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Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Citi Double Cash: Which Is Better in 2021?

Updated Nov 01, 2021 | Published Oct 29, 20218 min read

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Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Min Credit Level Good
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 14.99% - 24.74% Variable

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Min Credit Level Good
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)
At a glance

The Chase Freedom Unlimited Card and the Citi Double Cash Card are two mainstays at the top of the cash back credit cards market. While the Double Cash offers a more substantial flat rate, the Freedom Unlimited comes through with a strong welcome bonus and a long list of rewards and redemption options.

Credit Card Insider receives compensation from advertisers whose products may be mentioned on this page. Advertiser relationships do not affect card evaluations. Advertising partners do not edit or endorse our editorial content. Content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when it's published. Learn more in our Editorial Guidelines.

Both the Chase Freedom Unlimited® (Review) and the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer (Review) are highly regarded no-annual-fee cash back credit cards. The Citi Double Cash is renowned for its market-topping 2% cash back rate. Not to be outdone, the Chase Freedom Unlimited gives cardholders access to Chase Ultimate Rewards, one of the best credit card reward programs available.

But, which credit card is the best? We’re putting both to the test in this side-by-side comparison of features, benefits, and rewards to see who comes out on top.

Who will win this Clash of the Cash-Back Titans? Let’s dive into our comparison and find out.

Side by Side Breakdown of Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Citi Double Cash

Card Chase Freedom Unlimited Citi Double Cash
Fees
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Balance transfer fee: Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater in the first 60 days
  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Balance transfer fee: Intro fee 3% of each transfer ($5 min) completed within the first 4 months of account opening. After that, 5% of each transfer ($5 min).
  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.99% (Variable)
Welcome Offer $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months None
Intro APR
  • Purchase APR: 0% for 15 months, then 14.99% - 24.74% Variable
  • Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then 14.99% - 24.74% Variable
  • Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 18 months on Balance Transfers, then 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)
Rewards Rate
  • 5% cash back on:
    • Travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • Lyft rides (through March 2022)
    • Grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) up to $12,000 spent in the first year
  • 3% cash back at:
    • Restaurants
    • Drugstores
  • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
  • 2% cash back for every purchase (must pay at least the minimum due on time):
    • 1% back when you make a purchase
    • 1% back when you pay for that purchase
Redemption Options
  • Redeem for statement credits, checks, direct deposits, and gift cards
  • Transfer to other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards
  • Redeem for statement credits, checks, direct deposits, and gift cards
  • Convert cash back rewards into ThankYou Points
Additional Benefits
  • 3 complimentary months of DashPass membership
  • Extended Warranty
  • Purchase Protection
  • Secondary Car Rental Insurance
  • Trip Cancellation and Interruption Insurance
  • Zero dollar liability on unauthorized charges
  • Citi Entertainment access for concerts, sporting events, and more
  • Citi Identity Theft Solutions
  • Zero dollar liability on unauthorized charges
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
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Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer
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Citi is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

Fees

Both the Chase Freedom Unlimited and the Citi Double Cash cards come with a $0 annual fee and a balance transfer fee.

Both cards charge a 3% foreign transaction fee on purchases you make outside of the United States. Additionally, these two competitors impose a penalty APR if you make a late payment or if your payment is returned.

Winner: Tie

It’s always nice to save money, and you won’t have to pay an annual fee with either of these cards. But, because the fee structures of these cards so closely mirror one another, neither one stands out as a clear winner in this category.

With no annual fee and easily attainable rewards, you could use either of these cards for free and enjoy the rewards they provide. That’s assuming you don’t need a balance transfer and you avoid paying interest and fees.

Welcome Offer

The Chase Freedom Unlimited offer is pretty simple: $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months. On top of the bonus, you can also earn a 5% cash back reward on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart buys) in the first year, up to a $12,000 spending cap.

Unfortunately, the Citi Double Cash card does not offer a bonus.

Winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is the easy winner since Citi does not offer a welcome bonus with the Double Cash card.

The Freedom Unlimited has an easily attainable spending threshold to earn the introductory bonus and a generous first-year grocery store offer that may combine to kickstart your cash-earning journey.

Read more Best Credit Card Signup Bonus Offers of December 2021

Intro APR Offer

If you’re planning on making a large purchase or transferring high-interest debt, the Freedom Unlimited’s 0% introductory APR for 15 months may be what you’re looking for. After the intro periods expire, an APR of 14.99% - 24.74% Variable kicks in.

