Cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred are two of our most recommended rewards card. In this article, let’s look at two cards that have proven to be considerable contenders and complimentary to your Sapphire card – the Chase Freedom Flex vs. the Chase Freedom Unlimited.
If you’re counting the reasons why we love Chase credit cards, you won’t run out of any. We all love Chase because of its impressive line of personal and business credit cards and the offers that these cards give to their cardholders. Not to mention, all of these cards play well with the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.
However, choosing a card that works best for you out of the many options available may prove to be difficult. Because of Chase’s 5/24 rule, having a carefully planned credit card strategy for your Chase cards is a must.
The Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited may appear identical but are actually not. The similarities between these two cards zero annual fees and good sign-up bonuses. Apart from these, many features vary. Important Note: These cards are marketed as cash back cards, but you actually earn Chase points. Then, you can elect to use the points or get cash back. For that reason, I will use the earning in the form of “3x” for points earned instead of “3%” for cash back.
Points Earning Structure
When it comes to earning points, the Chase Freedom Unlimited structure is very straightforward at 1.5% cashback (or 1.5x points) on all purchases.
Both the Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited offer 3x on dining and 3x on drugstores.
At the time of writing, both cards are featuring an additional first year grocery bonus of 5x at grocery stores (excluding Target and Walmart) on up to $12k in purchases in the first year.
Starting on September 15th, both Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Freedom Flex cardholders will earn 3x on dining and 3x on drugstores. Both cards will also earn 5x on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
On the other hand, the Chase Freedom Flex is more complicated with 5% cashback (or 5x points) on your first $1,500 spent on different bonus categories (rotating), and then 1x back on everything else. The rotating categories differ per quarter. For instance, in 2019, Q1 categories included gas stations and pharmacies while Q2 included grocery stores. Because of this rotating nature, Chase Freedom Flex users have to register their card every quarter to be entitled to the 5x cashback. Don’t worry though, the registration process is relatively simple and Chase sends out notifications beforehand to make sure you’re in the loop.
The Sign-up bonuses for both the Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited are similar.
Current offer are listed here:
Redeeming points with the Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited are almost similar. The cash backs are issued through points and each point is equivalent to 1 cent each. However, you have the opportunity to get twice as much value from these points when you own rewards-earning cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Chase Ink Business Cards.
When you own any of the cards mentioned, you can transfer your points and convert them into Ultimate Rewards points. With Chase’s impressive list of transfer partners, hotels and airlines included, you can value points to up to 2 cents each. This means that your benefits don’t only lie on the cashback, but even more so on rewards.
Check out our Chase Ultimate Rewards Guide here for more details on how you can maximize your points.
When to get the Chase Freedom Unlimited
If you want a card that’s straightforward and earns more (1.5x) on every purchase you make, then the Chase Freedom Unlimited is the better choice for you. This is personally preference. I can pay insurance premiums, car repairs, and other large bills with these card and get 1.5x. This straightforward earning is easier for me than wondering what spending categories there are each quarter. This card fits budgeters as it offers flat rates and predictable features. You also don’t need to tailor your budget and spending habits to accommodate certain categories just to get the rewards you need, which could prevent you from overspending.
This card is low maintenance and won’t require you to register your card every quarter for rotating cashback features. This is definitely the card to have if you’re accustomed to sticking to a strict spending schedule, and don’t have the time to google spending categories every now and then.
When to get the Chase Freedom Flex
If you love the idea of maximizing rewards and are up to the challenge to do so, then the Chase Freedom Flex is your card. This card is great for rewards maximizers or those who are keen to squeeze out every available point from a card!
The Chase Freedom Flex shines at its 5x points for quarterly rotating categories, and this may just be what you need. What’s great with these categories is that they’re broad and can include special categories such as PayPal.
Note: One major differentiator is that the Freedom Flex is a World Mastercard. That means a few additional benefits come as a result:
- Cell phone protection: Up to $800 per claim and $1K per year against theft or damage with a $50 deductible when you pay your monthly bill with the card (max of 2 claims per year)
- Lyft credits: Get a $10 credit for every 5 Lyft rides you take in a calendar month
- Boxed Rewards: 5% back in Boxed rewards for future purchases
- Free Shoprunner Shipping
- Fandango points: Double VIP+ points for movie tickets purchased via the Fandango app or at Fandango.com
Here’s a great tip: To maximize the 5% (5x) categories, consider buying gift cards at department stores, groceries, or gas stations.
Breakdown: Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited
|Chase Freedom Flex||Chase Freedom Unlimited|
|Sign-up bonus||$200 when you spend $500 in the first 3 months + 5x on groceries up to $12k||$200 when you spend $500 in the first 3 months + 5x on groceries up to $12k|
|Base Earning||5x (up to $1,500 per quarter), for rotating categories|
1% other purchases
|1.5x cash back on all purchases|
|Extra Earning||3x dining, 3x drugstores, 5x travel (via Chase Ultimate Rewards)||3x dining, 3x drugstores, 5x travel (via Chase Ultimate Rewards)|
|Points Redemption Value||1 cent per point or up to 2 cents when you transfer to Sapphire or Ink Preferred||1 cent per point or up to 2 cents when you transfer to Sapphire or Ink Preferred|
|Foreign Transaction Fees?||Yes||Yes|
The Chase Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited both offer great value for their owners.
- No annual fee
- Maximum flexibility for cash back or free travel
- Better than average signup bonus for a no annual fee card
- Great spending category multipliers, especially 3x dining
- Great overall value when combined with a Sapphire card (or Chase Ink Business Preferred)
- Good approval odds and great relationship-builder for those without a Chase credit card
If you’re in it for the travel rewards and you really want to maximize every spend you make, make sure you have one of the more premium Ultimate Rewards cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve. These cards can maximize the spending you do on a Freedom card while also giving you no foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad. The Freedom cards do have a foreign transaction fee when used internationally.