You don’t have to pay an annual fee to get great returns on your spending — but with numerous high-earning cash back credit cards on the market, it can be a challenge to determine which one might serve you best.
For example, is it better to earn more rewards in frequent spending categories? Or would you be better off with a card that lets you earn a higher rate on everything you buy? Two of our favorite examples of these different cash back types are the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and the Citi® Double Cash Card* — both of which make our ranking of the best cash back credit cards this year.
Here’s how these cards stack up in terms of benefits and rewards, and how you can decide between the two.
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||Citi Double Cash Card|
|Welcome Offer||Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year)||None|
|Cash Back Rewards||• 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards|
• 5% back on Lyft rides (through March 2022)
• 3% back at restaurants and drugstores
• 1.5% back on everything else
|• 2% back on everything you buy — 1% when a purchase is made and another 1% when it is paid off|
|Other Benefits||• 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74%, intro balance transfer fee of $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater in the first 60 days|
• 3 complimentary months of DashPass membership (Activate by March 31, 2022)
• Purchase protection
• Extended warranty
• Secondary auto rental coverage
• Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
• Travel and emergency assistance services
|• 0% APR on balance transfers for 18 months, followed by a variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99%|
• Citi Entertainment benefits
• Citi Identity Theft Solutions
Chase Freedom Unlimited comes out ahead in this category, as the only one in this pair that offers a welcome bonus. When you sign up for the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you can earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy, on up to $20,000 spent in the first year.
This bonus easy to earn and pretty generous, giving you the potential to earn up to $300 cash back.
Rewards and Benefits Comparison
There can be a lot to unpack when you’re comparing these two cards’ rewards structures.
To start, both earn a minimum flat cash back rate on every purchase. The Citi Double Cash gives you 2% back on everything you buy — 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay it off. The Chase Freedom Unlimited only offers 1.5% back on regular spending.
However, the Chase Freedom Unlimited has several additional bonus rewards in everyday spending categories. The additional categories — 5% back on travel booked with Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 5% back on Lyft rides (through March 2022), and 3% back at restaurants and drugstores can all help you rack up a lot more over time if you spend in those categories regularly.
It’s also worth noting the different ways you can redeem rewards with these cards. The Chase Freedom Unlimited comes with several redemption options. You can use rewards for statement credits, cash back, gift cards, merchandise, or travel through Chase. You can also pair the Chase Freedom Unlimited with a Chase Sapphire travel credit card that earns boosted points value when you redeem for travel. If you already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for example, you can transfer your Freedom Unlimited points to that card account and pool your rewards together for a 25% boost when you book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards or unlock the option to transfer your points to airline and hotel partners affiliated with Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Citi Double Cash redemptions are similar, but lack the same breadth of options and points boost when paired. You can redeem Citi Double Cash rewards for a check, statement credit or credit to a linked account once you have at least $25 in rewards in your account. You can also convert your rewards to Citi ThankYou points once you have a rewards balance of at least $1, and redeem them for cash back, gift cards or even payments to a student loan or a mortgage. If you have a Citi travel card like the Citi Premier® Card, you can pool your points in your Citi Premier account for transfers to Citi retail partners or airline partners like Air France/Flying Blue or Virgin Atlantic.
These cards have comparable ongoing interest rates, but their introductory offers are very different. Chase Freedom Unlimited offers an introductory APR for both purchases and balance transfers, while the Citi Double Cash Card has a longer introductory offer for balance transfers only.
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74%, intro balance transfer fee of $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater in the first 60 days
- Citi Double Cash: 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months, followed by a variable APR of 13.99% to 23.99%
The best offer for you depends on what you’re looking for — financing a large upcoming purchase over time, or paying down existing debt — but you will need a plan to use either offer before you apply.
Balance transfers and rewards don’t always mix well — it’s hard to pay down debt when you’re also charging purchases to a card. If you plan to consolidate debt with a balance transfer, you should avoid using credit cards for purchases until you’re debt-free.
Either way, it’s crucial to remember introductory rates don’t last forever. If you don’t pay off eligible balances before the introductory offer on your card ends, you’ll be stuck paying off debt at your assigned regular variable APR. And because both cards have high ongoing interest rates, make sure you have a plan to pay your balances in full and on time each month.
Both of these cash back credit cards come with a $0 annual fee and 3% balance transfer fee. The Citi Double Cash has a 3% intro balance transfer fee (minimum $5) completed within the first 4 months of account opening, after that 5% of each transfer (minimum $5). The Chase Freedom Unlimited has an intro balance transfer fee of 3% or $5 of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater in the first 60 days.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited and the Citi Double Cash Card also come with the same 3% foreign transaction fee, as well as a 5% (minimum $10) cash advance fee.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
- Intro bonus:Earn an Additional 1.5% Cash Back
- Annual fee:$0
- Regular APR:14.99% – 23.74% Variable
- Recommended credit:670-850 (Good to Excellent)
- Apply Now At Chase’s secure site
Citi® Double Cash Card
- Intro bonus:N/A
- Annual fee:$0
- Regular APR:13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)
- Recommended credit:670-850 (Good to Excellent)
- Learn more At our partner’s secure site
Deciding Between Chase Freedom Unlimited and Citi Double Cash
At the end of the day, the Chase Freedom Unlimited has the potential for higher earning power between these two cards. Not only does it come with the opportunity to earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year), worth up to $300 cash back, but it also has a lot more benefits than the Citi Double Cash, including purchase and travel protections. You’ll earn a bit less on non-bonus spending (1.5%), but the competitive rewards rates in everyday bonus categories (travel, restaurants, and drugstores) can help almost anyone boost their rewards haul.
While it’s not quite as lucrative, the simplicity of the Citi Double Cash Card makes it a good option for nearly anyone. The 2% cash back rate on every purchase (1% when a purchase is made and another 1% when it is paid off) is the highest you’ll find among flat cash back cards, and you’ll never have to worry about strategizing bonus categories. For a lot of consumers, this card’s straightforward rewards program is very appealing.
Both cash back credit cards are winners in our eyes, but Chase Freedom Unlimited will be more valuable for many types of spenders. Still, take time to work out your budget and what you want most from your cash back card — the simplicity of flat-rate rewards or the chance to maximize rewards with bonus category spending.
*All information about the Citi® Double Cash Card has been collected independently by NextAdvisor and has not been reviewed by the issuer.