Chase Freedom Unlimited Review: Outstanding Bonus, Solid Rewards

Start with a lucrative bonus that includes 5% cash back on groceries up to $12,000 in spending in the first year. Add a long 0% period, 1.5% back on every purchase and flexible redemption options, and you have a winner.

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Our Take

4.8

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: You can find options that pay higher rewards rates, but this card's simplicity, flexibility and versatility — not to mention its excellent bonus — make it a champ in the 1.5% cash-back game.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

14.99% - 23.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% on Purchases for 15 months

Recommended Credit Score

Quick Facts

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • High rewards rate and no minimum redemption

  • No annual fee

  • Intro APR period on Purchases

Cons

  • Has foreign transaction fee

  • No ongoing bonus categories

  • Requires good/excellent credit

Alternate Pick: Bonus cash back

Discover it® Cash Back

5% cash back in rotating categories

This card gives you 5% cash back in categories that you activate every three months, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter, and 1% on everything else.

Read our review

Compare to Other Cards

Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$95

Regular APR

14.99% - 23.74% Variable APR

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Intro APR

0% on Purchases for 15 months

Intro APR

0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 12 months

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

Full Review

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers a compelling combination of easy-to-earn rewards, flexible redemption options, a lengthy 0% introductory APR period and a sign-up bonus that’s worth far more than most cash-back cards offer — all for an annual fee of $0.

A highlight for new cardholders is the introductory rewards rate for groceries — a whopping 5% cash back for the first year on up to $12,000 in spending. That’s on top of 1.5% back on everything else. In dollars, that’s potentially $800 from the sign-up promotion alone.

Meanwhile, the card’s other features still put it at the top of the class among 1.5% cash back cards. And if you carry other credit cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, it packs even more value.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Basics

Card type: Cash back.

Annual fee: $0.

Sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Rewards: 1.5% cash back on all purchases, with two exceptions:

  • For new cardholders only, 5% cash back at grocery stores for the first year on up to $12,000 in spending.

  • For all cardholders, through March 31, 2022, 5% back on qualifying Lyft services purchased through the Lyft app.

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

Foreign transaction fee: 3%.

CHase ultimate rewards® points

Although the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is marketed as a cash-back card, your spending actually earns Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. For each $1 you spend, you get 1.5 points; points are worth a penny apiece when redeemed for cash back, thus you get 1.5% cash back. Points may also be redeemed for:

  • Gift cards at 1 cent per point.

  • Travel booked through Chase at 1 cent per point.

  • Amazon purchases at 0.8 cent per point.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is an excellent card on its own, but it's even better as a companion to other cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. More on that below.

Chase Freedom Unlimited® vs. Chase Freedom®

If you're looking at the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, it's only natural to wonder how it compares with the original Chase Freedom®.

Both of the Freedom-branded cards give you cash back, but how you earn it is markedly different. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® pays a flat rate on every purchase, regardless of what you buy or where. An exception is for new cardholders, who can earn 5% cash back at grocery stores for the first year on up to $12,000 in spending.

The Chase Freedom® features that same 5% cash-back offer at grocery stores in the first year. But on an ongoing basis, it also earns 5% back in bonus categories that change every three months — things like gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants. The 5% is good on up to $1,500 per quarter in spending. (Category activation is required; all other purchases earn 1% cash back.)

Nerd tip: For all cardholders, through March 31, 2022, both cards will also earn 5% back on qualifying Lyft services purchased through the Lyft app.

Which is better for you depends on your spending. If you spend a lot in common household categories like gas and groceries, the Chase Freedom® is probably a more valuable card for you. But if your spending is all over the place, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® could be the stronger option.

For a more thorough breakdown of the differences, read NerdWallet's comparison of the two.

Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

Introductory APR: 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases. After the intro period, a variable APR applies.

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

Annual fee: $0

Annual fee: $0

Rewards: 5% cash back on grocery store purchases on up to $12,000 in spending in the first calendar year for new cardholders; 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories that you activate (on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter); 1% back on everything else.

Rewards: 5% cash back on grocery store purchases on up to $12,000 in spending in the first calendar year for new cardholders; 1.5% cash back on every other purchase, including grocery store purchases after the spending limit or after the first year.

Are rewards transferrable? Yes — you can transfer rewards to any of your other Chase cards in the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program

Are rewards transferrable? Yes — you can transfer rewards to any of your other Chase cards in the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program

Additional perks: Through March 31, 2022, all cardholders can earn a total of 5% back on qualifying Lyft services purchased through the Lyft app.

