Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited: Which Cash Back Card is Best?

Chase has long been known for having some of the best cashback credit cards on the market – especially when you consider some of their best ones have no annual fee.

Two that come to mind are the Chase Freedom Flex and the Chase Freedom Unlimited cards. 

What can be chalelnging is picking which one is best for you because they are similar in many ways. They have the same welcome bonus, introductory offer, and neither have an annual fee.

The key difference is in how they earn reward points:

There are a few other nuanced differences but we can get to those shortly:

Table of Contents
  1. Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited Head-to-Head Comparison
    1. Chase Freedom Flex
    2. Chase Freedom Unlimited
  2. Chase Freedom Flex Rewards
    1. Travel Rewards
    2. Drugstores and Restaurant Purchases
    3. Bonus Category Cash Back
    4. Chase Freedom Flex: Cell Phone Protection
  3. Chase Freedom Unlimited Rewards
    1. Travel Rewards
    2. Drugstores and Restaurant Purchases
  4. Other Important Rewards Points Program Information
  5. Which Card Should I Go With?
    1. Who Should Get the Chase Freedom Flex
    2. Who Should Get the Chase Freedom Unlimited
    3. You Could Get Both Cards, But Don’t
  6. Summary

Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited Head-to-Head Comparison

Let’s start with a quick summary of the basic features of each card. The rewards features are what most people focus on when choosing a credit card, so we’ll start there. 

But first, let’s begin with a summary chart of each card’s features. You’ll notice that both cards are currently offering cash back bonuses upon opening. 

Chase Freedom FlexChase Freedom Unlimited
Welcome Bonus$200 after $500 in purchases in the first 3 months$200 after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months
Annual Fee$0$0
Introductory Offer0% Introductory APR for 15 months on purchases.0% Introductory APR for 15 months on purchases
Rewards5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter (must be activated), 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, and 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstores., 1% on all other purchases5% on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% at drug stores and dining, plus 1.5% cash back on all other purchases. Oh, you also get 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year

Chase Freedom Flex

Welcome Bonus: $200 after $500 in purchases in the first 3 months

Annual Fee: $0

Purchase APR: 0% Introductory APR for 15 months on purchases.

Rewards Features: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter (must be activated), 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, and 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstores., 1% on all other purchases

>> Learn more about the Chase Freedom Flex

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Unlimited CardWelcome Bonus: $200 after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months

Annual Fee: $0

Purchase APR: 0% Introductory APR for 15 months on purchases

Rewards Features: 5% on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% at drug stores and dining, plus 1.5% cash back on all other purchases. Oh, you also get 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year

>> Learn more about the Chase Freedom Unlimited

The cashback rewards program can get a little complicated at first glance but the key difference is that The Chase Freedom Flex earns a higher rate on rotating categories each quarter whereas the Chase Freedom Unlimited doesn’t have that but replaces it with a higher base rate of 1.5% on most purchases. There are still higher rates for some categories of spending, just not the need to activate on a quarterly basis.

Next, let’s go through each card’s benefits in detail, starting with detailed information on the rewards programs of each card.

Chase Freedom Flex Rewards

The Chase Freedom Flex card has several options for earning cash back rewards. For most purchases, you will earn 1% cash back with no limit on how much you can earn. 

Your rewards earnings options also include the following (as of this writing).

Travel Rewards

Both cards have great travel rewards bonuses. With the Chase Freedom Flex, you’ll earn 5% cash back on every $1 you spend on travel booked through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Program.

This includes cash back on booked:

  • Available airline tickets
  • Hotel accommodations
  • Car rentals 
  • Activities
  • Cruises

Drugstores and Restaurant Purchases

You’ll earn 3% (2% additional cash back on top of the 1% standard cash back) in rewards for every $1 spent on drugstore purchases and restaurant purchases. 

This includes fast food and dine-in restaurants, as well as take out orders from restaurants. Note that some restaurant delivery services qualify for the 3% cash back bonus as well.

However, some do not. Call Chase customer service to get details on which restaurant delivery services will qualify for the 3% restaurant cash back. 

Bonus Category Cash Back

The Chase Freedom Flex card also offers bonus categories for cash back each quarter of the year. The bonus category cash back includes 4% cash back in addition to the 1% basic cash back you earn on every purchase. 

To be eligible for the quarterly bonus cash back, you must activate the bonus cash back on your account by the designated activation deadline.

You will earn the bonus cash back on up to $1500 in combined purchases in eligible cash back categories. After you’ve reached the $1500 purchase limit in those categories, you will earn the standard 1% cash back on remaining purchases in those categories. 

This outlines the rewards program that applies to all Chase Freedom Flex cardholders. The Chase Freedom Flex card also has another benefit: Cell phone protection.

Chase Freedom Flex: Cell Phone Protection

With the Chase Freedom Flex card, you can get up to $800 per claim and $1,000 per year in cell phone protection. The protection applies to covered theft or damages.

The benefits apply to cell phones listed on your monthly cell phone bill when you pay the bill with your eligible Chase Freedom Flex card. 

You can have a maximum of two claims in a 12-month period, and there is a $50 deductible per claim. This can be a nice benefit for Chase Freedom Flex cardholders. 

Next, let’s talk about the Chase Freedom Unlimited rewards program. 

Chase Freedom Unlimited Rewards

Like the Chase Freedom Flex card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has several options for earning cash back rewards. 

Standard purchases with the Chase Freedom Unlimited card earn 1.5% cash back on every $1 spent, with no limit. 

Here is an outline of the other cash back rewards benefits currently offered for Chase Freedom Unlimited cardholders. 

