Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.
You might think you must pay an annual fee to get a good rewards credit card. But with offerings such as the Citi® Double Cash Card (see rates and fees) and the Chase Freedom Unlimited from two top credit card providers, you can earn cash back without paying for the privilege.
Both of these cards offer very good cash-back rates on everyday purchases. While the Citi Double Cash earns a higher rate of 2% back (1% when you buy and 1% as you pay) compared to 1.5% on the Chase Freedom Unlimited, the latter can compensate for that with even higher rates in certain bonus categories. Both cards also allow you to convert your cash back into valuable transferable points for even more value.
How do these cards compare to each other? Which one makes it easiest to rack up the cash rewards fast? We’ll look at how two of the best credit cards stack up in a head-to-head comparison.
Citi Double Cash vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited comparison
|Feature||Citi Double Cash||Chase Freedom Unlimited|
|Welcome offer||None||Automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned in the first 12 months, with no limit|
|Everyday spending earning rate||2% cash back on purchases (1% when you use the card and 1% when you pay)||5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3% on dining (including takeout and eligible delivery services) and at drugstores; 1.5% unlimited on all other purchases|
|Bonus categories||None||Travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal, dining (including takeout and eligible delivery services), and drugstores|
|Transfer partners||3 if you only hold the Double Cash or 18 if you also hold a premium Citi card||None if you only hold the Chase Freedom Unlimited or 14 if you also hold a premium Chase card|
|Foreign transaction fees||3%||3%|
Citi Double Cash vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited welcome offer
Unfortunately, the Citi Double Cash has no current public welcome offer.
On the other hand, the Freedom Unlimited is offering perhaps the best welcome offer in the card’s history: Chase will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned in the first 12 months with no limit, doubling the card’s earnings rates through the first year.
Winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited
Citi Double Cash vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited benefits
Neither of these cards offers top-tier benefits such as a fee credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, cellphone protection or rental car insurance. But considering these cards also carry no annual fee, the benefits aren’t necessarily lacking.
The Citi Double Cash emphasizes security and credit management with a roster of benefits that include a digital wallet and virtual account numbers to make online purchases more securely. You’ll also have 0% liability on unauthorized purchases, early fraud warning notifications and free access to your FICO credit score. Citi’s Lost Wallet service can replace your Citi card in as little as 24 hours and provide emergency cash (subject to your card’s cash-advance limit).
This card really shines, though, with the Citi Entertainment program. You can gain VIP access to concerts, sporting events, and other entertainment experiences.
Like the Double Cash, the Freedom Unlimited offers zero liability on unauthorized purchases and unlimited access to your credit score through Chase’s Credit Journey program. You also get purchase protection of up to $500 on every purchase, with a maximum of $50,000 in claims, and extended warranty protection, giving you peace of mind when you use your Chase card to shop.
Additionally, Chase’s partnership with food delivery service DoorDash gives Freedom Unlimited cardmembers a complimentary DashPass for three months (ends Dec. 31, 2024). The DashPass provides unlimited free delivery on all DoorDash orders $12 and up.
Winner: Tie. The benefits for both cards seem largely comparable, with multiple fraud protection benefits and a host of convenient features. Chase wins out with the extended warranty and purchase protection. But if you’re looking for unique experiences, the Citi Entertainment program delivers.
Earning rewards with the Citi Double Cash vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited
With the Double Cash, you’ll earn 1% cash back when you make a purchase and 1% as you pay, for a total of 2% on every purchase.
The Freedom Unlimited offers 1.5% back on everything, plus 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining and 3% back at drugstores.
Winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited. While you can earn slightly more on all non-bonus spending with Citi than with Chase, the 3% rate on dining and drugstores will likely edge out the Citi Double Cash for most cardholders.
Redeeming rewards with the Citi Double Cash vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited
Both cards have multiple options for redeeming your cash back (including a statement credit or direct deposit) or points through the cards’ respective rewards programs.
With the Double Cash, you can cash in your rewards for a statement credit, direct deposit, travel rewards and gift cards. You can also use your rewards to pay your mortgage or a student loan held by Citi.
Freedom Unlimited cardholders can choose from cash back deposited directly into their bank account or a statement credit, where each cent earned gives a cent back toward your credit card balance also choose a gift card at the same rate. Gift cards start as low as $5, which means you can start redeeming once you’ve accrued just 500 cents. You can also spend your points on Amazon, but they are only worth 0.8 cents each. It’s smarter to buy an Amazon gift card at the higher rate of 1 cent per point.
You can also make a charitable contribution to a wide variety of 501(c)(3) corporations with your Chase points.
Winner: Tie. Both the Citi Double Cash and Freedom Unlimited offer similar cash-back redemption options.
Transferring rewards with the Citi Double Cash vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited
If you also have a card like the Citi Premier® Card (see rates and fees), you can combine your rewards from the Citi Double Cash with those from the Premier. This effectively converts the Citi Double Cash’s rewards to fully-transferable ThankYou points with additional transfer partners. Since TPG values full Citi ThankYou points at 1.8 cents, having both the Citi Premier and the Citi Double Cash can allow you to get a 3.6% return on your spending with the Double Cash card.
Chase makes it easy to redeem rewards through the Ultimate Rewards portal — but only when paired with a Chase Ultimate Rewards card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve.
For maximum value, you can transfer your points to one of the many Ultimate Rewards transfer partners. Since TPG values Chase points at 2.05 cents apiece, you can effectively convert your 1.5% cash-back rewards from the Chase Freedom Unlimited into approximately 1.25 or 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points (with the Sapphire Preferred or Reserve, respectively).
Winner: Tie. Both cards have the ability to transfer your points for more value when you have an accompanying higher-end card.
Should I get the Citi Double Cash or Chase Freedom Unlimited?
The Freedom Unlimited is likely the better option for most, given the bonus categories and a welcome offer. However, both the Double Cash and Freedom Unlimited cards stand as solid cash-back rewards cards for everyday use, and they offer the ability to combine your earnings with higher-tier cards. Preference will largely come down to your spending habits.
Getting the Chase Freedom Unlimited will help you get the most out of your spending thanks to several valuable bonus categories and a lucrative welcome offer.
On the other hand, the Citi Double Cash Card offers a simple, straightforward cash-back rate without worrying about bonus categories, which makes it easy to shop and earn rewards.
Either is a great option for users looking for competitive returns without an annual fee.
Apply here: Citi Double Cash
Apply here: Chase Freedom Unlimited