Cardholders also get three free months of access to DoorDash's subscription delivery service, DashPass. After the first three months, you'll be automatically enrolled at half off for the next nine months. (You must activate the offer by Dec. 31, 2021.)

Additional perks: Through March 31, 2022, all cardholders can earn a total of 5% back on qualifying Lyft services purchased through the Lyft app.

Cardholders also get three free months of access to DoorDash's subscription delivery service, DashPass. After the first three months, you'll be automatically enrolled at half off for the next nine months. (You must activate the offer by Dec. 31, 2021.)

Why you might want the Chase Freedom Unlimited®

As a flat-rate cash-back card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® delivers a great treat for new cardholders followed by high ongoing value at a low cost. Its best features include:

Sign-up bonus

The current bonus: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Not only is the cash bonus high for a card of this type and easy to earn, but the bonus becomes outstanding because of the 5% cash back at grocery stores for the first year on up to $12,000 in spending.

Fully using the grocery rewards is worth $600. That’s $420 more than you would have earned at the supermarket with the card’s normal 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Like most credit cards that use groceries/supermarkets as a bonus category, groceries bought at Target and Walmart are excluded from earning the higher rewards (although grocery delivery services like Instacart, Shipt and Peapod qualify).

SIMPLICITY

After the introductory bonus on grocery spending, the card has no categories to keep track of and no limits on how much you can earn. That makes the Chase Freedom Unlimited® ideal for people who want to earn solid rewards with minimal effort.

No minimum redemptions

With this card, you can redeem for cash back in any amount — even for as little as 1 cent. Many cash-back cards impose a redemption minimum of $20 or more, which can require you to put thousands of dollars on the card before you're able to access the rewards you've earned. The lack of a minimum means you can redeem every cent you earn.

A good 0% APR period

The card also comes with a better-than-average introductory APR period for a rewards card: 0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.99% - 23.74% Variable APR.

point transfers to maximize value

Because Chase allows you to transfer its points among cards that earn them, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® can be a cornerstone of a strategy to get maximum value out of every dollar you spend. If you have multiple Chase cards, you can:

Earn more points by splitting your spending between this card and the Chase Freedom®. By using the Chase Freedom® for purchases in the bonus categories and the Chase Freedom Unlimited® on all other spending, you'd boost your overall rewards earnings significantly.

Get more value per point by transferring rewards to a card with elevated redemption values. Points earned with this card are usually worth a penny apiece. But several Chase cards give you more value per point when you use them to book travel through Chase's online portal, operated by Expedia:

These three cards also allow you to transfer points at a 1:1 ratio to about a dozen airline and hotel loyalty programs, including United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Marriott and Hyatt. Depending on how you use transferred points, you could reap even more value.

Drawbacks of the Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Not the highest flat-rate cash-back card

If you’re just interested in cash-back rewards — and not necessarily Chase Ultimate Rewards® — the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is one of the best flat-rate cards on the market. It offers 2% cash back — 1% back on every dollar spent, and 1% back on every dollar paid off — and not just for a limited time. That year-after-year rate beats the ongoing 1.5% rate on the Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

No bonus categories

After the card’s first year that includes 5% cash back at grocery stores on up to $12,000 in spending, this is a flat-rate cash-back card. For those who do a lot of spending in one area, a card with bonus categories may offer more overall value. And there's no reason you couldn't use both types of cards: a flat-rate card for everyday purchases, and a card with tiered rewards for purchases within a certain category. Among popular options:

  • The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express pays an industry-leading 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 a year in spending (then 1%), plus 6% on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% at U.S. gas stations, 3% on transit and 1% on all other spending (terms apply). It comes at a cost, though: The annual fee is $95. This might be an ideal card to get after the first year for high grocery spenders.

  • The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card pays 3% in a category of your choice (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores or home improvement/furnishings) and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, on up to $2,500 in combined choice-category/grocery-store/wholesale-club spending per quarter. All other spending earns 1% cash back.

You can find out more about how this cash-back credit card compares versus the competition by visiting our list of best credit cards to apply for.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Is it worth getting?

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a good deal for consumers — especially for those who already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Chase Freedom®.

It comes with a sky-high sign-up offer, and flexibility because it has no minimum redemptions and plenty of options for cashing in rewards. It doesn't come with the highest ongoing flat-rate cash-back rate, but its versatility and value make it a strong choice.

Information related to the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card and the Chase Freedom® has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

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