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There’s a misconception that cash back credit cards aren’t the most exciting cards you can own. Not only can they can play a pivotal role in earning the most credit card points possible, but they are also (usually) easy to use. This Chase Freedom Unlimited® review will show you how you can earn more points with this no annual fee card and all the ways you can redeem those points for the most value.

For one, new cardholders can earn a $200 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, you can earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. All other purchases earn at least 1.5% back. These are great opportunities to earn cash back on every purchase, all without worrying about an annual fee!

Let’s take a closer look at the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and 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 is being 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, 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. You can compare the Chase Freedom vs Chase Freedom Unlimited if you aren’t sure which one you would prefer.

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.

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.

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 at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases. There is no limit to how much cash back can be earned.

Cardholders also have DoorDash and Lyft benefits. These include 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022 and 3 months of DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service that offers unlimited $0 delivery fees, and reduced service fees on orders of $12 or more.

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.

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.

Signup Bonus

New cardholders can earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, you can earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 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®, 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 13 1:1 travel transfer partners:

  • Aer Lingus
  • 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 and charge 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

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

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 or can spend $4,000 in the next three months to qualify for the bonus worth $1000 in award travel, apply for the Sapphire Preferred first.

Here are the best reasons why:

  • Earn 2x points on travel and dining (1x point for everything else)
  • Redeem points for 1.25 cents each for award travel
  • Transfer points to 1:1 transfer partners
  • 80,000 bonus points signup bonus ( worth $1000 in award travel)
  • Primary rental car collision damage waiver insurance

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.

Travel (once eligible) and dining purchases earn 3x points and non-bonus purchases earn 1x points. And your points are worth 1.5 cents each for award travel if you don’t transfer them to the 1:1 Chase transfer partners.

The signup bonus is 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points by spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. This bonus is worth $750 in award travel. 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. Both cards have additional benefits for DoorDash DashPass and a limited-time offer on Instacart, gas, and streaming services.

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% cashback on the first $1,500 on quarterly bonus categories you activate (then 1% back)
  • 5% cashback on travel purchases in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
  • 3% cashback on restaurants, including takeout and delivery services
  • 3% cashback on drugstore purchases
  • 1% cashback on everything else

You don’t pay an annual fee but there is still the 3% foreign transaction fee. The signup bonus is the same as the Freedom Unlimited.

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

Summary of Chase Freedom Unlimited Review

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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Josh Patoka
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  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.

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