Home > Credit Cards > Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited? Here’s How to Choose

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[Update: Some offers mentioned below have expired. You can view the current offers from our partners here — Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited.]

Picking the perfect credit card can be tricky. Everyone is pushing their high signup bonuses and flashy benefits, and it can get a little overwhelming. However, one card that has stood the test of time is the Chase Freedom card. For years, it has been one of the most popular cash back credit cards available. Then earlier this year Chase released the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, and it has become an excellent alternative for people looking to earn cash on their purchases.

Let’s take a look at both the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited cards, to help you decide which might be the best fit for your wallet.

Chase Freedom

With the Chase Freedom card (see full review here), you will earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in rotating categories each quarter. Every three months there will be new options available for you to “activate” — meaning you have to enroll for the bonus each quarter. For example, to finish 2016, you will be able to earn 5% back at select department stores, wholesale clubs, and drug stores. Everything over the $1,500 limit, as well as purchases not included in the bonus categories, will earn 1% back.

When you sign up for the Chase Freedom card, you can receive a $150 bonus after spending $500 in the first three months. If you choose to add an authorized user to your account, you will earn another $25 bonus after they make a purchase in the same three-month period.

With this card you will receive an introductory 0% APR on both purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. Once the introductory period is over, the APR will change to a variable 14.24% to 23.24% depending on your creditworthiness. The offer could be worthwhile if you are planning to make a large purchase and want a little extra time to pay the balance.

If you have another Chase card that earns Ultimate Reward points, you will have the ability to convert your cash back into Ultimate Reward points. Those points can then be transferred to one of many hotel or airline partners.

As a cardholder you will also receive several travel and shopping protections. One of them includes price protection, which covers your purchase in case the price declines. If you do find it cheaper somewhere else in the first 90 days, you will be reimbursed for the difference.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited (see full review here) is a much simpler credit card with no annual fee. Instead of having bonus categories that require you to activate and keep track of each quarter, you will earn an unlimited 1.5% back on every purchase you make.

This card has an identical signup bonus to the original Chase Freedom card. You will receive $150 after spending $500 in the first three months and you will receive an additional $25 when you add an authorized user and they make their first purchase in the same timeframe.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited will also come with an identical introductory 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers.

How Much Can You Earn With Each Card?

When deciding between the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited cards, the first thing you should consider doing is figuring out how much cash back you would be able to earn from either card. As an example, let’s assume you typically spend $3,000 each month with your credit card. If you use a Chase Freedom card and are able to max out the bonus categories each quarter, you could earn 60,000 Ultimate Reward points or $600 cash back.

Alternatively, if you were to spend the same $3,000 per month and earn 1.5% on all purchases with the Freedom Unlimited card, you would receive 54,000 Ultimate Reward points or $540 cash back.

So with this example, you can see that the earnings potential is higher with the Chase Freedom card. But if you are not able to maximize the bonus categories on the Freedom card, then the spread will decrease and the Chase Freedom Unlimited will eventually become the more profitable option.

Which Card Is Right for You?

In the head-to-head matchup, these cards are nearly the same in every way.They both have the same, strong signup bonus. They both have a great lineup of benefits. And they both come with no annual fee. Because of that, picking which card is right for you comes down to how you want to earn cash back. The Chase Freedom grew its popularity because it offered cardholders 5% back on certain purchases. The biggest downside is that it requires you to not only keep track of the bonus categories, but also opt into them every quarter. If you are someone that doesn’t mind doing the work so that you can earn as much cash back as possible, then the Chase Freedom is a great card. However, if you are looking for something less hands-on but still want to earn more than just the standard 1% back, the Chase Freedom Unlimited might be the route to go.

No matter which path you choose, keep in mind that checking your credit before applying is an important first step. You don’t want to apply only to be rejected because your credit scores aren’t good enough for you to qualify. You can get your two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, plus a snapshot of your report details at Credit.com. With this information you can see what areas of your credit scores need improvement and track changes over time.

At publishing time, the Chase Freedom and the Chase Freedom Unlimited credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Image: AleksandarNakic

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