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Making the Most of Chase Freedom Unlimited

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Making the Most of Chase Freedom Unlimited
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The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a chameleon in the credit card world: Adaptability is its superpower.

Depending on how you redeem your rewards, it can be a cash-back card or a travel card. And based on how you use it, it can be an “everything” card or a lively complement to the other cards in your wallet.

You don’t need to change your spending habits to make the most of the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. You just need to earn more rewards, and redeem your rewards for a good value. Here’s how.

Take advantage of the sign-up perks

The 1.5% rewards rate on the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is so mainstream, as your hipster friends might put it. But the card’s rich welcome benefits set it apart from the 1.5% crowd — so make sure you take advantage of those benefits.

The card comes with a big sign-up bonus: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Put the card at the top of your wallet in the first few months to earn that bonus faster.

If you’re planning to make a large purchase — say, a new refrigerator or TV — use the card’s long 0% APR period on purchases to spread out your payments without interest. You’ll get an introductory APR of 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 16.49% - 25.24% Variable APR.

Shop through Chase’s bonus mall

The rewards you earn on the Chase Freedom Unlimited® come in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which are worth 1 cent apiece when redeemed for cash back. For every dollar you spend, you get 1.5 points, equal to 1.5 cents.

Before you buy something online, check out Chase’s bonus mall. A good deal could effectively triple your rewards rate. (Here’s how bonus malls work.)

Generally, Chase will add the points you earn through its bonus mall to the points you earn on your card. For example, if you got an offer that earned you 3 points per dollar spent at a certain store, you’d get 4.5 points per dollar on eligible purchases if you used your Chase Freedom Unlimited® to pay for it.

Typically, bonus mall merchants don’t let you earn extra points on shipping or gift cards, and the deals can’t be combined with other coupons. Other times, you can earn extra points only on select products. Make sure you know exactly what’s being offered before you click “Buy Now.”

Transfer points to a Sapphire card

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a good stand-alone card, but it’s even better as a sidekick — especially if it’s a sidekick to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Chase lets you transfer points among Ultimate Rewards accounts, effectively allowing you to take advantage of the Sapphire cards’ superior redemption options, even if you made your original purchases on the Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

Here’s how you move points:

  1. Log in to your account at Chase.com and click on “Use your points” on the left-hand side of the page. This gets you to the Ultimate Rewards home page.
  2. Hover over your points balance in the upper right-hand corner of the Ultimate Rewards page. A drop-down menu should appear.
  3. Click “Combine points” at the bottom of the drop-down menu. This takes you to a form for transferring your points. According to Chase’s terms, you can move points only to a card that you own, or one that belongs to “one member of your household.”
  4. Tell Chase where you want to transfer your points, and how many points you’re transferring, and submit the online form. Afterward, you’ll get a confirmation notice, and your points will appear in your other account right away.

Ultimate Rewards points are usually worth 1 cent apiece, including when you redeem for cash back on the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. But if you transfer them and redeem them for travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, they’re worth 1.25 cents each with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and 1.5 cents with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

You can also boost your redemption value by moving your points again to one of the Sapphire cards’ many loyalty program partners at a 1:1 ratio. Partners include United, Southwest, British Airways, Marriott, Hyatt and many others.

» MORE: How much are Chase Ultimate Rewards points worth?

How to redeem rewards on the Chase Freedom Unlimited®

To redeem rewards on the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, hover over “Use Points” on the Ultimate Rewards home page. You’ll see a drop-down menu listing several options. Here are some of the best choices:

  • “Get Cash Back”: You can opt for statement credit (that is, a credit that covers part of your bill) or direct deposit into a bank account.
  • “Shop Gift Cards”: Select a gift card for the store of your choice, and get 1 cent for each point. Gift cards start at 500 points for $5.
  • “Explore & Book Travel”: Book a trip through Chase’s travel portal and get 1 cent per point. (You’d get more if you transferred your points to one of the Sapphire cards.)

Avoid the “Shop Products” option, which lets you use your points to shop on Amazon.com. While convenient, it gets you only 0.8 cents per point. You’d be better off going for an Amazon.com gift card instead.

One last note: Chase Freedom Unlimited® points don’t expire as long as your account is in good standing, but you’ll lose them all immediately if you close your account. Be sure to cash out before you peace out.

Information related to the Chase Sapphire Reserve® has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

Claire Tsosie is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: claire@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ideclaire7.