When applying for a new credit card, you always want to find the best welcome offer — the one that offers the most bang for your buck, the most points, the most cash back.
But what if there’s a welcome offer so potentially lucrative that it keeps you from signing up for other cards for an entire year?
After getting the Chase Freedom Unlimited in September of last year, that’s the situation I find myself in. Let me explain.
Best-ever sign-up bonus
In the fall of 2023, I took advantage of a fantastic (now-expired) welcome offer on one of Chase’s most popular cash-back cards, the Chase Freedom Unlimited. At the end of my first year, Chase will match all the cash back earned on the card in my first 12 months of card ownership.
This means the card’s earnings rates are essentially doubled for the first year of the Freedom Unlimited. Instead of earning 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, I’ll earn a total of 10% back. Instead of 3% back on dining and drugstores, I’ll earn 6%. And instead of 1.5% back on all other purchases, I’ll earn a solid 3%.
Those elevated earnings rates are some of the best you’ll find on any cash-back card, perhaps ever. And they are (or were) available for a full year of card ownership.
Not a bad return on just my third-ever credit card. But why am I waiting to pull the trigger on another?
Why I’m waiting
It goes without saying that the welcome offer I jumped on is pretty lucrative. But is it so lucrative that I’ve boxed myself out of getting other cards for the time being if my ultimate goal is maximizing value?
I think the answer to that question is yes. Plenty of other cards I could sign up for offer lavish travel perks and the like, but it’s hard to beat 10% cash back on travel booked through Chase. And given my personal spending habits (hint: I eat out a lot), a total of 6% back on dining is also a fantastic return.
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Note that this spending category also includes takeout and eligible delivery services, which is all the encouragement I need to use DoorDash a few more times a week (my Freedom Unlimited also came with three months of complimentary DashPass).
Sure, I could go for a premium travel card in the meantime and take advantage of a welcome offer I like there. But when maximizing value on day-to-day spending, the Freedom Unlimited will almost always be my best bet, at least until that lump sum of matched cash back hits my account in the fall.
Luckily, I already know what my next move will be when those first 12 months are up — and it will help me maximize the rewards on my Freedom Unlimited even further, if you can believe it.
My next card
When my first 12 months on the Freedom Unlimited are over, I plan to apply for another popular and valuable offering from Chase: the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
That’s for a few reasons. First, Chase’s 5/24 rule dictates that Chase won’t approve any new card applicants who have opened five or more personal credit cards across all banks in the last 24 months. That means that, as a general rule, if I’m filling out my wallet, I’ll want to prioritize getting Chase cards first, as no other card issuers have a rule like this.
More importantly, though, the Sapphire Preferred is one of a few cards — along with the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Ink Business Preferred — that will allow me to convert my cash back on the Freedom Unlimited into fully transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
That means that I unlock Chase’s full range of 14 airline and hotel transfer partners. And it means every cent earned with the Freedom Unlimited will be 1 Ultimate Reward point, worth 2.05 cents per TPG valuations — effectively earning me an over 20% return on all travel purchases and an over 12% return on dining and at drugstores.
To summarize: By taking advantage of the matched cash-back offer on the Freedom Unlimited and then converting my cash back into points with another Chase card, I will quadruple the standard return on the Freedom Unlimited for my first 12 months of card ownership.
The matched cash-back offer on the Freedom Unlimited was a rare one. You definitely don’t see welcome offers with potentially unlimited returns on popular cash-back cards every day.
But it is a great example of the need to be flexible in the credit card rewards game. I had originally planned on getting the Sapphire Preferred much earlier in my cards journey; now, I’ve kicked that down the road to maximize my return on spending in the meantime.
This offer also works for me, in particular, given my spending habits. I don’t travel a ton, but I spend a lot on eating out, making the 6% back in that category a boon for my bottom line.
So, if you take away anything from this article, let it be this: Credit card rewards are all about what’s valuable to you. Find the card, perks and welcome offer that make the most sense for your lifestyle and spending habits. And when something really lucrative comes along, be ready to take advantage. Then think about which card to pair it with next.
To learn more, read our full review of the Chase Freedom Unlimited.
Apply here: Chase Freedom Unlimited