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Credit Cards

Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited: Which is the best card?

We compare the two cash-back credit cards so you can decide which is better for your needs.

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Kara Birnbaum / CNBC

The Freedom credit cards are one of Chase's signature suite of cards, consisting of the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and the Chase Freedom Flex℠. These cards are known for having no annual fee, cash-back rewards and generous welcome bonuses.

Both options are strong choices for consumers with good or excellent credit and offer robust reward rates on eligible travel, dining and drugstore purchases.

However, these cards differ when it comes to rotating reward categories and the amount of cash back you earn on everyday purchases. If you're in the market for a new card and considering Freedom, review what sets these cards apart, so you can choose the one that provides the most benefit for your spending habits.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 1.5% on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back. That's 6.5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 4.5% on dining and drugstores, and 3% on all other purchases.

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    20.49% - 29.24% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Intro fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that, either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • Member FDIC. See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Rewards can be transferred to a Chase Ultimate Rewards card
  • Generous welcome bonus

Cons

  • 3% fee charged on foreign transactions

Chase Freedom Flex℠

  • Rewards

    5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate (then 1%), 5% cash back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on drugstore purchases and on dining (including takeout and eligible delivery services), 1% cash back on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $200 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    20.49% - 29.24% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Intro fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that, either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • Member FDIC. See our methodology, terms apply. Information about the Chase Freedom Flex℠ has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Generous welcome bonus
  • Opportunity to earn up to 5% cash back in select categories upon activation
  • Rewards can be transferred to a Chase Ultimate Rewards card

Cons

  • Bonus categories must be activated each quarter
  • 3% fee charged on foreign transactions

Rewards

The Flex and Unlimited have some cash-back categories that overlap, while they differ in other areas. Both cards offer:

  • 5% cash back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal
  • 3% cash back on dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery services) and at drugstores

Flex also offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate (then 1%) and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Check out the full Chase Freedom cash-back calendar for more rewards information.

Unlimited doesn’t have rotating bonus categories and instead offers 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Pro tip: Although billed as cash-back cards, if you have another Chase-Ultimate-Rewards-earning card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can convert the cashback earned with a Freedom card into transferrable Ultimate Rewards points and potentially receive more value from your rewards.

In addition to cash-back rewards, Flex and Unlimited each offer a welcome bonus. New Flex cardholders can earn $200 cash back after spending $500 on purchases in their first three months from account opening. New Unlimited cardholders can earn an extra 1.5% on everything they buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year), which is worth up to $300 cash back. That's 6.5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 4.5% on dining and drugstores and 3% on all other purchases.

Winner: It depends how you want to each cash back. If you want a card that doesn't require activation, the Freedom Unlimited wins. Otherwise, a 5% cash-back rate on rotating categories with the Freedom Flex is quite good. Keep in mind the bonus as well. Here, the Freedom Unlimited comes out on top with a possible $100 more in cash back within your first year of having the card.

Additional perks

The Freedom Unlimited and Flex cards are backed by different networks, which means they come with slightly different suites of benefits. Freedom Unlimited has the backing of the Visa network, whereas Freedom Flex is backed by Mastercard.

Unlimited cardholders receive either a Visa Platinum or a Visa Signature card, depending on creditworthiness. These tiers offer similar benefits such as extended warranty protection, auto rental collision damage waiver, Visa shopping discounts and more.

Flex cardholders can take advantage of World Elite Mastercard perks, which provide more premium benefits, including cell phone protection. That’s in addition to extended warranty protection, auto rental collision damage waiver, Mastercard Priceless experiences and more.

Chase also provides these limited-time promotions on both cards:

  • Earn 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2025.
  • Receive a complimentary three months of DashPass, which provides free delivery and lower service fees from hundreds of restaurants on DoorDash orders of $12 or more. After that, you’re automatically enrolled in DashPass at 50% off for the next nine months, unless you cancel. (You must activate by Dec. 31, 2024.)

Winner: Flex edges out Unlimited thanks to its potentially money-saving cell phone protection benefit. This perk is uncommon among credit cards and is a great asset of this card.

Fees

The Freedom cards both have the same fee structure. Cardholders will benefit from no annual fee and a 0% intro APR for the first 15 months on new purchases and balance transfers (after, 20.49% - 29.24% variable APR). There's an intro balance transfer fee of $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater in the first 60 days. After that, the ongoing fee will be either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

These cards aren’t ideal for traveling abroad since there is a 3% foreign transaction fee. If you frequently travel outside the U.S., consider another Chase card with no foreign transaction fee like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Winner: It's a tie since both cards have the same fees.

Bottom line

The Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited are two competitive cash-back credit cards. Both cards offer a money-saving no annual fee, plus similar cash-back categories. But while these cards rank neck-and-neck, the best option for you depends on how you want to earn cash back.

Flex offers a high 5% cash-back rate that rotates each quarter upon activation, but Unlimited has a simpler cash-back program that doesn’t require you to activate bonus categories.

Extreme credit card optimizers may even want to consider opening both cards and maximizing cash-back rewards. This can be a good choice for someone who wants to earn up to 5% cash back on bonus category purchases (Flex) and 1.5% cash back on everyday purchases (Unlimited). And since both Freedom cards earn cash back in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points between other eligible Chase cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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