Chase Slate vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Which card is best for you?

Chase Slate vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

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If you’re feeling weighed down by credit card debt and are looking for a temporary reprieve from paying interest, Chase offers a number of balance transfer cards, such as the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card and the Chase Slate® card, that give you nearly a year and a half to pay down your balance interest-free.

But not all balance transfer cards are equal: Many Chase cards charge balance transfer fees as high as 5 percent, well above what balance transfer cards typically charge. Only one – the Chase Slate card – allows cardholders to skip paying a balance transfer fee altogether. Depending on how much debt you plan to transfer, the Slate card could, by far, be your best option.

A closer look

The Slate card is best known for waiving cardholders’ balance transfer fees when they apply for a balance transfer within 60 days of opening an account. It also gives cardholders 15 months to carry a transferred balance interest-free and to make new purchases without incurring additional interest. After that, the APR is a variable 16.74 to 25.49 percent. A plain vanilla card that doesn’t offer a rewards program, the Chase Slate card shines when it’s used as a serious debt-busting tool.    

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card, by contrast, is a cash back card and is best known for offering cardholders 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase. But like many rewards cards, the Freedom Unlimited card also doubles as a balance transfer card. Similar to the Slate card, it gives cardholders 15 months to take advantage of interest-free purchases and balance transfers. (after that, a variable APR of 16.74 to 25.49 percent applies). However, the card doesn’t offer a reprieve on balance transfer fees. You have to pay a 5 percent fee to transfer a balance, which can turn into a steep charge if you have a lot of debt.

Deciding between the two cards depends, in part, on how you plan to use them. If you’re planning to transfer more than $3,000, then you’ll almost certainly be better off with the Slate card. On the other hand, if you want to earn rewards and only have a couple thousand dollars in old debt, then you may want to pick the Freedom Unlimited card instead.  

 Here’s what else you should know about the two credit cards:

Chase Slate vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

  Chase Slate card
Chase Slate
Chase Freedom Unlimited card
Chase Freedom Unlimited
Rewards rate
None 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase
Sign-up bonus
None $150 when you spend $500 in the first 3 months
Annual fee
$0 $0
Estimated yearly rewards value (for someone who spends $15,900) $0 (No rewards program) $296
  • Introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • No balance transfer fee on balances transferred within 60 days of account opening
  • Free FICO score
  • Introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • Solid sign-up bonus for a no annual fee card
  • Low maintenance rewards program with a flat cash back rate
  • Can transfer cash as Chase Ultimate Rewards points to other Chase cards
  • Can redeem cash for gift cards, merchandise, experiences or travel
  • Rewards don’t expire
  • Free VantageScore
  • No rewards program
  • Regular APR is relatively high for a card that doesn’t offer rewards
  • You don’t get a rewards bonus when you book travel with Freedom card rewards
  • You can’t transfer cash back to airline or hotel partners
Who should get this card?
  • Someone who wants to transfer a large balance right away
  • Someone with a small budget
  • Someone who wants to build a better credit score
  • Someone who wants to transfer $3,000 or less
  • Someone who wants to earn rewards

Best for someone who wants to transfer a large balance right away: Chase Slate card

The Chase Slate and Chase Freedom Unlimited cards offer identical intro APR periods for balance transfers: If you transfer your balance right away, you’ll get nearly a year and a half to pay down your balance before the card’s standard rate kicks in.

But there’s a major difference between the two cards that can cost you a lot of money if you choose the Freedom Unlimited card over the Slate card. Unlike the Freedom Unlimited card, the Slate card won’t levee a balance transfer fee if you request a balance transfer within 60 days of opening your account. This can potentially save you a lot of money if you have a large amount of debt to get rid of.

The Freedom Unlimited card, by contrast, charges a 5 percent balance transfer fee, which adds up with every dollar you transfer. For example, if you transfer $5,000, you’ll owe $250 in transfer fees. If you transfer $7,000, you’ll owe $350.

