Chase Freedom Unlimited Review: A Potential One-Card Solution

Start with a lucrative bonus, add 3% back on restaurants, 1.5% back outside of bonus categories and flexible redemption options, and you have a winner.

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Our Take

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
The bottom line:

The card's rewards structure isn't the easiest to remember. But its useful bonus categories, flexible rewards and outstanding welcome offer make it a top contender among cash-back cards.

Jump to: Full Review
Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
17.99%-26.74% Variable APR
Intro APR
0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers
Rec. credit score
690-850 (Good - Excellent)
Apply now

on Chase's website

Quick Facts

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Intro APR period

  • High rewards rate

  • No minimum redemption amount

Cons

  • Requires good/excellent credit

Compare to Other Cards

NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Annual fee

$0

Annual fee

$0

Annual fee

$0

Regular APR

17.99%-26.74% Variable APR

Regular APR

17.74%-27.74% Variable APR

Regular APR

14.99%-25.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months

Intro APR

0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
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Full Review

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

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® earns 3% cash back on restaurants and drugstore purchases, 5% back on travel booked through Chase and 1.5% back on other purchases. Put that together and you have a card that can really pile up the cash back. And if you carry other credit cards that also earn Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, it packs even more value.

But all those different rewards rates make the card more complicated than competitors that offer a simpler 1.5% back on everything. One remedy: Make the Chase Freedom Unlimited® a top-of-wallet card for every purchase, and you’ll be sure to score those bonus rewards without having to think much about it.

It’s why this card makes a compelling case to be a one-card solution among cash-back credit cards.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Basics

Card type: Cash back.

Annual fee: $0.

Sign-up bonus: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back! (NOTE: This offer is available when you apply through NerdWallet. If you apply directly with Chase or through a different website, you may not be eligible for this offer.)

Rewards:

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

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

  • 3% back on drugstore purchases.

  • Through March 31, 2025, 5% back on qualifying Lyft services purchased through the Lyft app.

  • 1.5% cash back on everything else.

🤓Nerdy Tip

With the bonus offer currently in effect on the Chase Freedom Unlimited® through NerdWallet, the rewards rates listed above get boosted by 1.5% for the first $20,000 in total spending in the first year. Categories that usually earn 5% cash back will instead earn 6.5%. Categories that usually earn 3% cash back will instead earn 4.5%. And all other purchases will earn 3%.

Interest rate: 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 17.99%-26.74% 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. Points are worth a penny apiece when redeemed for cash back, thus you get 1.5% cash back or more depending on the category of your purchase. 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 Flex

If you're looking at the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, it's logical to wonder how it compares with the similarly named Chase Freedom Flex℠.

Both Freedom-branded cards have an annual fee of $0, and both offer lucrative ways to earn cash back.

The choice mostly comes down to rewards: 5% quarterly rotating categories on the Chase Freedom Flex℠ or the 1.5% “everything else” (instead of 1% everything else) of the Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

A quick evaluation:

  • Chase Freedom Flex℠: The 5% cash back is enticing but complicated. Bonus cash back is also capped at $1,500 per quarter in spending before reverting to 1% back. Category activation is required; all other purchases earn 1% cash back.

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited®: The 1.5% back on everything else is less exciting but simpler and way more flexible.

Which is more valuable will depend on how well the rotating bonus categories of the Chase Freedom Flex℠ match your spending. It also depends on how much you spend overall. Big spenders might get more value from 1.5% on everything else because it’s unlimited.

🤓Nerdy Tip

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® runs on the Visa payment network, while the Chase Freedom Flex℠ is a Mastercard. In terms of acceptance, it doesn't matter much if you carry a Visa or a Mastercard. But Visa and Mastercard do offer some differing side perks.

The table in the dropdown menu below highlights the differences in rewards between the two cards and the older Chase Freedom®, which is no longer accepting applications and has been effectively replaced by the Chase Freedom Flex.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Chase Freedom®

Offer for new cardholders:

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

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

None — card is no longer accepting applications

Rotating bonus categories:

None.

• 5% back on quarterly bonus categories that you activate, on up to $1,500 per quarter in spending.

Ongoing bonus categories:

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

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

• 3% cash back on drugstore purchases.

None.

Rewards on other purchases:

1.5% cash back

1% cash back

1% cash back

For more information on which of these Freedom credit cards is right for you, see our full comparison story.

