Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Flex℠, or the Chase Freedom Unlimited®? The card names sound similar, and, at a glance, the rewards look alike, too.

But not so fast: Although these two Chase cards have a lot in common, they feature a few key differences to keep in mind when deciding which is the best fit for you.

Both the Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited offer hefty sign-up bonuses, along with bonus cash back on dining and drugstore purchases, as well as travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

The main difference is in the highlights of their rewards structures: The Freedom Flex card offers 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories, while the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a flat-rate 1.5% cash back on everything.

Read on to get a rundown of the pros and cons of each card, as well as which card is best suited for you, based on your spending habits.

Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Flex℠
Chase Freedom Flex℠
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Rewards rate
  • 5% rotating quarterly categories (upon enrollment, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter, then 1%)
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 5% cash back on Lyft purchases through March 2022
  • 3% cash back on dining
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 1% cash back on other purchases
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 5% cash back on Lyft purchases through March 2022
  • 3% cash back on dining
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 1.5% cash back on other purchases
Sign-up bonus
  • $200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months
  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year
  • $200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months
  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year
Annual fee $0 $0
Estimated ongoing yearly rewards value ($1,325 monthly spend) $493 $353
Pros
  • No annual fee
  • High rewards rate on both specific categories year-round and on rotating categories
  • Large sign-up bonus
  • Can transfer rewards to other Chase cards
  • No annual fee
  • Large sign-up bonus
  • Can transfer rewards to other Chase cards
Cons
  • Requires some maintenance
  • Can be difficult to max out rotating categories (may not always align with spending)
  • Low cash back rate on general purchases
  • Not the highest rate available on general purchases
Who should get this card?
  • Rewards maximizers
  • People who want to collect Ultimate Rewards points
  • People who like cash back variety
  • People who want to earn Ultimate Rewards points without paying an annual fee
  • People who want to keep it simple
  • People who want to earn bonus cash back in both specific categories and general purchases
  • People who want to earn Ultimate Rewards points without paying an annual fee

Chase Freedom Flex overview

The Chase Freedom Flex card offers a combination of year-round and quarterly rotating bonus cash back categories. Each quarter, you can enroll in a new bonus category from the Chase cash back calendar and earn 5% back on the first $1,500 you spend in that category (then 1% back after you reach the $1,500 threshold).

Throughout the year, you’ll also get 5% back on all travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 5% cash back on Lyft purchases through March 2022, 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases and 1% back on all other purchases.

Plus, the card is currently offering a $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first three months, as well as 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

Upsides: The opportunity to earn bonus cash back in select categories year-round and in a variety of categories each quarter.

Downsides: The complex rewards program. To get the most out of the card, cardholders must track their spending, since the 5% rate applies only to certain categories that rotate frequently and is limited to $1,500 per quarter.

Furthermore, cardholders must log in to their Chase accounts and activate their rewards category by the deadline each quarter to earn the 5% rate. For example, to earn 5% cash back during the third quarter of 2021 (on grocery stores and select streaming services), you must activate the category by Aug. 14, 2021.

Chase 5% cash back calendar 2021

Winter Spring Summer Holiday
January – March April – June July – September October – December
  • Select streaming services
  • Phone, cable and internet services
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Home improvement stores
  • Gas stations
  • Grocery stores (excluding Walmart and Target)
  • Select streaming services
TBA

Chase Freedom Unlimited overview

Like the Freedom Flex, the Freedom Unlimited earns bonus cash back on Ultimate Rewards travel (5% back) and dining and drugstore purchases (3% back), plus Lyft purchases through March 2022 (5%). However, instead of rotating cash back categories, the Freedom Unlimited offers 1.5% cash back on general purchases.

There’s also no annual fee, and no interest on purchases for 15 months from account opening (after which a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74% applies). The card is currently offering a $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first three months, as well as 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

Upsides: The Freedom Unlimited card offers a straightforward rewards program that allows cardholders to earn at least 1.5% on every purchase they make – with no earning caps or rotating categories. Additionally, you can earn 5% on grocery store purchases for the first year (on up to $12,000 spent; doesn’t include Target or Walmart groceries).

Downsides: Although 1.5% cash back is a substantial amount to earn on general purchases, it’s not the highest rate out there.

