Is The Chase Freedom Unlimited The Best Credit Card for Non-Bonused Spending?

by joeheg

Picking which credit cards to have in your wallet is like building a wall. Some cards are the larger rocks that earn bonus points and perks in major categories, such as travel or dining. Other cards are smaller rocks with specific uses, like earning large multiples for your cell phone bill or gas expenses. Then there are the small stones that have a particular use, like providing primary rental car insurance or access to special perks when visiting Disney.

Finally, you need to have mortar to hold everything together. That’s the card you use for all of your non-bonused spending. This may be where you spend the most, so it makes sense to pick a card that maximizes the number of points you’ll get. Previously, you’d have to settle to earn one point per dollar for these expenses, but not anymore. Many cards have been introduced that allow you to earn at least 2% back or more for your non-bonused spending.

Chase launched the Freedom Unlimited card in 2016, and it instantly became the best card to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards for everyday spending; some argued it was the all-around best card for non-bonused spending.

There’s been much competition from other banks in this space, so Chase improved the value of the Freedom Unlimited card by adding bonus categories. Do these changes keep Freedom Unlimited towards the top?

Chase Freedom Unlimited

You can sign up for Chase Freedom Unlimited by using our referral link. We’d appreciate it because we get a referral bonus for everyone who gets the card. Thanks!

Annual Fee

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card doesn’t charge an annual fee.

Sign Up Benefits

This card currently has a 20,000-point sign-up bonus if you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. You can redeem 20,000 points for $200 cash-back, but they are worth much more if you have a premium Chase card. We’ll get to that later.

Not Everyone Can Get The Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is subject to the Chase 5/24 rule. You will not get approved if you’ve opened five or more new card accounts in the past 24 months.

The sign-up bonus is unavailable if you previously held the card and received a new card member bonus within the last 24 months.

Spending Bonus Categories

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card earns bonus points in the following categories:

  • 5X/5% on travel purchases booked with the card using the Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
  • 3X/3% at drugstores and dining at restaurants (including take-out and delivery)
  • 1.5X/1.5% on all other expenses

Limited Time Bonuses

For a limited time, new applicants will receive 5X/5% points at gas stations and grocery stores (excluding Walmart and Target). This offer is good for the first 12 months of being a cardholder, up to a total of $12,000 spent across both categories.

Chase Freedom Unlimited cardholders also receive 5X/5% back on Lyft rides through March 31, 2025

3% Foreign Transaction Fees

The Freedom Unlimited is not a card to travel internationally with since you’ll pay a 3% fee on any charges not made in US dollars. Try to use a card that avoids these fees when traveling overseas or making charges in a foreign currency.

Travel and Purchase Protections

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card provides some travel protections for delays and cancellations, covers purchases against damage and theft, and even provides extended warranty coverages. The card also provides secondary rental car protections for rentals in the US. This isn’t the card I’d be thinking about when making those purchases, but if you need these coverages, they’re there.

Maximize Your Ultimate Rewards Points

The Freedom Unlimited earns points you can redeem for cash. But if you hold another premium Chase card, such as the Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred, you can transfer points to those cards. When doing so, you multiply the value of the points by 50% to over 200%. By booking through the Chase travel portal, you can get 1.25 to 1.5 cents per point, depending on your card.

You’ll get the best value for your points if you transfer them to one of Chase’s partners. There’s no limit on the value you can get. That’s how we stayed at the Grand Hyatt Kauai

a view of a golf course from a window

View from our balcony at the Grand Hyatt Kauai

Check out this article about how and why you should pool your Chase points into the most valuable account (you plan to keep.)

Final Thoughts

It’s important to have a credit card in your wallet that offers a good return on non-bonused spending. While the Freedom Unlimited card was already great in this category, it had some limitations. Many other cards offer bonus points for specific categories of spending, leaving the Freedom Unlimited unused in those situations.

To solve this problem, the Freedom Unlimited card added permanent multipliers for dining and drugstore purchases. This makes it an even more valuable addition to your wallet, and it could become one of your go-to cards for daily spending.

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