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Is the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card’s In-Branch Offer Worth Your Time?

March 20, 2019
Loyalty Programs, Reward Optimization, Travel, Travel Credit Cards
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» This offer is no longer available

In October 2019, Chase ended the 3% promotional cash-back rate on the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, so this page is out of date. See our details page for the Chase Freedom Unlimited® to see the current offer. 

A new offer for the Chase Freedom Unlimited® creates an interesting challenge for credit card users looking to maximize their rewards.

It’s almost like a game: Choose one option and you can easily earn $150 cash back. Choose a second option and you have a shot at putting $600 in your pocket — or you could end up with less than $150.

But if you already have a Chase Sapphire card, there’s a third option: Take advantage of the synergy between the Chase cards to earn travel rewards at a rate of up to 4.5%.

Here’s how it works and how to know whether the new offer is worthwhile for you.

How does the offer work?

The online sign-up bonus for the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

But if you apply in person at your local Chase branch, you can take advantage of a new offer: 3% cash back on the first $20,000 you charge in a year, but no sign-up bonus. (After the first $20,000 you spend, your cash back goes down to 1.5%.) New cardholders taking advantage of this in-branch offer will also get 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Big spenders will benefit most from the in-person offer, while small spenders should stick with the regular online offer. That’s because earning 3% back on $20,000 puts $600 in your pocket, but earning 1.5% plus $150 on that $20,000 spend nets you just $450.

>>Learn more: Chase Freedom Unlimited review: Flat-rate cash back with a twist

For users somewhere in the middle, the break-even point is $10,000 a year. Spend that much on the Chase Freedom Unlimited® you applied for online and at 1.5% you’ll earn $150 plus your $150 bonus, for a total of $300. Spend $10,000 with the 3% offer and you’ll earn $300 with no bonus.

Thus, for users who want the cash, the choice is simple: If you expect to spend more than $10,000 in a year on a new Chase Freedom Unlimited®, the in-person offer is the better option. For users who expect to spend less than $10,000, the online offer with the sign-up bonus is the way to go.

Built-in travel rewards boost

But if for anyone who holds a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve® and who specifically wants to use rewards for travel, there’s a unique opportunity in the fine print.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®’s cash back comes in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards® points that you convert to cash at a rate of one cent each. But Chase Sapphire card customers can milk those points for more value because Chase Ultimate Rewards® points redeemed for travel are worth 1.25 cents each for Chase Sapphire Preferred® Cardholders and 1.5 cents each for Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders.

So if you sign up for the in-person offer for the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, you earn 3% back on every dollar you spend, then you can transfer those earnings to your Chase Sapphire card and redeem them for travel at the Sapphire cards’ boosted rates. The result is that the 3% back on the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is worth 3.75% back in travel for Chase Sapphire Preferred® Cardholders and 4.5% back in travel for anyone with a Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

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 2019, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a year of 3% cash back at branches
NerdWallet’s top travel credit cards
How to choose a travel rewards credit card

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