Citi Double Cash vs Chase Freedom Unlimited – Which is Best?

Citi Double Cash vs Chase Freedom Unlimited – Which is Best?

Fortunately, if you are in the market for a cashback credit card, there are several great options to choose from. Not only can you receive cashback on purchases, but you can also use these cards for debt consolidation by taking advantage of their generous balance transfer options.

The Citi Double Cash offers the longest 0% intro APR at 18 months. Always use rewards cards to consolidate high-interest debt or even pay off your balance every month. It is easy to fall into the more you spend, the more you get back. However, to pay off your debt or pay off your monthly bill in full, you can only spend what you can afford.

Also, keep in mind that even if you are approved for a cashback card but are on the lower end of the credit score spectrum, your standard APR rate will be higher than those with excellent credit. Cashback cards generally come with a high standard APR after the intro period, which can be as high as nearly 26%.

If your application gets denied for a cashback card, focus on being more financially responsible. Nearly all cashback cards require you to have good to excellent credit, with a credit score of at least 690. If your credit score needs work, consider building credit with the Discover it® Secured, Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, or Citi® Secured Mastercard®.

Two of the most popular cash back credit cards are the Citi Double Cash and Chase Freedom Unlimited. I have provided a detailed review of both and even offered a few alternatives if you need more options.

Main Differences Between Chase Freedom Unlimited vs Citi Double Cash

The Main Differences Between Chase Freedom Unlimited vs Citi Double Cash are:

  • Citi Double Cash card has an introductory APR offer for 18 months on purchases, whereas Chase Freedom Unlimited has 0% introductory APR for 15 months
  • Citi Double Cash card has a purchase APR ranging between 15.49% and 25.49%, whereas Chase Freedom Unlimited ranges between %16.49% and %25.24
  • Citi Double Cash card has a 2x return on purchases, whereas Chase Freedom has a $150 cashback on purchases
  • Citi Double Cash offers no incentives for opening a new account, whereas Chase Freedom Unlimited gives you a $150 bonus for the first $500 in purchases completed in the first 90 days of opening the account.

Citi Double Cash

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Cashback: 1% when you purchase, 1% when you pay your bill (carrying a balance will lower your cashback rewards)
  • Balance transfers: 0% for 18 months (3% transfer fee)
  • APR: 15.74% to 25.74%
  • Credit Needed: Excellent/Good

The Citi Double Cash card not only has to get cashback rewards but also incentivizes you to pay off your balance in full each month.

Citi Double Cash Back Card

You will earn 1% when you purchase and 1% when you pay your bill. That means if you spend $1,000 on your card in a given month and pay off the balance in full, you will receive $20 in cash back.

You can use that cashback any way you want, a dinner out, retail shopping, to help pay a bill, etc. If you regularly spend a decent amount using your credit card, at the end of the year, it can add up.

The cashback doesn’t lose value either. Unlike points and miles cards that often have blackout dates or make you book far in advance, cashback cards retail their dollar amount.

Strengths

The Citi Double Cash is a great all-around card. It is perfect for the average spender and gives you the flexibility to receive cashback or redemption points. It’s also a great card for encouraging consumers to pay off their monthly credit card bill in full since you receive a bonus of 1% after payment is received.

No category restrictions

Citi Double Cash offers one of the highest cashback rewards for a 0% annual fee credit card. Earn unlimited 2% cashback (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay) on anything you purchase.

Convert rewards to ThankYou points

If you would prefer to get material rewards instead of cashback, you can convert your cashback to Citi ThankYou points. These points can be redeemed for airfare, gift cards, and more. For every $1 cashback you receive, you will get the equivalent in ThankYou Points (100), a 1:1 rate. Once you pay your bill, you can get a 2:1 rate (2 ThankYou points per dollar).

Drawbacks

The drawbacks of the Citi Double Cash are not deal-breakers. However, if you only plan on using your cashback card for one year, you should choose a cashback card that offers an initial bonus to maximize your rewards.

No sign-up bonus

Most cashback cards offer at least $100 if you purchase a designated amount within the first 90 days. However, intro bonuses are only for the first year.

If you use your card regularly, you can make up the initial sign-up bonus by continuing to use your Citi Double Cash Card after the first year since it has one of the highest cashback on all purchases (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay).

