Chase Freedom vs Freedom Unlimited

By Gavin | October 12, 2018

We're discussing the difference between the Chase Freedom and Freedom unlimited credit card and which might be a better card for you.

FEMA card is a workhorse of Chase Freedom

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 credit cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve. I feel like the FEMA card is a workhorse and probably earns me more ultimate reward points per year than any other Chase card that I use.

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The card has no annual fee and has a quarterly rotating bonus, which means that you'll earn five points per dollar spent on certain types of spend throughout the year, the bonus category spend is generally capped at 1500 per quarter, which would earn you 7500 bonus points per quarter or potentially thirty thousand bonus points per year.

This is the current 2017 Chase Freedom bonus calendar, you can see that we are currently wrapping up the second quarter of bonus category of grocery stores and drug stores, and starting the third quarter, bonus category of restaurants and movie theaters also non bonus, category Chargers earn one point per dollar on the Freedom cart.

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The Freedom unlimited has no annual fee of Chase Freedom

In 2016 Chase introduced the Freedom unlimited, like the regular Freedom card it has no annual fee, but instead of rotating bonus categories and has a flat 1.5 points per dollar reward structure. If you charge $100 on your card you would earn 150 points, 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 my Chase Ultimate Rewards post, so check it out for more details. If you have a premium Chase card like the Sapphire Preferred sapphire reserve or Inc business preferred card.

You unlock additional abilities on other ultra rewards earning cards, like the Chase Freedom or Freedom unlimited. This means that you can transfer bonus points to chases travel partners like airlines and hotels, and even redeem them for bookings on the travel portal.

Which card is right for you

The big question is which card is right for you, the answer is it depends the Chase Freedom card is an awesome card to pair with chases premium cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve 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 Chase 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 a 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 in deeming them via a chases travel portal. Again I won't go into detail on the process, but check out the Chase ultimate awards post for more information.

Get the regular Freedom card first and my recommendation

Honestly, I have both cards, and I recommend and use both all the time since I'm a points nerd, I try to take advantage of the categories spend on the Freedom card, but all mine on 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 now that we've covered.

My recommendation here are some general tips on maximizing your Freedom and Freedom unlimited hard, keep in mind that most of these tips will apply primarily to the regular Freedom card.

  • Keep track of the bonus categories.

  • Set a reminder to activate the bonus category every quarter.

  • Keep track of your spending.

  • Transfer points to your Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

  • Be creative with your bonus category spend.

Keep track of the bonus categories

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 wall-sized cheat sheet with me, which helps me to remember the categories and cards.

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You can download one for free from our website, I'll often rearrange the cards in my wallet as a reminder on which card to use. I generally keep my dining out card in the front of my wallet, for most of the year it's my Chase Sapphire Reserve.

However, since restaurants are the 2017 third-quarter category for the Chase Freedom Card, I'll move it to the front to remind me to use it when I'm buying lunch or dinner.

Set a reminder to activate the bonus category every quarter

Set a reminder to activate the bonus category every quarter. This is an easy one to miss but is super 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 the Chase account page.

You should also see the status of your activation on the account home page, keep in mind that you can activate the bonus after the quarter has started Chase will retroactively award you bonus points. The only catch is that you have to activate before the quarter ends, otherwise you will lose out on the bonus points.

Keep track of your spending and transfer points

Keep track of your spending. This is more applicable to the Chase Freedom Card. I use it if you need a budget or YNAB to track my daily spend, that way I can proactively monitor how much I'm spending in that bonus category per quarter. 

Transfer points to your Chase Sapphire Reserve card. If you have one I touched on this trip, in our maximizing your Chase Sapphire Reserve card post, check it out for more details.

You can increase the Redemption rate on your Freedom and Freedom unlimited points by transferring them to your reserve card. Since it has a 1.5 % Redemption rate, versus the 1.25 % rate found on most Chase cards.

Be creative with your bonus category spend

Be creative with your bonus category spend. You might think that you'll never actually spend $1,500 on groceries or drugstore purchases, and you're probably right, however, remember that you can often buy other things at these stores, like gift cards. We cover this topic in another post called earning points and cash, we have gift cards, I wouldn't abuse this tactic.

It's 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 and drugstore which has Mother's Day and Father's Day gifts, and all contributed to my category spend and bonus.

Do you have Chase Freedom or Freedom unlimited card? If so, which card do you find more useful? Please share your experience.