2017 Chase Freedom Unlimited Review – WalletHub Editors
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The Verdict: A name like Chase Freedom Unlimited puts a lot of pressure on a credit card, hinting at boundless spending power and invaluable perks while building high expectations that are hard to live up to. But the only limitless aspect of the Chase Freedom Unlimited Visa Credit Card is your ability to earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases. There’s no cap on how much you can earn, and those earnings won’t expire until account closing.
The rest of the offer is pretty strong, if not completely free or flexible. You have to spend $500 within three months of account opening to qualify for Freedom Unlimited’s $150 initial bonus. There’s a 15-month clock on the card’s 0% introductory rates, which apply to both new purchases and balance transfers. And if you transfer a balance, carry a balance from month to month after the 15-month mark or spend money abroad, you’re going to pay big. There’s a 5% balance-transfer fee, a 3% foreign-transaction fee and the regular APR could be as high as 24.24%.
But despite having a bit more bark than bite, the Chase Freedom Unlimited Visa is nevertheless a good option for people with excellent credit who are in the market for a solid all-around spending vehicle, perhaps to supplement an existing Chase credit card that excels in terms of travel rewards or balance transfers. And that’s especially true for folks who typically pay their bills in full yet may have a short-term need for new-purchase financing. We’ll take a closer look at why that’s the case below.
- $150 Initial Bonus: Most people would have no difficulty charging $500 to their credit card on a monthly basis, let alone over the course of a quarter. So reaching that threshold within three months should be no cake. And the $150 you get for doing so can be considered money in the bank.Note, however, that the bonus won’t actually be credited to your account for six to eight weeks after you qualify.
- 1.5% Cash Back: This stable, cash-based earning rate is valuable not just for its simplicity, but also because it represents a 50% markup from the average cash-back credit card. It’s not the highest cash-back rate on the market, though. Other cards offer up to 2% back on all purchases, according to WalletHub’s latest Credit Card Landscape Report, or even more in certain spending categories, the case for Unlimited’s predecessor, Chase Freedom.
- 0% Financing: As long as you continue to make monthly minimum payments by the due date, you won’t be charged interest on either new purchases or balance transfers for the first 15 months your account is open. This has the potential to save you hundreds of dollars if used strategically, and you can get a sense of the specifics by using our credit-card calculator.
- No Annual Fee: This card needn’t add to your financial burden, as it has no annual fee. This saves you $16.43 relative to the average credit card, and it might enable you to keep your account open longer than you would otherwise, thus benefiting your credit score.
- Chase Synergies: Chase Freedom Unlimited has the potential to represent a very important piece of a larger money-saving puzzle for committed Chase customers. Its strengths — steady, cash-based rewards, extended 0% purchase financing — fill in gaps left by some of Chase’s other elite offers, most notably Slate and Sapphire Preferred. Slate is the best balance-transfer card out there, but it lacks rewards. Sapphire Preferred has one of the market’s most valuable initial bonuses, but it’s travel-oriented and doesn’t have the best ongoing rewards. Furthermore, you can transfer earnings between Chase cards, which could enable you to boost the value of your Unlimited Card’s earnings when redeeming for travel through Chase or one of its partners.For those comfortable managing multiple credit-card accounts at one time, Freedom Unlimited could therefore be the perfect complement, particularly since its lack of an annual fee makes opening a new card easier to justify.
- 5% Balance-Transfer Fee: Don’t transfer an existing balance to Chase Freedom Unlimited. Yes, it offers 0% for the first 15 months, but its 5% transfer fee ruins things. You can get a 0% rate for the same length of time without even paying a fee or a much longer rate for less with a different card.
- Potential For A High Regular APR: Your overall creditworthiness will dictate the result, but you could be assigned an interest rate that is anywhere from 15.49% to 24.24%. Either way, you’ll be paying more than the 13.08% average for “excellent credit” credit cards or the 20.16% average for “fair credit” cards.
- 3% Foreign-Transaction Fee: For an “Unlimited” card, this offer is rather restrictive geographically. If you use it while traveling abroad or even just buy something from an internationally based merchant, you’ll pay 3% more than you should, thanks to its foreign fee. If you’re wondering, the market average is 2.05%, and there’s a wide variety of cards with no foreign fees from which to choose.
Other Things To Consider
- Rewards Don’t Expire & You Can Redeem Anytime: The cash back that you earn with Chase Freedom Unlimited will not disappear after a certain period of time or extended account inactivity. Earnings only expire when your account is closed, which means you’ll usually be able to avoid that unfortunate fate. The exception would be if Chase proactively closes your account due to missed payments and other poor performance.One thing that should also help you avoid rewards loss is the fact that you can redeem any time you wish, with no minimum-denomination requirements. So you won’t ever be forced to wait when the mood to cash in strikes you.
- Visa Signature Or Visa Platinum: There’s not much difference between these Visa benefits packages, but Signature does bring a bit more perks to the table. For example, it gives you services such as a dedicated concierge, a year-end account summary and special entertainment opportunities that Platinum does not. With that being said, Visa Signature cards also are known to complicate the way in which the credit-utilization portion of credit scores is calculated, due a feature called NPSL (more below).There is no difference between the fees and main features provided by the two versions, however, and you don’t need better credit standing to get one or the other. Nevertheless, if you’re approved for either Signature or Platinum and you’d rather have the other, Chase might be able to accommodate the change. You just have to ask.
- Spending Power Is Not ‘Unlimited’: This aspect of the card’s name does not refer to your credit line. Your account will have a spending limit; the only question is whether it will be disclosed to you or the major credit bureaus. Visa Signature cards have what’s known as No Preset Spending Limit (NPSL), which means your limit is determined on a monthly basis and not specifically disclosed to you. And your card is either going to be a Visa Signature or a Visa Platinum.
Compared To The Competition
To see if Chase Freedom Unlimited is ultimately unparalleled, we compared it to some of the strongest competitors on the market, including offers known for rewards, financing or both. We evaluated the cards based on seven important factors and selected winners in both the rewards and financing categories. You can check out our findings below.
|Annual Fee||$0||$0||$95||$89 ($0 first year)||$0||$0||$0|
|Ongoing Rewards||1.5% back on all purchases||5% back on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly bonus categories
1% back on everything else
|6% back at supermarkets (up to $6,000 spent each year)
5% back on up to $4,000 of travel for first 6 months ($200 max. earnings)
3% back at gas stations and select department stores
1% back on everything else
|2 points per $1 spent on all purchases
5% travel-redemption bonus
|1% back on purchases
1% back on corresponding monthly bill payments
|Intro Financing||0% on purchases & balance transfers for 15 months||0% on purchases & balance transfers for 15 months||0% on purchases & balance transfers for 12 months||0% on balance transfers for 12 months||0% on purchases & balance transfers for 18 months||0% on purchases & balance transfers for 21 months||0% on purchases & balance transfers for 15 months|
|Balance-Transfer Fee||5%||5%||3%||3%||3%||3%||None (first 60 days only; 5% after)|
|Regular APR||15.49% to 24.24%||15.49% to 24.24%||13.49% to 23.49%||16.49% to 23.49%||13.49% to 23.49%||12.49% to 22.49%||15.49% to 24.24%|
|Editors’ Rating||4.5 Stars||3 Stars||4.6 Stars||5 Stars||5 Stars||5 Stars||5 Stars|