No automatic reward redemption option

Every time you want to redeem a reward through your Citi Double Cash Card you will need to put in a request online or by phone.

Your rewards can also expire if you haven’t used your card within the last 12 months. There is also a $25 minimum redemption.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Cashback: 1.5% cashback on every purchase
  • Balance transfers: 0% for 15 months (5% transfer fee)
  • APR: 16.74% to 25.49%
  • Penalty APR: None
  • Credit Needed: Excellent/Good

This card is an excellent option for both beginners and advanced award travelers. It offers a fixed return of 1.5% on all purchases. Holders do not have to keep tabs on the bonus categories. If you pair this card with one that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you can convert your rewards into fully transferrable points, increasing their value twofold.

The appearance of the card and an advertising campaign that is focused on cash backs might make you think that it just any other card with average sign up bonuses, cashback focus, and no categories. However, it offers more value than its appearance shows.

If you spend approximately $20,000 on your credit card in one year (or just over $1,600 a month), you will receive $300 in cashback rewards. Plus, in the first year, you could earn the $150 bonus, which would bring your total to $450.

Since there isn’t an annual fee, all of the cashback can go directly to your pocket. The cashback is enough to purchase holiday gifts, go on a weekend getaway, or make a car payment.

You will need good to excellent credit to apply for the Chase Freedom Unlimited. You should aim for a credit score of at least 690 to get approved.

Strengths

The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers generous rewards, point transfer capability, as well as purchase protection.

Reward Redemption 

You can receive your cashback in many ways. Choose direct deposit to a Chase account, a statement credit, gift cards, travel, or even point shopping at Amazon.com. When redeeming as points, each point equals 1 cent for cash back, gift cards, and travel. Shopping at Amazon.com downgrades your point value to 0.8 cents per point.

If you have multiple Chase credit cards, your Chase Freedom Unlimited card rewards can have additional value when transferred. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve offer more redemption options and a higher value than the 1.5% cashback rate.

You can even transfer points to popular airline and hotel reward programs.

  • British Airways Executive Club – 2.51 cents
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards – 1.37 cents
  • United Airlines MileagePlus – 1.69 cents
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club – 5.29 cents
  • World of Hyatt – 1.99 cents

Purchase Protection

Use the Chase Freedom Unlimited card to buy larger items such as appliances or electronics. If the item you purchased has a manufacturer’s warranty of up to three years, Chase will give you another year on your warranty for free.

You will receive up to $500 if the item you purchased is damaged or stolen. (Must file a claim within 120 days, up to $500 per claim, $50,000 per account).

Drawbacks

While the Chase Freedom Unlimited has a lot to offer, it does have some drawbacks that are worth noting.

No Bonus Reward Categories

The Chase Freedom Unlimited doesn’t offer bonus reward categories, meaning you will earn 1.5% year-round regardless of what you buy. However, they do offer bonus cash back for purchases through their Chase Offers.

These Chase Offers are preferred merchants, and you can find out current participants by logging into your account through Chase Mobile or Chase Pay app.

High Standard APR

After the initial 15 months, the APR jumps to 16.74% to 25.49%, depending on your credit score. Use caution when getting near the end of your intro APR period, running a balance month to month after the intro period can add to your existing debt quickly.

Citi Double Cash vs Chase Freedom

Benefits

Both the Citi Double Cash and Chase Freedom Unlimited have the following benefits.

No Annual Fee. Some cashback cards require an annual fee for higher rewards.

Cashback Options. You can earn cashback via a check, statement credit, gift card, or direct deposit to a Citi or Chase savings or checking account, respectively.

Pros

Citi Double Cash

 

  • Offers 1% cashback on purchases and 1% cashback on bill payments

  • No annual fee

  • Multiple redemption options

Chase Freedom Unlimited

 

  • Offers 1.5% unlimited cashback

  • No annual fee

  • 0% APR for 15 months on balance transfers and purchases

  • $150 bonus after the first $500 in purchases (must be completed in the first 90 days of account opening)

Cons

Citi Double Cash

 

  • No initial rewards bonus

  • 3% foreign transaction fee

  • Must have at least $25 in rewards to redeem

Chase Freedom Unlimited

 

  • No bonus reward categories

  • 3% foreign transaction fee

  • 3% balance transfer fee

  • High APR (16.74% to 25.49% variable)

The Main Differences Between Citi Double Cash and Chase Freedom Unlimited

Sign Up Benefits

Both these cards have no annual fees, but the Chase Freedom Unlimited gives you a $150 bonus if you purchase items worth $500 in the first three months. In this regard, the Chase Freedom Unlimited edges the Citi Double Cash card.

