Citi Double Cash® Card vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Which is for You?

CREDIT CARDS - CASH BACK CREDIT CARDS
Both the Citi Double Cash and Chase Freedom Unlimited are popular cashback credit card options, but one might be a better fit for you than the other. (Citi is a FinanceBuzz partner.)
Updated April 16, 2024
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Citi Double Cash vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited: Which is for You?

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We recommend the Chase Freedom Unlimited® because you can earn valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points, one of our favorite credit card rewards currencies for flexible redemptions.

But if you want a simple rewards rate and higher base earning potential on your eligible purchases, the Citi Double Cash® Card is a better choice.

Let’s explore our Citi Double Cash vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited Card review to see which card makes the most sense for you.

In this article

Key takeaways

  • We recommend the Chase Freedom Unlimited over the Citi Double Cash if you prefer earning travel rewards points and typically make purchases that align with the Freedom Unlimited’s bonus categories.
  • We think the Citi Double Cash is a better choice if you prefer a simple rewards rate and your everyday spending doesn’t align with the Freedom Unlimited’s bonus categories.

Citi Double Cash® Card vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Both the Citi Double Cash and Chase Freedom Unlimited are considered cashback cards because they earn cashback rewards on every eligible purchase you make with them. In fact, their excellent earning potential and redemption options make them two of the most popular cashback cards available.

The two cards are similar, but they also have many differences. This table can give you a quick side-by-side look at how the Citi Double Cash and Chase Freedom Unlimited measure up against each other:

Citi Double Cash® Card
Citi Double Cash® Card
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Card type Cash Back Cash Back
Credit card issuer Citibank Chase
Credit card network Mastercard Visa
Annual fee $0 $0
Welcome bonus Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year)
Earning rate 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases; plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24 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, plus 5% total cash back on qualifying Lyft rides
Redemption methods
  • Cash back can be redeemed for statement credits and direct deposits, checks, or converted to ThankYou points
  • ThankYou points can be redeemed for gift cards, travel, online purchases, and more
  • Cash back can be redeemed for statement credits and direct deposits, gift cards, travel, and to make purchases from participating merchants
Intro APR 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months, then 19.24% - 29.24% (Variable) 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months, then 20.49% - 29.24% Variable
Annual credits None None
Travel perks
  • Convert cash back to ThankYou points and transfer to travel partners
  • Transfer rewards to travel partners if you have an eligible Chase card
  • 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
  • Special event access with Citi Entertainment
  • Citi Identity Theft Solutions
Foreign transaction fee 3% 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
Credit needed Excellent, Good, Fair Excellent, Good
Learn more
Learn more

Note: Even though these cards are designed to earn cash back, many people use the rewards on these cards to fuel their travel experiences. This strategy can be particularly useful if you pair either card with a travel card from the same card issuer.

Using multiple cards together can help you earn more rewards and reach your redemption goals quickly, especially because both Citi and Chase allow you to combine points from multiple cards. In addition, certain cards, like the Chase Sapphire cards, can increase the travel redemption value of the points you move over from other cards.

To take advantage of this, you could pair the Citi Double Cash card with the Citi Premier® Card or the Citi Prestige® Card. With the Freedom Unlimited, you could pair with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Our verdict

Citi Double Cash benefits and drawbacks

Pros Cons
  • $0 annual fee
  • Simple rewards rate
  • Can combine rewards with other eligible Citi cards
  • 3% foreign transaction fees

The Citi Double Cash has a $0 annual fee and a simple rewards rate. You can earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases; plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24.

But the Citi Double Cash also has a welcome bonus offer where you can earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back. It charges 3% in foreign transaction fees.

Read our Citi Double Cash review.

Chase Freedom Unlimited benefits and drawbacks

Pros Cons
  • $0 annual fee
  • Has bonus categories
  • Can combine points with other eligible Chase cards
  • Has foreign transaction fees (3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars)

The Chase Freedom Unlimited has a $0 annual fee and provides bonus categories that could align with everyday spending. You can 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.

But keep in mind that you have to pay 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars if you use the Freedom Unlimited on foreign purchases, so it’s not the best card for international travel.

Read our Chase Freedom Unlimited review.

