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Since its launch in 2016, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® has offered cardholders a straight-forward earning structure: 1.5% cashback on all purchases. That has made the card a go-to for everyday purchases.
That simple earning structure has come to an end… but it's not bad news! Freedom Unlimited cardholders now earn bonus cashback in three categories: travel, dining, and drugstore purchases.
New Freedom Unlimited Bonus Categories
The Freedom Unlimited now offers three additional bonus categories:
- 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3% on dining — including dining in, takeout, and eligible delivery services
- 3% on drugstore purchases
- All other purchases will continue to earn 1.5% cashback
Simply put, this is excellent news. Chase has kept the best part of the Freedom Unlimited while sweetening the card with new bonus categories. These new earning rates are available to new and existing cardholders.
5% cashback on travel
The star of this announcement is the new 5% earning rate on travel purchases. To get this rate, cardholders will need to purchase travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. The rates are generally the same whether you book through the portal or directly with airlines and hotels. Just keep in mind that hotels generally don't honor elite benefits on reservations booked through a travel portal.
Getting 5% cashback on a no-annual-fee credit card isn't unheard of. After all, the similarly-named Chase Freedom® earns 5% cashback on rotating categories. However, cardholders only earn 5% on the first $1,500 in purchases each quarter. Not only is the Freedom Unlimited‘s new 5% travel category permanent, it's also unlimited.
3% cashback on dining
There's no lack of credit cards offering a bonus for dining. However, many of the highest-earning cards come with a hefty annual fee. That means the Freedom Unlimited‘s new 3% cashback on dining is going to be tough to beat for those looking to maximize their return from a no annual fee card.
3% cashback on drugstore purchases
While travel and dining are common bonus categories, drugstore purchases are not. Currently, no major bank credit card offers a permanent spending category for drugstore purchases. Only the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card lets cardholders choose to earn 3% cashback at drugstores. But that's only on up to $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter.
Pairing With Chase Sapphire Cards
The real power of the Freedom Unlimited isn't in earning 1.5% cashback. After all, there are other no-annual-fee credit cards that offer 2% cashback. Instead, the way to maximize the Freedom Unlimited is by pairing it with an Ultimate Rewards-earning Chase credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
Both of these cards earn Ultimate Rewards points that can be transferred to 13 airline and hotel partners. Or, you can redeem these Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase Travel Portal at 1.25¢ or 1.5¢ per point, respectively. Meanwhile, Freedom Unlimited cardholders only have the option to redeem earnings at 1¢ each.
However, the earnings from the Freedom Unlimited can be “combined” with the earnings from other Chase cards. That means Sapphire cardholders could use the Freedom Unlimited to effectively earn (at least) 1.5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on all purchases.
Will this amazing opportunity go away?
I got a chance to talk with BJ Mahoney—the General Manager of Chase Freedom—about the changes to the Freedom Unlimited. I made sure to ask if Freedom Unlimited cardholders will still be able to combine earnings with points earned through the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve.
Thankfully, Chase is leaving this option intact. Cardholders will still be able to combine their earnings between the Freedom Unlimited and Ultimate Rewards-earning credit cards. That means Sapphire cardholders can use the Freedom Unlimited to effectively earn 5X Ultimate Rewards points on travel booked through Chase and 3X Ultimate Rewards points on dining and drugstore purchases.
Current Freedom Unlimited Sign-Up Offer
Eligible new Freedom Unlimited cardholders can earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, new cardholders will also earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
If you're able to maximize this offer, you'll earn at least $600 cashback from grocery purchases in addition to the $200 sign-up bonus. That's at least $800 cashback. Or, transfer those earnings to an Ultimate Rewards-earning card to turn that into 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. For those earning points as a team, the good news is that you can combine Chase Ultimate Rewards points with others in your household.
The Freedom Unlimited was already a favorite of travelers looking to maximize their spending. The addition of 5% cashback on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 3% cashback on dining and drugstore purchases is a huge boost to the value this card offers. Plus, all other purchases will still earn 1.5% cashback (or Ultimate Rewards points). That makes the Freedom Unlimited even more indispensable than before.
What do you think about the changes to the Freedom Unlimited?
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