Chase Freedom Unlimited® vs. Discover it® Cash Back 2024: Is One Better?

CREDIT CARDS - CASH BACK CREDIT CARDS
The Chase Freedom Unlimited or Discover it Cash Back could prove superior depending on the situation.
Updated June 13, 2024
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We recommend the Chase Freedom Unlimited® if you want a simple rewards card with fixed spending categories that earns flexible Chase Ultimate Rewards points. This card makes sense if you want a card that you can use for everything, without having to stress about little details.

But if you're more of a detail-oriented person and want to get the most out of your rewards card, consider the Discover it® Cash Back. This card offers the opportunity to earn a high cashback rate, but you have to pay attention to categories that change each quarter.

Let’s compare the Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. the Discover it Cash Back to see which card deserves a spot in your wallet.

In this article

Key takeaways

  • If you prefer a low-stress card that earns flexible cashback rewards, we recommend the Chase Freedom Unlimited. With a $0 annual fee and predictable spending categories, the Freedom Unlimited could easily become the only card you need in your wallet.
  • If you prefer earning the most rewards you can with a card, we recommend the Discover it Cash Back. It has a $0 annual fee and the potential to earn more rewards than the Freedom Unlimited because of its high cashback rate. But you can only take advantage of that rate if you focus on the changing categories each quarter.

Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Discover it Cash Back comparison

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

4.7

Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back

4.7

Card type Cash back Cash back
Credit card issuer Chase Discover
Credit card network Visa Discover
Annual fee $0 $0
Welcome offer Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.
Earning rate 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and 3% cash back on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.
Redemption methods
  • Statement credits
  • Direct deposits into eligible U.S. checking and savings accounts
  • Gift cards
  • Travel through Chase Travel
  • Shop with points at Amazon
  • Combine points with other eligible Chase credit cards
  • Chase Pay Yourself Back
  • Chase Dining
  • Apple purchases
  • Statement credits
  • Deposits to eligible checking or savings accounts
  • Gift cards
  • Pay with Cashback Bonus at select merchants (Amazon and PayPal)
  • Charitable donations
Intro APR 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases (then 20.49% - 29.24% Variable)

0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers (then 20.49% - 29.24% Variable)

0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases (then 18.24% - 28.24% Variable)

0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers (then 18.24% - 28.24% Variable)

Foreign transaction fee 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars 0%
Credit needed Excellent, Good Excellent, Good
Read full review Read full review

Our verdict

  • We recommend the Chase Freedom Unlimited if its bonus categories align with your everyday expenses and you want to earn flexible Chase points. But for earning a high amount of cash back in various rotating categories, we prefer the Discover it Cash Back.

Chase Freedom Unlimited benefits and drawbacks

Pros Cons
  • Simple rewards rate and useful bonus categories
  • $0 annual fee
  • Earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points
  • Has foreign transaction fees

Welcome offer: Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).

We like the Chase Freedom Unlimited because it has a $0 annual fee and provides 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and 3% cash back on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Even better, cash back is earned in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be redeemed for travel through the Chase travel portal. You can also combine Chase points with other eligible Chase cards, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

You do have to pay foreign transaction fees on applicable purchases with the Chase Freedom Unlimited. That makes it a poor choice for international travel.

Intro APR offers include:

  • Intro APR on purchases: 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases (then 20.49% - 29.24% Variable)
  • Intro APR on balance transfers: 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers (then 20.49% - 29.24% Variable)

Read our Chase Freedom Unlimited review.

Discover it Cash Back benefits and drawbacks

Pros Cons
  • High earning potential
  • $0 annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Rotating categories require quarterly activation and have a quarterly cash back maximum

Cashback Match® welcome offer: Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

We like the Discover it Cash Back because it has a $0 annual fee and 0% foreign transaction fees. You can also earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.

Keep in mind that you must activate the rotating bonus categories each quarter in order to receive the elevated cashback rate. You can earn the elevated cashback rate on up to $1,500 per quarter that you activate.

Intro APR offers include:

  • Intro APR on purchases: 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases (then 18.24% - 28.24% Variable)
  • Intro APR on balance transfers: 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers (then 18.24% - 28.24% Variable)

Read our Discover it Cash Back review.

What both cards excel at

  • Welcome offers: Both the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Discover it Cash Back provide generous welcome bonuses that new cardholders can earn after account opening.
  • Cashback rewards: You can earn cash back by making eligible purchases with either card.
  • Intro APR offers: Both cards provide introductory APR offers on purchases and balance transfers. Note that balance transfers typically come with balance transfer fees.
  • No annual fees: The Chase Freedom Unlimited has a $0 annual fee, and the Discover it Cash Back also has a $0 annual fee.

5 important differences between Chase Freedom Unlimited and Discover it Cash Back

Consider these differences to help compare credit cards and find the best option for you.

1. Earning potential

The Chase Freedom Unlimited provides 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and 3% cash back on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

The Discover it Cash Back allows you to earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically. Enrollment is required for the higher earning rates.

The main difference between these two rewards rates is that the Freedom Unlimited has fixed spending categories, while the Discover it Cash Back has rotating higher-earning cashback categories. Depending on the types of purchases you typically make, you could easily make a case for either card offering better earning potential.

Past Discover cashback categories have included:

  • Amazon.com and Target (October-December 2023)
  • Amazon.com and digital wallets (October-December 2022)
  • Restaurants and PayPal (July-September 2022)
  • Grocery stores, fitness clubs and gym memberships (January-March 2022)
  • Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and Target.com (October-December 2021)
  • Gas stations, wholesale clubs, and select streaming services (April-June 2021)

Winner: It’s a tie because the better rewards structure depends on your spending habits and preferences.

