Best Credit Cards

Is Chase Freedom Unlimited Visa a Game Changer in The Game?

Double usage of the word “game” is intentional. Last Friday I’ve mentioned a new product called Chase Freedom Unlimited Visa that should be available within the next few weeks. Update: The card is now available and it pays me commission.

Basically, it comes with a very simple earning structure: 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on all purchases. If you decide to cash out the rewards, it would amount to 1.5 % return: not bad, but not great.

Of course, the real value lies in ability to transfer to partners like Southwest, Avios, Hyatt and United, and get a potentially much better return on your points. Let’s take Southwest program. You can get roughly  1.5 cents towards “Wanna get away” fare per each Ultimate Rewards point. So, 1.5 UR points will give you approximately 2.25 cents on Southwest Airlines. That’s better than 2% you would  get with a no-annual-fee Citi Double Cash card. Read this post with analysis of Ultimate Rewards program when it comes to regular family.

But there is one problem. You still need to have a premium card like Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Plus. And those products come with a $95 annual fee. If you’ve been around my site for the last few years, you probably know that I always encourage folks to be very careful when it comes to annual fees. Of course, it doesn’t mean you should never pay them. I just hope you do the math and decide if it’s worth it.

Something I’ve seen Dan from DansDeals mention a few times to readers. He said you don’t technically need CSP or Ink Plus because as long as you have Chase Freedom or Freedom Unlimited, you can upgrade it to  CSP as needed. The annual fee of $95 on Chase Sapphire Preferred doesn’t kick in immediately, so you can always downgrade it after transferring the points to airline or hotel program. I’ve never done it, but I suppose it could work. I do caution readers not to rely on this method being available at the time you need to make a redemption.

Few things to keep in mind about new Freedom Unlimited card:

1) While earning 1.5 UR points on everything is pretty good, you will do better by buying $300 Visa gift cards at Staples.com and using them for everyday spending.

I wrote a post  Is $300 Visa Gift Card at Staples.com a Game Changer? which I recommend you read. Obviously, if you plan on buying expensive equipment, using credit card is preferable. But if you are willing to use gift cards for everyday purchases, buying Visa gift cards at Staples.com with your Chase Ink Plus is the way to go. Overall, if you want to collect Ultimate Rewards, it will be very hard to beat Chase Ink Plus/Chase Freedom combo. Adding Freedom Unlimited card will probably yield marginal benefit.

2) If you plan to stick with Chase Sapphire Preferred instead of Ink Plus, Freedom Unlimited is worth considering.

Having regular Freedom card is still a no-brainer, but adding Unlimited to the mix could make sense. You’ll have a trifecta of Freedom/CSP/Freedom Unlimited. Use the first one for 5% bonus categories, second one for dining and travel, and third one for everything else. However, I  recommend you don’t get hung up on buying regular gift cards with Chase Freedom or Ink.

As I wrote in my post last week, you can often do better by going through third-party resellers. Sure, you can buy Olive Garden gift card at Staples with Ink Plus and get 5 points per dollar OR you can buy the same gift card at 15% off through Cardpool (my link, you’ll get  $5 off your first purchase) or another store.  Amazon and gas gift cards are rare exceptions, as you can’t usually get a big discount on those.

Update: My reader Audrey has mentioned that purchases from third-party reseller CardCash code as Utility category (a fluke?), so you should be able to get 5 points per dollar when using your Chase Ink Plus.

3) If you apply for new cards regularly, you won’t be able to get Freedom Unlimited due to 5/24 Chase rule.

But you should be able to convert Chase Sapphire Preferred or another Chase Freedom to this product. I actually plan to convert my husband’s CSP to Freedom Unlimited as soon as it becomes available. I currently only apply for cards that come with a decent sign-up bonus upfront, and don’t have a 2% cash back card. So, having one that pays 1.5% will be the next best thing.

Going after sign-up bonuses will still be my core strategy for the foreseeable future. I just expect it to be less lucrative overall. But free is still free.

4) As always, I encourage you to look at other cards when it comes to everyday spending.

