BACK

Products

Citi Double Cash Card vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Summary

We crunched the numbers for the Citi Double Cash card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited card to help you decide which one takes the prize for best cash back card.

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

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers; and please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

In the showdown between the Citi Double Cash Card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, how do you decide which card takes the prize for best cash back card?

When you compare the Citi Double Cash card’s 2 percent cash back to the Chase Freedom Unlimited’s 1.5 percent cash back, the Citi Double Cash card appears to be the clear winner.

But wait: You also need to figure in the Chase Freedom Unlimited card’s unique sign-up bonus for new cardholders – 3 percent cash back on up to $20,000 in purchases in the first year. If you max out the cap, that means you can bring home $600 in rewards in the first year alone.

Actually, our math gives the edge to the Citi Double Cash in most instances for most cardholders. But the Chase Freedom card has a secret up its sleeve: You can pair it with other Ultimate Rewards cards to optimize your points value.

Citi Double Cash vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Citi Double Cash

Citi Double Cash

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Rewards rateUp to 2% cash back:

  • 1% cash back when you make a purchase
  • 1% cash back when you pay your bill on time
  • 1.5% cash back on every purchase
Sign-up bonus
  • None
  • 3% cash back in the first year (up to $20,000 in purchases, 1.5% thereafter)
Annual fee$0$0
Average earnings over three years ($15,900 spend. Includes sign-up bonus)$318$318
Pros
  • No annual fee
  • Simple to manage
  • High general rewards rate
  • No annual fee
  • Simple to manage
  • High general rewards rate
  • Large sign-up bonus
  • Can transfer rewards to other Chase cards
  • Redeem any amount at any time
Cons
  • No bonus categories to help you maximize rewards
  • No sign-up bonus
  • Can’t transfer rewards to other cards
  • $25 minimum redemption threshold
  • Awards expire if card is not used within 12 months
  • No bonus categories to help you maximize rewards
Who should get this card?
  • People who want to keep it simple
  • People who want to use one card to earn the most cash back possible
  • People who want to pair a flat-rate card with a bonus category card
  • People who want to keep it simple
  • People who use one card for everything
  • People who want to pair a flat-rate card with a bonus category card
  • People who want to collect Ultimate Rewards points

Citi Double Cash overview

The Citi Double Cash is the original 2 percent cash back card. You get 1 percent cash back when you make a purchase and another 1 percent back when you pay your bill on time. While a few similar cards have recently entered the market, none of them beat the simplicity and ease of use of the Citi Double Cash card. The card doesn’t require you to have a bank account with Citi or to deposit your rewards into a Citi bank account – once you hit the $25 minimum redemption threshold, you can redeem your cash back as a statement credit, check, gift card or deposit into a checking or savings account.

Upsides: Simplicity and a 2 percent cash back rate that few cards can match, even cards with category bonuses. Since you earn the same rate on every purchase, you don’t have to keep track of bonus categories, nor do you have to worry about enrolling in categories each quarter.

Downsides: You have to pay your bill on time to earn the full 2 percent rate (but is that a really a downside? Or a good incentive to pay your bill?). You can’t redeem your cash back until you hit the $25 redemption threshold, though it’s a pretty reasonable threshold. Since you can’t transfer your rewards to other cards, you can’t maximize your rewards value – you always earn 2 cents on every dollar.

Chase Freedom Unlimited overview

Like the Citi Double Cash card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card is a flat-rate cash back card that offers the same percent of cash back on all your spending, but at a slightly less impressive rate: 1.5 percent, to be exact. Unlike the Citi Double Cash card, the card includes an introductory offer of 3 percent cash back on up to $20,000 in purchases in the first year. This can be a very lucrative bonus for heavy spenders, adding significant value to the card for the first year of ownership. Probably its best feature, the Freedom Unlimited card earns Ultimate Rewards points, which you can transfer to certain Chase cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, and redeem for travel rewards to get better point values.

Upsides: Simplicity and ease of redemption – you earn the same cash back rate on every purchase, and you can redeem any number of points at any time for a variety of options, including cash back, gift cards, travel and Amazon.com merchandise. The card’s bonus makes it very valuable in the first year. Also, the ability to transfer points to other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards means you can get more than 1 cent of value out of each point.

Downsides:Since the card doesn’t offer any category bonuses, you can’t use it to earn extra cash back in categories where you spend heavily.

Best for first year cardholders: The Chase Freedom Unlimited card

Thanks to its unique introductory offer, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is by far the best card for new cardholders. As you can see from the chart below, the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers close to $480 in cash back to the average user in the first year – that’s more than $100 more than the Citi Double Cash card, despite the Double Cash card’s higher cash back rate.