The Citi Double Cash offers 0% APR for the first 18 months on Balance Transfers only. That’s one of the longest intro periods on the market. After that time, the APR converts to 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable).

The Double Cash card gives you ample time to transfer any balances at that rate — up to 4 months. By contrast, the Freedom Unlimited gives you 60 days to complete balance transfers, and the balance transfer fee increases after the promotional period.

Winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Citi Double Cash card’s intro rate is three months longer than its counterpart, but it’s strictly reserved for balance transfers. For cardholders striving to pay down debt, having more time for repayment is invaluable.

However, the Freedom Unlimited takes the cake here with an intro offer that applies to purchases and balance transfers. Paying 0% interest on purchases aligns well with the card’s cash back program; you can make purchases without interest charges cutting into your cash rewards.

Insider tip

Both the Freedom Unlimited and the Double Cash have balance transfer fees that can cut into your interest savings. If your top priority is transferring and paying high-interest debt, keep in mind there are dedicated balance transfer credit cards available, including some without balance transfer fees.

Rewards Rate

Because the rewards rates of these two cards differ significantly, deciding which one is better will likely depend on your spending habits and goals.

The Citi Double Cash offers cardholders 1% cash back on every purchase and another 1% back once they pay for those purchases. In effect, that’s 2% cash back for every purchase, along with plenty of motivation to pay off your balance each month.

By contrast, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card offers rewards at varying levels. For starters, you can earn a substantial 5% cash back rate on travel-related purchases you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Chase is also extending 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022, and the same rate applies to grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart), but a $12,000 first-year spending cap applies.

Rounding out the rewards program for the Freedom Unlimited, you’ll receive 3% cash back on purchases at drugstores and restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

The Citi Double Cash card rewards you with 0.5% more on non-bonus-category spending than with Chase, but the Freedom Unlimited’s 3% rate on dining and drugstores may be more valuable to you. Deciding which rewards rate is better may come down to your lifestyle and spending habits.

Potential Rewards Example

If you spend $1,200 a month using the Citi Double Cash card, you’ll earn $24 based on the card’s 2% cash back rate. That translates to $288 in annual earnings.

If you spend the same amount on non-category purchases with the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, your 1.5% rewards rate would deliver $18 a month and $216 for the year. When you add in the card’s introductory bonus, you’ll earn quite a bit more, making the card a clear winner in first-year earnings.

It’s also safe to assume your spending will include some purchases in the Freedom Unlimited’s bonus categories. Let’s say your dining and drugstore purchases total $250 each month. In this case, you’d earn 3% ($7.50 a month) with the Freedom Unlimited card or 2% ($5 a month) with the Double Cash card. And, if you spend $1,000 each year on flights and hotel stays, you could get 5% back ($50 for the year) through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The same travel spend through the Double Cash still earns the flat 2% cash back rate, giving you a rewards payout of $20 a year.

Winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited

Since many consumers already spend money each month on bonus categories such as dining, drugstores, and travel, the rewards are likely to be more valuable with the Chase Freedom Unlimited. But, if it’s simplicity and a great flat rewards rate you’re after, the Citi Double Cash card may be a better fit for you.

Redemption Options

These cards allow you to redeem rewards in multiple ways. You can cash in your points for a statement credit, check, or direct deposit with either card. Also, both the Chase Freedom Unlimited and the Citi Double Cash allow you to convert rewards through their points programs — Chase Ultimate Rewards and ThankYou Points, respectively.

You can pair your Freedom Unlimited card with a Chase Sapphire credit card, for instance, and earn a redemption value boost whenever you redeem points for travel. If you only have a Freedom Unlimited card, your Ultimate Reward points earn 1 cent per point at the most. But, if you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review), you can transfer your Freedom Unlimited points to your Sapphire Reserve account and get a redemption bonus of 50% when you book travel arrangements through Ultimate Rewards. Another option is to transfer your points to Ultimate Rewards’ travel partners; this can be the most lucrative option, but it can take some more time and effort. Learn more about pairing Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards to optimize your rewards.

With the Citi Double Cash card, you can redeem your rewards as a statement credit or direct deposit. Or, instead of redeeming for cash, you can convert your rewards into ThankYou points, which can deliver a better return. If you have the Citi Premier® Card (Review) you can transfer points to your Citi Premier account and then transfer them to any Citi retail, hotel, or airline partners, including Cathay Pacific Asia and Virgin Atlantic. But if you won’t do that, it’d be better to just redeem your cash back normally.

Winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited

While both cards offer numerous redemption options, the Chase Freedom Unlimited takes the cake with a redemption boost up to 50% and great point transfer options when you pair it with a Sapphire card.

