How To Maximize Chase Freedom Unlimited Rewards: Everyday Rewards, Plus More Potential Value for Travel Redemptions

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A lot of what we like about cash back credit cards is the flexibility they give cardholders to maximize everyday purchases. And there are few cards that offer as much flexibility to earn on everything you buy than the Chase Freedom Unlimited® credit card.

Chase Freedom Unlimited is among our favorite cash back credit cards on the market today, and it’s easy to see why. There’s no annual fee, and you earn bonus rewards in everyday categories as well as a flat 1.5% cash back on all other spending. Plus, as part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, you can redeem your rewards for cash back, statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, or travel.

Whether you’re looking for your next cash back card, or you’re already a Chase Freedom Unlimited user, here’s how you can maximize this card’s benefits for your budget.

Earn Rewards

The Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card offers a unique rewards structure almost anyone can benefit from. Here’s how it works:

  • Earn $200 cash back when you spend $500 on your card within three months of account opening
  • Earn 5% back on up to $12,000 spent at grocery stores your first year
  • Earn 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Earn 5% back on Lyft rides through March 2022
  • Earn 3% back on drugstore purchases
  • Earn 3% back on dining
  • Earn 1.5% back on all other purchases

Your cash back rewards will never expire as long as your account is open, and there’s no minimum to redeem rewards for cash back.

Maximizing Rewards On Bonus Categories

The Chase Freedom Unlimited’s rewards categories cover a broad range of everyday expenses, so there are plenty of ways to make the most of your regular spending:

  • Earn 5% back on up to $12,000 in grocery spending during year one as a cardholder. You can max out the benefit by spending at least $500 on groceries per month, for a total $600 cash back over the first 12 months in this category alone. Just remember, Chase’s grocery category does not include superstores like Walmart and Target or warehouse clubs like Costco. And it’s only for a limited time; you may want to switch to a card that earns more at the supermarket than this card’s standard 1.5% after the first year.
  • Compare pricing on travel expenses before you book. When you book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you’ll earn 5% back on hotel bookings, flights, car rentals, and more. Depending on your travel plans though, you may save more than 5% by booking with other travel portals or directly with the travel brand. 
  • Make your Chase Freedom Unlimited the preferred payment method on your Lyft app. Each time you use the rideshare service you’ll earn 5% cash back.
  • Use your card every time you dine out — including takeout and delivery orders — to earn 3% back at restaurants.
  • Earn 3% back when you pick up prescriptions or make other purchases at your local drugstore. If you collect coupons at the drugstore (like with CVS’ lucrative ExtraBucks program, for instance) this can be a great way to stack your savings.

Maximizing Rewards On Every Other Purchase

While Chase Freedom Unlimited’s bonus categories are plentiful, one of its biggest selling points is the flat 1.5% rate on all non-bonus spending — which is higher than the 1% back most other cash back credit cards offer. 

An extra .5% may not seem like a big jump, but over time it can add up to a lot of extra cash. For example, say you spend a total $12,000 each year, or $1,000 per month, on non-bonus credit card spending. With any other card, that would equal $120 cash back. But with this card, you’ll get an additional $60, for a total $180 non-bonus cash back annually.

That makes this a great option for any spending that doesn’t fit into bonus categories you earn with this or another card — utility bills, online shopping, subscriptions, and more. But, as always, avoid spending more than you can afford to pay off when your statement balance is due. Accruing interest on an unpaid balance at this card’s high APR will far exceed any 1.5% savings you earn.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Editor’s Score: (4.7/5)
  • Intro bonus:
    $200
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    14.99% – 23.74% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site.
Chase Freedom Flex℠

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Editor’s Score: (4.7/5)
  • Intro bonus:
    $200
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    14.99 – 23.74% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Editor’s Score: (4.5/5)
  • Intro bonus:
    100,000 points
  • Annual fee:
    $95
  • Regular APR:
    15.99% – 22.99% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site.

Other Card Benefits

There are also plenty of reasons to sign up for this card that have nothing to do with rewards. For one, it offers a competitive 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months after account opening. After that, you’ll pay a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74%.