APR

The Chase Freedom Unlimited has the edge here since it offers an introductory offer for 15 months for both purchases and balance transfers.

The Citi Double cash card has an 18-month introductory APR offer on balance transfers, but these are restricted to the first four months of opening the account.

Cash Rewards

While both offer generous cashback rewards, Citi Double Cash offers more bang for your buck if you pay off your bill in full each month (2% back, 1% when you purchase, 1% when you pay). If you like to run a balance, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card will benefit you more (1.5% back).

Sign-up Bonus

Citi Double Cash does not offer an incentive for opening an account. Chase Freedom Unlimited will give you a $150 bonus after the first $500 in purchases (must be completed in the first 90 days of account opening).

Balance Transfers

However, if you are going to be transferring a balance, the Citi Double Cash has a 3% fee, while the Chase Freedom Unlimited has a 5% fee. Most people transfer balances to consolidate debt, so 2% can make a difference if you are transferring a large balance.

Key Benefits

Chase Freedom Unlimited

The value you get from a cashback credit card is proportional to what you pay to use it. This way, it is expected that the benefits at stake for the Chase Freedom Unlimited won’t be as much due to the no annual fee. However, there are a couple of excellent features worth pointing out;

  • A 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months of purchases after which the rate varies between 16.49% and 25.24% depending on your creditworthiness and other factors
  • A purchase protection clause that covers all your purchases for 120 days against theft or damage up to $500 for every claim and $50,000 per account
  • An extension of the warranties offered by US manufacturers by one year

It is worth noting that this card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, making it quite unsuitable when traveling abroad.

Citi Double Cash Card

Some of the most valuable features of this card include;

  • Citi entertainment
  • 24-hour fraud protection
  • $0 liability protection for unauthorized charges

Earning and Redeeming Points

Chase Freedom Limited

One good thing about the benefits offered by the Chase Freedom Unlimited is that you do not have to keep track of rotating bonus categories. The card earns a standard 1.5% cashback on all purchases, with no caps or limits. If you want longevity, 1.5% is impressive but not very great as other cards such as the Citi Double Cash card offers 2% cashback on all purchases.

You can redeem the points earned on your Chase Freedom Unlimited as a credit or direct deposit into a regular account. However, as it was mentioned, you can get more value by signing up for the high-value Chase cards and turn your cash into reward points.

For instance, if you combine Chase Freedom Unlimited with the Sapphire Reserve card, you will earn 1.5X points for all spending on the card and redeem the points at a minimum rate of 1.5 cents each, this getting around 2.25 cents for every dollar. Either way, you will get better value than the 1 cent for every dollar if you would have redeemed them the usual way.

Citi Double Cash

The cashback you earn is standard, and this applies to all purchases with no limit on how much you can earn. There are no categories and the earning tier where you get 1% when you buy, and another 1% when you pay your statement can work both ways for you.

If you are clever on how you manage your bonuses, this card will offer you a lot more value than others in the market. It is ideal for those who want to have a single cashback card that does not require them to enroll in new bonus categories every few months.

Redeeming your rewards with the Citi Double Cash is straightforward, and you can do it when the rewards balances get to $25. Here, you can redeem them in a couple of possible ways;

  1. Ask for a cheque for at least $25, and at most the total rewards balance during the redemption time.
  2. Redeem for a credit to your linked bank account at Citi bank or to a checking account that you have paid with a Citi Credit Card bill on a minimum of two instances.
  3. Redeem for a statement credit to your card account for at least $25 of the amount.

Who is it for?

Chase Freedom Unlimited

If you have no experience with points and miles, this card is a fantastic choice to begin with. The application and approval process is straightforward, and it helps you to establish a stable relationship with Chase, especially if you are looking to switch to the more valuable cards in the future.

