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There’s a misconception that no annual fee cash back credit cards aren’t the most exciting cards you can own. But what many people don’t realize is that these cards have come a long way over the past few years. Not only can they play a pivotal role in earning the most credit card points possible, but they are also easy to use.

This Chase Freedom Unlimited® review will show you how you can earn more points plus the ways you can redeem those points for the most value.

For one, new Chase Freedom Unlimited® cardholders can earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything they buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) – worth up to $300 cash back! Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards® (Chase’s premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more); 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery service), and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).

Let’s take a closer look at the Chase Freedom Unlimited® to see why you don’t want to sleep on this card.

Espresso tasting flight at Sterling Coffee Roasters
Use this Chase Freedom Unlimited to learn how you can earn rewards for every purchase, like this espresso tasting flight at Sterling Coffee Roasters in 2017.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited Review

You may already be familiar with the Chase Freedom® (which was replaced by the Chase Freedom Flex℠). It earns 5% back on select rotating categories, up to $1,500 (once activated). But if your spending habits don’t match the bonus tiers, a “Steady Eddie” like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® can be better. And unlike the Chase Freedom Flex, you don’t have to worry about activating categories or checking to see if you have spent more than the $1,500 cap on 5% bonus categories.

Having no annual fee (it’s one of the best travel credit cards with no annual fees) or minimum redemption amount is another large advantage of having the Freedom Unlimited.

Earn (At Least) 1.5% Back With No Limits

Every purchase earns at least 1.5% back (1.5 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent).

Cardholders earn unlimited:

  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3% cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases

There is no limit to how much cash back can be earned.

This rate is competitive with most flat-rate cash back credit cards including the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card or the Citi® Double Cash Card. Only a select few credit cards earn 2% back.

There is no minimum needed in order to redeem cash back.

Also, your cash back rewards won’t expire as long as your account is open.

For any rewards credit card you have, the lowest rewards rate should be 1% (or 1 point per $1) back. If your current credit card earns an unlimited 1% back on each purchase, the Freedom Unlimited earns at least 50% more. For every $1,000 you spend, that’s an extra $5 reward.

Signup Bonus

New Chase Freedom Unlimited® cardholders can earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything they buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) – worth up to $300 cash back! That means new cardholders can enjoy:

  • 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards® (Chase’s premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards, and more)
  • 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 4.5% on dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery service)
  • 3% on all other purchases

New cardholders earn this extra 1.5% cash back on up to $20,000 spent in the first year.

Shop through Chase

One other option for the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is the Shop through Chase online shopping portal. Instead of going directly to your favorite online store, log into your Chase credit account first. Opening a special shopping session lets you earn bonus points on eligible purchases. For example, you might be able to get 3% extra cash back at Nike or 2% extra at Apple.

Checking with the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal first can help you maximize your rewards.

Redeem Points for Cash, Travel, or Gift Cards

In addition to earning at least 1.5% back on every purchase, your points are worth 1 cent each when you redeem for cash, award travel, or gift cards. You can also transfer your points to your Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card account to get more than 1 cent of value per point when booking award travel.

The multiple non-cash redemption options help make the Freedom Unlimited more flexible than other cash back credit cards.

Cash Rewards

Chase markets the Freedom Unlimited as a cash rewards card. In most cases, cash rewards are your most valuable point redemption option. The one exception is if you have one of the Chase Sapphire cards or Ink Business Preferred which you can use to redeem your Ultimate Rewards points for travel.

You can redeem your rewards balance for any amount for a cash statement credit or bank account deposit. Each point is worth one penny for either option.

Travel Rewards

Your points are also worth 1 cent each when booking future travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. This portal, powered by Expedia, allows you to book flights, hotels, cruises, rental cars, tours, and vacation packages on this portal.

Neither the Freedom Unlimited or Freedom Card has a travel redemption bonus or 1:1 point transfers. Yes, the Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be worth more than 1 cent each for travel. But you must first transfer them to a card with an annual fee.

Gift Cards

Gift cards from over 195 different brands are available as well. Again, each point is worth 1 cent each. Some cards go on sale during the year. One example is 10% off the Happy Dining gift cards so you can get a $20 card balance for 1,800 points instead of the usual 2,000 points.

This isn’t a bad redemption option, especially if you can purchase at a discount. The more desirable gift cards may require a larger points balance.

Some brands like Starbucks or Albertsons offer cards with a minimum $5 balance. Some of the more expensive gift cards include Amazon ($15), Airbnb ($25), Cracker Barrel ($25), and Carnival Cruises ($100).

Pooling Chase Points

If travel rewards are your preferred point redemption option, investing in a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred is a wise choice (all part of the best Chase credit cards group).

With the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Preferred, points are worth 1.25 cents each when booking award travel on Chase. Each point is worth 1.5 cents each with the Sapphire Reserve.

These three cards also let you transfer your points to these 1:1 travel transfer partners:

  • Aer Lingus
  • Aeroplan
  • British Airways
  • Emirates
  • Air France
  • Iberia
  • JetBlue
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • IHG
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • World of Hyatt

Most of these Ultimate Rewards transfer partners make it easy to get at least 1.25 cents of value from each point. For example, you might transfer your points to British Airways and book short-haul flights in Europe for 4,500 Avios. Or you can book a one-way flight for 12,500 Avios on Alaska Airlines from California to Hawaii by first transferring to your British Airways Executive account.