Pro Tip

Chase doesn’t allow balance transfers from one Chase card to another. If you need to transfer high-interest debt from a Chase card, you’ll have to look at balance transfer cards from other issuers.

If you need to make a large purchase and pay it down over time, or consolidate high-interest debt from other cards, this can be a solid option. Just keep in mind that a 3% balance transfer fee (minimum $5) applies if you transfer high interest debt from other cards within the first 60 days. After that, the balance transfer fee goes up to 5% (minimum $5).

However, if you’re interested in the Chase Freedom Unilimited’s first-year 5% bonus on groceries, you may not be able to maximize that benefit while taking advantage of a 0% interest offer. It’s best practice to avoid any new spending while paying down debt, and you don’t want to risk your debt payoff timeline just for the added cash back. If you plan to use the 0% period and hold onto the card for cash back in the future, make sure the longer-term, ongoing rewards fit with your spending habits.

Other cardholder benefits worth considering include:

  • Three complimentary months of DashPass membership. You’ll get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee on orders of $12 or more with DoorDash (activation by Dec. 31, 2021, required). After that, you’ll get 50% off DashPass membership for another nine months.
  • Purchase protection against damage or theft, which is good for up to 120 days after the purchase date for a maximum benefit of $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
  • Extended warranty protection: This adds one additional year of extended warranty coverage on eligible products that come with a manufacturer’s warranty.
  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance worth up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip for prepaid, nonrefundable travel purchases.
  • Secondary auto rental coverage, which kicks in after you exhaust other auto insurance policies you have.
  • Travel and emergency assistance services provide legal and medical referrals while traveling (you’ll still be responsible for paying for any goods or services administered).

These benefits apply only when you use your card to book or make the purchase.

Maximize Chase Ultimate Rewards

Once you’ve earned rewards with the Chase Freedom Unlimited you can really begin to maximize through redemptions. For most people, cash back or travel redemptions will unlock the most value, but there are other great options, too. Here are just a few ways to get the most from your Chase Ultimate Rewards points:

  • For simplified redemptions, cash in your rewards for statement credits toward your balance in any amount.
  • Through Sept. 30, 2021, use Chase’s Pay Yourself Back feature to redeem points toward previous dining purchases (up to $250 total) on your statement for a value of 1.1 cents per point — an extra 10% boost from normal cash back redemptions.
  • If there’s a specific retailer you’re planning to make a purchase with, look up gift card offerings in the Chase portal. You can often find discounted gift cards to redeem for more than 1 cent per point in value.
  • Check for frequent rewards sales with partner brands within the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, such as discounted redemptions on Apple or Peloton products.
  • Avoid Amazon.com redemptions — when you pay with points at checkout, you’ll only get 0.8 cents per point, less than other options.

Pro Tip

Take advantage of the Shop Through Chase shopping portal, which lets you earn more points on purchases with select retailers when you “click through” before you shop. Using the portal is free, and you can boost your rewards on purchases you would have made anyway.

Pair with another Chase card

If you’re seeking to maximize travel redemptions, the best way to do this is by pairing your Chase Freedom Unlimited card with a Chase Sapphire travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Adding one of these cards to your wallet unlocks premium rewards redemptions you won’t get with the Chase Freedom Unlimited — like the ability to transfer points to Chase airline and hotel partners. You’ll also get a better value when you redeem rewards for travel through Chase with either card: Chase Sapphire Preferred boosts your points by 25% when you redeem points for travel, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve gives you 50% more value for your points.

These make great pairs for the Chase Freedom Unlimited because you can transfer the points you earn in bonus Chase Freedom categories to your Sapphire Preferred or Reserve account (which offer bonus categories limited to dining and travel) and take advantage of the points boost. 

For instance, say you max out the Freedom Unlimited’s first-year bonus on groceries by spending $12,000 to earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. You could redeem them for $600 cash, but if you also have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can transfer to that account and redeem for $750 worth of travel booked through Chase. That same grocery spending with the Sapphire Preferred would earn only 1 cent per point, for a total 12,000 points, worth $150 when redeemed for travel. Pairing the cards in this way ensures you maximize both your spending and redemptions with Chase.