It has no annual fee, and you can keep it for several years without spending a penny. The rewards you earn are not limited to a specific time frame, and you can redeem them any time you want without worrying about expiry. As a bonus, the card provides 120 days of purchase protection and a more extended warranty protection that extends regular warranties by a full year.

It is worth noting that this card works following the Chase 5/24 rule, which states that the bank will turn down applicants who have opened more than five cards in the preceding 24 months. In a nutshell, this card is perfect for the average person who desires to accumulate points on their everyday spend without having to restrict themselves to a specific bonus category.

Citi Double Cash

This card is suitable for people who value cash backs and zero annual fees. When making purchases, you do not have to determine which one to use like it would force you with the Amex Trifecta and Chase Trifecta ones.

The total percentage benefits you get from the card is beneficial, and you should have no worries whether you are getting maximum value from points and miles as you will earn cash back in various ways. The foreign fee is still a significant drawback, but if you have major domestic purchases and want to pay zero annual fees.

Alternatives

Looking for a cashback card that has no foreign transaction fees, bonus categories, or travel insurance? Check out the following alternatives.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Quicksilver

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Cashback: 1.5% cashback on every purchase
  • Balance transfers: 0% for 15 months (3% transfer fee)
  • APR: 15.74% – 25.74%
  • Penalty APR: None
  • Credit Needed: Fair/Good

The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a great option if you already have a Capital One bank account or need a cashback card that offers no foreign transaction fees.

Enjoy a $150 bonus cash back after you spend $500 within the first 90 days of opening the account. You will earn 1.5% cashback on every single purchase regardless of category.

There are no rotating bonus categories to boost your points, so this card is best for people who use their rewards credit card for everyday purchases. Your cashback never expires for the life of the account, there is no earning limit, and no minimum rewards amount to redeem.

The card provides a 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers with a 3% balance transfer fee. Like most debt consolidation cards, the standard APR (after the first 15 months) is quite high at 15.74%-25.74% variable (depending on your creditworthiness).

Discover it® Cash Back

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Cashback: 1% unlimited cashback on all purchases, plus 5% cashback on different categories each quarter (gas, groceries, restaurants, Amazon, etc.)
  • Balance transfers: 0% for 14 months (3% transfer fee)
  • APR: 13.74% – 24.74%
  • Penalty APR: None
  • Credit Needed: Excellent/Good

If you are an organized person that loves the thrill of boosting your cashback, you will appreciate all of the benefits Discover has to offer. With new 5% bonus categories every quarter and a 100% match of your cashback for the first year, you will be rolling in the dough.

This credit card also has the lowest standard APR after the intro period, so if you are worried about carrying a balance, this is the best choice.

The Discover it® Cash Back has a handy 5% bonus cash back calendar. In January-March, earn 5% back from grocery store purchases, April-June gets you 5% back from gas stations, Uber, and Lyft, July-September features 5% back from restaurants and PayPal, and October-December offers 5% cash back for all purchases from Amazon.com, Target, and Walmart.com.

Discover it® Cash Back

If you regularly use your credit card, this is a great deal. You can even time your purchases to save even more money. For example, going on vacation during April through September (for gas-guzzling road trips and outdoor restaurants with friends), and purchasing your holiday gifts starting in October at your favorite online retailers (Amazon, Target, and Walmart).

Even if you only spend $500 at the above three merchants during October-December, you will receive $25 in cashback. That is enough for a meal out or clearance shopping after the holidays.

Other benefits include:

  • Freeze it® on/off switch. Prevent new purchases, cash advances, or balance transfers if you misplace your credit card. Easily freeze or unfreeze with a click through the Discover website or mobile app.
  • Free FICO credit score. Easily see your current credit score on monthly statements, online, or mobile app.
  • Free fraud protection. Discover monitors your account for unauthorized purchases and never holds you responsible if your account gets hacked.
  • Free overnight replacement cards. Lose your card? Discover will overnight ship a replacement card for free to any U.S. street address upon request.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card

Blue Cash Preferred

  • Annual fee: $95
  • Cashback: 6% on groceries and US streaming subscriptions, 3% on transit and gas, 1% on all other purchases
  • Balance transfers: 0% for 12 months (3% transfer fee)
  • APR: 14.74% to 25.74%
  • Credit Needed: Excellent/Good

Sometimes, choosing a credit card with an annual fee is worth the cost. American Express offers a ton of benefits that outweigh the annual fee if you can afford to part with $95 once a year. High cashback on things you already purchase like groceries and monthly streaming services makes this card a top contender.

