Chase Freedom Flex vs. Citi Double Cash: Bonus Rewards or Simplicity?

Both are excellent cash-back credit cards, but for different reasons. Your decision will depend largely on how much work you want to put into a cash-back card.

Kimberly PalmerOctober 6, 2020
On a similar note...
On a similar note...
Chase Freedom Flex vs. Citi Double Cash: Bonus Rewards or Simplicity?

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Both the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer are stellar no-annual-fee cash-back credit cards. But they work in different ways, and your choice will hinge on how much effort you want to put into managing a credit card.

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers higher ongoing cash-back potential, as well as a lucrative sign-up bonus. But it requires a lot of effort to manage.

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, on the other hand, is as straightforward as cards get, offering a solid 2% back on all purchases: 1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it back.

If you’re willing to put in some effort and your spending patterns match up with the Flex's bonus categories, then it may be the card for you. If you're looking for a no-muss, no-fuss card that earns good rewards no matter where you spend, then the Double Cash is the better pick.

How they compare at a glance

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Annual fee

$0

$0

Sign-up bonus

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.

None

Rewards

  • 5% cash back in quarterly bonus categories on up to $1,500 in combined spending each quarter. Activation of bonus categories is required. (See the quarterly 5% bonus calendar below.)

  • 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.

2% cash back on all purchases: 1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it back.

APR

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

0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

Foreign transaction fee

3%

3%

Nerd tip: Chase Freedom Flex℠ launched in September 2020 and is a World Elite Mastercard, which means it comes with cell phone insurance, discounts and incentives like Shoprunner, and hotel perks through the Mastercard Luxury Hotel and Resorts program. 

Why the Chase Freedom Flex℠ is better for optimizers

Impressive sign-up bonus

The sign-up bonus is large for a card with a $0 annual fee: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

Combined with the opportunity to earn 5% back on grocery store purchases on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, that adds up to $800 in extra value if you can max it out.

The Double Cash offers no sign-up bonus.

Rotating 5% bonus categories ...

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ earns 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories, on up to $1,500 in combined spending each quarter. (You must activate those categories online.)

That means you have the potential to earn up to $300 each year if you max out those bonus categories. Here's a look at Chase's 5% calendar:

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.

The Double Cash has no 5% cash-back opportunities.

... On top of fixed bonus categories

But with the Chase Freedom Flex℠, there's more. Cardholders also earn 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®; 3% back on dining, including takeout and delivery; 3% back on drugstore purchases; and  1% back on all other purchases. (Also, through March 31, 2022, the card also earns 5% back on qualifying Lyft services).

The Double Cash, again, does not feature bonus categories, but simply a flat rewards rate on everything.

Better opportunities to maximize point value

With the Chase Freedom Flex℠, cash back is always an option, and points are worth 1 cent each when redeemed this way. You can also redeem rewards at the same penny-per-point value for things like gift cards and for travel booked through Chase.

And speaking of travel, you may be able to get more bang for your points if you have another Chase card that offers higher-value redemption options. For example, if you also hold the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you could move points earned on your Flex to that card, which allows you to redeem rewards for travel through Chase at a 25% higher rate.

Cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® also feature about a dozen travel partners (major airlines and hotel chains) to which you can transfer your points at a 1:1 ratio.

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer offers a version of this. It allows you to turn your cash rewards into Citi ThankYou points, and you can redeem those rewards for things like gift cards and travel, too. And similarly, owning another ThankYou-rewards-earning card like the Citi Premier® Card or the Citi Prestige® Card would allow you to combine your points and redeem with Citi's travel transfer partners, in some cases at elevated point values.

But for many, Citi's travel partners will be less desirable. There are no hotel partners, and there's only one domestic airline (JetBlue).

A 0% intro APR on purchases

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers a 0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.99% - 23.74% Variable APR. So if you need some breathing room to finance an expensive purchase upfront, it can help.

The Double Cash does not offer a 0% promotional APR rate on purchases.

Where the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer shines

Low maintenance, solid rewards on everything

If you prefer credit cards that don’t require active management, then the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is probably the better fit for you.

It offers a cumulative 2% cash back on all purchases (1% when you make the purchase and 1% when you pay it off). That's high for a flat-rate card, and it means you don’t have to worry about activating any bonus categories or tracking them throughout the year.

A 0% intro APR on balance transfers

Unlike the Chase Freedom Flex℠, the Double Cash could be a suitable tool for getting you out of some existing debt.

It offers an intro 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR. That's among the lengthiest balance transfer offers on the market.

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ doesn't offer a 0% promotional APR window on balance transfers.

Why not both?

In this case, it doesn't have to be one or the other. Why not use these cards in tandem, for the best of both worlds?

You could use the Chase Freedom Flex℠ whenever you spend in bonus categories, and pull out the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer for use everywhere else.

That way, you'll never have to settle for anything less than 2% back in rewards, all the time.

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