Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Freedom Flex: Excellent Alone, but Better Together

Both the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Freedom Flex offer excellent rewards and benefits, but one might suit you better than the other.
Last updated Nov 3, 2020 | By Ben Walker
Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Freedom Flex

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Chase credit cards offer some of the best rewards and benefits available from any credit card issuer. If you compare credit cards, the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Freedom Flex are easily among the best no annual fee credit cards on the market. However, if you had to choose, which card would you go with?

In this Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Freedom Flex comparison, we’ll look at where both cards excel and how they match up against each other in earning potential and benefits. This will let you know whether you should go with one card over the other — or in this case, whether having both cards would be the most valuable option.

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Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Freedom Flex

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a longtime favorite for many Chase enthusiasts because of its high-quality points redemption options within the Chase Ultimate Rewards program and its valuable earning potential on everyday purchases. For many years, it has been considered one of the best cashback credit cards available.

The new Chase Freedom Flex is the updated replacement for the Chase Freedom card, which is no longer available for applications. The Freedom Flex has the same Chase Freedom categories as the original Chase Freedom. These categories rotate each quarter and earn the cardholder cash back in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points. The rotating categories can provide huge amounts of cash back and typically include many types of common purchases, such as gas, groceries, Amazon.com purchases, and more.

In this side-by-side look, we’ll see how the rewards rates and benefits compare between the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Freedom Flex.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Chase Freedom Flex
Annual fee $0 $0
Sign-up bonus
  • Earn a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (on up to $12,000 in spending in the first year)
  • Earn $200 cash back after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (on up to $12,000 in spending in the first year)
Earning rate
  • 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases
  • 5% cash back on Lyft rides (through March, 2022)
  • 5% on rotating quarterly categories (on up to $1,500 spent) and travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal; 3% at restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and drugstores; and 1% on all other purchases
  • 5% cash back on Lyft rides (through March, 2022)
Redemption methods
  • Cash back can be redeemed for statement credits and direct deposits, gift cards, travel, and to make purchases from participating merchants
  • Cash back can be redeemed for statement credits, electronic bank deposits, gift cards, travel, and to make purchases from participating merchants
Intro APR 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months
Annual credits None None
Travel perks
  • Up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip in trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • Up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip in trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
Other benefits
  • Chase purchase protection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Cell phone protection
  • Complimentary three months of DashPass from DoorDash
  • Complimentary ShopRunner membership
  • Receive up to $10 in Lyft credit each month
Foreign transaction fee 3% 3%
Credit needed Excellent, Good Excellent, Good

What both cards excel at

Both the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Freedom Flex are rewards credit cards designed to help cardholders earn cash back on everyday purchases. As such, they have many similarities and areas where their benefits overlap:

  • Sign-up bonus: Whether you go for the Freedom Unlimited or Freedom Flex, their sign-up bonuses for new cardholders are comparable. The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers $200 cash back after spending $500 in the first 3 months and the Freedom Flex also offers $200 after spending $500 in the first 3 months. You also get an earning bonus on both cards for making grocery purchases in the first year.
  • Annual fee: The Freedom Unlimited has a $0 annual fee and the Freedom Flex also has a $0 annual fee. With all the benefits and earning potential these cards offer, not having to worry about an annual cost provides even more value.
  • Redemption options: The Freedom Unlimited and Freedom Flex cards earn cash back in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Chase points are among the most flexible rewards currencies out there, so the redemption options offer plenty of value. One of the best ways to use Chase points is for travel redemptions through the Chase travel portal, though statement credits, direct deposits, gift cards, and shopping options.
  • Travel coverages: Neither the Freedom Unlimited nor the Freedom Flex are considered travel credit cards, but they still come with helpful travel insurance. Both cards offer trip cancellation or interruption insurance and auto rental collision damage waivers.
  • Additional benefits: With both cards, you get purchase protection and extended warranty protection on eligible purchases. You also get three months free of DashPass and an increased earning rate on Lyft rides.

4 important differences between Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Freedom Flex

The differences between the Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited can help you understand which card might be the right choice for you. They have many similarities, but their key differences are what make them stand out from each other.

1. Visa vs. Mastercard

Although Chase is the card issuer for both the Freedom Unlimited and Freedom Flex, each card operates on a different payments network. The Freedom Unlimited is a Visa credit card and the Freedom Flex is a Mastercard credit card.

This is actually a good aspect of both cards because Visa and Mastercard credit cards are generally accepted everywhere in the world where credit cards are used, even if you’re traveling abroad.

However, one distinction between the cards is that certain merchants may only use specific payments networks to process their credit card transactions. For example, Mastercard is not one of the credit cards accepted at Costco. In cases like this, it may be advantageous to have one Freedom card over the other, but these situations are typically few and far between.

For Costco shoppers, though, the Freedom Unlimited would be the better choice because the Freedom Flex wouldn’t work on your Costco purchases due to it being a World Elite Mastercard.

Unlimited Cash Back

Benefits

  • $200 sign-up bonus
  • 5% cash back grocery store purchases for the first year (up to $12k)
  • Bonus rewards on travel, dining, and drugstores
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases

2. Earning potential

The card with the best earning potential completely depends on your normal spending habits and financial goals. With the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you can earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases.

This is very similar to the Chase Freedom Flex, where you can earn 5% on rotating quarterly categories (on up to $1,500 spent) and travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal; 3% at restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and drugstores; and 1% on all other purchases.

Overall, the two cards share similar bonus categories, but the main difference is the Freedom Flex has rotating categories and the Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5% cash back on any purchase not within a bonus category. The Freedom Flex has a higher earning potential, but only if you can find value from the rotating categories. Otherwise, the Freedom Unlimited would provide a better earning potential, especially if you just don’t want to track changing categories.

