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The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a no-fee cash-back credit card that offers between 1.5% and 5% in cash-back rewards on all purchases, with rates varying based on purchase category. In addition, the card comes with an easy-to-earn sign-up bonus and a low introductory APR.
This alone makes it one of the better rewards cards on the market.
But is it the best card for you?
In this Chase Freedom Unlimited review, we’ll help you decide.
Chase Freedom Unlimited Card Review: Five Reasons to Apply
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is one of the first credit cards I applied for. Well over 15 years later, it’s a card I still carry and use.
Here are the five features that really stand out.
#1. 1.5% Cash-Back on Every Purchase + Higher Rates in Select Categories
The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers 1.5% cash-back on every purchase, as well as higher rates when spending in certain categories.
Here’s the current cash-back earning table for the card:
|Spending Type||Cash-Back Rate|
|Drug store purcahses||3.0%|
|Restaurants and eligible delivery services||3.0%|
|Travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards||5.0%|
|Grocery store purchases (excluding Walmart and Target)||5.0% on up to $12,000 in spending during the first year your account is open|
Those rates makes the Freedom Unlimited a great option, especially when you’re first starting out with credit card rewards: it gives you a 50% premium over standard rates on everyday purchase, as most cards only offer 1% cash-back on non-category spending.
Plus, you have the ability to earn best-in-class rates in a handful of commonly-used categories.
With that said, there are some cards that pay more than 1.5% on non-category spending, such as the Citi Double Cash card (which returns 2%).
However, there are a few tricks and strategies to make the Freedom Unlimited’s 1.5% look more like 2.25% or higher — tricks and strategies that may make this a better option if you’re interested in using your cash-back for travel rewards (more on this later in the article).
#2. No Minimum Redemptions and Points Never Expire
Many points and awards expire if you don’t use them by a certain date. That’s not the case with the points you earn with the Chase Freedom Unlimited card — as long as your account is open, your points do not expire.
#3. $200 Sign-Up Bonus After Spending $500 in the First Three Months
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is one of just a handful of no-annual-fee cards that offers a sign-up bonus, and you only need to spend $500 (within 90 days of opening your account) to earn it. That’s a much lower-than-average minimum spending requirement, and one that should be a piece of cake for most users to meet.
#4. A Smorgasbord of Redemption Options
To me, this is where the Chase Freedom Unlimited really shines. The points you earn, which are called Chase Ultimate Rewards points, are among the most flexible and valuable credit card rewards available today.
At the most basic level, you can redeem your points for cash-back in the form of a statement credit. But the redemption options extend well beyond this, and if you plan correctly you can make each point worth much more than the baseline of 1.5%.
First, there are gift cards you can purchase with your rewards — often at a discount. As an example, a while back Chase offered a 15% discount on Whole Foods gift cards. During that promotion, a $100 gift card that would have normally cost 10,000 CUR points could be purchased for 8,500 points.
There are also many great options for those looking to exchange their points for travel, including the chance to book flights and hotels directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program (which offers exclusive discounts for Chase cardmembers).
You’ll get the most value out of your CUR points when using them for travel, especially if you utilize the strategy below…
#5. Combine Points With Other Chase Credit Cards to Maximize Your Earnings
The flexibility of Chase Ultimate Reward points make this card shine. But what makes this card a must-have for me is the fact that you can combine points from multiple Chase Ultimate Reward accounts, which can make them more valuable in certain circumstances.
The math can be a little bit tricky to wrap your head around at first, so let’s look at a real-world example.
Let’s say you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which pays 1% cash-back (or 1 CUR point per dollar) for all non-bonus spending. If you use that card to purchase $1,000 worth of furniture, you’ll get 1,000 CUR points.
However, one perk of the Sapphire Reserve card is that CUR points are worth 50% extra when redeemed for travel. So if you wanted to exchange your points for a hotel room through Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, they’d be worth the equivalent of 1,500 CUR points rather than 1,000.
Now, let’s say you have both the Chase Freedom Unlimited and the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
All of your non-category Chase Freedom Unlimited spending earns you 1.5%, or 1.5 CUR per dollar. So if you use this card to purchase that same $1,000 worth of furniture, you’ll get 1,500 CUR points — 50% more than you would have earned with the Sapphire Reserve.
You can then transfer those 1,500 points to your Sapphire Reserve account, where they become worth 50% extra when redeemed for travel. Instead of having 1,500 points to spend on a hotel room, you now have 2,250.
In other words, this strategy allows you to earn 2.25% cash-back on every Chase Freedom Unlimited purchase instead of 1.5%.
What I’ve just described is two parts of a travel hacking strategy called “The Chase Trifecta,” which you can read about in detail here.
The basic gist of it is this:
- Use the Chase Freedom Unlimited for non-bonus spending.
- Use the Chase Freedom and Sapphire Reserve for bonus category spending.
- Transfer all your CUR points into your Sapphire Reserve account to get the 50% travel bonus.
Another great benefit for couples is that you can combine your points with one other household member. This is a perk that the majority of other credit card companies do not offer.
Chase Freedom Unlimited: Drawbacks and Downsides
As you can see, there’s a lot to like about the card. But is it the best card for you?
Here are two downsides to be aware of.
Higher APR. The card comes with a variable APR, and you can find the latest APR on its CreditRatings listing. In general, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is not known as a low-APR card. As such, it’s best for those who always pay their balance in full.
High foreign transaction fee. A hefty 3% foreign transaction fee means it’s not the best option for international travelers, unless you have another card to use while abroad.
