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In 2020, Chase shook up its credit card portfolio by introducing the new Freedom Flex credit card and by updating the Freedom Unlimited credit card with new bonus categories. Both cards are key players in the Ultimate Rewards universe and have remained extremely popular since their launch/refresh so this post sees me putting the two cards side by side to see how they compare.
Both the Freedom Flex (review) and the Freedom Unlimited (review) credit card are, essentially, cash back cards and both offer excellent rates of cash back across a number of key shopping categories. Both cards can also be paired with one or more of Chase’s premium credit cards to make the rewards they earn considerably more valuable – that’s a topic that I’ll discuss a little later in this post.
Who Is Eligible For These Cards?
Chase applies the 5/24 rule to credit card applications which means that, generally speaking, someone who has opened 5 or more new card accounts in the past 24 months will not be approved for a new card.
Chase Freedom Flex
The Chase Freedom Flex credit card is not available to current holders of a Freedom Flex credit card or to applicants who have received a new card member welcome offer on the card in the past 24 months.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
The Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card is not available to current holders of a Freedom Unlimited credit card or to applicants who have received a new card member welcome offer on the card in the past 24 months.
Annual Fees & Welcome Offers
The Chase Freedom Flex and the Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card do not charge an annual fee so as long as you don’t carry a balance and pay interest (something no one should be doing with a rewards credit card), these excellent cash back cards cost nothing to hold.
*Applies to the first $12,000 of spending and is not valid at Walmart or Target
Right now, both cards are offering identical welcome offers of $200 (or 20,000 points) after just $500 of spending is made on the cards in the first 3 months of card membership as well as 5% cash back (or 5 points/dollar) on up to $12,000 of grocery spending in the first year, so there’s nothing to split them here.
The Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited credit cards look very similar at a quick glance but there are a couple of key differences in their earnings rates that can make a big difference to how people perceive these cards.
As far as earning rates go, the only two differences between the two cards are as follows:
- The Freedom Flex card offers 5% cash back (5 points/dollar) on up to $1,500 of spending in categories that rotate quarterly (link to Q4 2021 quarterly categories) while the Freedom Unlimited card does not.
- The Freedom Unlimited card earns cardholders 1.5% cash back on all non bonused spending while the Freedom Flex card only offers 1% cash back on non bonused spending.
If you hold the legacy Chase Freedom card (the card the Freedom Flex credit card replaced), you will already have the ability to earn 5% cash back (5 points/dollar) on up to $1,500 of spending in the quarterly rotating categories so, unless you feel the need to have a second card that offers the same, this difference will probably not be important to you. For everyone else, this is a key difference to note.
The 1.5% cash back that the Freedom Unlimited credit card offers on non bonused spending isn’t particularly impressive on its own as there are other no annual fee cards that can beat this rate but, as I’ll discuss later, there’s a way to make the cash back earned by the Freedom Unlimited card a lot more valuable. That makes the 1.5% earning rate considerably more attractive.
The Chase Freedom Flex credit card is issued as a World Mastercard and as such it comes with a number of benefits that the Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card (a Visa card) does not.
As the comparison chart above shows, both cards offer trip interruption/cancellation cover, purchase protection, extended warranty, and secondary rental cover but, sadly, both charge foreign transaction fees (so don’t use these cards outside of the US).
As well as all of that, however, the Chase Freedom Flex credit card offers five benefits that the Freedom Unlimited card does not:
- Cell phone protection
- Lyft credits
- Boxed credits
- Shoprunner membership
- Discounts on movie tickets
Of these, the cell phone cover is probably going to be the more valuable benefit to most people (if you hold the Chase Ink Business Preferred card you’re already covered) so if this is a benefit that interests you, this may be a key factor that helps you choose between the two cards.
Earning More Valuable Rewards
Both these cards are offered as cash back credit cards and if you’re looking for a cash back credit card these are two of the best that the market currently offers.
However, not only can the points that the Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited credit cards earn be exchanged for cash back, but they can also be put to great use by anyone who happens to hold one (or more) of the following credit cards:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card (review)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card (review)
- Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card (review)
The three cards earn Chase Ultimate Rewards Points and these points can be used for a lot more than just cash back. Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to a host of airline and hotel loyalty programs (where the value extracted out of each point can be far higher than just 1 cent/point), or they can be used at 1.25 cents or 1.50 cents each when booking travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
Holders of the Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited credit cards can pool the points they earn with the Ultimate Rewards Points of their more premium Ultimate Rewards credit card(s) and then use them just as if they had been earned by the premium credit card. This increases the value of the points that the Freedom Unlimited credit card earns considerably.
I value Chase Ultimate Rewards Points at 1.5 cents each (based on the value I know I can easily get out of them with minimal effort) so pairing the Freedom Flex or Freedom Unlimited card with one of the more premium Ultimate Rewards cards effectively increases the card’s earning rates by 50%.
This is what can make the 1.5% cash back that the Freedom Unlimited offers on all non bonused spending so attractive because, assuming you hold at least one of the 3 premium Chase cards already mentioned, that 1.5% is effectively worth 2.25 cents or 2.25% cash back (according to my valuation). That’s a very impressive rate of return for a card that doesn’t charge an annual fee and it’s a rate of return that few cards can match.
First and foremost it’s important to know that you don’t have to choose between these two cards. As long as you’re eligible for both (see the eligibility paragraph towards the beginning of this post) and have a strong credit score, applying for both cards is an option that’s open to you (Chase may approve two applications in a 30 day period but I would suggest leaving a 30-day gap between applications just to be safe).
If you feel you need to choose one card over the other, your decision should probably come down to this: What do you value more, the ability to earn 1.5% cash back (potentially 1.5 Ultimate Reward Points/dollar) on all non bonused spending (Chase Freedom Unlimited) or the quarterly rotating bonus categories and the additional benefits that a World Mastercard offers (Chase Freedom Flex)? Only you know the answer to that question.
The Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited credit cards are both great cards to hold and both have their own key selling points. As no annual fee cards go, these cards offer some truly fantastic earning rates and, in the case of the Freedom Flex card, a few excellent benefits too.
Every fan of Chase Ultimate Rewards should have at least one of these credit cards in their wallet and for true die-hard fans, it’s easy to make an argument for holding both.