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

Both are solid cash-back cards, but the biggest differences are their rewards programs.

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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℠ Card 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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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

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $0
Bonus: $200
APR: Variable APR After Intro 0% APR Period
Rewards Rate: 1%-5% Cash Back
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $0

Intro APR: New cardholders can enjoy an introductory 0% APR on both purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months. After the introductory period, a variable rate will apply. Balance transfers made within the first 60 days of account membership will be charged a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer. After 60 days, that balance transfer fees increases to either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness. See terms for details.

Rewards Rate: Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent each quarter in rotating categories (when you activate), 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining, including takeout and delivery, 3% back at drugstores and 1% back on everything else.

Sign-Up Bonus: Receive a $200 bonus after you spend $500 in the first three months. Additionally, receive 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target and Walmart) on up to $12,000 during the first year.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? People who want to maximize cash-back rewards with the option to get more value with travel redemptions.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Chase Freedom Flex® Card

We love that the Chase Freedom Flex card expands on an already lucrative offering from Chase. The original Chase Freedom card was already a solid choice for cash-back enthusiasts, and this one raises the bar.

The Freedom Flex also gives cardholders access to Chase Ultimate Rewards, which is arguably the most versatile credit card rewards platform available. You’ll get plenty of redemption options at good rates. Plus, if you have one of the program’s travel credit cards, you can transfer points from your Chase Freedom Flex to your travel card account and get even more value and flexibility with how you redeem.

For a cash-back credit card, the sign-up bonus is already impressive, but add the grocery store bonus and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better offer with no annual fee attached.

Chase Freedom Unlimited® card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $0
Bonus: $200
APR: Variable APR After Intro 0% APR Period
Rewards Rate: 1.5%-5% Cash Back
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $0

Intro APR: This card allows new cardholders to save money with an introductory 0% interest rate on new purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months of account opening.

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: Earn 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% back at drugstores and on dining purchases (including takeout and eligible delivery services) and 1.5% back on everything else.

Sign-Up Bonus: New cardholders can receive $200 in cash after spending $500 within the first three months of account opening. Additionally, earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases up to $12,000 spent during the first year. Note that big box retailers including Target and Walmart do not qualify for this bonus category.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? Households that prioritize cash-back rewards for everyday spending and Chase loyalists who are looking to maximize Ultimate Rewards earnings.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card

You don’t need excellent credit to get the Chase Freedom Unlimited. In fact, many cardholders report getting approved with good credit. We like that the card offers a high flat rewards rate but also provides accelerated rewards on some common everyday spending categories. You’ll also get access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, which allows you to use your cash-back earnings for travel rewards, gift cards and more.

And that sign-up bonus? It’s pretty easy to reach the spending requirements, assuming that you can spend $500 in purchases within the first three billing cycles. Add the fact that there’s a 0% introductory APR for 15 months, bonus rewards on grocery store purchases during the first year and no annual fee, and you’ll see why the Chase Freedom Unlimited is among our favorite flat-rate cards.

Rewards Differences: Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Freedom cards are tough to beat, especially with some new upgrades Chase added in 2021. 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.

2021 Bonus Categories

As an example of what you can expect in terms of bonus categories, here are the everyday spending categories that qualify for this bonus rate in 2021.

Quarter (2021)Bonus Categories
January to MarchSelect streaming services and internet, cable, phone services and wholesale clubs
April to JuneHome improvement stores and gas stations
July to SeptemberGrocery stores and select streaming services
October to DecemberWalmart and PayPal

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

  • 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • 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. Additionally, you’ll earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

Credit CardSign-Up Bonus
Chase Freedom Flex$200
Chase Freedom Unlimited$200

Sign-Up Bonus

New cardholders can earn a $200 cash bonus after making $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.

Plus, with both cards, you’ll get that 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

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.

Door Dash and Lyft

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 December 31, 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 introductory zero-interest period applies to both new purchases and balance transfers. 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.

While we work hard on our research, we do not always provide a complete listing of all available offers from credit-card companies and banks. And because offers can change, we cannot guarantee that our information will always be up to date, so we encourage you to verify all the terms and conditions of any financial product before you apply.

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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