Travel Rewards

You’ll earn 5% cash back on every $1 you spend on travel booked through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Program.  This includes cash back on booked:

  • Available airline tickets
  • Hotel accommodations
  • Car rentals 
  • Activities
  • Cruises

You’ll earn the traditional 1.5% cash back, plus an additional 3.5% when you book through Ultimate Rewards and use your Freedom Flex card to pay. 

Drugstores and Restaurant Purchases

You’ll earn 3% (1.5% additional cash back on top of the 1.5% standard cash back) in rewards for every $1 spent on drugstore purchases and restaurant purchases. 

This includes fast food and dine-in restaurants, as well as take out orders from restaurants. Note that some restaurant delivery services qualify for the 3% cash back bonus as well.

However, some do not. Call Chase customer service to get details on which restaurant delivery services will qualify for the 3% restaurant cash back. 

This outlines the rewards program that applies to all Chase Freedom Unlimited cardholders.

Other Important Rewards Points Program Information

Both the Chase Freedom Flex and the Chase Freedom Unlimited share the following rules regarding the expiration and losing of points:

Points earned with the Chase Freedom Flex card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited card never expire if your credit account remains open and active. 

However, you’ll immediately lose all of your points in the following situations:

  • Your account status changes from open and active
  • Your account is closed for program misuse or fraudulent activities
  • You fail to pay your card as promised
  • You file for bankruptcy
  • Other reasons as described in your card’s Terms and Conditions

If any of the above reasons apply to your situation, you will immediately lose all accumulated points. However, if your account remains active, open, and in good standing, your earned points will never expire. 

And there’s no limit on the basic cash back earnings you can receive during the year. Some other credit cards do have cash back limits; these cards don’t, with the exception of the Chase Freedom Flex bonus category limits. 

Next, let’s talk about which Chase card is best for you.

Which Card Should I Go With?

At this point you may be wondering which Chase Freedom card you should get; the Chase Freedom Flex or the Chase Freedom Unlimited

While both the Chase Freedom Flex card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited card have a lot of similar features, there are some important differences. Here are some thoughts to ponder as you decide which Chase Freedom credit card is best for you. 

Who Should Get the Chase Freedom Flex

With the Chase Freedom Flex card, you get 1% cash back on most purchases instead of the 1.5% cash back that the Chase Freedom Unlimited card offers. 

However, the Chase Freedom Flex card has the rotating quarterly bonus categories that offer 5% cash back when activated. 

If you think you’ll take full advantage of the high bonus for purchases for the rotating bonus categories each quarter, you should probably get the Chase Freedom Flex card. 

Since the categories rotate, it might be hard to determine if you’ll earn the maximum amount in bonuses until you’ve used the card for a year. 

Some quarters see restaurants and/or gas stations as a part of the bonus cash back categories. Others might see streaming services or gym memberships. 

Depending on your spending habits, you may or may not earn all available bonus dollars every quarter. But if you do, the Chase Freedom Flex card is probably the better card for you. 

Just remember that you have to go into your account and activate the bonus cash back each quarter if you want to earn the extra cash back. If you don’t physically activate the bonus categories, you won’t earn the extra cash back when spending in those categories. 

Also, the Chase Freedom Flex card offers the Cell Phone protection feature. If you’ve got several cell phone users, or you’re tough on your phone, this benefit might be worth having. 

Who Should Get the Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card doesn’t offer bonus cash back categories or cell phone protection. However, it does offer a higher cash back amount on daily spending at 1.5% instead of the 1% that the Chase Freedom Flex offers. 

There’s no need to activate anything; just spend as you normally would and earn the 1.5% cash back or more, depending on the categories you’re spending in. 

So, if you’re looking to earn the highest amount of cash back with the littlest of efforts, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card may be the better choice for you. 

It’s kind of a “set it and forget it” card that still allows you to earn a decent percentage of cash back on your credit card. 

Aside from cell phone protection and the quarterly bonus cash back option, the card offers almost identical features and benefits to the Chase Freedom Flex card, making it an attractive card to use. 

And with the extra 0.5% cash back on daily purchases, you have a chance to make up for not having bonus cash back categories to earn on. The Chase Freedom Flex card can be a simple way to earn your cash back. 

You Could Get Both Cards, But Don’t

If you’re having trouble deciding which card is best for you, you can always get both cards. There’s no annual fee on either card, so it won’t cost you anything to try them both out.

You can use the Chase Freedom Flex to earn the 5% cash back on the rotating categories when you spend in those areas and the Chase Freedom Unlimited on all other purchases. This will allow you to get the most out of each card.

Personally though, I don’t think this is necessary. You should just try to pick one and stick with it because the two cards are simply too close to justify getting both. Since Chase does limit the number of cards you can have with them, you’re better off picking just one and “saving” your Chase cards for another one, perhaps a Chase Sapphire Preferred with a juicy bonus and a 25% increase in the value of your Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Also, here’s our list of best credit card bonus offers if you want some more options.

Summary

Both the Chase Freedom Flex card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited card offer great benefits for credit card users. 

They have attractive cash back earnings programs with points that never expire as long as your account is kept in good standing. 

If you prefer simplicity in your cash back earnings, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is probably your best bet. If you can maximize earnings with the quarterly bonus categories offered by the Chase Freedom Flex, you’ll probably earn more cash back going that route.

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About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a thirty-something father of four who is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Vanguard's Blog. He has also been fortunate to have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur, and Marketplace Money.

Jim has a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Information Technology - Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. His approach to personal finance is that of an engineer, breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized easily understood concepts that you can use in your daily life.

One of his favorite tools (here's my treasure chest of tools,, everything I use) is Personal Capital, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.

He is also diversifying his investment portfolio by adding a little bit of real estate. But not rental homes, because he doesn't want a second job, it's diversified small investments in a few commercial properties and farms in Illinois, Louisiana, and California through AcreTrader.

Recently, he's invested in a few pieces of art on Masterworks too.

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