This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Disclosure, visit this page.
Chase offers two personal cash back credit cards, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. While neither Chase cash back card charges an annual fee and both earn on categories like travel, restaurants, and drugstores, they do have a few differences. They also have the same signup bonus (more on that below). Which is better for your wallet? Let’s find out as we compare the Chase Freedom Flex vs Chase Freedom Unlimited cards.
Because of Chase’s 5/24 rule, these aren’t the first Chase rewards credit cards you should consider if you’re just starting out in collecting travel rewards. However, they are a nice compliment if you hold the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card in your wallet.
How the Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited Are Similar
Before we cover the differences, let’s first look at the similarities of both cards:
- No annual fee
- 3% foreign transaction fee
- Points can be redeemed for cash back, gift cards, or Amazon credit
- Rewards points can be redeemed for award travel with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Preferred card combo
You can also redeem your Ultimate Rewards points directly through the Chase travel portal for award travel, but they are only worth 1 cent each – the same value as cash rewards or gift cards.
But, there’s a way to make each Freedom or Freedom Unlimited point worth 1.25 or 1.5 cents each for award travel, or 1:1 point transfers, with the Chase Trifecta card combo that comes with the best Chase credit cards.
If you already own another Chase credit card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, you should consider picking up either credit card to earn bonus points on base purchases. These points qualify for the travel redemption bonus or 1:1 point transfers if you prefer travel rewards to cash back rewards.
Chase Freedom Flex
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ earns up to 5% cash back on the first $1,500 in combined purchases in quarterly bonus categories that you activate. You must activate these categories to earn. There will also be new 5% categories each quarter. You’ll earn 1% on all bonus spending above $1,500.
If you max out the $1,500 quarterly bonus each quarter, that’s an extra $240 every year you earn compared to using a flat-rate rewards card that only earns 1% back on every dollar spent.
The 5% bonus categories aren’t announced until two weeks before the quarter begins. You must opt-in each quarter to begin receiving the 5% bonus. Set a phone calendar reminder each quarter to activate the bonus offer. The Chase website has different formats for downloading their calendar.
While there are some changes each year, the 5% reward calendar remains relatively static.
To maximize the Chase Trifecta, use your Chase Freedom Flex℠ for the first $1,500 of combined spending in the bonus categories. Do this even if you own the Sapphire Preferred that earns an unlimited 2 points per $1 on travel and dining or the Ink Preferred that earns 3 points per $1 on phone, internet, cable tv, and other business-type purchases.
The other Chase Freedom Flex bonus categories include:
- 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
Cardholders earn an unlimited 1% on all remaining purchases.
New Chase Freedom Flex℠ cardholders can earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, they 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.
- Points can be transferred to Ultimate Rewards partner with the Chase Sapphire or Ink Business Preferred
- Unlimited 1% rewards on all non-bonus spending
- No redemption minimum for cash back rewards
- You might not benefit from some bonus categories if you don’t usually make purchases from them
- Must opt-in to each quarterly bonus category
Chase Freedom Unlimited
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® comes with the ability to earn an 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 and no annual fee to worry about.
New cardholders can earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, they 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.
You might prefer this card more if you crave simplicity or you don’t spend enough in the Chase Freedom’s 5% bonus categories to offset the 1% reward on non-bonus spending.
You will need to compare your regular monthly credit card statements to the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited purchase rewards to see which card is more beneficial.
The Freedom Unlimited is another contender for the Chase Trifecta.
- Points can eligible for travel redemption bonus and 1:1 point transfers with Sapphire or Ink Preferred
- Earn on every purchase – no opt-ins required
- A better option if you don’t maximize the Chase Freedom 5% award calendar
- No minimum redemption for cash rewards
When to Go for the Chase Freedom Flex
You should try for the Chase Freedom Flex, one of the best cashback credit cards, instead of the Freedom Unlimited 1.5% back when:
- You will earn more in the rotating categories than in the Unlimited’s categories
- Double your Ink or Sapphire bonus categories in select bonus categories
When to Go for the Chase Freedom Unlimited
The Chase Freedom Unlimited can be the better option when:
- You forget to opt-in to the Chase Freedom quarterly bonus categories
- Earn more with 1.5% back instead of the tiered 5% and 1% Freedom Flex purchase rewards
- Want to earn more back; whether or not you own other Chase credit cards
Chase Freedom Flex vs. Freedom Unlimited
Both of these Chase cash back credit cards are a good compliment for your wallet to earn cash rewards or pool your Ultimate Rewards points for award travel. Because of the 3% foreign transaction fee, you’ll only want to use either card for U.S.-based purchases to still profit from the purchase rewards.
To choose the best credit card, you will need to look beyond how much money you spend each month. This is a fine strategy when you compare flat-rate rewards cards (like some of the best Capital One credit cards for travel). But, this is an apples-to-oranges comparison, despite the many similarities.
Look at how much money you spend in the various purchase categories to estimate your monthly and year-end rewards balance with either card. Then, choose the card with the highest potential payout.
Bonus Mention: The Chase Freedom Student Credit Card
If you like both the Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited but are a student, you might want to consider the Chase Freedom® Student credit card instead. This no-annual fee credit card comes with several perks, plus the ability to earn rewards and to build and manage your credit.
Plus, you’ll be able to establish a relationship with Chase that may lead to getting a Freedom Flex, Freedom Unlimited, or another Chase offer in the future.
Cardholders earn 1% cash back on all purchases and 4% cash back on qualifying Lyft rides through March 2022.
Cardholders can also earn $20 Good Standing Rewards after each account anniversary for up to 5 years. Additionally, cardholders can also earn a credit limit increase after making 5 monthly payments on time within 10 months from account opening and meeting credit criteria.
New Chase Freedom® Student credit card cardholders can earn a $50 bonus after making their first purchase, so long as it is made within the first 3 months from account opening.
You can read more in our Chase Freedom Student credit card post.
Either the Chase Freedom Flex or Freedom Unlimited will pair well with your spending habits because they have higher purchase rewards than the average cashback credit card that earns 1% on average. I have the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and use it to maximize its 5% categories. Then I transfer my points to my Sapphire Preferred account, so I can then transfer my points to a Chase travel partner like United or Hyatt.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred or Freedom
- Top 3 Credit Cards for Paying Your Groceries
- Best Credit Cards for Dining and Restaurants
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 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, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 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.
The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered. Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.