Chase Freedom Unlimited Card Review: A Surprisingly Strong No-Fee Cash Back Card

Chase Freedom Unlimited Card Review: A Surprisingly Strong No-Fee Cash Back Card
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We've reviewed many cash back credit cards here on Brad's Deals, and one of our clear favorites for beginners and veterans of credit card rewards alike is the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. With its easy to understand earning structure (1.5% back on every purchase) and ability to amplify your savings with an Ultimate Rewards earning credit card, it's not hard to see why. Let's dig into the details!

Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card Review

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The Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card is a great card to introduce someone to the benefits of using a credit card for your everyday purchases. New to the card is the ability to earn 5% back on all travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases. In addition, earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. Then, one can add another card to their wallet down the line, like an Ultimate Rewards earning credit card, to amplify their rewards.

Sign Up Bonus for the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card

The Freedom Unlimited card offers a $150 cash back sign up bonus when a cardmember spends $500 in the first three months of account opening. That's 41.5% cash back in the form of a bonus on the first $500 in spending on the card when you include your 1.5% cash back on purchases, as well.

That's pretty strong for an initial sign up bonus. And if you hold an Ultimate Rewards earning card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve credit card, you can transfer your cash back into Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio, making $150 cash back 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points.

Earning and Redeeming on the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card

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You can earn 5% by using your Freedom Unlimited card on Lyft rides.

As mentioned above, the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card has a simple 1.5% cash back on every purchase. That means no rotating categories to remember like the regular Chase Freedom card, or sometimes-confusing (but valuable!) points programs to learn. One addition made in 2019 was Chase's Lyft partnership, which gives 5% cash back for all Lyft purchases made on the Freedom Unlimited card.

We value the cash back at what it's worth, but if you want to effectively double your cash back, you can transfer your cash back balance into your Ultimate Rewards credit card account at a 1 cent to one Ultimate Reward point ratio. That's possible if you have the following credit cards:

Turning your cash back into Ultimate Rewards points doubles your value, based on our valuation of Ultimate Rewards at 2 cents per point. That valuation depends on making the right transfer to Chase's travel partners, but even if you used Chase's travel portal to book travel at a 1.25 cent per point valuation with the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Preferred cards (1.5 cents if you have the Reserve), you're still coming out ahead.

If you're not interested in transferring points, you might consider the Citi® Double Cash card, which offers 2% cash back on purchases (1% up front, and 1% when you pay your bill). You're also able to transfer cash back on the Citi Double Cash card to ThankYou points.

When it comes time to redeem your cash back, you can take it in the form of a statement credit, or direct deposit to U.S. checking and savings accounts. Rewards never expire so long as the account is open.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Benefits

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There are a bunch of other benefits in holding the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. Those include:

  • No annual fee, making the cash back you earn actual money back in your pocket.
  • 0% intro APR for the first 15 months on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99% – 23.74% applies.
  • Purchase protection covering new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
  • An extended warranty that extends the time period of a U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year. Valid on eligible warranties of three years or less.
  • Complimentary Visa Signature concierge service.
  • Roadside assistance, though you're on the hook for fees.

One negative is the fact that the card does have foreign transaction fees, making this a bad travel credit card for use abroad.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Competitors

There are many no-fee, cash back credit cards competing against the Freedom Unlimited. One is the Chase Freedom card, which offers an identical sign up bonus, but rewards spending in a rotating quarterly category list at 5% (up to $1,500 per quarter), then 1% on all other purchases. Depending on your spending habits, you could come out ahead with that card.

The Citi Double Cash card earns 2% cash back on every purchase (1% when you buy, and 1% when you pay), so that beats Freedom Unlimited's offer of 1.5% cash back on every purchase. However, if you have an Ultimate Rewards credit card paired with your Freedom Unlimited card, I'd argue that's a better pairing than transferring your Double Cash cash back to ThankYou points, since Ultimate Rewards are more valuable.

We've reviewed the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express, and love the fact that it earns serious Membership Rewards points for no annual fee, as well as 2 points per dollar on the first $6,000 in grocery spending each year. Its current bonus is 10,000 Membership Rewards points for spending $1,000 in the first three months, which we value at $200, but you'll need to spend the higher threshold of $1,000 to earn, versus Chase Freedom Unlimited's $500 threshold.

Overall

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is an excellent beginner card and allows someone to upgrade their wallet in the future to further their earnings on their spending. Between an easy-to-understand 1.5% cash back and no annual fee to earn the rewards, this is a favorable card in my eyes.