Editorial Review

Chase Freedom Unlimited Review: Eye-Popping Cash Back in First Year

You start out earning 3% cash back, then drop down to the still-pretty-good rate of 1.5%. Redeem your cash for any amount, or transfer rewards to other Chase cards.

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Our Take

4.1

NerdWallet rating 

The Bottom Line: The beefed-up cash-back rate in the first year can more than make up for the lack of an upfront sign-up bonus, as long as you spend enough.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
17.24% - 25.99% Variable APR
Intro APR
0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months

Quick Facts

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
17.24% - 25.99% Variable APR
Intro APR
0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • High rewards rate and no minimum redemption
  • No annual fee
  • Intro APR period on Purchases and Balance Transfers
Cons
  • Has foreign transaction fee
  • No bonus rewards categories
  • Requires good/excellent credit

recommended credit score

Alternate Pick: Bonus cash back

Chase Freedom®

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. No annual fee, plus a sign-up bonus.

Read our review

Full Review

The recalibrated Chase Freedom Unlimited® was the first to go where no flat-rate cash-back card had previously gone before — at least, not one with an annual fee of $0: The card now offers an introductory rewards rate of 3% cash back on all purchases.

This card has always earned 1.5% cash back on all purchases. In the spring of 2019, however, Chase tweaked the card's rewards structure so that in your first year, you get 3% back on all purchases, on up to $20,000 spent. After that, the rate falls back to 1.5%. The bad news: At the same time, it boosted the rate, Chase also eliminated the $150 sign-up bonus on this card.

Still, 3% cash back on up to $20,000 in spending is a fantastic rewards rate. And your redemption options include more than just statement credits or a check in the mail. You can also redeem your rewards to book travel directly through Chase for the same value, or transfer your rewards to other Chase cards with more valuable redemption options. Other flat-rate cash-back cards don't provide such a wide array of redemption opportunities.

In terms of versatility, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is at the top of its class. And if you're looking for a companion to the Chase Freedom® and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better deal.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®: The Basics

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a straightforward cash-back card, with no caps on rewards earnings. Here's what you should know before applying:

Card type: Cash back.

Annual fee: $0.

Sign-up bonus: Double 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.

Rewards: 

  • 3% cash back on all purchases in the first year, on up to $20,000 in spending.

  • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Interest rate: 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 17.24% - 25.99% Variable APR.

Redemption options: Cash back or Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. The points, worth 1 cent apiece, can be transferred to other cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards® or redeemed for gift cards and trips booked through Chase’s travel portal.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a good card on its own, but it's even better as a companion to other proprietary Chase cards. If you have more than one Chase card, you could:

  • Earn more by splitting your spending between this card and the Chase Freedom®. The Chase Freedom® earns 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories and 1% on everything else. 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. You'd also have the option of transferring rewards from one account to the other and redeeming them all at once.

  • Get better redemption value by transferring your rewards to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. If you transferred the rewards earned on your Chase Freedom Unlimited® to one of the Sapphire-branded cards, you'd have more rewards and better redemption options. When you redeem rewards on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card through Chase's travel portal, you get a value of 1.25 cents per point. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, that rises to 1.5 cents per point. You can also transfer points at a 1:1 ratio to major loyalty programs, such as United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Marriott and Hyatt, which could get you even more value.

In either case, you'd earn much more than you would if the Chase Freedom Unlimited® were your only card.

Why get the Chase Freedom Unlimited®?

As a flat-rate cash-back card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® delivers high ongoing value at a low cost. In addition to its redemption flexibility, its best features include:

Outstanding rewards in the first year. If you max out your 3% rewards by spending $20,000 in the first year, you'd walk away with $600 in rewards. That's $150 more than you would have earned on the same amount of spending under the old rewards structure on the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, even after accounting for the now-eliminated bonus.

No minimum redemptions. With this card, you can redeem for cash back in any amount — even for as little as 1 cent. In contrast, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has a minimum $25 redemption. With no minimum redemptions, Chase Freedom Unlimited® cardholders will be able to redeem every cent earned on the card, a relatively rare benefit among cash-back cards.

An excellent 0% APR period. The card also comes with one of the best 0% introductory APR periods on any rewards card: 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 17.24% - 25.99% Variable APR.

The limits of the Chase Freedom Unlimited®

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers good value — especially if you’re looking for ways to earn more Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. But it also comes with some limitations you should know about:

No upfront sign-up bonus

When Chase eliminated the upfront sign-up bonus on the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, the card became less attractive for smaller spenders. The former bonus could be earned with just $500 in spending. If a bonus is important to you, take a look at the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card. This card pays an unlimited 1.5% on every purchase and comes with a sign-up bonus identical to the one Chase just got rid of: One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. Like the Chase card, this one lets you redeem cash back in any amount, with no minimums. It also charges no foreign transaction fees (unlike the Chase Freedom Unlimited®), so it's a better companion for overseas travel.

Which card is a better deal? If you expect to spend at least $10,000 on the card in the first year, then you'll come out ahead with the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. If you see yourself spending less than that, go with the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card.

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 still the best flat-rate card 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 ongoing, year-after-year rate beats the Chase Freedom Unlimited®’s ongoing 1.5%.

No bonus categories

The whole point of a flat-rate cash-back card, of course, is to increase your rewards earnings across the board, not just in one category. But for those who do a lot of spending in one area — say, groceries — 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.

You can find out more about how this cash-back credit card compares vs. 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® CardChase Sapphire Reserve® or Chase Freedom®.

With no minimum redemptions and plenty of options for cashing in on rewards, it offers more flexibility than we’ve seen in other Chase cards. It doesn't come with the highest ongoing flat-rate cash-back rate, but it starts out with quite a bang. For consumers looking for a card that offers versatility and value, this one is a strong choice.