Average cash back in first year ($15,900 spend)

Citi Double CashChase Freedom Unlimited
2% x $15,900 = $3183% x $15,900 = $477

If you can afford to max out the $20,000 spend limit on the Chase Freedom Unlimited card’s bonus, you can earn up to $600 in the first year.

Best for third year cardholders: The Citi Double Cash Card

However, it pays to stick with the Citi Double Cash card in the long haul. As you can see from the table below, it doesn’t take long for the higher cash back rate on the Citi Double Cash card to catch up. After the third year of rewards, the earning on the Double Cash Card catches up to the Freedom Unlimited, despite the Freedom card’s higher rate in the first year:

Rewards value halfway through year two ($15,900 yearly spend)

Citi Double Cash Chase Freedom Unlimited
3 years x (2% x $15,900) = $954(1 year x (3% x $15,900)) + (2 years x (1.5% x $15,900)) = $954

After the third year, the bonus on the Freedom Unlimited won’t be enough to put its earnings on par with the Double Cash card.

Best for pairing with most back cards: The Citi Double Cash card

The Citi Double Cash card isn’t just a great standalone card. It also works well as a companion to a card with category bonuses.

In the table below, we’ve paired it with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express – a great grocery card that earns 6 percent cash back on U.S. supermarket purchases (on up to $6,000 in purchases annually, then 1%) and select U.S. streaming services and 3 percent on transit and U.S. gas station purchases. If you use the Blue Cash Preferred card for your U.S. supermarket, streaming services, transit and gas station purchases and swap in the Citi Double Cash card to earn 2 percent on the rest of your purchases, you can seriously boost your cash back rate.

We estimate that the average cardholder can earn a rewards rate of 3.19 percent per year with the two cards combined, for an average of $412 cash back minus the Blue Cash Preferred card’s $95 annual fee. That’s $94 more than the value of the Citi Double Cash card on its own.

Scenario: Pair Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express with Citi Double Cash
($15,900 yearly spend)

Average rewards rateCash back earnedTotal minus annual fee
  • 6% U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases annually, then 1%) (Blue Cash Preferred card)
  • 6% select U.S. streaming services (Blue Cash Preferred card)
  • 3% transit and U.S. gas stations (Blue Cash Preferred card)
  • 2% other purchases (Citi Double Cash card)
3.9%$507$412

Best for pairing with Chase Cards: The Chase Freedom Unlimited card

That said, if you’re looking for the highest rewards value, your best option is to pair the Chase Freedom Unlimited card with other cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are some of the most valuable and versatile rewards points. You can transfer them to certain Ultimate Rewards cards – such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards – where you have a plethora of options to redeem your points for travel rewards. You can redeem them for statement credits at a value of 1 cent per point, redeem them for travel through the Chase Ultimate rewards portal to earn a 25 to 50 points bonus, or transfer them to one of Chase’s many travel partners to get even higher point values.

Our table below shows the value of combining the Chase Freedom Unlimited card with the Chase Freedom and Chase Sapphire Reserve card. The combined bonus categories push the rewards rate for the average cardholder to 1.6 percent. When you transfer the points that you earn on $15,900 of spending to an airline partner such as Singapore Airlines, it’s possible to get values of $600 or more on those points:

Scenario: Combine 3 Ultimate Rewards cards ($15,900 yearly spend)

Average rewards rateEstimated points/yearSample redemptions: estimated value
  • 5% rotating categories: gas stations, transportation, restaurants, wholesale clubs, departments stores, drug stores (Chase Freedom card)
  • 3% travel & dining (Chase Sapphire Reserve card)
  • 1.5% other purchases (Chase Freedom Unlimited card)
1.6%25,440
  • Statement credit: $254
  • Ultimate Rewards travel: $382
  • Singapore Airlines transfer: $600
  • Southwest Airlines transfer: $399
  • United Airlines transfer: $387

Overall, the Citi Double Cash card pretty much rules the cash back category, both as a standalone card and card for pairing with bonus category cards.

See related: Discover it vs. Discover it chrome: Which card is best for you?, Capital One Venture vs. VentureOne: Which card is best for you?

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

What’s up next?

In Products

Chase Slate vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

If you want to transfer a credit card balance, the Chase Slate card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited card both offer appealing benefits. See which card comes out on top when compared side by side.

Published: April 5, 2019

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report Updated: July 10th, 2019
Business
15.61%
Airline
17.59%
Cash Back
17.68%
Reward
17.58%
Student
17.79%

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more

Join the Discussion

We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

The editorial content on CreditCards.com is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company’s business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.