2. Redemption options

The Chase Freedom Unlimited provides these redemption options:

  • Statement credits
  • Direct deposits into eligible U.S. checking and savings accounts
  • Travel through Chase Travel
  • Gift cards
  • Shop with points at Amazon
  • Combine points with other eligible Chase rewards credit cards
  • Chase Pay Yourself Back
  • Chase Dining
  • Apple purchases

The Discover it Cash Back provides these redemption options:

  • Statement credits
  • Deposits to eligible checking or savings accounts
  • Gift cards
  • Charitable donations
  • Pay with Cashback Bonus at select merchants

The redemption methods are generally the same between the two cards, but the Freedom Unlimited offers more choices. It’s especially noteworthy that you can use your Chase points for travel, which isn’t an option on the Discover it Cash Back.

Winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited because it has more options.

3. Foreign transaction fees

A foreign transaction fee is a fee charged by a credit card issuer, such as Capital One, American Express, and Bank of America, when you make a purchase with a foreign merchant. These fees are commonly charged if you use your credit card to make purchases when you travel abroad.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited charges foreign transaction fees to the amount of 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars.

The Discover it Cash Back charges 0% foreign transaction fees.

Winner: Discover it Cash Back because it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

4. Card networks

Credit cards are issued by a certain card issuer, and credit card payments are processed by card networks. In some cases, the card issuer and network are the same.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited cash back card is issued by Chase and runs on the Visa network. Visa cards are accepted in over 200 countries and territories worldwide.

The Discover it Cash Back is issued by Discover and runs on the Discover network. Discover cards are accepted by 99% of U.S. merchants that accept credit cards. But the international acceptance levels aren’t quite at the same level as Visa or MasterCard.

Keep in mind that even though the Freedom Unlimited might have better international acceptance than the Discover it Cash Back, you would still have to pay foreign transaction fees with your Unlimited card.

Winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited because the Visa network has excellent global acceptance.

5. Protections and benefits

The Chase Freedom Unlimited provides:

  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Zero liability protection
  • 2/47 fraud monitoring
  • Travel and emergency assistance services

The Discover it Cash Back provides:

  • Online privacy protection
  • Free Social Security number alerts
  • $0 fraud liability guarantee
  • FICO credit score for free
  • Recurring scans of select people-search sites

The Chase Freedom Unlimited benefits are generally much more useful than what you get with the Discover it Cash Back. That’s mainly because the Discover it Cash Back doesn’t provide anything you can’t already get from other cards or services for free.

Winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited because it provides more card protections and benefits.

Which credit card should you choose?

When you should choose the Chase Freedom Unlimited

  • You already have a relationship with Chase.
  • You want to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
  • You want to combine Chase Ultimate Rewards points between multiple Chase cards.
  • You prefer fixed spending categories over rotating categories.

When you should choose the Discover it Cash Back

  • You already have a relationship with Discover.
  • You want a card with no foreign transaction fees.
  • You prefer earning a high rewards rate on rotating categories.

What factors to consider before choosing

Consider these factors as you compare the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Discover it Cash Back:

  • Rewards rates: The Chase Freedom Unlimited has fixed bonus categories, while the Discover it Cash Back has rotating categories.
  • Redemption options: The Freedom Unlimited has a few more options, including redeeming your points for travel and transfers to other eligible Chase cards.
  • Perks and benefits: Both cards provide useful intro APR offers on purchases and balance transfers.
  • Card acceptance: The Chase Freedom Unlimited uses the Visa network, while the Discover it Cash Back uses the Discover network. Visa has better worldwide acceptance.

FAQ

What’s the best Chase credit card to build credit?

The Chase Freedom Rise℠ has lower credit requirements than many other credit cards, which could help you qualify for a card and then start building your credit history through responsible usage. You typically only need a fair or bad credit score to qualify.

In addition, having a Chase checking or savings account with a balance of at least $250 will increase your chances of getting approved for Chase Freedom Rise.

Keep in mind, though, that a credit score isn’t a guarantee of acceptance, and creditworthiness is just one factor that card issuers consider.

What is a Chase Freedom card?

A member of the Chase Freedom card lineup, including:

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Has a $0 annual fee and simple rewards rate.
  • Chase Freedom Flex℠: Has a $0 annual fee and rotating bonus categories.
  • Chase Freedom Rise℠: Has a $0 annual fee and less strict credit requirements.
  • Chase Freedom Card: The original Chase Freedom card that’s no longer available for applications.

Which card is better: Chase Freedom or Discover it Cash Back?

We recommend the Chase Freedom Unlimited cash back card if you prefer a simple rewards rate with fixed spending categories. If you want to earn potentially higher rates of cash back, we recommend the Discover it Cash Back and its rotating categories.

Keep in mind that Chase also has a cash back card with rotating categories — the Chase Freedom Flex.

Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Discover it Cash Back: bottom line

We think the Chase Freedom Unlimited provides an excellent low-stress option because it has a $0 annual fee, simple rewards rate, and fixed bonus categories. If you want a one-card solution for your wallet, the Freedom Unlimited could be the right fit.

If you're more concerned about earning the most rewards possible, we prefer the Discover it Cash Back. It has a higher rewards rate and could make sense if you're ready to pay attention to its rotating categories.

For our top recommended credit card offers, check out the best cash back credit cards.

Unlimited Cash Back

4.7

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Current Offer

Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) — worth up to $300 cash back. That's 6.5% on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 4.5% on dining and drugstores, and 3% on all other purchases.

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and 3% cash back on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI® Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®, is credit cards specialist. For over a decade, he's leveraged credit card points and miles to travel the world. His expertise extends to other areas of personal finance — including loans, insurance, investing, and real estate — and you can find his insights on The Washington Post, Debt.com, Yahoo! Finance, and Fox Business.