Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited: Two Excellent Cards With One Big Difference

Both are among the best cash-back credit cards but are separated by how you'll earn rewards.

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If you’re in the market for a cash-back credit card, you may have already come across the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Chase Freedom Unlimited® credit cards. These two no-annual-fee cards are among the best options for cash back, and with the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, you could squeeze even more value with the right strategy.

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Overview

For the most part, the two cards are identical. However, there’s one key difference that can help you decide which one is better for you: How you’ll earn rewards.

Chase Freedom Flex℠ Card

Chase Freedom Unlimited® card

Rewards Differences: Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Freedom cards are tough to beat, especially with some new upgrades Chase added in 2020. And because they’re mostly identical, you really only need to think about the rewards program as you try to decide which one to choose.

Chase Freedom Flex Rewards

The Chase Freedom Flex is a new version of the original Chase Freedom® card, which is no longer available to new applications. On the rewards front, the card offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent on rotating categories each quarter you activate. Here are the everyday spending categories that qualify for this bonus rate in 2020.

Quarter  Bonus Categories
January to March Gas stations, internet, cable and phone services, and select streaming services
April to June Grocery stores (not including Target and Walmart) and fitness club and gym memberships
July to September Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market
October to December Walmart and PayPal

In addition to these rotating bonus categories, cardholders will also earn:

  • 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% back on dining, including takeout and delivery
  • 3% back on drugstore purchases
  • 1% back on other purchases

The only drawback to the Freedom Flex’s rewards program is that non-bonus spending earns just 1% back. But if you can structure your spending to maximize the card’s rotating bonus categories without overspending, it may be easy to make up for that downside.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Rewards

The Chase Freedom Unlimited’s rewards program doesn’t offer as much upside in terms of bonus categories, but its base rewards rate is 50% higher.

The card offers:

  • 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase
  • 3% back on drugstore purchases and dining, including takeout and delivery
  • 1.5% back on all other purchases

One of the reasons to pick the Freedom Unlimited over the Freedom Flex is that it provides more certainty. Rotating categories on the Freedom Flex change each year, so it’s difficult to plan ahead, and if you don’t spend much in the categories you’re given, you may be stuck getting 1% back on most of your purchases. With the Freedom Unlimited, you don’t have to keep track of ever-changing bonus categories or worry about earning a mediocre rate on a lot of your spending.

Bonus Offers: Freedom Flex vs. Freedom Unlimited

Both the Flex and the Unlimited offer new cardholders the same sign-up bonus. As a new cardmember, you’ll earn a $200 sign-up bonus after you spend $500 in the first three months, plus an impressive 5% cash back on the first $12,000 you spend at grocery stores in your first 12 months with the card.

Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus Cash-Back Bonus Total First-Year Bonus
Chase Freedom Flex $200 up to $600 $800
Chase Freedom Unlimited $200 up to $600 $800

Sign-Up Bonus

New cardholders can earn a $200 cash bonus after $500 in purchases in the first three months. That’s a great sign-up bonus for purchases you probably would have made anyway. If you want to do the math, that’s a 40% cash-back rate on your first $500 in purchases with the card. And keep in mind that while it’s technically a cash-back credit card, you’re really earning Ultimate Rewards points, so $200 in cash back is worth 20,000 points.

Cash-Back Bonus

The card also offers an impressive 5% cash back on grocery store purchases during your first year with the card, up to a limit of $12,000 spent (up to a total of $600). There’s only one other card we know of — the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express — that offers a higher rate on such bonus category purchases.

Benefits Comparison: Chase Freedom Flex vs. Freedom Unlimited

On the benefits side of things, the two cards are identical. There are two major benefits for purchases that both cards offer that every user should know about.

Purchase Protection Eligible new purchases are protected for 120 days against theft and accidental damage. You can get a reimbursement or replacement up to $500 per claim. If you just got a new smartphone with your card and drop it the day you brought it home, the card’s benefits should cover repairs, for example.
Extended Warranty New eligible purchases get an extra year of warranty protection above what you get from the manufacturer. This covers most items with a warranty of three years or less.

Like all credit cards, both Freedom and Freedom Unlimited protect you from fraudulent purchases with $0 liability.

Additionally, Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited cardholders will get three free months of the premium DashPass program from DoorDash and 50% off a subscription for the next nine months when you activate before Dec. 2021.

Additionally, rideshares with Lyft earn 5% cash back with both cards on all purchases through Mar. 2022.

Neither card has any major travel benefits. If you are interested in a card with more hefty benefits for purchases and travel, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® or Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Introductory 0% APR

Both cards currently feature 0% APR for the first 15 months after opening a new account. This applies to new purchases. Just make sure you pay down your balance before the 15-month period is up in order to avoid interest.

Redeeming Points

Both Freedom cards give you cash back that’s easy to redeem. The best value for most people is to redeem for a statement credit that lowers your account balance or a direct deposit into any bank account in the U.S.

If you also hold one of the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel cards, including the Sapphire cards mentioned above or the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, you can transfer your Freedom card points to one of those cards. All three offer more value when you use rewards to book travel through Chase and also allow you to transfer your points to a handful of airline and hotel loyalty programs.

Deciding Between Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited

Both the Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited cards offer great value for no annual fee, but depending on your spending habits and desire to maximize rewards, one may be the clear winner for you.

If you prefer simplicity, the Freedom Unlimited’s 1.5% cash-back rate will help you avoid dealing with unpredictable and potentially hard-to-remember bonus categories. But if you’re a credit card rewards enthusiast and your goal is to maximize your rewards, the Freedom Flex provides more potential.

For most people, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card is probably a better choice.

Power users might want both cards, as they allow you to layer together 5% back on the bonus categories and 1.5% everywhere else. But if you just want to keep things simple, Freedom Unlimited is probably a better card for most people.

Both cards have virtually identical benefits, 0% introductory APR periods and fees. The big difference to focus on is how they earn rewards, which ultimately comes down to personal preference.

We want to make sure you get the best deal! Our editors strive to ensure that the information in this article is accurate as of the date published, but please keep in mind that offers can change. We encourage you to verify all terms and conditions of any financial product before you apply. Also, please remember this content wasn't provided, reviewed or endorsed by any company mentioned in this article.


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Eric Rosenberg

Eric Rosenberg is a finance, travel, and technology writer in Ventura, California. He is a former bank manager and corporate finance and accounting professional who left his day job in 2016 to take his online side hustle full-time. He has in depth experience writing about banking, credit cards, investing, business, and other financial topics. When away from the keyboard, Eric enjoys exploring the world and spending time with his wife and little girls. You can connect with him at Personal Profitability or EricRosenberg.com.

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