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

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.
Last updated Apr 1, 2021 | By Ben Walker
Citi Double Cash vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited: Which is for You?

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Credit card issuers like Chase and Citibank offer a wide variety of credit card products, including the popular Citi Double Cash and Chase Freedom Unlimited cashback cards. Both cards are designed to help you earn and redeem cashback rewards, but it can get confusing trying to figure out which one would be the better choice for you.

In this Citi Double Cash vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited comparison, you’ll get to consider our breakdown of the two cards and how they match up against each other.

This will help you understand how they both earn and redeem rewards, as well as how useful their benefits are. Applying this information to your own unique financial situation and goals can help you decide which card would suit you more.

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Citi Double Cash 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
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 cash back twice: 1% when you buy + 1% when you pay Earn a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months
Earning rate up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases, plus

5% cash back on 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 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months
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%
Credit needed Excellent, Good Excellent, Good
Learn how to apply Learn how to apply

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. With the Freedom Unlimited, you could pair with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve.

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. Sign-up bonuses

The Citi Double Cash rarely has a sign-up bonus, which means you won’t often get any additional rewards for meeting a minimum spend requirement as a new cardholder. However, the Chase Freedom Unlimited typically has a sign-up offer when you first sign up.

Currently, the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers $200 cash back after spending $500 in the first 3 months after account opening. This can help give you a nice boost to your rewards, especially if the money you spend is on purchases you were already planning on making. You can read our Chase Freedom Unlimited review for more details.

Unlimited Cash Back

Benefits

  • $200 sign-up bonus
  • Bonus rewards on travel, dining, and drugstores
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases

2. Earning potential

The Citi Double Cash earns up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay. This is one of the highest cashback rewards rates available that isn’t tied to a specific spending category. Whatever you purchase with the Double Cash — whether it’s at the grocery store, gas station, or takeout restaurant — can earn up to 2% cash back. This is helpful if you make a lot of purchases in different categories or just like 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% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases can generate more rewards if you’re spending in these categories.

If not, the flat-rate and unlimited up to 2% cash back on the Double Cash likely makes more sense. You can read our Citi Double Cash Card review for more details.

Earn Cash Back Twice

Citi Double Cash Card

Citi Double Cash Card

Citi Double Cash Card

Benefits

  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months
  • 2% cash back on all purchases - 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay
  • No annual fee

3. Rewards programs

Chase has one of the most popular rewards programs of major card issuers with Chase Ultimate Rewards. The Chase Freedom Unlimited technically earns cash back, not Ultimate Rewards, but you still get access to the Chase travel portal, where you can book flights, hotel stays, car rentals, and more. Because the portal is powered by Expedia, it’s easy to find a wide range of flights with different airlines and hotel stays with major brands worldwide.

Similarly, the Citi Double Cash also 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 travel redemptions.

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. 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 Chase Ink Business Preferred.

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, Citi doesn’t have any hotel transfer partners, while Chase does. 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, Avianca Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, EVA Air, InterMiles, JetBlue Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Turkish Airlines, Virgin Atlantic Aer Lingus, British Airways, Emirates, Air France KLM, Iberia, JetBlue, Singapore Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic
Hotel transfer partners None IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt

5. Intro APR

You might consider a 0% 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 on balance transfers for 18 months after account opening. You will also need to pay a balance transfer fee, which is pretty standard. Conversely, the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers 0% intro APR on new purchases for 12 months. After the introductory APR period ends on both these cards, your balances will be subject to a variable APR.

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 is better: Citi Double Cash or Chase Freedom Unlimited?

The better rewards credit card for you between the Citi Double Cash and Chase Freedom Unlimited depends on your financial goals and spending habits. If you want a low-stress cashback card that also offers flexible redemption options, consider the Citi Double Cash. If you want bonus spending categories and synergy with other Chase cards, consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Both cards earn cash back, but the way you typically spend your money can help determine which card could offer you more value. For example, let’s do a quick comparison of earning potential between both cards. Spending $500 on travel, $500 on dining, $500 at drugstores, and $500 on miscellaneous expenses would equal this much cash back on each card:

  • Citi Double Cash: You get up to 2% cash back on everything, so 2% of $2,000 equals $40.
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited: You get 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Five percent of $500 is $25. You get 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases. Three percent of $1,000 is $30. And you earn 1.5% cash back on all other purchases, which would be 1.5% of $500, or $7.50. The total is $62.50.

This example won’t apply to every situation, but it shows how the Chase Freedom Unlimited can help you earn more cash back if you typically make purchases in its bonus categories. However, there’s something to be said for how easy it is to earn an above-average cashback rate on everything with the Citi Double Cash.

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

Benefits

  • $200 sign-up bonus
  • Bonus rewards on travel, dining, and drugstores
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases