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Capital One Quicksilver vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited: There’s a Twist

Now you'll want to consider how much you'll be able to spend in year one, in addition to where and how frequently you travel.
June 20, 2019
Cash Back Credit Cards, Credit Cards
Capital One Quicksilver vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited: There's a Twist
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Comparing the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card may have you thinking you’re seeing double.

Both cards carry no annual fee, offer ongoing earnings of 1.5% cash back, and have similar 0% intro APR offers on purchases and transfers. It used to be that deciding between the two meant determining which had the more appealing side perks.

But in April 2019, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® rolled out a big change. Instead of a $150 sign-up bonus, the card now offers 3% back on all purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent. After that, the card earns 1.5% back on everything.

Let’s take a look at how the two cards stack up now:

 Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit CardChase Freedom Unlimited®
Annual fee$0$0
Rewards1.5% back on all purchases3% back on all purchases in your first year, up to $20,000 spent; after that 1.5% back on all purchases
Sign-up bonusOne-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account openingDouble Cash Back: Earn 3% cash back on all purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent. After that earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
Intro APR0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 16.24% - 26.24% Variable APR0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 17.24% - 25.99% Variable APR
Balance transfer fee3%Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
Foreign transaction feesNone3%
Better for:

  • Someone who wants cash back with no complications.

  • Travelers heading outside the U.S.

  • Someone seeking some travel insurance benefits.

  • Someone planning to spend $10,000 or more in year one.

  • Someone looking for flexible redemption options.

  • Travelers with other Chase cards looking to maximize the value of their rewards.

» MORE: Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card review
» MORE: Chase Freedom Unlimited® review

How much do you plan to spend?

True, 3% cash back in year one with the Chase Freedom Unlimited® sounds a lot better than 1.5% with the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card. But remember that the latter card offers a sign-up bonus, so it pays to do the math. For example:

  • Spend $5,000 on the Chase Freedom Unlimited® in year one and earn a total of $150 cash back.
  • Spend $5,000 on the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card in year one and earn $75 cash back, plus the sign-up offer: a One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. You’ll have earned a total of $225 back.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited®’s first-year rate of 3% is a better deal only for those who plan to spend more than $10,000 in year one on the card. That’s the break-even point between the two cards:

  • Spend $10,000 on the Chase Freedom Unlimited® in year one and earn a total of $300 cash back.
  • Spend $10,000 on the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card in year one and earn $150 back, plus the sign-up offer: a One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. You’ll have earned a total of $300 back.

Things change at higher spending thresholds. If you plan to max out the $20,000 cap on the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, it’s a different story:

  • Spend $20,000 on the Chase Freedom Unlimited® in year one and earn a total of $600 cash back.
  • Spend $20,000 on the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card in year one and earn $300 back, plus the sign-up offer of One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. You’ll have earned a total of $450.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is the clear winner for bigger spenders in the first year. But there are other factors to consider.

What do you want to do with your rewards?

Cash back is the most flexible reward of all, and you’ll get it with both cards. No matter which one you pick, you’ll also have wide latitude when it comes to redemption.

The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card lets you redeem cash back for any amount at any time with no expiration date for the life of the account. You can take your earnings as a statement credit, as a check or as a credit toward a previous purchase. You can also redeem for gift cards and more.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® also lets you redeem cash back for any amount at any time with no expiration date for the life of the account. You can choose a statement credit or a direct deposit. You can also use your rewards to buy gift cards, book travel, make purchases on Amazon.com or buy Apple merchandise.

Here’s where the Chase Freedom Unlimited® will hold an edge for some: If you also have either the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can transfer your earnings from the Chase Freedom Unlimited® to one of those Sapphire cards, where the rewards will take on increased value when redeemed for travel through Chase.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for example, points are worth 25% more when redeemed that way. Also, if you have one of those Sapphire cards, you can transfer rewards to several airline and hotel loyalty programs at a 1:1 ratio.

For someone trying to build up a stash of points for a trip, that’s a big deal.

» MORE: Chase Ultimate Rewards®: How to earn and use them

What else do you want from the card?

Aside from the main attraction of cash back, there are plenty of other features on each card that might make you more apt to pick one over the other:

Intro APR offers

If you have a big purchase to finance or high-interest debt you want to transfer, the cards offer similar introductory 0% APR periods. The balance transfer terms are essentially the same, as well.

It’s a tie in this category.

Foreign transaction fees

Capital One charges no foreign transaction fees on any of its cards, and that includes the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® charges 3% on foreign transactions, so it’s not ideal for use abroad.

The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card wins out here.

Perks and extras

The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card comes with some travel protections and insurance that globetrotters might find helpful, such as 24-hour travel assistance, auto rental collision damage waiver, and travel accident insurance. And remember, it also doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® comes with purchase protection and extended warranty protection, but doesn’t offer much in the way of travel benefits — unless, again, you’re able to pair it with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve® to maximize the value of your rewards for travel redemption.

Making your choice

Earning 3% cash back in the first year might seem like a no-brainer, but whether it’s better for you than getting an upfront sign-up bonus will come down to how much you plan to spend on the card.

It may also depend on where and how much you travel. If you go overseas frequently, the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card will be a better travel companion.

But if you already have one of the aforementioned Chase Sapphire cards, then the Chase Freedom Unlimited® will likely offer more overall value. Neither of the Sapphire cards charges foreign transaction fees, so you can just leave the Chase Freedom Unlimited® at home.