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Trying to decide between the Chase Freedom vs Freedom Unlimited credit card? Both are awesome credit cards with unique and valuable benefits and deserve a place in your wallet. In this post/video, we discuss the differences and share some tips on maximizing the value, particularly the Chase Freedom’s rotating categories.
Chase Freedom vs Freedom Unlimited: Which Card is Better For You?
Chase Freedom Review
The Chase Freedom is one of my most used cards and has a permanent spot in my wallet. While I love the benefits that I receive from some of my premium cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, I feel like that Freedom card is a workhorse. It probably earns me more Ultimate Rewards points per year than any other Chase card that I use.
The card has no annual fee and has a quarterly rotating bonus, which means that you’ll earn 5 points per dollar spent on certain types of spending throughout the year. The bonus category spend is generally capped at $1,500 per quarter, which would earn you 7,500 bonus points per quarter or potentially, 30,000 bonus points per year. Also, non-bonus category charges earn 1 point per dollar on the Freedom card.
Each quarter, we review the rotating bonus categories and create a free wallet-sized printable card to help remind you how to prioritize your spending habits for the quarter.
Chase Freedom Unlimited Review
In 2016, Chase introduced the Freedom Unlimited. Like the regular Freedom card, it has no annual fee. Instead of rotating bonus categories, it has a flat 1.5 points per dollar reward structure. For example, if you charge $100 on the card, you would earn 150 points.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Both cards are marketed by Chase as cash back cards, however, there is a way to make them function more like travel rewards cards. I cover this in our “Chase Ultimate Rewards 101” video/post, so check it out for more details. Basically, if you have a premium Chase card like the Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred, you unlock additional abilities on other Ultimate Rewards earning cards, like the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited. This means you can transfer points to Chase’s travel partners like airlines and hotels, or even redeem them for bookings on the travel portal.
Which card is right for me?
So, the big question is, which card is right for you? Well, the answer is: “it depends.”
The Chase Freedom card is definitely an awesome card to pair with Chase’s premium cards, like the Sapphire Reserve and Preferred card. I feel like it’s a great card for earning points quickly, especially when you take advantage of the category spend. I would recommend this card to anyone getting involved in the points hobby, especially if you already have one of the premium Chase cards.
The Freedom Unlimited card, on the other hand, is a simple no-nonsense flat-rate card. I think it’s a great card for folks that don’t want the hassle of tracking bonus categories and their spend. While the 1.5 points per dollar may seem less than other flat-rate cash back cards, keep in mind that you may be able to squeeze more value from each point by transferring them or redeeming them via Chase’s travel portal. Again, I won’t go into detail on the process, but definitely check out our “Chase Ultimate Rewards 101” video/post for more information.
Points Strategy Recommendation
I have both cards and I recommend and use them all the time. Since I am a points nerd, I’ll try to take advantage of the category spend on the Freedom card, but all my non-bonus everyday purchases typically go on the Freedom Unlimited.
If I had to recommend a strategy, I would say get the regular Freedom card first, only because you’ll probably gain more points in the short term. However, I would also consider adding the Freedom Unlimited to cover the non-bonus spend as a long-term strategy.
Tips for Maximizing Card Benefits
Now that we’ve covered my recommendation, here are some general tips on maximizing your Freedom and Freedom Unlimited card.
Keep in mind that most of these tips will apply primarily to the regular Freedom card due to its rotating bonus category.
1. Keep track of the bonus categories
Since the bonus categories change all the time, it can be difficult to remember, especially if you have other cards with rotating bonus categories. I like to carry a wallet size cheat sheet with me which helps me to remember the categories and cards.
Also, I’ll often rearrange the cards in my wallet as a reminder on which card to use. I keep my dining out card in the front of my wallet. For most of the year, it’s my Chase Sapphire Reserve. However, whenever restaurants are the quarterly category for the Freedom card, I’ll move it to the front to remind me to use it when I’m paying for a meal.
2. Set a reminder to activate the bonus category every quarter
This is an easy one to miss but is extremely important. Make sure you activate the bonus category every quarter for your Freedom card. You can do so by going directly to the activation page or through your Chase account page. You should also see the status of your activation on the account homepage.
Keep in mind that you can activate the bonus categories after the quarter has started. Chase will retroactively award you the bonus points. However, the only catch is that you have to activate before the quarter ends. Otherwise, you will lose out on your bonus points.
3. Keep track of your spending
This is obviously more applicable to the Chase Freedom card. I personally use You Need a Budget (YNAB) to track my daily spend. I can proactively monitor how much I am spending in the bonus category per quarter. For example, if I max out the grocery store category on my Chase Freedom, I may shift my grocery spending back on my normal card, the American Express Blue Cash Preferred.
4. Transfer points to your Chase Sapphire Reserve card (if you have one)
I touched on this tip in our “Maximizing Your Chase Sapphire Reserve Card” post/video, so check it out for more details. Basically, you can increase the redemption rate of your Freedom and Freedom Unlimited points by transferring them to your Reserve card since it has a 1.5 cents per point redemption rate versus the standard 1.25 cents per point rate found on most Chase cards.
5. Be creative with your bonus category spend
You might think that you’ll never actually spend $1500 on groceries or drug store purchases, and you’re probably right. However, you can often buy other things at these stores like gift cards.
While I wouldn’t abuse this tactic, it’s definitely a great way to earn the extra points on purchases you might need to make. As an example, I purchased a few gift cards in May and June from the grocery store as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifts, and all contributed to my category spend and bonus.
Do you have a Freedom or Freedom Unlimited card? If so, which card do you find more useful?
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