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Sunday, September 27, 2020

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    Chase details Freedom Unlimited improvements, new Freedom Flex card

    I manage to get a ton of value from my premium travel rewards credit cards — ranging from the Chase Sapphire Reserve to The Platinum Card® from American Express — but two of the cards I carry in my wallet most often don’t come along with any annual fee.

    I’ve long been a believer in maximizing my return using my own version of the Chase Trifecta, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve, for 3x points on travel and dining, the Chase Freedom, for its rotating 5% (or 5x points) categories up to a quarterly maximum each quarter you activate, and the Chase Freedom Unlimited, for 1.5% back (or 1.5x points) on all other purchases — the latter two of which don’t have an annual fee.

    By using all three cards, depending on the purchase category, I can net even more points, all consolidated within my Ultimate Rewards account. And, now, Chase’s Freedom portfolio is about to get a big upgrade, with an update to the Chase Freedom Unlimited plus a brand-new card.

    Chase Freedom Unlimited

    Chase Freedom Unlimited quickly became a points enthusiast favorite following its launch in 2016. The premier feature, a flat 1.5% back, made it a popular pick for beginners and experts alike.

    Customers looking for simplicity can fall back on a straightforward earning rate, with 1.5% cash back on all purchases, while those after more sophisticated rewards can choose to pair Unlimited with a Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, like Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, effectively turning that 1.5% return into 1.5x points.

    Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited. Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy.

    As part of Chase’s latest rollout, Freedom Unlimited will largely remain unchanged. However, the issuer is adding three higher-earning categories, giving cardholders an opportunity to boost their rewards on the following:

    • 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • 3% back on dining
    • 3% back at drugstores

    There’s no activation required — all three will become available beginning Sept. 15.

    Freedom Unlimited is currently offering new cardholders an opportunity to earn a $200 bonus (effectively 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $500 in the first three months.

    Chase Freedom Flex

    It’s not often that we get a brand-new credit card, and it’s especially unexpected during the coronavirus pandemic, with the current economic uncertainty making it challenging for issuers to determine eligibility when customers apply for a card. Still, Chase has determined that now’s the time to make some tweaks to its lineup, adding value to the soon-to-be-replaced Freedom card.

    Freedom Flex will be available for new sign-ups beginning Sept. 14, with the same welcome bonus previously available for Freedom, including $200 cash back after $500 in first three months from account opening, plus 5% back on the first $12,000 spent on grocery purchases within the first year (excluding Target and Walmart).

    The biggest change is a shift from Visa to Mastercard — as a result, cardholders will have access to World Elite benefits, including discounts on products and services, cell phone protection, hotel perks, a ShopRunner membership, access to a 24/7 concierge service and more.

    Chase will also be keeping its rotating 5% categories around — a new mix of purchase categories will trigger a bonus each quarter, ranging from gas stations to streaming services and more. Additionally, Flex will offer the same permanent bonus categories making their way to Freedom Unlimited, including 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and 3% at drugstores.

    Finally, it’s worth noting that the current Chase Freedom will no longer be available to new customers, though existing cardholders can choose to keep their current card or give Chase a call to request a product change to the new Freedom Flex.

    Flex is considered a different product from Freedom Unlimited, so customers with that latter card will also be eligible for a welcome bonus with Flex. The same does not apply to existing Freedom cardholders, unfortunately — if you’ve already earned a bonus for that card, your best bet is to call in for a product change to Flex instead.

    The information for the Chase Freedom has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

    Bottom line

    Both updates spell good news for cardholders, with additional earning opportunities and — in the case of Freedom Flex — a suite of World Elite benefits available at no extra charge. While existing Freedom cardholders can choose to keep their account as-is, I’ll personally be calling in to move to Freedom Flex, so I can take advantage of the new perks beginning Sept. 14.

    Featured photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy.

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