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Chase Freedom Flex vs. Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Flex  vs. Freedom Unlimited

*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated Sep 15, 2020. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the Chase Freedom Unlimited® might have similar-sounding names, but they have substantially different rewards structures. Both share rewards categories on travel, dining and drugstore purchases, but that’s where the similarities end.

In addition to the ongoing rewards categories mentioned above, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate, while the Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers better flat-rate cash back on purchases not in a rewards category. So which would be the best fit for you? We’ll help you figure it out.

Chase Freedom Flex℠ vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited® at a glance

 Chase Freedom Flex℠Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Sign-up bonusEarn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. And earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. And earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
RewardsEarn 5% cash back on eligible purchases in rotating categories, 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.Earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
Purchase APR0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months. After, a 14.99% - 23.74% variable APR applies.0% Intro APR for 15 months. After, a 14.99% - 23.74% variable APR applies.
Annual fee$0$0
Foreign transaction fee3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars.3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars.

Chase Freedom Flex℠ pros and cons

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. And earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

  • 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months

  • 14.99% - 23.74% Variable

Highlights
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.

See additional details for Chase Freedom Flex℠

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Pros

Generous rewards. Earn 5% cash back on eligible purchases in rotating categories, 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.

The rotating 5% categories will be the same going forward as those for the classic Chase Freedom® (which closed to new applicants with the release of the Chase Freedom Flex℠).

Here are the 2021 rotating 5% cashback categories so far:

  • January-March: Wholesale clubs, select streaming services, internet, cable and phone services
  • April-June: Gas stations and home improvement stores
  • July-September: Grocery stores (excluding Target and Walmart) and select streaming services
  • October-December: Walmart and PayPal

And here’s what got 5% cash back on the Chase Freedom® in 2020:

  • January-March: Gas stations, internet, cable and phone services, as well as select streaming services
  • April-June: Gym memberships and fitness clubs, grocery stores
  • July-September: Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market
  • October-December: Walmart and PayPal

Useful benefits, including:

  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Mastercard World Elite benefits such as cellphone protection

Chance to spend less, earn more. If you hit the 5% spending maximum of $1,500 each quarter, you’ll earn $300 cash back on an annual spend of $6,000. To hit $300 cash back on a card that earns a flat rate of 1.5%, you’d need to spend $20,000.

Cons

You have to activate quarterly categories. If you don’t remember to activate the 5% categories each quarter, you’re only going to earn 1% cash back on purchases outside the higher ongoing rewards categories.

Categories aren’t announced early. Unlike its competitor, the Discover it® Cash Back, for which the quarterly categories are announced at the beginning of each year, the Chase Freedom Flex℠’s rotating 5% categories aren’t announced until right before each quarter. This means you can’t plan very far ahead — though you can look at past 5% categories to get an idea of what’s been included before.

5% cash back is capped. If you spend more than $1,500 in the current rotating 5% category, your cashback rate will drop to 1% until the next quarter. That means you can get a maximum of $75 cash back each quarter at the higher rate.

Chase Freedom Unlimited® pros and cons

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

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  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. And earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

  • 14.99% - 23.74% Variable

Highlights
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.

See additional details for Chase Freedom Unlimited®

More Info

Pros

Generous rewards. Earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases. If your spending doesn’t often match up with the Chase Freedom Flex℠’s rotating 5% categories, you might prefer the Chase Freedom Unlimited® for its earning rate of 1.5% cash back on purchases that aren’t in a specific rewards category.

No categories to activate. Even though activating quarterly categories with the Chase Freedom Flex℠ can be done in just a few minutes online, you still have to remember to do it every quarter. With the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, there are no categories to activate.

Pairs well with non-Chase cards. If you like Chase rewards, we’ve got some tips below for using both cards on how to maximize what you earn. But the Chase Freedom Unlimited® can also pair well with non-Chase cards. For example, you could use a card, such as the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, to earn a higher cashback rate at the grocery store, then use the Chase Freedom Unlimited® for purchases the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express doesn’t earn a higher rate on.

Useful benefits, including:

  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance

Cons

Potentially less cash back. The great thing about the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is simplicity — but there’s no denying you’re missing out on the chance to earn more cash back if you go with this card. If your spending matches up with the Chase Freedom Flex℠’s rotating 5% categories even part of the time, the latter card has the potential to earn more cash back for you.

Using both cards

If you’re willing to juggle two cards, you can maximize your cash back by using both. For example, you could use the Chase Freedom Flex℠ when your needs line up with a rotating 5% category and the Chase Freedom Unlimited® at all other times.

Those who are willing to keep three cards in their wallet can get even more value by making use of the Chase Ultimate Rewards ecosystem. Rewards earned on both the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the Chase Freedom Unlimited® can be transferred to either the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Then, those points can be redeemed for more value when booking travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases

  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.

Highlights
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy new benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.

See additional details for Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

  • 5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year

Highlights
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year. Through December 31, 2021, gas station & grocery store purchases will also count towards earning your Travel Credit
  • Earn 5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 50% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more

See additional details for Chase Sapphire Reserve®

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Be aware when planning to apply for multiple Chase cards that you need to know your 5/24 status. The unwritten Chase 5/24 rule means if you’ve been approved for five or more personal credit cards from any issuer within the past two years, Chase will likely deny your application.

One option for getting a Chase card you want without increasing your 5/24 count could be to do a product change. For example, if you got the Chase Slate® for a balance transfer, and you’ve now paid off the debt you transferred, you could request that card be upgraded to the Chase Freedom Flex℠ or the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. (You probably won’t be eligible for a sign-up bonus if you do this.)

Last but not least, it’s important to note that pairing a cashback card with a Sapphire card means you’ll have to pay for a card with an annual fee. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card charges an annual fee of $95, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve® charges an annual fee of $550.

The bottom line

Put simply, the Chase Freedom Unlimited®’s rewards program is simpler to use, but the Chase Freedom Flex℠ has the potential to earn you more cash back at a lower spend amount. And, if you carry either the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can get more value out of your cash back by turning it into Ultimate Rewards points and redeeming them for travel.

If you don’t want to bother with travel points, don’t worry — both the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the Chase Freedom Unlimited® allow you to redeem for cash back with no minimum redemption amount. You can’t go wrong with either one if you need a good cashback card.

The information related to the Chase Freedom® and the Chase Slate® has been independently collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of these cards prior to publication. 


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