For those hoping to maximize cash back on their day-to-day spending, Chase Freedom and the Citi Double Cash Card are both great options. But it’s not easy to pick one over the other: while Chase Freedom offers a great cash-back rate of 5% on bonus categories, these categories are subject to quarterly rotations, and the rewards are capped. Then you’ve got Citi’s straightforward earning structure of unlimited 2% flat-rate — but it comes without the trimmings like a welcome bonus. Clearly, both cards have advantages and drawbacks.
As is often the case, choosing the right credit card is more about looking at your own spending patterns and deciding on the amount of effort you’re willing to make to earn rewards. Your preferences and values come into it too: some people think highly of rewards you can predict, while others love the thrill of earning bonus cash back on rotating categories.
With this in mind, it’s time to take a closer look at the nuts and bolts of these two cards.
At a glance comparison
Here’s how the Chase Freedom and Citi Double Cash Card stack up when it comes to the basics:
|Chase Freedom||Citi Double Cash|
|Rewards Rates||5% cash back on first $1,500 purchases in bonus categories applicable to that quarter; 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases.||2% on every purchase: unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.|
|Sign Up Bonus||$200 cash back if you spend $500 within the first three months; 0% Introductory APR for 15 months, on both purchases and balance transfers.||0% intro APR on balance transfer for 18 months.|
|Authorized User Fee||$0||$0|
Citi Double Cash Card
The case for the Chase Freedom
While its earning structure is more complicated, there is no doubt Chase Freedom’s outsized rewards of 5% on specific categories will appeal to many shoppers. In the past, these categories have included gas, groceries, tolls, drugstores, department stores and home improvement, just to name a few. The trick to get more from your card is to keep a close eye on the rewards calendar and activate bonus categories, so Chase Freedom is better suited to those willing to do a bit of work.
One of best things about Chase Freedom is that its cash-back rewards are tracked as Chase Ultimate Rewards points, so $1 in cash back is the same as 100 points. The Chase Ultimate Rewards program is highly flexible, and there are a variety of redemption options — including travel rewards. You can even combine points across eligible accounts to give you more redemption power.
The $200 sign-up bonus is generous, and the 15-month 0% introductory APR can save you a lot of interest if you’re planning on a big purchase or have an existing balance to transfer. With additional features like extended warranty and purchase protection, this card can deliver a lot of value for $0 annual fee.
The case for the Citi Double Cash Card
Although Citi Double Cash Card’s 2% flat-rate sounds less impressive, the fact that it applies to every purchase with no caps or categories to worry about makes it a compelling option. You earn 1% unlimited cash back when you make a purchase, then an additional 1% as you pay for that purchase, either in full or over time. In short, this card is a better choice if you want to keep things simple and hassle-free while still earning a decent reward rate.
Redemption is another strong point, as you can pick from a check, statement credit or credit to a linked Citi account — just keep in mind that you need at least $25 to claim a reward. You can even merge your points into Citi’s ThankYou rewards program, which is an exciting prospect if you value travel rewards. Unlike Chase Freedom, Citi Double Cash Card’s rewards balances can expire if you don’t make eligible purchases or payments for 12 months, so you’ll need to stay aware of how long you’ve had your points.
While the 0% introductory APR applies to balance transfers only, the interest-free period of 18 months is longer than Chase Freedom’s 15 months, giving you more time to manage your finances without penalty.
In a nutshell
Both cards have some great features, but they cater to different cardholder needs. It’s worth noting that both these cards charge 3% foreign transaction fees — so neither is great for overseas travel.
If you’re after a cash-back credit card with a simple rewards structure, the Citi Double Cash Card is for you. Its unlimited flat-rate offering takes the guesswork out of earning credit card rewards. But watch out for the minimum redemption requirements and rewards expiration if you’re not planning to use it regularly.
Chase Freedom, on the other hand, would be ideal if you value the opportunity to earn outsized benefits over predictability. It’s great for someone who enjoys the challenge of maximizing cash-back potential and is happy to shop somewhere different for bigger rewards. However, you’ve got to be comfortable with putting in a little time and effort to keep up with the latest bonus categories.