Best for someone who wants a simple cash back credit card: Chase Freedom Unlimited

Since the Chase Freedom Unlimited card offers a generous cash back rate on general purchases, it makes for a great all-purpose cash back card.

Cardholders automatically receive 1.5% cash back on general purchases, with no rotating categories and no cap on the amount of rewards they can earn. For those who don’t want to have to deal with activating rewards categories each quarter, this card is ideal.

Taking into account the card’s bonus categories of Ultimate Rewards travel, dining and drugstore purchases, we estimate that it carries an average rewards rate of just over 2.22% back based on typical consumer spending. As you can see from the table below, you stand to earn a fair amount of cash back each year by using the Chase Freedom Unlimited card for every purchase. We estimate that the average cardholder who spends around $1,325 on the card per month can earn around $353 in cash back per year.

If your goal is to earn the most rewards possible from your everyday spending, however, you have better options. Read on to see how you can maximize your rewards.

Scenario 1: Use Chase Freedom Unlimited for every purchase ($1,325 average monthly spend)

Average rewards rate Estimated cash back
2.22% $353

Best for someone who wants to maximize rewards: Chase Freedom Flex

For those who have the time and know-how to manage rewards categories, the Chase Freedom Flex card offers the opportunity to earn a higher rewards rate on their spending.

In addition to bonus cash back in the year-round categories of Ultimate Rewards travel, dining and drugstore purchases, cardholders receive 5% cash back in lucrative rotating categories, such as grocery stores, gas stations, online shopping and wholesale clubs.

For a cardholder who spends an average amount in the Freedom Flex’s year-round categories, we estimate that it offers a 1.72% average earning rate. This is less than the Freedom Unlimited’s 2.22% average cash back rate, but the card’s rotating cash back categories also need to be considered.

If you max out these categories each quarter, you’ll earn at least $300 in cash back per year. Combined with the card’s year-round bonus categories, that gives you an average annual total of around $493, far exceeding the amount the average user would earn with the Chase Freedom Unlimited card.

Keep in mind, however, that it may be difficult to max out every quarterly bonus category. It all comes down to how well a given category lines up with your spending and how much effort you’re willing to put into planning your purchases to maximize each category.

Scenario 2: Maximize Freedom Flex bonus categories ($1,500 quarterly spend) and spend an average amount in year-round bonus categories (total annual spend $15,900)

Quarterly bonus cash back category earnings Average rewards rate in year-round bonus categories Cash back
5% back on your first $1,500 in spending = $75 per quarter ($300 per year) 1.72% $493

Best for someone who wants to collect Chase Ultimate Rewards points: Both

Since the Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited carry the same rewards rate on Ultimate Rewards travel, dining and drugstore purchases, you may feel like you need to choose just one of the cards. But it doesn’t have to be “either/or.” The ideal answer to “which of these cards should I get” can be “both.”

You can use either card to cover Ultimate Rewards travel, dining and drugstore purchases, but to maximize your rewards earnings, use the Freedom Flex card to make purchases in the 5% cash back category and the Freedom Unlimited card to earn 1.5% back on general purchases.

You can also earn $400 in sign-up bonuses within the first year by signing up for both cards and spending $500 on each within the first three months.

Even better, you can pair the Chase Freedom cards with other Chase cards. The secret sauce in this scenario is a Chase Sapphire card (either the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve card), which allow points transfers from other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, including the Chase Freedom cards.

By juggling the Chase Freedom cards with a Chase Sapphire card, you can earn the highest rate on Ultimate Rewards points:

  • 10X on hotels and rental cars through Ultimate Rewards with the Sapphire Reserve
  • 5X on Ultimate Rewards travel with either Freedom card or the Sapphire Preferred and on Ultimate Rewards air travel with the Sapphire Reserve
  • 5X on rotating quarterly categories with the Freedom Flex
  • 3X on dining and drugstore purchases with either Freedom card
  • 3X on select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excludes Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs) if you have the Sapphire Preferred
  • 2X or 3X respectively on general travel with the Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards
  • 1.5X on other spending

When it comes to travel rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are extremely valuable because of the large array of redemption options: You can redeem points for statement credits for travel purchased from outside sources, for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal (for a 25% to 50% increase in point value depending which card you use) or transfer points at a 1:1 rate to many of Chase’s travel partners.

