Chase Freedom Flex℠ vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited® review

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In a Nutshell

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Chase Freedom Unlimited® are nearly identical — but each card offers a different cash back rewards structure. If your monthly expenses vary widely, then the Chase Freedom Unlimited® could be a good fit for you. But the Chase Freedom Flex℠ wins long term if you can max out the quarterly categories, which give you a higher cash back rate.

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Chase Freedom Flex℠ vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Flex℠ Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Highest cash back rate on purchases Up to 5% Up to 5%
Ease of redeeming cash back Easy Easy
Annual fee $0 $0
Sign-up bonus $200 after spending $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening $200 after spending $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

What you need to know about each card

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Chase Freedom Unlimited® are often positioned as toe-to-toe competitors when it comes to earning cash back. One key thing they have in common — neither has an annual fee. But each offers its own way of rewarding cardholders. Here are some key ways these cards differ and how to choose which one best matches your spending habits.

Chase Freedom Flex℠: Best for rewards maximizers

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ works for people who don’t mind putting in a little work to earn more rewards. That means tracking the rotating bonus categories, activating them and aligning your purchases to those spending categories. Here’s what the card offers.

  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. That’s up to $300 in cash back per year, just in the bonus categories. Long term, that makes it easier to earn more cash back than with the Chase Freedom Flex℠.
  • The rotating bonus categories have included gas stations, wholesale clubs, ride-hailing companies, grocery stores and home improvement stores.
  • Earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 3% cash back on restaurant and drugstore purchases.
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Pay no annual fee.
  • Earn a sign-up bonus of $200 after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months of account opening, plus 5% cash back on first-year grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent, and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
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Chase Freedom Flex℠

From cardholders in the last year

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Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Best for no-fuss rewards earners

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers a simpler approach to earning rewards. The cash back structure lets you earn with little effort. Cardholders get …

  • 5% cash back on first-year grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent.
  • Earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 3% cash back on restaurant and drugstore purchases.
  • Earn 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • Earn a sign-up bonus of $200 after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
From our partner

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

From cardholders in the last year

See Details, Rates & Fees

Other things to know

Both rewards credit cards have identical redemption options: Cardholders earn cash back in the form of points that are worth 1 cent each. The simplest way to redeem your points is through Chase Ultimate Rewards for cash back, travel or gift cards. You can also use them to pay for purchases you make on Amazon.com. But the card issuer also allows you to pool points among eligible cards and maximize the value of your rewards. For example, if you combine either card with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, your points are worth 1.5 cents each when you redeem them for travel purchases through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

What to consider when applying for a cash back card

Cash back credit cards are popular because they’re fairly easy to use and understand. They typically offer straightforward rewards programs that help you earn the most flexible type of reward: Cash.

There are at least two types of cash back cards. Flat-rate cards offer one consistent rate on all purchases, while bonus category cards give you a higher cash back rate either in rotating categories (like the Chase Freedom Flex℠) or a category that doesn’t change. Cardholders can usually redeem their cash via check, direct deposit or statement credit. The Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Chase Freedom Unlimited® are unique in that cardholders earn points that can be redeemed for cash or other rewards.

But there’s no one-size-fits-all card for everyone. The best cash back credit card for you will depend on your spending habits and the card’s perks and rewards. It also depends on how much work you want to put into earning rewards. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your most frequent monthly expenses?
  • How likely are you to track bonus categories, remember to activate them if needed and align your purchases to any bonus categories?
  • Will you use the benefits the card offers?
  • Is the card missing anything you need?

Not sure either card is right for you? Consider these alternatives.

The best credit cards help you earn rewards based on how you spend. Check out these options.


About the author: Kim Porter is a writer and editor who has written for AARP the Magazine, Credit Karma, Reviewed.com, U.S. News & World Report, and more. Her favorite topics include maximizing credit… Read more.