I put together a list of “keeper” cards and best 2-card combinations for a middle-class family. I recommend you take a look and see if perhaps going after cash back or other flexible rewards currency could be advantageous. I’ve written quite a few posts on Amex Everyday Preferred and why it’s  a game changer. While it has an annual fee, you can usually make up for it via various promos.

Getting several good cash back cards could also make a lot of sense. Read my post on US Bank Cash Plus Visa Of course, everyone’s circumstances will be different, so I can’t say what will or won’t work for you. If you love staying at Hyatts/ flying Southwest and would otherwise pay cash for those, then you will most likely do better sticking with UR cards’ combination.

5) Chase Freedom vs. Freedom Unlimited comparison will be very YMMV

That means “your mileage may vary.” If you are just starting out in the hobby and debating on which one of those two cards to get, it will heavily depend on your spending pattern. If you don’t like to buy gift cards from reselling sites, you might want to go with Chase Freedom. Those 5% categories can be quite lucrative, especially when it comes to gas and Amazon purchases. In all likelihood, you will average 2 points per dollar at the end of the year. I think for most people, original Freedom is a superior choice.

However, if you are a person who likes simplicity, then perhaps it’s better to get Unlimited version. Once again, I assume that you plan on accumulating transferrable Ultimate Rewards points and want to get Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Plus down the road. Otherwise, get a decent 2% cash back card like Citi Double Cash and call it a day. To new readers: if all of this confuses the heck out of you, feel free to email me or look at my Free consulting service page.

Readers, who is excited about Chase Freedom Unlimited?

If you found my content beneficial, look at my Support Me page  for ways you can help keep the site running. Also, please, subscribe to receive free blog updates through email and recommend me to your family and friends. You can also follow me on Twitter, like me on Facebook  and download my e-book 

 

Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

It's only fair to share...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on LinkedIn

13 thoughts on “Is Chase Freedom Unlimited Visa a Game Changer in The Game?

  1. Two thoughts on the third-party resellers:
    1) You run the risk of fraud. I recently had this happen with cards from CardCash and SaveYa, fortunately both refunded my purchase but remembering different sellers’ “warranty” periods, not to mention trying to use the card and finding it has a $0 balance, are NOT for everyone.:) HT to CardCash for refunding me past the warranty period! Also, I did learn that GiftCardZen’s cards are covered “forever”, as well as that SaveYa officially covers card value *not at all* (though they also refunded me).
    2) CardCash also gives 5x with ink. So, discount and bonus category.

  2. I agree that Chase Freedom is a totally YMMV product, even with this change. I have the current 5X card and a companion UR card. Honestly speaking, I only use it for purchases in the 5X quarterly categories. Even then, Discover has been nearly mirroring the Freedom’s categories in the past year or so and when you stack with a Discover Deal and/or the double-annual-cashback promo, Discover has usually been more lucrative to use (example – this year you get 5% back from Amazon for Q3 AND Q4). There is also the opportunity cost. Normally I am working towards some sort of signup bonus at any given moment, so it isn’t attractive to divert generic spending to the Freedom unless it is more lucrative than all other options. If I’m between signup bonuses, I’m probably picking one of my AA cards (which are 2X thanks to recurring retention bonuses), SPG Amex, Amex Everyday Preferred, or Discover. I actually think Chase is shooting themselves in the foot by forcing you to have CSP or Ink to transfer URs into miles/points. As you point out, the Amex Everyday or Everyday Preferred might be a better option for many people, especially the higher-earning Preferred if you factor in Amex Offers which can negate the AF. I don’t think the upgrade/downgrade strategy advocated by DD is reliable long-term, especially with Chase getting tighter on their practices. I could totally see them restricting how many times you could do it.