Cashback rewards:

  • 6% cashback on all purchases at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, after the limit is reached, you will earn 1%)
  • 6% cashback on US streaming subscriptions
  • 3% cashback on transit (taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more)
  • 3% cashback on US gas stations
  • 1% cashback on all other purchase

Other benefits include:

  • Add anyone in your household 13+ and get the same cashback benefits (great for teaching teenagers about credit)
  • Car rental loss and damage insurance (damage or theft)
  • Global assist hotline for 24/7 access to medical, legal, financial, and emergency services when you travel
  • Roadside assistance
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Purchase protection (up to 120 days after purchase, $1,000 per occurrence, $50,000 per the calendar year)
  • 2-day free shipping with participating Shoprunner merchants
  • Pay It Plan It® to budget large purchases
  • Entertainment Access® (presale tickets for card member-only events)
  • Fraud protection
  • Extended warranties
  • Return protection (return purchases to American Express if the seller won’t take them back, up to 90 days, receive full purchase price plus shipping, up to $300 per item, $1,000 per the calendar year)

FAQ

If you plan to use your cashback credit card for the long haul, it will generally provide you with better rewards than an airline points-based card. However, miles cards have better sign-on incentives than cashback cards and should be considered if you are a frequent flyer.

How do cashback cards work?

When you use a cashback credit card, a certain percentage of what you spend (determined by the credit card) will be given back to you in the form of cash, a statement credit, points, etc. For example, if your cashback credit card offers 1% cashback, you will receive $10 for every $1,000 you spend.

Some credit cards offer sign-up bonuses that can boost your cashback in the first year of use. You can also receive bonus cashback when you pay your bill (Citi Double Cash) or even quarterly bonus categories for things such as gas, groceries, or restaurants.

Is it better to earn miles or cashback?

If you plan to use your cash back credit card for the long haul, it will generally provide you with better rewards than an airline points-based card. However, miles cards have better sign-on incentives than cashback cards and should be considered if you are a frequent flyer.

Can I get a cashback credit card if I have bad credit?

Yes. There are a few credit cards that you can apply for if you have no credit, limited credit, or bad credit.

Students will benefit from the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®, Discover it® Student Cash Back or the Discover it® Student chrome.

Those with limited or fair credit can apply for the Discover it® Secured, Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® with Cash Back Rewards, Capital One® QuicksilverOne®, Credit One Bank® Cash Back, or the Credit One Bank® NASCAR® Visa®.

How can I determine the best card for me?

The best way to find a reliable card for you is to assess the features with respect to your needs and spending habits. Some of the perks such as an introductory offer might benefit you in the short term, but it helps to assess the long-term value you get from the card if you are not planning to switch cards in the future.

A good perk to watch out for is the cashback percentage as this is what will stick after the introductory offer and opening bonuses are gone. If you are keen on the value you get in the first one or two years, look at the initial APR offers and opening bonuses.

There is no perfect cashback card, as all our spending habits differ. Find one that offers you the best value depending on how you spend, and you will be good to go.

What Are the Implications of carrying a balance on your credit card?

Credit cards operate on the same principles regardless of what you call them. Carrying a balance on your credit card can harm your credit score. If you do not pay the monthly balance in full, interest will accrue, and this could turn into a habit. Be wary of your credit utilization as it can make it hard for you to get new credit cards or apply for loans.

Conclusion

Unless you are a frequent air traveler or need hotel points, a cashback credit card is your best bet. You will need good to excellent credit to approved for one, but once you establish creditworthiness, get ready to enjoy the rewards.

Decide which cashback card is right for you by determining what benefit(s) is most important. Maybe you need a card with the longest 0% interest APR for debt consolidation, quarterly bonus reward categories, no foreign transaction fee, or the card that you can link to a coordinating bank account (i.e., Chase Freedom Unlimited to a Chase checking account).

Always use credit cards responsibly. Cashback rewards are a great way to treat yourself, but only if you can pay off the balance in full every month.

What is your favorite cashback credit card? Let me know in the comments.

Further Research