The table below shows the value of combining the Chase Freedom Flex, Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Sapphire Reserve cards. By leveraging the bonus categories on each card, a cardholder who manages to max out the 5% quarterly bonus categories and spends an average amount in other categories can earn around 52,869 Ultimate Rewards points per year.

This comes to an impressive $528 in cash back. But if you transfer the points to Chase’s travel partners, you make out even better. Due to the high value of points on partners such as United and Southwest, those same Ultimate Rewards points can get you $750 to $800 more worth of airfare, or even more if you know the ins and outs of airline loyalty programs.

Scenario 3: Combine three Ultimate Rewards cards

Chase Freedom Flex + Chase Freedom Unlimited + Chase Sapphire Reserve Average rewards rate Estimated points/year Sample redemptions: Estimated value
  • 10% back on hotels and rental cars through Ultimate Rewards (with the Sapphire Reserve)
  • 5% back in rotating categories (maxed out categories, with Chase Freedom)
  • 5% back on other Ultimate Rewards travel (with any card)
  • 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases (with either Freedom card)
  • 1.5% back on other purchases (with Chase Freedom Unlimited card)
2.31% 52,869
  • Statement credit: $528
  • Ultimate Rewards travel (with Sapphire Reserve): $792
  • Southwest Airlines transfer: $844
  • United Airlines transfer: $792

Bottom line

The Chase Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited cards are both great cash back cards that appeal to different audiences.

The Freedom Flex card is a great option for cardholders who want to maximize their rewards and the Freedom Unlimited card is a great way to go if you want to keep things simple.

If , however, you like travel rewards and you want to get the most bang for your buck, you should really consider applying for a trio of Ultimate Rewards cards.

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we do receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

Source: creditcards.com

Best credit cards for grocery shopping

Americans spend on average $4,464 in groceries every year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Shopping for groceries is one of the main weekly expenses in every American household.

That’s why the credit cards tying reward points to grocery shopping are getting more numerous and their offers are getting increasingly more competitive. In 2020 you have a whole new lineup of cards ready to reward you for the purchases you make at grocery stores.

Here are the best cards whether you like those premium rewards, are an everyday shopper, are building credit, you’d rather skip the prep and go straight to the meal or you like to buy groceries at superstores.

See related: Best cash back cards

American Express® Gold Card: Best for earning Membership Rewards points on groceries

Amex Gold gives you an unprecedented rewards rate whether you’re dining in or out. If that weren’t enough, paying at certain restaurants (see terms for qualifying merchants) after enrollment can get you up to $10 a month in statement credit. You also get up to $120 in Uber Cash every year ($10 per month) that can be applied to Uber Eats orders – a big plus for those who order their groceries through the platform.

The intro bonus of 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first six months is excellent, and there are many redemption options, including gift cards, merchandise and travel with no blackout dates.

You also get up to $100 every year in airline fee credits (offer ends Dec. 31, 2021), which you can use to pay for things like baggage fees or upgrades – and in some cases, even airline gift cards.

American Express® Gold Card should appeal to frequent ride-share users and takeout lovers alike. Cardholders enjoy $120 in Uber Cash each year, which can be used for Uber rides, Uber Eats delivery and more. Enroll by Dec. 31, 2021 and you’ll also get a complimentary Uber Eats Pass membership for 12 months, which comes with discounts and $0 delivery fees on eligible restaurant and grocery purchases.

The card charges an annual fee of $250, but if you take advantage of both the Uber Cash and the dining credit, keeping the Amex Gold card will essentially cost you $10 every year.

If you are OK with only redeeming travel directly through Amextravel.com or Amex’s airline partners to maximize the value of the Membership Rewards points you’ll earn, this is a great card for foodies and travelers.