3. Additional perks

No annual fee cards don’t typically have many additional perks, but these Chase cards come packed with them. Most of the benefits are the same between the two cards, but you’ll find the Freedom Flex ends up taking the upper hand with what it offers.

On top of its travel coverages and purchase protections, the Freedom Flex also provides complimentary ShopRunner membership, $10 in Lyft credit each month after you’ve taken five rides, 5% cash rewards on Boxed wholesale orders, and $5 off movie tickets for every two movie tickets purchased through Fandango.

Perhaps the most useful additional perk on the Freedom Flex, though, is its cell phone protection. When you pay your monthly cell phone bill with this card, you receive up to $800 per claim and up to $1,000 per year in cell phone protection against theft or damage for phones listed on your bill. Not many credit cards offer cell phone protection these days, which makes this benefit even more valuable.

Powerful New Cashback Card

Benefits

  • $200 sign-up bonus
  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases for the first year (up to $12k)
  • Up to 5% cash back on spending
  • Lyft and DoorDash perks

4. Simplicity vs. maximization

There’s a case for going with the Freedom Flex card over the Freedom Unlimited because you’ll have more opportunities to earn bonus cash back with its rotating quarterly categories. This would help you maximize the amount of rewards you can earn with the card.

However, it would require additional effort because you never know what the cashback categories will be until they’re announced right before the new quarter starts. At that point, you’d have to activate the bonus earning on your card, through your online account, or you wouldn’t earn anything extra from those categories.

With the Freedom Unlimited, your earning is more simple and straightforward. You have your bonus categories that always earn cash back at an accelerated rate and then you have your 1.5% cashback rate on all other purchases. The simplicity of the earning potential on the Freedom Unlimited offers value if you’d rather not worry about rotating categories.

So the Freedom Flex is the better option if you want to potentially earn the most cash back, but the Freedom Unlimited offers a less stressful strategy for earning. The right option for you depends on what you’re looking for.

Which card should you choose?

To find the best card for you, consider your spending habits and financial goals. Are you looking for a low-stress card to use on everything? Do you want to put in extra effort to earn the most cash back possible from your card?

Both the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Freedom Flex earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which are excellent options for travel redemptions, though, neither of these cards is technically a travel rewards card. They both also offer travel coverages and purchase protection, so there’s not much of a difference there.

You can also expect to earn valuable rewards on common purchases with either card, but it’s here where the main difference lies. If you want to put in more effort and maximize your earnings, the Freedom Flex has more cashback potential. For a low-stress cashback rewards card, the Freedom Unlimited is the favorable choice.

For example, let's calculate how much cash back you’d earn by spending $6,000 on each card in a year:

  • If you were able to completely maximize your earnings each quarter on the Freedom Flex 5% categories, you’d end up with $300 cash back ($1,500 of spending per quarter x 4 = $6,000 x 5% = $300).
  • If you spent that same $6,000 in non-bonus categories with the Freedom Unlimited, you’d earn $90 cash back ($6,000 x 1.5% = $90).

Of course, each real-life situation will be different. You may earn more with the Freedom Unlimited by making purchases in its bonus categories or you may not be able to completely maximize your earnings with the Freedom Flex.

And because both cards have the same non-rotating bonus categories, it really comes down to whether you want to worry about rotating categories. If you want the higher earning potential, go with the Freedom Flex. If you’d rather not stress about rotating categories, choose the Freedom Unlimited.

Why to get both the Freedom Unlimited and the Freedom Flex

If you can’t decide between the Freedom Unlimited and the Freedom Flex, here’s a case for getting both. You can have multiple Chase cards at the same time and these two cards would pair together nicely. With both cards, you’d be able to maximize your earning potential even more because you’d cover more categories. You could use the Freedom Flex on its rotating categories and use the Freedom Unlimited for everything else to earn its 1.5% cashback rate.

Pairing these cards makes even more sense when you’re able to combine Chase points together. Chase offers free points transfers between some of its cards, including the Freedom Unlimited and Freedom Flex, so it’s easy to earn with either card and then pool all your rewards together in your online account. This allows you to quickly stack points and make the redemptions you want.

If you want to continue maximizing your rewards, consider getting both of these cards and then adding another card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve to the group. This would create a Chase trifecta and increase your earning potential even more.

With the Sapphire Preferred, your points are worth 25% more toward travel redemptions. With the Sapphire Reserve, they’re worth 50% more toward travel redemptions. So you can earn points on any of these Chase cards and then transfer them to one of the Sapphire cards to immediately increase their value.

FAQs

Can you have both Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited?

Yes, you can have both the Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited cards at the same time. Having both cards helps you maximize your earning potential by opening up opportunities to earn bonus cash back on different types of purchases. Then, you can combine your rewards from Chase cards together in your Chase online account.

What is the Chase 5/24 rule?

The Chase 5/24 rule is an unofficial rule that concerns anyone applying for a new Chase credit card. In general, if you’ve opened five or more credit cards from any credit card issuer in the past 24 months, you’re likely to be automatically denied on any new Chase card application.

What are the Chase Freedom bonus categories?

The Chase Freedom bonus categories refers to rotating categories that offer increased cash back on a quarterly basis. This often includes many common retailers and merchants, like Walmart, Target, Amazon.com, gas stations, grocery stores, and more.

The Chase Freedom categories are available on the Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom (no longer available for applications). You must activate the rotating categories offered on your card each quarter for the bonus cash back to apply.


Unlimited Cash Back

Benefits

  • $200 sign-up bonus
  • 5% cash back grocery store purchases for the first year (up to $12k)
  • Bonus rewards on travel, dining, and drugstores
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases