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Card Comparisons

Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Which card is best for you?

Summary

The Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited cards share similar names, so you may wonder if their rewards structures are the same, too. While there’s plenty of overlap, each card has unique advantages.

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The Chase Freedom Flex℠, or the Chase Freedom Unlimited®? The card names sound the same, and at a glance the rewards are similar.

Not so fast: Though the cards have a lot in common, there are a few key differences to keep in mind when deciding which is the best fit for you.

Both the Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited offer hefty sign-up bonuses, along with bonus cash back on dining and drugstore purchases, as well as travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The difference is their rewards structures: The Freedom Flex card offers 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories, while the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a flat-rate 1.5% cash back on everything.

Read on to get a rundown on the pros and cons of each card, as well as which card is best suited for you, based on your spending habits.

Chase Freedom Flex versus Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Flex
Chase Freedom Flex℠
Chase Freedom Unlimited
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Rewards rate
  • 5% rotating quarterly categories (upon enrollment, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter, then 1%)
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% cash back on dining
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 1% cash back on other purchases
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% cash back on dining
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
Sign-up bonus$200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months
  • $200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months
Annual fee$0$0
Estimated yearly rewards value ($1,325 monthly spend, including sign-up bonus)$532$405
Pros
  • No annual fee
  • High rewards rate on both specific categories year-round and on rotating categories
  • Large sign-up bonus
  • Can transfer rewards to other Chase cards
  • No annual fee
  • High general rewards rate
  • Large sign-up bonus
  • Can transfer rewards to other Chase cards
Cons
  • Requires some maintenance
  • Can be difficult to max out rotating categories (may not always align with spending)
  • Low cash back rate on general purchases
  • Not the highest rate available on general purchases
Who should get this card?
  • Rewards maximizers
  • People who want to collect Ultimate Rewards points
  • People who like cash back variety
  • People who want to earn Ultimate Rewards points without paying an annual fee
  • People who want to keep it simple
  • People who want to earn bonus cash back in both specific categories and general purchases
  • People who want to earn Ultimate Rewards points without paying an annual fee

Chase Freedom Flex overview

The Chase Freedom Flex card offers a combination of year-round and quarterly-rotating bonus cash back categories. Each quarter, you can enroll in a new bonus category from the Chase cash back calendar and earn 5% back on the first $1,500 you spend in that category (then 1% back after you reach the $1,500 threshold). Throughout the year, you’ll also get 5% back on all travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases and 1% back on all other purchases.

Upsides: The opportunity to earn bonus cash back in select categories year-round and in a variety of categories each quarter.

Downsides: The complex rewards program. To get the most out of the card, cardholders must track their spending, since the 5% rate only applies to certain categories that rotate frequently and is limited to $1,500 per quarter.

Furthermore, cardholders must log in to their Chase account and activate their rewards category by the deadline each quarter to earn the 5% rate. For example, to earn 5% cash back during the fourth quarter of 2020 (on PayPal and Walmart purchases), you must activate the category by Dec. 14, 2020.

Chase 5% cash back calendar 2020

WinterSpringSummerHoliday
January – MarchApril – JuneJuly – SeptemberOctober – December
  • Gas stations
  • Select streaming services
  • Phone, cable and internet services
  • Gym memberships
  • Fitness clubs
  • Grocery stores
  • Select streaming services
  • Amazon.com
  • Whole Foods
  • PayPal
  • Walmart

Chase Freedom Unlimited overview

Like the Freedom Flex, the Freedom Unlimited earns bonus cash back on Ultimate Rewards travel (5% back) and dining and drugstore purchases (3% back). However, instead of rotating cash back categories, the Freedom Unlimited offers 1.5% cash back on general purchases. There’s also no annual fee, and no interest on purchases for 15 months from account opening (after which a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74% applies). The card is currently offering a $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first three months.

Upsides: The Freedom Unlimited card offers a straightforward rewards program that allows cardholders to earn at least 1.5% on every purchase they make – with no earning caps or rotating categories.

Downsides: Although 1.5% cash back is a substantial amount to earn on general purchases, it’s not the highest rate out there.

Best for someone who wants a simple cash back card: Chase Freedom Unlimited

Since the Chase Freedom Unlimited card offers a generous cash back rate on general purchases, it makes for a great all-purpose cash back card. Cardholders automatically receive 1.5% cash back on general purchases, with no rotating categories and no cap on the amount of rewards they can earn. For those who don’t want to have to deal with activating rewards categories each quarter, this card is ideal.

Taking into account the card’s new bonus categories of Ultimate Rewards travel, dining and drugstore purchases, we estimate that the card carries an average rewards rate of just over 2% back based on typical consumer spending. As you can see from the table below, you stand to earn a fair amount of cash back each year by using the Chase Freedom Unlimited card for every purchase. We estimate that the average cardholder who spends around $1,325 on the card per month can earn around $326 in cash back per year.

However, if your goal is to earn the most rewards possible from your everyday spending, you have better options. Read on to see how you can maximize your rewards.

Scenario 1: Use Chase Freedom Unlimited for every purchase ($1,325 average monthly spend)

Average rewards rateEstimated points/yearCash back
2.05%32,595$326

Best for someone who wants to maximize rewards: Chase Freedom Flex

For those who have the time and know-how to manage rewards categories, the Chase Freedom Flex card offers the opportunity to earn a higher rewards rate on their spending. In addition to bonus cash back in the year-round categories of Ultimate Rewards travel, dining and drugstore purchases, cardholders receive 5% cash back in lucrative rotating categories, such as grocery stores, gas stations, online shopping and wholesale clubs.

For a cardholder who spends an average amount in the Freedom Flex’s year-round categories, we estimate that it offers a 1.68% average earning rate. This is less than the Freedom Unlimited’s 2.05% average cash back rate, but there are also the card’s rotating cash back categories to consider.

If you max out these categories each quarter, you’ll earn at least $300 in cash back per year. Combined with the card’s year-round bonus categories, that gives you an average annual total of around $466, far exceeding the amount the average user would earn with the Chase Freedom Unlimited card.

Keep in mind, however, that it may be difficult to max out every quarterly bonus category. It all comes down to how well a given category lines up with your spending and how much effort you’re willing to put into planning your purchases to maximize each category.

Scenario 2: Maximize Freedom Flex bonus categories ($1,500 quarterly spend) and spend an average amount in year-round bonus categories

Quarterly bonus cash back category earningsAverage rewards rate in year-round bonus categoriesEstimated points/yearCash back
5% back on your first $1,500 in spending = $75 per quarter ($300 per year)1.68%46,632$466

Best for someone who wants to collect Chase Ultimate Rewards points: Both

Since the Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited carry the same rewards rate on Ultimate Rewards travel, dining and drugstore purchases, you may feel like you need to choose just one of the cards. But it doesn’t have to be “either/or.” The ideal answer to “which of these cards should I get” can be: both.

You can use either card to cover Ultimate Rewards travel, dining and drugstore purchases, but to maximize your rewards earnings, use the Freedom Flex card to make purchases in the 5% cash back category and the Freedom Unlimited card to earn 1.5% back on general purchases. You can also earn $400 in sign-up bonuses within the first year by signing up for both cards and spending $500 on each within the first three months.

Even better, you can pair the Chase Freedom cards with other Chase cards. The secret sauce in this scenario is a Chase Sapphire card (either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve card), which allows point transfers from other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, including the Chase Freedom cards.

By juggling the Chase Freedom cards with a Chase Sapphire card, you can earn the highest rate on Ultimate Rewards points:

  • 5% on Ultimate Rewards travel with either Freedom card.
  • 5% on rotating quarterly categories with the Freedom Flex.
  • 3% on dining and drugstore purchases with either Freedom card.
  • 2% or 3% respectively on general travel with the Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards.
  • 1.5% on all other spending.

When it comes to travel rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are extremely valuable because of the large array of redemption options: You can redeem points for statement credits for travel purchased from outside sources, for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal (for a 25% to 50% increase in point value) or transfer points at a 1:1 rate to many of Chase’s travel partners.

The table below shows the value of combining the Chase Freedom Flex, Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Sapphire Reserve cards. By leveraging the bonus categories on each card, a cardholder who manages to max out the 5% quarterly bonus categories and spends an average amount in other categories can earn around 50,295 Ultimate Rewards points per year.

This comes to an impressive $503 in cash back. But if you transfer the points to Chase’s travel partners, you make out even better. Due to the high value of points on partners such as United and Southwest, those same Ultimate Rewards points can get you $750 to $800 more worth of airfare, or even more if you know the ins and outs of airline loyalty programs.

Scenario 3: Combine 3 Ultimate Rewards cards

Chase Freedom Flex + Chase Freedom Unlimited + Chase Sapphire ReserveAverage rewards rateEstimated points/yearSample redemptions: estimated value
  • 5% back in rotating categories (maxed out categories, with Chase Freedom)
  • 5% back on Ultimate Rewards travel (with either Freedom card)
  • 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases (with either Freedom card)
  • 1.5% back on all other purchases (with Chase Freedom Unlimited card)
2.05%50,295
  • Statement credit: $503
  • Ultimate Rewards travel (with Sapphire Reserve): $754
  • Southwest Airlines transfer: $804
  • United Airlines transfer: $764

Bottom line

The Chase Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited cards are both great cash back cards that appeal to different audiences. The Freedom Flex card is a great option for cardholders who want to maximize their rewards and the Freedom Unlimited card is a great way to go if you want to keep things simple. However, if like travel rewards and you want to get the most bang for your buck, you should really consider applying for a trio of Ultimate Rewards cards.

See related: Earn a $200 bonus with Chase Freedom cardsChase Ultimate Rewards guide: The best ways to earn and use Ultimate Rewards points

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we do receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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Credit Card Rate Report Updated: October 21st, 2020
Business
13.91%
Airline
15.50%
Cash Back
15.85%
Reward
15.75%
Student
16.12%

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