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Is the Chase Freedom Unlimited card the best no-annual-fee cash back rewards card?

Depending on how you plan to use your card…yes.

Summary

Read on to see how the Chase Freedom Unlimited card stacks up against similar no-annual-fee cash back rewards credit cards.

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Many of the offers in this post are no longer available.

If you prefer earning cash back over miles or points, a cash back rewards card should be on your radar. Even better, a cash back card that offers a generous rewards rate and doesn’t charge an annual fee.

There are currently several cards on the market that fit that criteria, including the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. Along with not charging an annual fee, the updated Freedom Unlimited card lets cardholders earn 3 percent cash back on up to $20,000 in purchases in the first year of card membership and 1.5 percent back on everything else.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Rewards rate:

  • 3% cash back on up to $20,000 in purchases in the first year
  • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases

Annual fee: $0

Estimated first year rewards value ($15,900 spend): $477

See how the Chase Freedom Unlimited card stacks up against similar no-annual-fee cash back rewards cards in the table below.

Comparing no-annual-fee cash back rewards cards

Introductory bonusRewards rateYearly rewards value ($15,900 annual spend)
Chase Freedom Unlimited®3% cash back on all purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent (This offer is no longer available on our site as of Oct. 10, 2019)1.5% cash back on all other purchases$318
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
  • $150 if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months
  • Terms apply
  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)
  • 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Terms apply
$310
Discover it® Cash BackMatches cash back at end of first year of card membership
  • Enroll every quarter to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in various categories throughout the year
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
$351
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card
  • $150 if you spend $500 in first 3 months
  • 1.8% cash back on Google Pay™ and Apple Pay® purchases for first 12 months
1.5% cash back on all other purchases$307
Chase Freedom®$150 if you spend $500 in first 3 months
  • 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories that you must activate each quarter (up to $1,500 per quarter)
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
$304
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card$200 online cash rewards if you spend $1,000 in first 90 days
  • 3% cash back on a category of choice (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvements and furnishings)
  • 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
  • $2,500 combined limit on 2% and 3% categories each quarter
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
$325
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card$150 after spending $500 in first 3 months1.5% cash back on every purchase$288
Citi® Double Cash CardNone
  • 1% cash back on every purchase you make
  • 1% additional cash back when you pay for your purchase
$318
American Express Cash Magnet® Card
  • $150 if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months
  • Terms apply
1.5% cash back on every purchase$288
Discover it® Balance TransferMatches cash back at end of first year of card membership
  • Enroll every quarter to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in various categories throughout the year
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
$351
Discover it® chromeMatches cash back at end of first year of card membership
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
$341

Which card offers the better deal?

Ultimately, deciding which of these cards is best for you depends on how you plan to use the card. For example, if you:

Want a straightforward approach to earning rewards

For those who want to earn cash back on every purchase without the hassle of dealing with rotating categories or complicated rewards structures, a flat-rate credit card is your best bet. Several cards, including the American Express Cash Magnet, Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa and Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards cards offer 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase.

The Freedom Unlimited card, though, takes it one step further. Cardholders will earn a flat rate of 3 percent cash back on all purchases in the first year of card membership, on up to $20,000 in purchases. Once the spend threshold has been met, cardholders will continue to earn 1.5 percent cash back on all other purchases.

Plan to carry a balance on your card

If you want to purchase a big-ticket item and pay it off over time, or you just plan to carry a balance on your card (though we recommend that you pay off your balance in full each month), the Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Freedom, Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards, American Express Cash Magnet and Blue Cash Everyday cards offer the longest interest-free introductory periods on purchases among these cards.

With the Freedom Unlimited and Freedom cards, you won’t be responsible for paying interest on purchases for the first 15 months of card membership. Once the introductory period is up, the variable APR on purchases will be 16.74 to 25.49 percent. The Quicksilver Cash Rewards card offers a 0-percent intro APR for purchases for 15 months as well, followed by a variable APR of 15.74 to 25.74 percent. The American Express Cash Magnet and Blue Cash Everyday cards also offer 0-percent introductory APRs on purchases for 15 months, with a regular variable APR of 14.49 to 25.49 percent.

Plan to transfer a balance

If you have a substantial amount of credit card debt, you should consider a card that lets you transfer your balance without charging you interest. The Citi Double Cash and Discover it Balance Transfer cards both offer generous, interest-free periods of 18 months for balance transfers. Once the introductory periods are over, the variable APRs are 15.49 to 25.49 percent for the Citi Double Cash card, and 13.49 to 24.49 percent for the Discover it Balance Transfer card.

Want to earn the most valuable introductory bonus

At first glance, the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card may appear to offer the most valuable sign-up bonus. The card gives you  a $200 online cash rewards bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days of membership.

That said, you have the potential to squeeze more value from the Freedom Unlimited card’s bonus. By our estimates, the average consumer who spends $15,900 each year on food, gas, clothing and general purchases can earn $477 cash back with the Freedom Unlimited card in the first year. However, if you max out the card’s 3-percent bonus rate by charging $20,000 in the first year, you can earn $600 cash back.

Transfer your Freedom Unlimited rewards to a Chase Sapphire card

You can get even more value from your Freedom Unlimited card by transferring your rewards to a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve. In fact, you can get a 25- to 50-percent bonus on your rewards when you redeem those rewards for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, depending on which card you use.

For example, if you transfer your Freedom Unlimited rewards to a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you will receive a 25-percent boost when you redeem those points through Chase’s travel portal – making each point worth 1.25 cents. If you transfer your points to a Sapphire Reserve card, you will receive a 50-percent redemption bonus through the portal – boosting the value of each point to 1.5 cents.

The bottom line

Several factors come into play when deciding which credit card best suits your lifestyle. But whether you want to earn a generous rewards rate on everyday purchases or transfer a credit card balance, a cash back rewards card can be a great fit. Also, since you won’t be charged an annual fee with any of the cards listed above, you’ll be able to test the card out without a huge financial commitment.

See related:  Chase Freedom Unlimited card offers 3 percent cash backEarn up to a $300 cash back bonus with the Freedom Unlimited card

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Credit Card Rate Report Updated: November 13th, 2019
Business
15.14%
Airline
16.97%
Cash Back
17.16%
Reward
17.01%
Student
17.23%

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