Both $0-annual-fee cards earn 5% cash back in bonus categories you opt into each quarter, on top of ongoing bonus rewards on certain everyday spending — so both are also fairly complicated cards. The difference boils down to your spending habits: Do you spend fairly predictably, or do you prefer customization? It may also depend on your redemption plans and whether travel is in your future.
With the Chase Freedom Flex℠, quarterly 5% categories are determined by the issuer, and you don't get to see them until a couple of weeks before they go into effect. But they tend to be broad and useful — previous categories have included things like gas, home improvement stores and Amazon.com. Its sign-up bonus is eye-popping, and on an ongoing basis, it's a reliably rich and versatile card for foodies and travelers. It is likely the better pick for most.
The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card is more flexible when it comes to 5% category choices. The card lets you pick two 5% bonus categories from a list, and it boasts a higher combined quarterly spending cap, but that list of 5% categories is narrower. In terms of ongoing rewards, the card may be better for grocery stores, but less competitive on dining.
Here’s how to decide which card is right for you.
At a glance
In addition to 5% rotating bonus categories, both cards offer an ongoing bonus tier on other spending. The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card earns 2% back on an "everyday" category of your choice (gas, groceries or dining). The Chase Freedom Flex℠ features a richer 3% back on dining and drugstores, along with 5% on travel booked via Chase — but no opportunity to "choose" in this tier.
Other differentiating factors include welcome offers, spending flexibility and quarterly spending caps.
Here’s a closer look at how they stack up:
U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card
Chase Freedom Flex℠
$150 bonus after spending $500 in eligible net purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.
Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
0% on Balance Transfers for 12 billing cycles, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR
0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.99% - 23.74% Variable APR
Balance transfer fee
3% of the amount of each transfer or $5, whichever is greater.
$5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee
2% for U.S. dollar purchases and 3% for those made in a foreign currency.
3% per transaction.
Limited-time perks and offers
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.
Why the Chase Freedom Flex℠ wins out for most
More lucrative sign-up bonus
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers the following sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Broader, more straightforward bonus categories
The Chase 5% bonus category historically has included things like restaurants, gas, home improvement stores, wholesale clubs, Amazon.com and more. And beyond that, Chase Freedom Flex℠ also features rich, fixed bonus categories in several popular categories.
You don't get to choose what categories are featured, but they're typically broad enough that you can realize a benefit from them.
Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Flex℠ bonus rewards categories for 2021
Q1 (Jan. 1 - March 31)
• Wholesale clubs. • Select streaming services. • Internet, cable and phone services.
Q2 (April 1 - June 30)
TBD (In 2020: grocery stores; gym memberships and fitness clubs; select streaming services.)
Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30)
TBD (In 2020: Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market.)
Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)
TBD (In 2020: Walmart; PayPal.)
The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card lets you choose your 5% categories, but overall your options are narrower, sometimes down to specific inventory. For example:
"Fast food," but not all restaurants.
"Ground transportation," but not all travel.
"Movie theaters," but not all forms of entertainment.
"Furniture stores," but not home improvement stores.
"Select" clothing stores, but not every one you can think of.
The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card does earn 2% back in an "everyday" category of your choice, and those are more general and inclusive (grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants). But will you remember that fast food is a 5% category, while fine dining is a potential 2% category?
More flexible rewards
With the Chase Freedom Flex℠, you can redeem your rewards for cash back (at the rate of a penny per point) as statement credit or as a direct deposit to most U.S. checking and savings accounts. But you can also redeem for:
Gift cards (1 cent per point).
Travel booked via Chase (1 cent per point).
Amazon purchases (0.8 cent per point).
And if you have another Chase Ultimate Rewards®-earning card — like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve® — you can move any points you earn with the Flex to those cards and then redeem those rewards for travel booked via Chase at higher redemption values.
Redemption options for the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card are more limited. You can opt for statement credit, but if you want actual "cash back" you'll need to deposit rewards into an eligible account with U.S. Bank. If you have at least $20 in rewards, you can also redeem for a U.S. Bank Rewards gift card, but only in $5 increments.
» MORE: What is the 'Chase trifecta'?
Where the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card still shines
Unlike the Chase Freedom Flex℠, the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card offers more control of your rewards: Each quarter, you can activate and select which two 5% bonus categories you want and which “everyday” category will earn an unlimited 2% cash back.
The card’s 2% back isn't as rich as what the Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers on dining and drugstores (3% back), but because you can choose your own categories (and know what they are all year), you can better align the card with your usual spending habits.
By comparison, the Chase Freedom Flex℠'s 5% bonus categories are chosen by Chase each quarter. You won’t know what they are until they are announced, and that can make it difficult to plan your spending.
Higher spending cap
Each quarter, the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card earns you 5% back on up to $2,000 in combined bonus category spending. That's a higher quarterly spending cap than the Chase Freedom Flex℠'s $1,500 limit.
If you were to max out the former's 5% bonus category by spending $2,000 each quarter, you'd earn a cool $400 a year in cash back. Comparatively, maxing out the bonus categories on the Chase Freedom Flex℠ each quarter can earn you $300 a year.
Of course, this excludes both cards’ additional cash-back categories and welcome offers.
Neither card is for the faint of heart
Both the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card suffer from the same primary drawback: They are complicated. Not only do you have to remember to activate your rewards every three months, but you also have to keep track of quarterly and ongoing categories.
For the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card specifically, you’ll have to keep track of which two categories you're earning 5% back on, and which of the cash-back categories you’ll get 2% on. This can get confusing as you go about your day-to-day spending, especially since the card's 5% categories aren't as general or broad.
Rewards maximizers will find either card a viable and lucrative fit. But there are definitely simpler and lower-maintenance cash-back credit cards out there.
Information related to the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been provided or reviewed by the issuer of this card.