What both cards excel at

The Citi Double Cash and Chase Freedom Unlimited fall into the same cashback credit card category, so it’s natural to have a few similarities. Here are the areas where their features overlap:

  • Annual fee: If earning cash back is a top priority, you likely don’t want an annual fee taking away from your potential rewards. Because the Citi Double Cash has a $0 annual fee and the Chase Freedom Unlimited has a $0 annual fee, this isn’t a cost you have to worry about.
  • Earning cash back: Neither of these cards requires you to track rotating categories to earn bonus rewards, and there’s nothing wrong with earning cash back on every purchase you make. For many people, cash back is the best redemption option because you can then use that cash for nearly everything. Keep in mind that these cards do have different earning rates, though, which we discuss in the next section.
  • Other redemption options: Cash back is great, but having options is nice too. For example, you might want your rewards deposited into your bank account instead of receiving a statement credit. Or would you rather put your earnings toward a travel redemption, such as helping to pay for a flight or hotel stay? You get similar options with both cards.
  • Contactless payments: If you compare credit cards, you’ll see that most credit card offers provide contactless technology these days. But it’s still worth mentioning that the Citi Double Cash and Chase Freedom Unlimited also come with contactless capabilities. Having a contactless credit card can help you get through the checkout process quickly while still keeping your credit card information secure.

5 important differences between the Citi Double Cash and Chase Freedom Unlimited

1. Welcome offers

The Citi Double Cash has a welcome offer where you can earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back. 

The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers the opportunity to earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). This can also give a nice boost to your rewards, especially if the money you spend is on purchases you were already planning on making. 

Winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited because its welcome offer could be more valuable depending on your spending.

2. Earning potential

The Citi Double Cash earns 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases; plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24. This is one of the highest cashback reward rates available that isn’t tied to a specific spending category, which is helpful if you make a lot of purchases in different categories or prefer using one card for everything.

But if your typical spending categories align with the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, it can potentially offer you a better return. Earning 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 can generate more rewards if you’re spending in these categories.

If not, the Double Cash and its flat-rate earning likely makes more sense. 

Winner: Citi Double Cash Card because it's a rewards credit card with a simple cashback rate that could work for almost anyone, regardless of their spending habits.

3. Rewards programs

Chase has one of the most popular rewards programs of major card issuers with Chase Ultimate Rewards. The Chase Freedom Unlimited grants access to the Chase travel portal, where you can book flights, hotel stays, car rentals, and more. The portal makes it easy to find a wide range of flights with different airlines, and hotel stays with major brands worldwide.

The Citi Double Cash earns cash back, not Citi ThankYou Points. However, you can convert your cash back to ThankYou Points and make redemptions that are similar to what’s available with Ultimate Rewards. This includes flights, hotel stays, rental cars, cruises, and more.

Each rewards program is different, but the one you like more between Ultimate Rewards and ThankYou Points might come down to preference. Ultimate Rewards are typically considered to be quite valuable because they can be combined between multiple Chase credit cards. And on cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve, your points are worth more toward Chase Travel℠ redemptions.

Winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited because Ultimate Rewards points are often considered one of the most flexible and valuable credit card currencies available.

4. Transfer partners

If you convert your cash back to ThankYou Points on the Citi Double Cash, you have the option to transfer your points to Citi transfer partners such as JetBlue or Wyndham. With the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you only have the option to transfer points to Chase transfer partners if you also have a Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, like one of the Sapphire cards or the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card.

It’s easier to take advantage of Citi transfer partners with the Citi Double Cash because you don’t need another card to use this feature. However, you only get access to the full range of Citi transfer partners if you also have a Citi Prestige or Citi Premier. Overall, the better transfer partner program depends on which partners’ services you tend to use the most.

ThankYou Points Ultimate Rewards
Airline transfer partners Aeromexico, Air France KLM, ALL Accor Live Limitless, Avianca Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, EVA Air, JetBlue Airways, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Turkish Airlines, Virgin Atlantic Aer Lingus, Air Canada, British Airways, Emirates, Air France KLM, Iberia, JetBlue, Singapore Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic
Hotel transfer partners Accor Live LimitlessChoice Privileges, Wyndham Rewards, Hotel Leaders Club IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt

Winner: It's a tie because the better transfer partners depend on your personal travel preferences.