Why you might want the Chase Freedom Unlimited®

As a 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:

Potentially rich sign-up bonus

Unlike a standard credit card bonus, which pays you a lump sum once you hit a specific spending amount, the bonus on the Chase Freedom Unlimited® comes in the form of higher reward rates in the first year, which, depending on how much you spend, can really add up: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back! (NOTE: This offer is available when you apply through NerdWallet. If you apply directly with Chase or through a different website, you may not be eligible for this offer.)

Comparable no-fee cash-back cards nowadays offer bonuses of around $200. To earn that much in extra rewards on the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, you'll have to spend $13,333 in the first year, or $1,111 per month.

Useful bonus categories

The bonus rewards categories are useful and lucrative:

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

  • 3% back on drugstore purchases.

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

  • Through March 31, 2025, 5% back on qualifying Lyft services purchased through the Lyft app.

Restaurants and drugstores are especially useful rewards categories for many households. Spend $3,000 a year combined in those categories, and you’ll earn $90 annually.

And if you book travel through Chase, 5% can add up quickly on pricey travel itineraries. Vacation travel costing $6,000 gets you back $300, for example.

1.5% on 'everything else'

Cash-back credit cards with bonus categories, like 3% back on restaurants, typically offer 1% cash back on “everything else.” The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers 1.5% back on everything else.

While 0.5% more doesn’t seem like much, it adds up for big spenders because it has no limit. And many big-ticket expenses seldom fall neatly into typical bonus categories — think medical bills, car tires and furnace repair.

For those who spend a lot, say $5,000 per month on “everything else,” the extra 0.5% rate on the Chase Freedom Unlimited® means an extra $300 a year in cash back, compared with its typical competitors.

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 Flex. By using the Chase Freedom Flex for purchases in the 5% 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®

It’s complicated

The 1.5% flat rate is easy enough to understand, but the mix of reward rates in other spending categories is head-spinning — especially for cash-back lovers, who tend to value simplicity. Add in the extra 1.5% in the first year, and things get even more ... interesting.

If you don’t want to carry around a rewards cheat sheet to optimally use a credit card and you’re just interested in cash-back rewards — not necessarily Chase Ultimate Rewards® — the Citi® Double Cash Card 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.

It’s the choice for satisficers: people who are happy to settle for a good-enough option without feeling regret.

Better rates available in specific categories

Cards with rewards bonus categories are most valuable when you spend a significant amount in those categories.

Alternative options include:

  • 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 (see rates and fees). It comes at a cost, though: A $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95. Terms apply. This is an ideal card for high grocery spenders.

  • The Bank of America® Customized 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 get.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Is it worth getting?

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

It comes with a potentially rich sign-up offer, useful bonus rewards categories and plenty of options for cashing in rewards. It’s not as simple as a flat-rate cash-back card, but its versatility and value make it a strong choice.

To view rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, see this page.

on Chase's website

Methodology

NerdWallet reviews credit cards with an eye toward both the quantitative and qualitative features of a card. Quantitative features are those that boil down to dollars and cents, such as fees, interest rates, rewards (including earning rates and redemption values) and the cash value of benefits and perks. Qualitative factors are those that affect how easy or difficult it is for a typical cardholder to get good value from the card. They include such things as the ease of application, simplicity of the rewards structure, the likelihood of using certain features, and whether a card is well-suited to everyday use or is best reserved for specific purchases. Our star ratings serve as a general gauge of how each card compares with others in its class, but star ratings are intended to be just one consideration when a consumer is choosing a credit card. Learn how NerdWallet rates credit cards.
Frequently asked questions

New cardholders get a great introductory rewards rate for groceries — 5% cash back for the first year on up to $12,000 in spending. Add to that 3% cash back on restaurant and drugstore purchases, 5% back on travel booked through Chase and 1.5% back on other purchases. Through March 2022, cardmembers can also earn 5% cash back on all Lyft rides.

You’ll need good to excellent credit to qualify for the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. Generally speaking, this is defined as a credit score of 690 or better. But a credit score alone isn’t enough to qualify for any credit card. Issuers take into account your income, existing debts and other information.

It depends on your spending habits. The cards have identical sign-up bonuses, 0% APR periods and $0 annual fees. The main difference is in the rewards. The travel, restaurant and drugstore rewards are the same on both cards. But the Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers a solid 1.5% back on "everything else," while the Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers 5% cash back in rotating quarterly categories and 1% on other spending.

The annual fee on the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is $0.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a Visa.

Yes. The bonus is: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Yes. The cards have some identical rewards, but you can use them together to maximize your cash back.