Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. American Express Blue Cash Preferred: Two Top Cash Back Cards

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Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Blue Cash Preferred Card® from American Express are both among our picks for the best cash back credit cards, and either card can bring you hundreds of dollars in rewards value each year. Each one offers high-value bonus rewards in several everyday spending categories, as well as generous welcome offers to help you maximize spending even more the first year.

That said, there are some important details that differ between the two, and can help you decide which is better for your budget and spending. Chase Freedom Unlimited, for example, charges no annual fee and can help frequent travelers earn rewards on upcoming trips in addition to everyday purchases. On the other hand, the Amex Blue Cash Preferred offers higher rewards rates on common categories, in exchange for an annual fee. 

If you’re considering adding one of these two cash back credit cards to your wallet, here’s everything you need to know before you apply.

Side-by-Side Comparison

Chase Freedom UnlimitedBlue Cash Preferred Card
Annual Fee$0 $95
Welcome OfferAdditional 1.5% cash back on up to $20,000 spent in the first year (up to $300 in value)$350 when you spend $3,000 within three months of account opening
Cash Back Rewards5% back on travel booked through Chase

3% back on dining and drugstore purchases

1.5% back on other purchases
6% back on up to $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets per year, then 1%

6% back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions

3% back at U.S. gas stations and on transit

1% back on other purchases
Other Benefits• 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 17.24% to 25.99%

• Qualify for three free months of DashPass membership

• Travel and purchase protections
• 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, followed by a variable APR of 16.24% to 27.24%

• Up to $120 in annual statement credits when you pay for Equinox+ membership online

• Global Assist hotline

• Travel and purchase protections

Bonus Comparison

With Chase Freedom Unlimited, you’ll earn your welcome bonus over the course of the first year from account opening. The offer earns an extra 1.5% cash back on every purchase, which makes the card essentially a 3% flat cash back card for the first year, before bonus categories. However, to reach the maximum $300 back, you’ll need to spend at least $20,000 over the year — or about $1,667 per month.

The American Express Blue Cash Preferred comes with a $350 welcome offer, but you can earn it more quickly, and with less overall spending. To qualify, you’ll have to spend $3,000 within three months — or an average of $1,000 per month for three months in a row. 

All said, both offers are similar in value, but differ in how you earn them. If you have the budget to consistently spend over $1,600 each month, the welcome offer on the Chase Freedom Unlimited may offer good sustained value over the first year. But the Amex welcome offer could be better if you don’t plan to spend that much on your card each month, or you have a large upcoming purchase that can help you meet the $3,000 spending threshold more quickly. 

Rewards and Benefits Comparison

These two cash back credit cards boast spectacular earning potential in everyday categories. The right card for you just depends on your top spending categories and how much you actually spend on your card each year. 

The Blue Cash Preferred is most advantageous for earning bonus rewards at U.S. supermarkets. You’ll earn 6% back on up to $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets ($360 cash back) annually, then 1% after that. Plus, you’ll also earn 6% back on select streaming services, 3% back on U.S. gas stations and transit (including rideshares and taxis), and 1% on everything else. Whether you have a family that requires a lot of grocery and gas spending, or you live in a city with public transportation and prefer nights in with your favorite streaming services, this card is best for maximizing rewards on common everyday spending categories. 

Meanwhile, the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers its best rewards rate on travel booked through Chase (5%), as well as 3% on dining purchases and drugstore spending. That said, you should think about the rewards you’ll earn on non-bonus spending as well. The Chase Freedom Unlimited ultimately wins on that front since you earn a base rate of 1.5% cash back on every purchase, instead of 1% back.

It’s also important to consider how you can redeem your rewards. While cash back earned with the Blue Cash Preferred is only redeemable for statement credits, you can use Chase points for cash back, statement credits, gift cards, merchandise and travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. 

You can also pair your Freedom Unlimited with a premium Chase travel credit card and pool your rewards for boosted travel redemptions and point transfers to Chase airline and hotel partners. This strategy can work if you also have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

APRs

Both of these cards have an introductory APR for new purchases, but the offer from the Chase Freedom Unlimited applies to both new purchases and balance transfers, and for a longer timeline. 

The Blue Cash Preferred comes with 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, followed by a variable APR of 16.24% to 27.24%. This kind of introductory offer is best for making a big upcoming purchase that you want to pay off over time, such as furniture or a trip. 

But if you’re planning to make a balance transfer, the Chase Freedom Unlimited may be ideal because of its 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 17.24% to 25.99%.

Pro Tip

If you need a card you can use to consolidate debt, you’ll want to choose the Chase Freedom Unlimited. This card is the only one of these two that allows balance transfers, and you also get 0% APR for a limited time.

Fees

While the Chase Freedom Unlimited does not carry an annual fee, the Blue Cash Preferred Card charges $95. Both cards also charge foreign transaction fees (3% with the Chase Freedom Unlimited and 2.7% with the Blue Cash Preferred Card) and the same 5% (minimum $10) cash advance fee.

If you transfer a balance to the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you’ll owe a 3% (minimum $5) balance transfer fee. The Blue Cash Preferred Card doesn’t allow balance transfers.

Both cards charge the same late payment fee and returned payment fee, which can be up to $40.

Learn More externa link icon
Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Editor’s Score: (4.7/5)
  • Intro offer:
    Earn an Additional 1.5% Cash Back
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    17.24% – 25.99% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Apply Now externa link icon At Chase’s secure site
Learn More externa link icon
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Editor’s Score: (4.3/5)
Learn More externa link icon
Chase Freedom Flex℠

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Editor’s Score: (4.7/5)
  • Intro offer:
    $200
  • Annual fee:
    $0
  • Regular APR:
    17.24% – 25.99% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Apply Now externa link icon At Chase’s secure site

Deciding Between Chase Freedom Unlimited and Blue Cash Preferred Card

Editorial Independence

As with all of our credit card reviews, our analysis is not influenced by any partnerships or advertising relationships.

These two cash back credit cards can each add great value to your spending. The best one for you depends on which categories you spend the most in, how you plan to use the card, and whether you’re willing to pay an annual fee.

If you’re looking to pay off debt, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is ideal for its balance transfer introductory offer, whereas the Blue Cash Preferred doesn’t allow balance transfers. It’s best to avoid making new purchases when paying off debt, but after you do, you’ll be able to take advantage of the Freedom Unlimited’s cash back rewards as long as you practice good credit habits.

You may also choose the Chase Freedom Unlimited if you’re a frequent traveler, especially if you already have a Chase Sapphire card, You can earn to maximize rewards on future trips. Plus, the Freedom Unlimited’s no annual fee and flat 1.5% cash rewards make it easy to get cash back value even without strategizing every purchase.

On the other hand, the Blue Cash Preferred card may be best if you do most of your spending at the supermarket or on gas and transit, and you’re looking to earn maximum rewards from your everyday spending. The 6% rewards at U.S. supermarkets are the most you’ll find across any card, and if you reach the $6,000 spending cap annually, you’ll get a total $360 in this category alone. Even with the $95 annual fee, you can quickly earn back the value in rewards.

Both cards can help you maximize your cash back earn, and can even work well together to help you earn complementary rewards. With both rewards cards in your wallet, you could maximize your cash back in most everyday spending categories — including groceries, gas, dining, streaming, and drugstores — as well as upcoming travel. And for purchases that don’t fit into a bonus category, use your Chase Freedom Unlimited to earn a base rate of 1.5% back on regular spending.