Cost to transfer a $5,000 balance

Chase Slate card Chase Freedom Unlimited card
$0 if you transfer your balance within 60 days of opening your account $5,000 x 5% balance transfer fee = $250

Best for someone who wants to transfer $3,000 or less: Chase Freedom Unlimited card

The math doesn’t always work out in the Slate card’s favor, though – especially if you’re only transferring a couple thousand dollars. Unlike the Slate card, the Freedom Unlimited card offers a notable sign-up bonus that can help cancel out the card’s balance transfer fee. (And once you pay your fee, you’ll be left with a card that offers cash back on all your purchases.)

The Freedom Unlimited card offers a $150 bonus if you charge at least $500 within the first three months of opening your account. That’s equivalent to the $150 balance transfer fee you’d pay if you transferred $3,000 to your account. If you transferred less than that, you could apply part of your sign-up bonus to the transfer fee and then pocket the rest. That’s a much better deal than signing up for a plain vanilla card without rewards.

Cash back earned on $500 spend and $2,000 balance transfer

Chase Slate card Chase Freedom Unlimited card
$0 (No rewards program) ($500 x 1.5% cash back) + $150 sign-up bonus – ($2,000 x 5% balance transfer fee) = $58

Best for someone who wants to earn rewards: Chase Freedom Unlimited card

If you’re eager to earn rewards, the Freedom Unlimited card is clearly your best option. A flat-rate card that offers the same bonus across the board, the Freedom Unlimited card awards 1.5 percent cash back each time you make a purchase. Low maintenance and easy-to-use, the Freedom Unlimited card is ideal for cardholders who are too busy to bother with a complicated rewards structure, or are rewards newbies who just want simple cash back.

Even if your balance is somewhat above $3,000, you may still come out ahead with the Unlimited card – as long as you use your card fairly often and can afford to pay off your purchases in full each month. For example, if you charge $1,325 a month, you’ll earn $239 per year with the Unlimited card.

If you transfer $4,000, you’ll pay a $200 transfer fee. But you’ll also net $189 in your first year if you qualify for the card’s $150 sign up bonus and charge at least $15,900.

Annual rewards value ($1,325 monthly spend, $4,000 balance transfer)

Chase Slate card Chase Freedom Unlimited card
$0 (No rewards program) ($1,325 x 1.5% cash back) + $150 sign-up bonus – ($4,000 x 5% balance transfer fee) = $189

Best for someone on a small budget: Chase Slate card

If you have a limited budget and are trying to shave down a significant balance, the Freedom Unlimited card won’t be your best bet. When you’ve got a large amount of debt, your first priority should be to whittle it down as much as possible and avoid adding more to your balance. If you can’t afford to pay off your new purchases in full, then you probably shouldn’t use your balance transfer card, unless you have no other choice.

You may also be better off with a plain vanilla card, such as the Chase Slate, if you have a tendency to overspend on credit. Earning cash back can feel addictive and could lead you to spend more than you would otherwise. If you’re having trouble reining in your purchases, then adding another rewards card to your wallet probably isn’t a good idea. 

Best for someone who’s trying to increase their credit score: Chase Slate card

The Chase Slate card has another key benefit that makes it a great choice for people trying to take control of their finances: It offers a free FICO credit score that you can use to monitor your credit and make sure you’re keeping it on track.

The Freedom Unlimited card, on the other hand, provides access to your VantageScore through Chase’s CreditJourney. The VantageScore, however, isn’t as widely used as the FICO score and, therefore, is a less valuable benefit.

Which card should you choose?

The Slate and Freedom Unlimited cards both offer appealing benefits to those who need to transfer a balance. But in most cases, the Slate card is a better choice for cardholders with over $3,000 in debt that needs to be refinanced, while the Freedom Unlimited card is a better pick for cardholders with smaller balances.

If you have a lot of debt to transfer, but still want a rewards card, you can also pair the Freedom Unlimited card with the Slate card. This would allow you to use the Slate card to transfer your balance, while using your Freedom Unlimited card to rack up cash back on every purchase.

See related: Chase Slate vs. Chase Freedom: Which card is best?, Chase Freedom vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited: Which card is best? 

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Updated: 11-14-2018