Chase Freedom Flex℠ vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Written by
Geoff Williams
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Information related to Chase Freedom FlexSM has been collected independently by CardRatings and was neither reviewed nor provided by the card issuer

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Trying to decide which card to apply for, CardName or CardName, could prove difficult for anybody because they frankly have a lot of similarities. They also are both excellent cash-back credit cards designed to help you maximize your cash back earning with your everyday spending. The good news is, you don’t actually have to choose just one. That’s right, you can technically have both!

That, however, may not be your best option given that they are so similar and particularly if you are concerned about your status under Chase’s 5/24 rule – that is, the unofficial (yet anecdotally official) “rule” that Chase will not approve you for a new credit card if you’ve applied for five or more cards with any bank within the past 24 months.

All that to say, deciding which of these two cards to apply for could be an interesting choice that comes down to whether you’re interested in keeping track of rotating categories each quarter (we’ll explain below). The very good news is that you’re going to probably be pleased whether you pick the Freedom FlexSM or Freedom Unlimited®.

Still, you may feel you win a little more with one or the other depending on your lifestyle and credit card habits since the two credit cards aren’t completely alike..

Rewards earning rates

Both credit cards offer some solid cash-back rewards. We’ll start with CardName since, while generous, it’s categories don’t include a rotating option, which arguably makes it simpler to understand.

Chase Freedom Unlimited® cardholders can earn 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services; and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on Chase travel; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining; and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

If you’re a CardName cardholder, things are a little different – not better or worse, it all just depends on whether you’re somebody who doesn’t mind keeping track of rotating categories.

Here’s the deal, each quarter FlexSM card members can activate a bonus category, such as grocery store purchases or Amazon purchases or gas station purchases, and earn 5% cash back (up to $1,500 in combined purchases). If you’re acquainted with Chase Freedom®, this will sound familiar.

Additionally, Freedom FlexSM cardholders, no matter what the quarter, will earn the following:

  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3% on dining purchases, including take out and delivery
  • 3% on drugstore purchases
  • 1% cash back on your other eligible purchases

Which card is better really depends on how much thought you want to put into your purchases in. Do you want to deal with 5% rotating categories? Are you willing to sacrifice the 5% rotating categories with Freedom FlexSM and instead enjoy at least 1.5% cash back on every purchase that doesn’t earn more with Freedom Unlimited®?

Let’s keep looking through what these cards offer.

New cardholder cash-back bonus

Both cards offer generous bonus opportunities. CardName offers $200 cash back (that’s 20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points) after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months and CardName offers 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.

Cash-back redemption options

These credit cards are twins in this category. With both Flex and Unlimited®, your cash-back rewards actually accumulate as Chase Ultimate Rewards® points which means that you can redeem them through the Ultimate Rewards® portal for gift cards, travel bookings, cash as a deposit or statement credit to your account, and for purchases made through shopping partners such as Amazon and Apple.

Let’s linger on that Ultimate Rewards® Points for a moment. Yes, both cards are marketed as cash-back cards, and they’re very good for that, but they’re arguably better if you think about them as complementary cards to your travel rewards strategy. That is, assuming you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred® or Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Ink Business Preferred®, you can transfer the points you earn with either of these “cash-back” cards to the bucket under your “travel rewards” card and make those points worth 25% to 50% more when you redeem them for travel.

Also worth noting is that in the case of both credit cards, your cash back rewards don’t expire as long as your account is open, and there is no minimum you need to earn to redeem for cash back.

Interest rates and fees

In theory, you should be paying off your credit card every month if you really want the rewards to add up and mean something. Still, things happen, so knowing the interest rates is important.

And fees? Well, same thing. Every credit card has some sort of fee, but some have fewer or more reasonable ones than others. The trick is to understand the fees and choose a card that offers you the perks and rewards you need in order to offset them.

So how do Freedom FlexSM and Freedom Unlimited® do?

Pretty well, actually.

Both cards offer a 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months that your account is open. After that, you’ll pay an APR of RegAPR for FlexSM and RegAPR for Unlimited®, depending on your credit score and credit history. In any case, the rate is pretty typical.

Neither card has an annual fee, which is a big point in favor of either card.

However, there is, alas, a foreign transaction fee for both cards. If you rarely travel abroad, that won’t be a big deal, especially if you have another credit card you can use for international travel, one that doesn’t have a foreign transaction fee. If you do travel around the world a lot, you may want to rethink getting either credit card and look for a card that doesn’t have a foreign transaction fee.

Should I get Chase Freedom Flex℠ or Chase Freedom Unlimited®?

If you like both cards, and you’re torn on which card you want, then you should examine the rewards earning rates. That’s where the two credit cards diverge.

In fact, though, the best case scenario, is that you carry both so you can earn 5% in rotating categories with the FlexSM card and 1.5% cash back on all your non-higher-earning purchases with the Unlimited® card.

Take a look at the side-by-side comparison of Chase Freedom FlexSM and Chase Freedom Unlimited® below.

Chase Freedom Flex℠ vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited®

CardName

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CardName

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Annual Fee

AnnualFees

AnnualFees

New Cardholder Bonus Offer

Earn a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first three months of card membership.

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.

Rewards

  • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent on categories that rotate each quarter (activation required)
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3% cash back on dining out (takeout and delivery included)
  • 3% cash back at drugstores
  • 1% cash back on other eligible purchases

Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services; and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services; and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Redeeming Rewards

Cash back rewards won’t expire so long as account is open and there is no minimum for redemption. Rewards can be redeemed for:

  • Cash back as a statement credit or direct deposit
  • Gift cards
  • Travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Amazon purchases
  • Apple Ultimate Rewards® Store purchases

Cash back rewards don’t expire as long as your account is open. There’s no minimum for redemption. Rewards can be redeemed for:

  • Cash back (statement credit or direct deposit)
  • Gift cards
  • Travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Amazon purchases
  • Apple Ultimate Rewards® store purchases

Purchase and Balance Transfer APR

Enjoy 0% intro APR for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then RegAPR

Take advantage of 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months, then RegAPR

Foreign Transaction Fees

foreign_fee

foreign_fee

Travel Benefits

  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • Roadside dispatch
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • Roadside dispatch

Purchase Protection

  • Zero liability protection against fraud
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Purchase protection for 120 days against damage or theft, up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per year
  • Zero liability protection against fraudulent activity
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Purchase protection for 120 days against damage or theft, up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per year

Account Protection

  • 24/7 access to customer service specialist
  • Embedded chip technology
  • Fraud alerts
  • Fraud protection
  • Paperless statements
  • Access to 24/7 customer service specialist
  • Embedded chip technology
  • Fraud alerts
  • Fraud protection
  • Paperless statements

For a full synopsis of each card, see our CardName and CardName.

author
Geoff Williams
CardRatings Contributor

Geoff is a freelance journalist and has been since the 1990s. He specializes in personal finance and small business issues and has seen his work published with numerous news outlets including The Wall Street Journal, CNNMoney.com, Reuters, The Washington Post and Consumer Reports. He also...Read more

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