    • @Erik To be honest, over the last few years, I haven’t even been maximizing 5% categories on my Freedom or Discover. Like you, I’m so focused on new sign-up bonuses or lucrative offers (like Barclay’s 15,000 AA miles after $750 spending for 3 months), that it seems too stressful to add one extra Hobby angle. Lately, though, I started to pay more attention to 5% categories because I can always prepay expenses for the rest of the year when it comes to minimum spending. It’s getting harder for me to find lucrative sign-up bonuses, so I feel like I need to be mindful of that and save money everywhere I can.
      As far as paying $95 fee for Ink or CSP, it’s definitely not for me. I’m sure it’s worth it for many people who resell for points or are very good at maximizing every 5% opportunity. As Audrey pointed put, you can even buy third-party gift cards through Cardcash and get extra 5 points on top of the savings. But how many normal people would jump through all the hoops? I’m guessing not many.That’s why getting Amex Everyday Preferred in both spouses’ names might be preferable. Of course, you have a whole different set of challenges: making sure to hit a certain number of transactions, buying Visa gift cards in grocery stores, maximizing Amex offers etc.
      That’s why this is a YMMV situation. It’s impossible to say X card will be best for all middle-class families. It depends on what you like, and how much effort you are willing to put into maximizing everyday rewards. I’ve complied a list of “keeper” cards, and I’m pretty confident most families will find the best combination for them. Cash back cards are highly underrated in this hobby, and I’ve been trying to change that. You can always use cash for AirBnB and many times come out ahead. Using 20,000 Ultimate Rewards for one hotel night is anything but free. Of course, one thing is still a no-brainer: churning for bonuses gets you the best bang for your buck.

  3. I love my Freedom. I love having a category of purchases that are getting me 5x back. I don’t apply for enough new cards anymore to have a lot of spend that I have to commit to sign up bonuses so it’s a welcome part of my strategy.

    I’m not sure about the unlimited. With every app so precious these days, I can’t see myself wasting a new account on this card. But a downgrade option? Maybe.

    Erik, leana, Are you basically done applying to chase cards given 5/24? If you are working towards in spend a lot and not spacing aren’t you 5/24d out?

    • I’m currently working on some signup bonuses but might be done with Chase for a while. They have some “fringe” cards and some cards that I could get again, but I don’t have an immediate need for those points. When I do have a need that Chase can fulfill, I’ll try again, regardless if there is a 5/24 rule. No disrespect to anyone, but I have read so-called “rules” or “truths” from bloggers in the past…and I didn’t listen…and then had success. if Chase doesn’t want my business due to some silly rule, that’s fine since I have no shortage of offers in my mailbox from their competitors. I’m not going to wait around for their “love” while other banks that I do business with are keeping me entertained with retention bonuses and targeted offers. If you are a proven profitable customer, I think it makes sense to try and keep you in the family to increase “share of wallet” (convincing me to use your cards more than the competition).

    • @Cheapblackdad Freedom is a very good card, no question about it. I’m just not sold on paying annual fee on Ink or CSP in order to keep those points in transferrable form. Other than that, if you maximize 5% categories, there isn’t much to complain about. I would also look into US Bank Cash Plus if I were you. You are pretty diligent about getting the most “juice” out of every squeeze as far credit card rewards go, so it would be a good fit. I make no commission on it, but consider it a terrific choice. See my linked post for more on it.
      As far Chase apps go, my husband and I just got approved for Southwest cards, so we’ll be plenty busy meeting minimum spend on those. I got AA card as well. I’m thinking about trying for Chase BA Visa at the end of March, but will probably pass. The new Chase co-brand card rules (supposedly coming in April) have thrown off my strategy for the year. I’m like Erik, I’ll probably still try for one of Chase cards later this year even if this new policy materializes. If denied, I’ll just go for lesser known banks. Bank of America has some bonuses I’m thinking about: Alaska Air, Travel Rewards card (I think that’s the name) and a few others. My energy will be channeled towards accumulating cash, gift cards and travel rebates, in that order. I think there is still a lot of low-hanging fruit left, we’ll just have to work harder to get it.

  4. Pingback: How I Divided My Ultimate Rewards Stash Before Converting Chase Sapphire Preferred to Freedom Unlimited | Miles For Family

  5. Pingback: Miles and Points Recap: Chase Unlimited Link, Visa Checkout Deal on Staples, Victoria’s Secret and More! | Miles For Family

  6. Pingback: Reader’s Question: Is there a Credit Card with a Decent (ish) Sign-Up Bonus AND 0% APR on Purchases? | Miles For Family

  7. Pingback: Membership Rewards Vs. Ultimate Rewards: Which Program Is Best for a Middle-Class Family? - Miles For Family

Leave a Reply