Here’s a closer look at the features:

  • 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in the first six months
  • 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per year in purchases – 1 point thereafter
  • 4 points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide (including Uber Eats orders)
  • 3 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly through airlines or on amextravel.com
  • Up to $120 annual dining credit (up to a $10 statement credit monthly) when you pay at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris and participating Shake Shack locations (enrollment required)
  • Up to $120 in Uber Cash per year ($10 per month)
  • Up to $100 annual airline fee credit (valid through Dec 2021)
  • No foreign transaction fees

Even though it has fewer features than the Amex Gold, it gives you perhaps the highest cash back rate available on groceries, and it has a lower annual fee – $95. Plus, running errands like groceries is way easier when you get cash back on gas for the commute. Take a closer look:

  • $250 statement credit when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%
  • 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu or HBO Max
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations
  • 3% on transit purchases
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Best for earning cash back on groceries and everything else

For those who don’t want to have to choose a spending category but still want no annual fee, Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a consistent rate of at least 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

  • 5% cash back on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases
  • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
  • $200 bonus if you spend $500 in the first 3 months
  • Cash back rewards do not expire
  • No annual fee

Target REDcard™: Best for earning cash back on Target purchases

The Target Redcard has no annual fee. This, combined with its standard offer of 5% off in-store purchases applied right at the checkout counter and 5% off at Target.com with free shipping, makes it a great card for frequent Target shoppers, especially since the 5% discount is applied in perpetuity. You can also stack your discount with others available through Target’s Cartwheel app and in-store.

Though most people don’t need 120 days to return an item, you get that with this card when its extra 30 days is combined with Target’s standard 90-day return policy. The extra time could allow a greater piece of mind on those large ticket items you buy.

However, if you’re known to carry a balance, this isn’t the right card for you. The high variable APR can far outweigh the 5% discount, so pay the card off after each billing cycle.

Here’s a snapshot of all the benefits of this card: 

  • 5% off eligible Target purchases in-store and online at Target.com (except pharmacy purchases)
  • Can be used together with Target Circle and other discounts
  • Free two-day shipping on orders from Target.com with no spending minimum
  • An extra 30 days to return items on top of the standard 90-day return policy
  • Early access to special events, products and promotions
  • No annual fee

This card is great because, unlike Target’s Redcard, it offers some cash back outside of Walmart purchases, including 2% cash back at restaurants and travel and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

However, while Target’s Redcard offers its in-store 5% discount with no limit, the Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard only offers the same discount in-store for the first 12 months and you have to use Walmart’s mobile wallet on your purchases to get it.

Where this card really shines is online, especially if you do a lot of grocery pickup or delivery orders from Walmart.com.

It’s very easy to apply for and, like the Redcard, it carries no annual fee, as well as some smaller benefits you’ll see below:

  • 5% cash back on Walmart purchases online, including grocery and delivery orders
  • 5% cash back on in-store purchases in the first year when you pay using the Walmart Pay digital wallet
  • 2% cash back on restaurant and travel purchases
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • No annual fee or foreign transaction fee
  • Easily apply via text message
  • Card is automatically transferred to Walmart Pay digital wallet on approval
  • Fraud alerts and the ability to freeze your account

Comparing the best cards for grocery shopping

Card Grocery bonus Other rewards Annual fee
American Express® Gold Card 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per year in purchases – 1 point thereafter

 

  • 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in the first six months
  • 4 points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide (including Uber Eats orders)
  • 3 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly through airlines or on amextravel.com
  • Up to $120 annual dining credit (up to a $10 statement credit monthly) when you pay at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris and participating Shake Shack locations (enrollment required)
  • Up to $120 in Uber Cash per year ($10 per month)
  • Up to $100 annual airline fee credit (valid through Dec 2021)
$250
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%
  • $250 statement credit when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
  • 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu or HBO Max
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations
  • 3% on transit purchases
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
$95
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
  • $200 in online cash rewards when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days
  • 3% cash back on a category of your choice (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores or home improvements and furnishings)
  • $2,500 combined quarterly limit on 2% and 3% cash back categories
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
$0
Chase Freedom Unlimited® n/a
  • 5% cash back on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases
  • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
  • $200 bonus if you spend $500 in the first 3 months
$0
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card 2% cash back at grocery stores
  • 8% cash back on tickets through Vivid Seats (offer ends January 2022)
  • 4% cash back on dining and entertainment
  • 1% cash back on other purchases
  • $300 bonus if you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
$95
Target REDcard™ 5% discount at Target and Target.com n/a $0
Capital One® Walmart Rewards® Mastercard®
  • 5% cash back on in-store purchases for the first 12 months when using Walmart Pay
  • 5% cash back on Walmart.com purchases, including grocery pickup and delivery orders
  • 2% cash back on in-store Walmart purchases after the introductory period
  • 2% cash back on restaurant and travel purchases
  • 2% cash back on the purchase of gift cards at Walmart (online, app, Walmart Pay or in stores
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
$0

Honorable mentions

There is no shortage of credit card options that reward grocery spending, so in addition to our top picks above, consider these alternatives.

  • Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card – A no-annual-fee alternative to the Capital One Savor Card, the SavorOne offers the same 2% cash back on grocery store purchases. While it offers a slightly lower rate on dining and entertainment than the Savor card, the SavorOne is a good alternative for those wary to pay an annual fee.
  • U.S. Bank Altitude Go Card – The newly launched U.S. Bank Altitude Go Card offers a competitive rewards rate on both dining and grocery purchases – 4 points per dollar on dining and food delivery and 2 points per dollar on groceries, to be exact. It also offers 2 points per dollar on gas and streaming service purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Plus, it doesn’t charge an annual fee.
  • Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card – If you prefer to do your grocery shopping at Whole Foods, you can’t beat the rewards rate on the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card. In addition to 5% cash back on Amazon.com purchases, the card offers the same 5% rate at Whole Foods locations. You’ll also earn 2% back on restaurant, gas station and drug store purchases and 1% on everything else. You have to be a Prime member to qualify for the card, but if you spend a significant amount on Amazon orders or at Whole Foods, your rewards can help offset the cost of membership.
  • Apple Card – The Apple Card is best known for its high rewards rate on Apple purchases, but it can also be a great choice for grocery shopping. When you make a purchase via Apple Pay, the card offers 2% back on all qualifying purchases. This is on par with some of the highest flat-rate credit card offers. Just make sure your preferred grocery story accepts the mobile wallet before you work this card into your rewards strategy.

How to pick the right card for grocery shopping

For most of us, using a credit card at a grocery store simply involves taking it out in the checkout line. But if you want to up your grocery shopping game and save some serious money, here are some tips and secret strategies from credit card experts and the most seasoned shoppers we could find.

When picking the credit card you’ll use at the grocery store most experts recommend either a card with a high cash back rate that can provide a percentage off every time you shop or a tiered rewards card that offers specific rewards every time you use it for groceries.

“When you use a cash back card, it’s like having a coupon to save a certain amount off your total purchase each and every time you buy groceries. This savings isn’t limited to grocery stores – a flat-rate rewards card will apply the same cash back or miles to all of your purchases,” says Ashley Dull of CardRates.com.

However, if you’re picking a tiered rewards card with a grocery store category, they often have a limit on how much you can earn annually.

For example, American Express limits the 6% cash back rate spent at U.S. supermarkets annually on its Blue Cash Preferred Card to $6,000 in purchases (after that, it’s 1%), so be mindful of those restrictions.

Apple Card gives you cash back every day.

You also want to pick a card where rewards don’t expire, there are multiple options for redemption and you can transfer rewards between accounts. Always keep track of the terms of your credit card and compare card features vigorously before making your final selection.

How to earn the most rewards while grocery shopping

If you really want to maximize your rewards at the grocery store, stack your savings with a cash back app such as Ibotta, Fetch Rewards or Checkout 51. Your grocery store’s loyalty app is also a great way to double-dip on savings.

“By taking a few minutes to scan in your grocery receipts, a family of four can easily earn over $25 a month in rewards,” says Nermeen Ghneim of The Savvy Dollar personal finance blog.

Finally, if you’re choosing a store-branded credit card because you tend to shop at the same store all the time, make sure you pay off the balance before the billing cycle resets because store cards tend to have very high interest and fees.

“Many people know that making a habit of paying off high interest credit cards will actually have a slightly negative effect on their credit,” says Dan Gallagher, author, retired financial planner and personal finance expert at ScoreSense.com. “But some grocery credit cards are in-house credit extensions, especially the ones that are valid in-store only. The in-store-only variety does not harm your score for avoiding interest and paying balances off early, so do not fear a grocery store credit card.”

*All information about the Capital One Savor card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. 

Source: creditcards.com