Ways to Earn Extra Chase Ultimate Rewards Points with the Freedom Unlimited
The card also gives you a few ways to boost your CUR points balance.
Chase Refer-A-Friend Bonus
A benefit of the Chase Freedom Unlimited card is that it qualifies for Chase’s Refer-A-Friend program, which allows you to earn 10,000 points for each friend or family member you refer (up to five per calendar year).
Shop Through Chase
Chase has an online shopping portal, which gives you the chance to double-dip on rewards. You’ll need to log in to your account through the Chase app or website to see the current offers available, which are constantly changing.
For example, at the time of writing, purchases from a major retailer like Lululemon can net you 6% in bonus points. That’s on top of the 1.5% cash-back you already earn with the card.
With Chase Offers, you can earn as much as 10% or more at select retailers when you pay with your Chase card — on top of whatever cash-back you’re already earning. To take advantage of the program, you have to download the Chase Mobile app and activate each individual offer.
For example, in the image above there’s an offer for 10% off at Panera Bread. Simply click through to activate that offer and pay with your Chase Freedom Unlimited — you’ll get a statement credit equal to 10% of your Panera transaction.
Note that you can combine Chase Offers with Shop Through Chase bonuses.
Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Freedom
To avoid any confusion when you go to apply for the card, know that there’s both a Chase Freedom card and a Chase Freedom Unlimited card.
The Chase Freedom card offers 1% cash-back on non-bonus spending, as well as 5% cash-back on up to $1,500 in combined spending every quarter in rotating categories.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited card offers 1.5% cash-back on all non-category purchases, and up to 5% cash-back in select categories.
Both cards earn Chase Ultimate Reward points.
The Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited do not allow you to transfer points to travel partners. In order to do so, you’d need a premium Chase card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Chase Freedom Unlimited: Additional Features, Fees and Benefits
Credit cards often come with valuable added benefits that most users don’t know about. The Chase Freedom Unlimited is no exception. The benefits below can save you significant money and stress in certain situations, so make sure you understand what they offer and how to take full advantage of them.
Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver (Auto Rental CDW)
If you’ve ever rented a car, then you know just how expensive collision insurance is. Sometimes, it can be the same price per day as the car rental itself!
But declining it can be risky: if the car gets damaged while in your possession, you might be held responsible.
When you pay with your Chase card, the car is automatically covered.
Extended Warranty Protection
Almost everything you buy comes with some length of manufacturer’s warranty. When you pay for an item with your Chase card, that warranty is automatically extended by one year.
For example, if you buy a new MacBook, it comes with a one-year warranty from Apple. If you pay with your Chase card, that warranty is extended to two years.
There are some exclusions and criteria, which you can read about here. But note that you don’t have to pre-register new purchases for the items to qualify — everything you buy is automatically covered.
If you purchase a physical item with your Chase card and it stops working, gets damaged or is stolen within the first 120 days, you’re eligible for a repair, replacement or reimbursement of up to $500 per item (up to a maximum of $50,000 per account). You can read more about this benefit here.
Chase Freedom Unlimited card holders have access to a dispatch service that provides (for a fee) basic roadside assistance including towing of up to five miles, a tire change, a jump start, lockout service and fuel delivery.
You’ll have to pay a set fee, which the agent will tell you upfront when you call to request service. That fee isn’t specified in the cardholder benefits manual, but some card holders have reported that it’s $59.95.
Trip Interruption/Cancellation Coverage
When you charge travel-related expenses to your Chase Freedom Unlimited card, you’re eligible for up to $1,500 per passenger of trip interruption insurance (up to a maximum of $6,000 per trip).
This insurance will reimburse your expenses if something happens that causes you to miss your travel (or if your travel is cut short), such as an injury or illness. You can read more about this benefit here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some of the questions people often ask about the Chase Freedom Unlimited card.
Chase doesn’t publish specific numbers as to the minimum credit score needed. CreditRatings recommends a good to excellent credit score when applying for the card.
A FICO score of 670 is the most frequently-used benchmark for a good credit score. If you’re not sure what your credit score is, you can grab a free credit score report from Credit Karma.
The card is not known as a “hard to get” credit card. In fact, I recommend the card to people looking for their first credit card because it has no annual fee, which means you can keep it open indefinitely. Since your average length of credit history is a factor in your credit score, this is an important consideration.
Yes. Your first card should be one you can hold onto for a long time. With its array of benefits and the fact that it’s not hard to get, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a great card for first-time users — especially those looking for a rewards credit card that can be used as part of a travel hacking strategy.
You certainly can (and it’s something I do). However, I like to space out my credit applications at least three months apart. Therefore, I would not apply for both on the same day.
The most important benefits to be aware of are:
(1) You’re able to earn a $200 bonus after only $500 worth of spending within your first three months of account opening.
(2) There’s a 1.5% base cash-back reward, which goes into your Chase Ultimate Rewards account as CUR points. Plus, you can earn up to 5% back in a handful of categories.
Yes, but the cost is very high: $10 or 5% (whichever is more) + the interest charges for cash advance funds, which is around 25% (variable APR).
When you refer friends via your unique referral link, you’ll earn 10,000 points per person (up to 50,000 per calendar year).
Bottom Line on the Chase Freedom Unlimited
This cash-back card certainly has a lot to offer — especially if you’re willing to be patient and maximize your Chase Ultimate Reward points. This makes it among the best credit cards in the cash-back rewards category.