5. Intro APR offers

You might consider a 0% intro APR credit card for either a balance transfer or for upcoming purchases, or possibly both. But with the Citi Double Cash and the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you have to choose one feature or the other.

The Citi Double Cash offers 0% intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers (then 19.24% - 29.24% (Variable)). You will also need to pay a balance transfer fee of 3% of each balance transfer ($5 minimum) within 4 months of account opening; then 5% of each transfer ($5 minimum) after the 4 month intro period ends, which is pretty standard. 

Conversely, the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases (then 20.49% - 29.24% Variable). After the introductory APR period ends on both of these cards, your balances will be subject to the variable APR.

Winner: A tie. Neither offer is necessarily better than the other, as it depends on what your needs are. Though, both offers can help you avoid interest on different things for a specific amount of time.

Which credit card should you choose?

When you should choose Citi Double Cash

  • You want a simple rewards rate
  • You prefer earning ThankYou Points
  • You have an existing relationship with Citi

When you should choose Chase Freedom Unlimited

  • You want to earn increased rewards with bonus categories
  • You prefer earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points
  • You have an existing relationship with Chase

What factors to consider before choosing

We generally recommend the Chase Freedom Unlimited over the Citi Double Cash because we think Chase Ultimate Rewards could provide more value than ThankYou Points. We think this is especially true if you’re able to combine points across multiple Chase cards, including the Chase Freedom Flex.

But keep in mind that each situation is different. If you already have a relationship with Citibank, you might discover it could be easier to get approved for the Citi Double Cash, depending on your credit score and creditworthiness. And you might prefer redeeming ThankYou Points compared to Ultimate Rewards.

FAQs

Which is better Citi or Chase?

The better bank between Citi and Chase depends on what you’re looking for. For example, both banks offer a variety of credit card products to choose from, including cashback cards, travel cards, and some of the best business credit cards.

But certain cards from each issuer are designed for specific situations. If you frequently fly American Airlines, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® could be useful for you. But if you use Southwest more, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card from Chase might make more sense.

Is the Chase Freedom Unlimited better than a Chase Sapphire?

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is likely a better option than the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve if you’re interested in a $0 annual fee and earning cash back on everyday purchases. The Chase Sapphire cards are designed for travelers, so either one could be a good fit if you want to earn points for travel redemptions.

But it also makes sense to pair a Chase Freedom card with a Chase Sapphire card. Pairing these cards can help you earn valuable rewards in multiple categories and then you can transfer Chase Freedom points to your Sapphire. This can help you quickly reach your redemption goals because both the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve offer additional value for your points when you use them on travel redemptions.

Does Citi have a 5/24 rule?

Citi doesn’t follow the same guidelines as the Chase 5/24 rule, which means with Citi you’re not limited to opening only five credit cards, including Citi cards, in the past 24 months. Keep in mind that Citi does have an unofficial 8/65 rule, which means you can apply for only one Citi card every eight days and up to two Citi cards every 65 days.

If you’re interested in both Chase and Citi cards, it makes sense to apply for any Chase cards, like the Chase Freedom Unlimited, before applying for any Citi cards. This is because opening most credit cards from any card issuer will count toward your Chase 5/24 status.

Does Chase approve instantly?

Chase typically provides immediate decisions if you apply for a Chase credit card online. This often includes being instantly approved or a message saying your application is under review. If your application needs further review, you might have to wait seven to 10 business days for an answer about your Chase application status. In some cases it could take up to 30 days to get an answer.

Bottom line

If you’re looking to apply for a new card and you need help deciding between the Citi Double Cash vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited, consider how each card would fit into your life and align with your goals. This can help point you in the direction of which card would best suit you.

For example, the Citi Double Cash makes sense if your purchases tend to vary across different categories. But if your typical spending aligns with the Chase Freedom Unlimited’s bonus categories, your decision is made easier. This same strategy applies to how you feel about each card’s rewards program, redemption options, transfer partners, and how well they work with other Citi or Chase 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

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 a Senior Credit Cards Writer at FinanceBuzz. 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.

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