Credit Card Showdown: Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited - Forbes

Credit Card Showdown: Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited - Forbes


Credit Card Showdown: Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited - Forbes

Posted: 17 Sep 2020 06:00 AM PDT

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Chase recently announced a brand new credit card product to their portfolio—the Chase Freedom Flex. It comes at a propitious time as consumer spending has drastically shifted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers are looking for more ways to save money, so a new cash back credit card product makes sense. But how does it fare against one of the more popular Chase credit cards, the Chase Freedom Unlimited? Here's what you need to know if you are deciding between the two.

Get Chase Freedom Flex if:

You Want to Earn Cash Back On Specific Categories

The Chase Freedom Flex provides cardholders the opportunity to earn cash back in several categories. Cardholders will earn:

  • 5% on bonus quarterly categories, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter
  • 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% on dining purchases, including take out or eligible delivery services
  • 3% on drugstore purchases
  • 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases

By maximizing the Chase quarterly categories, along with utilizing the other cash back categories, cardholders can net hundreds of dollars per year in cash back.

However, the one striking category is the 5% cash back on travel. While other cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card have a broad travel category, this card has the stipulation of spending within the Chase travel portal. This may be helpful in some situations, but not in others.

Before booking travel within the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, be sure to price check across platforms. Other third party booking services, along with direct bookings, may prove to be a better price. It would be self-defeating to save 5% when paying 10% more. Chase portal bookings, being third-party bookings, will not qualify for elite perks or earn nights towards elite status, which could mean loss of free breakfast, upgrades, late checkout and other valuable perks.

You Are Able to Maximize the Quarterly Categories

The Chase Freedom* card has been a long time fan favorite cash back credit card for its rotating quarterly categories. The same cash back potential also applies to the Chase Freedom Flex.

To earn the 5% quarterly cash back, up to $1,500, you must enroll in each quarter. You can do this in one-click on your online portal. When maximized, you can earn $300 in cash back each year.

Here are the 2020 rotating categories so far:

  • Q1: Gas stations, internet, cable & phone services and select streaming services
  • Q2: Grocery stores, gym memberships and fitness clubs and select streaming services
  • Q3: Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market
  • Q4: To be announced

Benefits like Cell Phone Protection and Trip Cancellation Are Valuable to You

The most notable difference between the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Flex is the card issuer has changed from Visa to Mastercard. While this won't affect your day to day purchases, you will earn several Mastercard World Elite benefits. The benefits include:

  • Cell Phone Insurance: Up to $800 per claim and $1,000 per year in cell phone protection. To qualify, you must pay your cell phone bill with the Chase Freedom Flex.
  • Lyft: $10 in credit for every five rides paid for with your Mastercard World Elite in a calendar month. This is automatically applied to the next ride and capped at once per month.
  • Boxed: 5% cash rewards on Boxed purchases for use on future purchases.
  • ShopRunner: Free membership to receive two-day shipping and free return shipping.
  • Fandango: Double VIP+ points for movie tickets purchased via the Fandango app or Fandango.com.

Get Chase Freedom Unlimited if:

You Want to Utilize a Intro 0% APR Offer

If you have a large purchase you need to make, a 0% APR credit card is an effective tool to earn credit card rewards without paying interest. With the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you will have 15 months of 0% APR from account opening on purchases. After the intro period, a variable APR of 14.99%–23.74% applies.

You Don't Want to Track Categories

Some consumers find tracking credit card categories to be a burden, and want a simple product to earn credit card rewards on all purchases. With the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you will earn:

  • 1.5% unlimited cash back on most purchases

However, with the new Chase Freedom Flex announcement, Chase also released enhanced spending categories for the Freedom Unlimited. The Chase Freedom Unlimited now also earns:

  • 5% on travel booked through Chase
  • 3% cash back on drugstores
  • 3% on dining out or takeout and eligible delivery services

Outside of the enhancements, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a useful go-to card for non category spending. But if you want to up your cash back earnings, consider the Citi Double Cash Card which earns 2% cash back—1% when you make the purchase and 1% when you pay it off.

You Want Easy Rewards

One of the biggest pain points of redeeming travel rewards is the complexity of some frequent flyer programs. And for consumers who value simplicity, cash back in your pocket is an easy selling point. When you earn cash back, your rewards don't expire as long as your account is open. Cash back can be redeemed in a number of ways:

  • Get cash back with a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts.
  • Link your card to your Amazon account and redeem your cash back to pay for all or part of your eligible Amazon orders at checkout.
  • Redeem cash back for a wide selection of gift cards.

Get Both Cards if:

You Want to Maximize Cash Back Earning Potential

Both cards offer the opportunity to maximize cash back potential. With rotating quarterly categories from the Chase Freedom Flex and the consistent 1.5% cash back from the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you can earn significant cash back on all purchases.

Get Neither Chase Freedom Flex nor Chase Freedom Unlimited if:

You Want to Earn Travel Rewards

While cash back credit cards are great for saving money, you are likely to obtain even more better value by earning travel rewards. When redeemed strategically, you can redeem your points and miles for thousands of dollars of travel expenses like flights and hotels. Neither the Chase Freedom Flex nor Chase Freedom Unlimited offer travel rewards for your purchases. However, both offer travel benefits like rental car insurance and trip cancellation insurance.

If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card*, you can consider the Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited to be travel rewards cards. That's because the points earned through the Freedom cards can be transferred to your Sapphire or Ink card. Ultimate Rewards on the Sapphire and Ink Preferred cards can be transferred to Chase's airline and hotel partners like United and Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio and can be redeemed through the Ultimate Rewards portal for increased value.

You Want to Earn High Value Welcome Offers

Each of the welcome offers for the Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited offer $200 bonus plus 5% cash back at grocery stores on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. for spending $500 in the first 3 months of card membership. While $200 is nothing to balk at, other credit card welcome offers deliver much higher value.

For example, the Savor® Rewards from Capital One®* new cardmembers One-time $300 cash bonus.

And if a travel credit card is better suited, the The Platinum Card® from American Express offers an intro bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points, which is easily worth over a thousand dollars when you consider the transfer partners.

Bottom Line

The showdown of these two cash back credit cards is a close one, but the newly-debuted Chase Freedom Flex edges out as a better option of the two as long as you're willing to put in a little extra effort to track spending categories. The Mastercard World Elite benefits makes the card a great tool if things go awry.

The only edge of the Chase Freedom Unlimited is the 1.5% cash back on non-category purchases. However, if you utilize the Chase quarterly categories on the Chase Freedom Flex, you will quickly be able to surpass the difference in cash back rewards.

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