Additional Benefits

As no-annual-fee cards, it’s not surprising neither the Chase Freedom Unlimited or Citi Double Cash offers premier perks like airport lounge access, TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, or cell phone protection. Still, the extra benefits these cards offer are nothing to sneeze at.

Chase partners with the food delivery service DoorDash to give Freedom Unlimited cardmembers free access to DashPass for three months, which is $9.99 per month (as of October 2022). You can use your DashPass for unlimited free deliveries for all DoorDash orders of at least $12. Once the three-month complimentary period ends, you can extend your pass for one year with a 50% discount.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card offers zero liability protection on unauthorized purchases, purchase protection up to $500 for any eligible item, and extended warranty protection. These features should provide a level of assurance when you shop with your Chase card.

For its part, the Citi Double Cash comes through with its Citi Entertainment program, which bestows you with early or preferred access to concerts, sporting events, and other entertainment experiences.

Like its Chase counterpart, and pretty much every credit card, the Citi Double Cash also places importance on security. It offers $0 liability on unauthorized purchases. You’ll also receive Fraud Early Warning notifications, and the Lost Wallet Service can replace your card, usually within 24 hours.

While Citi doesn’t offer an online shopping portal to earn extra points, the Chase Freedom Unlimited does provide cardholders with access to Shop through Chase and Chase Offers. These are Ultimate Rewards online shopping portals that reward you for shopping at participating retailers. Shop through Chase features hundreds of stores offering extra points, while Chase Offers provides statement credits at a smaller selection of stores.

Winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited

While the Citi Entertainment program that comes with the Double Cash may be enticing to concert-goers, Chase’s DoorDash incentive, extended warranty, and purchase protection will appeal to most cardholders. The Freedom Unlimited also beats the Double Cash with access to online shopping portals with popular retailers to accelerate your point accumulation.

Which Card Is Better: Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Citi Double Cash?

So, which of these two wins this Clash of the Cash Back Titans, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® (Review) or the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer (Review)? After carefully comparing these two outstanding rewards cards for their fees, welcome offers, cash back rates, redemption options, and more, it’s time to raise the victor’s hand. And the winner is: Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Despite the Double Cash card’s slightly higher non-category rewards rate and longer intro APR period for balance transfers, the Chase Freedom Unlimited takes the cake with wins in the welcome bonus, rewards rate, redemption option, and benefit categories. It also includes a very handy 0% rate for purchases, which you won’t get with the Double Cash.

The Freedom Unlimited provides more flexibility to redeem points through Ultimate Rewards and travel partners. And, since most cardholders will likely spend in all or most of the Freedom Unlimited’s bonus categories, they may earn more rewards with this Chase card.

Cardholders seeking travel benefits may get more out of the Chase Freedom Unlimited card as well, with 5% back on Lyft rides and travel arrangements through Ultimate Rewards plus a variety of travel protections.

But, if it’s a hefty cash back rate without restricting categories or spending caps you’re after, you might value the Citi Double Cash card more.

Read more Best Cash Back Credit Cards of December 2021
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Min. credit levelGood
  • Annual Fee$0
  • Purchase APR0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, then 14.99% - 24.74% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Min. credit levelGood
  • Annual Fee$0
  • Purchase APR13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)

Citi is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

FAQ

Is the Citi Double Cash card hard to get approved for?

The Citi Double Cash card requires good credit scores. That translates to FICO credit scores of at least 670, and VantageScore credit scores of at least 700.

Even with excellent credit scores, credit card approval is never guaranteed. Card issuers typically consider several qualifying factors, including your monthly income, existing debts, and employment stability.

Is the Chase Freedom Unlimited hard to get approved for?

You’ll need good to excellent credit to qualify for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, as well. That means your FICO credit scores should be 670 or higher, and your VantageScore should be 700 or higher. The higher your credit scores are, the better chance you have of approval.

How long does Chase take to approve?

According to Chase, approval decisions are “nearly instantaneous” in most cases. If more information is needed, it can take up to 8 to 15 days to come to a decision. If you are approved, remember it could take up to two weeks to receive your new credit card in the mail.

Learn more: Does getting denied for a credit card damage your credit scores?

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Written by

Tim Maxwell

​​Tim Maxwell is a former television news journalist turned freelance finance writer and credit card expert with over two decades of experience in the media. Tim is passionate about financial literacy and empowering people to take control of their finances. His personal finance articles also appear in publications like Bankrate and Fox Business.

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