Chase Freedom Unlimited review: How it stacks up to American Express Blue Cash Everyday

Source: Mic
Source: Mic

Figuring out exactly how to choose a credit card is hard.

Sure, many people are salivating over the credit card points bonanza offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve — but not everyone is cool with its $450 fee.

For more pragmatic types, a no-fee card which offers cash back might be way more practical.

We dug into the fine-print of two popular cash-back cards — Chase Freedom Unlimited and American Express Blue Cash Every Day — to see how they compare and stack up on fees, perks and ongoing value to the user.

Here's what we found.

Source: Giphy

Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. American Express Blue Cash Everyday: Which card offers more cash back?

The short answer is, it depends on how much you travel.

Let's break it down: The American Express Blue Cash Everyday card offers new cardmembers $300 in bonus cash — but you'll have to work hard to collect it.

You get $100 back after you spend $1,000 on the card in the first three months. And you also get 5% cash back on $4,000 in travel purchases put on the card during the first 6 months, up to $200.

Cardholders earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets — up to $6,000 in purchases a year. After that, the rate switches to 1% cash back. Users also get 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select department stores (listed here) and 1% cash back on other eligible purchases. 

Source: Giphy

"Eligible purchases" are generally goods and services minus returns and other credits, and don't include fees or interest charges, balance transfers, cash advances, purchases of travelers checks or purchases of other cash equivalents.

American Express has some limits on where you can shop: Superstores and wholesale clubs are not considered supermarkets nor gas stations, if they offer gas. 

Also, the cash back will come back to you as a statement credit. The terms specify that you can't use it to pay the minimum due, only as a future credit.

One the other hand, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card offers new cardmembers $150 in bonus cash after you spend $500 on your card in the first three months. Though technically, this cash will first be rendered as 15,000 bonus points, redeemable for $150. 

The Chase card also offers $25 in bonus cash (2,500 bonus points) once an additional user makes a purchase on the card, as long as it's within the first three months that the card is open.

With Chase Freedom Unlimited, you'll earn 1.5% cash back rewards for each $1 spent on eligible purchases. Put another way, you'll get one and a half cents in rewards, or 1.5 points, for each $1 spent.

The cardholder can redeem points for cash through an account statement credit or electronic deposit into another account.

The $300 in bonus cash from the Cash Everyday card is great — if you anticipate that kind of spending on travel during the first three months to get the $200 cash back.  

But if you're not a big traveler, the $150 bonus cash on any purchases offered by the Freedom Unlimited is going to be better. 

Finally, remember: With the American Express card, your purchases and the cash you earn from them is all going to stay on the card. If you want more flexibility to move the cash back to another account, the Chase card will work better.

Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. American Express Blue Cash Everyday: Which card has a lower fee?

Easy: Neither the Chase Freedom Unlimited or the American Express Blue Cash Every Day charge an annual fee. 

Hooray!

Source: Giphy

Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. American Express Blue Cash Everyday: Which has a lower APR?

This category is essentially a draw. The Chase Freedom Unlimited has a 0% APR for the first 15 months. After that, the APR is a variable rate ranging from 14.24% to 23.24%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfer rates are the same and the cash advance APR is even higher: 25.24%.

The Blue Cash card also has an introductory 0% APR, for only the first 12 months. After that the APR is a variable rate ranging from 13.24% to 23.24%, based on credit.

These rates are about the same range — unless you have really good credit and can get in with a slightly lower APR on the American Express card. 

Either way, both cards' rates are pretty steep, and you're not going to want to mess around with carrying a balance for too long.

Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. American Express Blue Cash Everyday: Which has better perks?

The Freedom Unlimited comes with some purchase protections: Cardholders get protection of new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft. Eligible purchases you make on the card are protected from loss or damage for 90 days, and you'll get extended return protection on items and an additional year on a warranty on eligible items.

Source: Giphy

The Blue Card carries similar protections: Eligible purchases you make on the card are protected from loss or damage for 90 days, you'll get extended return protection on items and an additional year on a warranty on eligible items.

But AmEx has one edge: The card also offers the benefits of being an American Express cardholder — including access to tickets for members-only concert and sporting events. And when you rent a car, your secondary insurance covering loss or damage to the car will be covered.

Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. American Express Blue Cash Everyday: Which is better overall?

Again, it depends. These cards are evenly matched on fees and APR and you'll get a bonus boost of cash back from each card as a new user. 

One deciding factor? Even though the Blue Cash offers the potential for more cash back — $300 — the cash is easier to get back from Chase, with $150 back from a $500 spend. After all, you may not plan to spend $4,000 on travel in the first six months of use.

The Freedom Unlimited allows for more flexibility with how the cash back is used — even if it has to be calculated in pesky points.

Sure, there are some benefits that come with being an American Express card holder — and in that way it feels more like a club card.

But if your goal is to get lickity-split cash back the Chase Freedom Unlimited is the way to go.

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Anna Bahney

Mic Money writer in Washington DC covering the daily saga of getting and spending. Toss tips my way at abahney@mic.com

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