How to Get the Most from the Chase Freedom Unlimited

Spending on groceries and redeeming your Ultimate Rewards points for travel are two ways to maximize the perks.

Alex CramerSeptember 8, 2020
How to get the most from the Chase Freedom Unlimited

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If you’re a Chase Ultimate Rewards® collector then the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is nearly a must-have card for you. While the Chase Freedom Unlimited® has always been a well-designed card, recent changes to its bonus categories have vastly increased its earning potential and enabled savvy users to get even greater value out of their points.

Following this guide will tell you everything you need to know to get the most value out of your Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

Earn the sign-up bonus

The first thing you want to do when you receive your card is to make sure that you get your sign-up bonus. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® comes with the following offer: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Don’t leave cash or points on the table, and aim to responsibly hit the spending threshold to maximize your earnings.

Buy groceries

Because of COVID-19, Americans' buying habits have dramatically changed, with most of us spending far more at grocery stores than we do at restaurants. In recognition of this new reality Chase has added a powerful new perk to the Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

For new cardholders, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® will now award 5% cash back on all spending at grocery stores for up to the first $12,000 you spend in one calendar year. Then once you hit your limit, the bonus drops down to 1.5% cash back with no cap on how much you can earn.

Maxing out the 5% grocery store bonus alone would earn you either $600 or 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points.

It should be noted that this perk applies specifically to grocery stores and not all purchases of groceries. That means that groceries you buy at big-box retailers such as Target and Walmart, as well as discount membership clubs such as Costco will not qualify for the bonus.

You should also be aware that this perk is only available to new Chase Freedom Unlimited® cardholders and is not available to current cardholders or those who have been in the past 24 months.

Take advantage of new bonus categories

New and existing cardholders will earn bonuses in the following categories beginning Sept. 13, 2020. Customers don't need to do anything to activate these bonuses:

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

  • 3% back at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services.

  • 3% back at drugstores.

Keep these new bonus categories in mind, and compare them to other cards you might have in order to maximize your earnings.

Buy anything — no really, anything

Most Chase cards offer only 1% back for spending you do outside of their designated bonus categories, which can severely limit your earning potential if you don’t hit those categories hard.

The popular Chase Sapphire cards, for example, offer bonus points for dining out and travel, which are two spending categories that have seen a serious dip for most people.

The strength of the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is that, other than groceries (for new cardmembers) and the new bonus categories mentioned above, it offers a cash-back rate of 1.5% on all purchases, regardless of categories.

If you carry multiple Chase rewards cards, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a great card to earn extra cash back on all of your purchases that don’t qualify for a higher-earning bonus category on your other cards. When done right, you would avoid earning only 1% altogether, making the Chase Freedom Unlimited®’s 1.5% your bare minimum.

Get another Chase card

This tip applies specifically if you’re planning to redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards® points for travel rather than taking them as cash, and it's the one thing you have to do if you want to get the most value for your points.

Certain Chase cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, will offer you bonus points on your Chase Ultimate Rewards® if you redeem them through the Chase travel portal, where you can purchase plane tickets and hotel stays.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve®, for example, will give you a 50% bonus for every point you redeem through the portal.

Assuming you were to earn the Chase Freedom Unlimited® sign-up bonus and max out the grocery bonus, you would earn either $800 or 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points.

If you had the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you could transfer 80,000 points from your Chase Freedom Unlimited® to your Chase Sapphire Reserve® instantly and without any penalty. Then if you were to redeem your transferred points through the Chase travel portal, your 80,000 points would take on 120,000 points' worth of value, which would be the cash equivalent of an extra $400.

The bottom line

On its own, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a rewards card that’s capable of delivering strong value, particularly when its new grocery store bonus category is fully utilized.

But if you want to receive the highest value possible for your Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, pair this card with a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and you’ll watch your value soar.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:

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