Additional Benefits

The main reason to get the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is to earn at least 1.5% on every purchase.  This card can save you money in other ways.

  • Purchase protection up to $500 per claim
  • Extended warranty protection of up to 1 additional year
  • Contactless payments
  • Secondary auto rental collision damage waiver protection

Credit Score Needed for Chase Freedom Unlimited

You will have the best approval odds with a 670 credit score or higher. Having a 740 credit score or above can help you qualify for a higher credit limit. Though, Chase also takes your annual salary and current credit card limits to determine this magic number.

It’s possible to get approved with a lower score. For example, it’s possible to be approved with a 620 credit score according to data points from current cardholders.

Chase 5/24 Rule

Before you apply for the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, make sure you have not added 5 credit cards to your wallet in the last 24 months. Count any card you are a primary or authorized user on. Although you won’t find the “5/24 Rule” anywhere in writing on the Chase website (anymore), this anti-churning policy is still in effect.

Chase will decline your application if you have more than 5 new credit cards that have been reported to your credit report in the last 24 months. Certain business credit cards may not trigger the 5/24 rule. But if you’re unsure, wait until you have 4 or fewer cards that have been open less than 24 months before you apply.

This policy applies to all Chase credit cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, including the Ink business family, some of the best Chase business credit cards. Most of the co-brand airline and hotel cards fall under this rule as well.

Pros

  • Earn at least 1.5% back on all purchases
  • No annual fee
  • Points redeemable for cash, travel, or gift cards
  • Can pool Ultimate Rewards points with your other Chase accounts

Cons

  • No travel redemption bonus or 1:1 transfer partners
  • Subject to Chase 5/24 rule
  • 3% foreign transaction fee

The Freedom Unlimited has a 3% foreign transaction fee. You won’t want to use this card when traveling abroad as you will “lose rewards.” But also note that this card is also a Visa credit card, which has a near-universal acceptance rate. If you travel abroad often, you may want to try one of the best credit cards for international travel options.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Alternatives

If you do not have a high conviction for getting the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, these other best credit cards for travel rewards options may be a better fit for your spending habits.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can be a potent credit card combination. But if you’re near the 5/24 limit, try for the Sapphire Preferred first.

Here are the best reasons why:

  • Redeem points for 1.25 cents each for award travel
  • Transfer points to 1:1 transfer partners
  • Primary rental car collision damage waiver insurance

The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns unlimited:

  • 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards® (excluding hotel purchases that qualify for the $50 Anniversary Hotel Credit)
  • 3x points on dining (including eligible delivery services, takeout, and dining out)
  • 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target®, Walmart®, and wholesale clubs)
  • Also 3x points on select streaming services
  • 2x points on all other travel purchases
  • 1x point per $1 spent on all non-bonus purchases 

There is a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit. It comes in the form of a statement credit that will automatically be applied to your account when your card is used for hotel accommodation purchases made through the Ultimate Rewards program, up to an annual maximum accumulation of $50.

Plus, on each account anniversary, you’ll earn bonus points equal to 10% of your total purchases made the previous year. So, if you spend $25,000 on purchases, you’ll get 2,500 bonus points.

New Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Points are worth 25% when redeemed for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories with the Chase Pay Yourself Back feature

The annual fee is $95 and there is no foreign transaction fee.

Bonus reading: Our Chase Freedom Unlimited vs Chase Sapphire Preferred comparison helps you decide which card to apply for first.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Frequent fliers will benefit more from the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. You get a $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit.

Chase Sapphire Reserve® purchases earn up to 10x Ultimate Rewards. Cardholders can earn unlimited: 

  • 10x total points on hotels and car rentals purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards (after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually)
  • 10x total points on Chase Dining purchases with Ultimate Rewards
  • 5x total points on flights when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards (after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually)
  • 3x points on other travel worldwide (after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually)
  • 3x points on other dining at restaurants, including eligible delivery services, takeout, and dining out
  • 1x points for all remaining purchases

 You will not receive rewards points on your first $300 in annual travel purchases as the annual travel statement credit reimburses these purchases.

Points are worth 50% more when redeemed for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories with the Chase Pay Yourself Back feature

New Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $900 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

The annual fee is $550, which is easily worth it if you use the card’s travel benefits.

You can compare the Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Chase Sapphire Preferred if you want to learn more.

Chase Freedom Flex

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is the tiered rewards alternative to the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. The Freedom has rotating quarterly bonus categories where you earn 5% back on the first $1,500 in combined quarterly spending. The Freedom Flex is a Mastercard that earns:

  • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate (then 1% back)
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3% cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 1% on all other purchases

You don’t pay an annual fee but there is still a 3% foreign transaction fee.

New Freedom Flex cardholders can earn a $200 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

If you can earn more points from the 5% bonus categories instead of the flat 1.5% back, go with the Chase Freedom.

You can compare the Chase Freedom Flex vs Chase Freedom Unlimited if you aren’t sure which one you would prefer.

Summary

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® makes it easy to earn and redeem rewards points. Because it doesn’t have an annual fee, it can easily be the card you use for everyday spending. Or, you might only use it when your favorite credit card earns less than 1.5 points per dollar on the same purchase.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a solid contender for being the best cash back credit card available. If travel rewards are your favorite credit card reward, consider getting a Chase Sapphire and using the Freedom Unlimited to earn 50% more points on the non-travel and dining purchases.

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