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is a fine card with useful bonus categories for earning extra cash. But it just doesn’t compete with the other two heavy-hitters in this cash-back trio.

And when it comes down to the other two cards? Big grocery shoppers might do better with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express over the long run — but it’s the one with the annual fee. Overall, we think the Chase Freedom Flex℠ has the best chance to offer the most value for the most people.

Here's how to decide which is right for you.

At a glance

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Annual fee: $0

Annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $95

Annual fee: $0

Welcome offer: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, for new cardholders only, earn 5% cash back at grocery stores for the first year on up to $12,000 in spending.

Welcome offer: Limited Time Offer: Earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months. Offer Expires 12/10/2020. Terms Apply.

Welcome offer: Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.

Rewards:

  • 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories up to $1,500 in spending.

  • 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 3% back on dining, including takeout and delivery services.

  • 3% back on drugstore purchases.

  • 5% back on qualifying Lyft services purchased through the Lyft app for all cardholders through March 31, 2022.

  • 1% on all other purchases.

Rewards:

  • 6% back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).

  • 6% back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.

  • 3% back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more).

  • 1% back on other purchases. Terms apply.

Rewards: 

  • 3% back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 spent per year (then 1%)

  • 2% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores

  • 1% back on all other purchases

  • Terms apply.

APR: 0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.99% - 23.74% Variable APR.

APR: 0% intro APR on Purchases for 12 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR.

APR: 0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR.

Foreign transaction fee: 3%

Foreign transaction fee: 2.7%

Foreign transaction fee: 2.7%

Nerd tip: The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is considered a cash-back credit card, but technically it earns points in a currency called Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Those points are worth 1 cent each when redeemed for cash back, but you'll have other redemption options, too. The Blue Cash cards earn cash back as statement credit.

Why Chase Freedom Flex℠ wins for most

Rewards

The point of a cash-back rewards card is to rack up as much cash back as you can. For most people that will be easiest with the Chase Freedom Flex℠. It offers:

  • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in changing bonus categories each quarter you activate.

  • 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 3% back on dining, including takeout and delivery services.

  • 3% back on drugstore purchases.

  • For all cardholders, through March 31, 2022, 5% back on qualifying Lyft services purchased through the Lyft app.

  • 1% on all other purchases.

That gives you plenty of opportunities to earn cash back beyond the usual 1%. See below to get an idea of what the rotating categories have been lately.

Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Flex℠* bonus rewards categories for 2020

Q1 (Jan. 1 - March 31)

• Gas stations. • Select streaming services. • Internet, cable and phone services.

Q2 (April 1 - June 30)

• Grocery stores. • Gym memberships and fitness clubs. • Select streaming services.

Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30)

• Amazon.com. • Whole Foods Market.

Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)

• Walmart. • PayPal.

*The Chase Freedom Flex℠ was introduced in mid-September 2020, so the first bonus categories that apply to the card for a full quarter are those for Q4.

By contrast, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express gives you far fewer ways to earn bonus cash back:

  • 3% back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 spent per year (then 1%).

  • 2% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores.

  • 1% back on all other purchases.

  • Terms apply.

A supersized version of that card is the real competitor. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is fantastic for those who rack up large tallies at the supermarket, an area of large spending for many households.

  • 6% back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).

  • 6% back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.

  • 3% back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more).

  • 1% back on other purchases.

  • Terms apply.

While you could argue the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express have equally good bonus categories, the winner goes to the one without the annual fee. That’s the Chase Freedom Flex℠.

Why? The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express has an annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $95.

You’d have to spend nearly $1,600 at supermarkets with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express just to break even on the annual fee.

New-cardholder bonus

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express and the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express have respectable welcome offers for new cardholders:

  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Limited Time Offer: Earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months. Offer Expires 12/10/2020. Terms Apply.

  • Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.

But those offers are potentially dwarfed by the sign-up bonus on the Chase Freedom Flex℠:

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, for new cardholders only, earn 5% cash back at grocery stores for the first year on up to $12,000 in spending. (Target and Walmart don't qualify, but grocery delivery services like Instacart, Shipt and Peapod do.)

All told, that's a potential bonus of $800 just from a sign-up incentive. That’s extremely high for a cash-back credit card.

Redemption options

Cash back is the best option for redeeming rewards with the two Blue Cash cards, and you must accumulate $25 worth before you can redeem.

But the Chase Freedom Flex℠ gives you room to get creative.

Its Chase Ultimate Rewards® points are worth 1 cent apiece as cash back, but several Chase cards give you a way to redeem them for 25% to 50% more. By transferring points from the Chase Freedom Flex℠ to one of these other cards, you can supercharge your rewards:

Points on these cards can also be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to about a dozen hotel and airline loyalty programs, including United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways, British Airways, Marriott and Hyatt. Depending on how you use transferred points, that could get you even higher value.

Why you might want a Blue Cash card

Less complexity

None of these cards is as simple as a flat-rate cash-back card, some of which offer 2% cash back or more on every purchase. But if you’re willing to remember bonus categories, they might end up being more rewarding.

However, bonus categories add complexity. The least complicated is the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, with just two bonus categories and no annual fee.

And while the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express has four bonus categories — including one with a spending cap — at least they don’t change every quarter.

Spending with the Chase Freedom Flex℠ — which has rotating, temporary and permanent spending categories — takes more effort to optimize.

Supermarkets and gas stations

If groceries and gas are the bonus categories you’re most concerned with, the Blue Cash cards will give you more value in those areas over the long term.

Potential tie-breakers

If you’re still having trouble deciding, here are a few minor points of distinction.

0% intro APR period

Introductory APR periods can change often. Here are the current ones for easy comparison:

  • Chase Freedom Flex℠: 0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.99% - 23.74% Variable APR.

  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: 0% intro APR on Purchases for 12 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR.

  • Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: 0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR.

Acceptance abroad

As a Mastercard, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ will be accepted at more places, especially outside the U.S., than the cards by American Express.

If you want to add more cash-back cards to your research, see NerdWallet’s picks for the best cash-back credit cards.

Which card should you get?

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express and the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express are quality cash-back cards that will fit the needs of some people.

But we think the Chase Freedom Flex℠ is better for most people who are considering these types of cards. That’s because of its array of bonus categories, huge sign-up bonus and flexibility for redeeming rewards.

One idea: Use the Chase Freedom Flex℠ in the first year, taking advantage of its bonus rewards for grocery spending. Then, add either the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express or the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express to continue to get elevated rewards for grocery spending, as well as on gas.

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