Edited by: Juan Ruiz
& Keri Stooksbury
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Choosing the best rewards card can have far-reaching implications for your personal finances and travel habits for years to come. That’s why it’s better to start evaluating the best options for you sooner than later.
And it’s totally worth it because when all is said and done, picking the best product for your needs can return tens of thousands of dollars back to your wallet.
And while one of the most important things to acknowledge is that there’s no single card that’ll offer every imaginable benefit with huge rewards on all of your favorite purchases, it’s possible to get pretty close.
So in this guide, we’ll compare 2 extremely popular cards for travel rewards: Chase Freedom Unlimited® and the American Express® Gold Card.
As you’ll find out, the Freedom Unlimited card and Amex Gold card are for 2 totally different sets of consumers, even though they’re both excellent choices.
The Freedom Unlimited card and Amex Gold card each have totally different features, benefits, and rewards structures. In this section, we’ll highlight the benefits at the highest level possible before drilling deep into the specifics.
|Feature/Benefit||Chase Freedom Unlimited®||American Express® Gold Card|
|Welcome Offer||SPECIAL OFFER: Unlimited Matched Cash Back. Chase will automatically match all the cash back you earned at the end of your first year! There is no limit to how much cash back you can earn.||Earn 60,000 points when you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first 6 months.|
|Top Travel Benefits and Protections||
|Top Shopping Benefits and Protections||
|Annual Fees||$0||$250 (rates & fees)|
Both the Freedom Unlimited card and Amex Gold card boast opportunities to earn outsized returns on your spending. The Amex Gold card tends to outperform in travel benefits.
Welcome offer bonuses vary from card to card and even from various times of the year. Indeed, you should consider a new card if you’re able to earn a handsome welcome bonus.
One of the best parts of a welcome offer is that it offers accelerated rewards in a short time horizon, which allows you to get off to a head start when building your points wealth.
This all-purpose cash-back card offers great bonus categories, including bonus points for every purchase you make!
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is easily one of the best cash-back credit cards on the market. There aren’t many no-annual-fee credit cards that offer multiple great bonus categories like 5% back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% back on all other purchases.
When paired with other Chase cards in the Ultimate Rewards family, you can transfer that cash back into points if you wish – making it one of the most lucrative cards in your wallet.
This is the best card for food lovers who dine out at restaurants (worldwide), order take-out and want big rewards at U.S. supermarkets!
The American Express® Gold Card is a game-changer.
With this card, you can earn 4x Membership Rewards points at restaurants and you’ll also earn 4x Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1x.
There isn’t another card on the market that offers a 1-2 punch like this. Of course, there are several other benefits of the Gold Card as well, including extra monthly dining rewards and more.
If you have consistent travel habits or preferred redemption methods, one may be better than the other.
For example, Chase Ultimate Rewards has a phenomenal transfer partnership with World of Hyatt, which makes it the best way to book hotel stays using points.
Even though Amex Membership Rewards has transfer partnerships with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors, you generally won’t get the same redemption value on hotel stays compared to Chase and World of Hyatt.
When you make purchases on the Freedom Unlimited card, you’ll earn different rewards than if you were transacting on the Amex Gold card.
Here is a table outlining your earning power on each card:
|Bonus Earning Category||Freedom Unlimited Card (Cash-back)||Amex Gold Card (Membership Rewards Points)|
|Flights Purchased Directly From Airlines||1.5% cash-back||3x points|
|Flights Purchased From the Card’s Travel Portal||5% cash-back||3x points|
|Other Travel Purchases||1.5% cash-back||1x points|
|Restaurants||3% cash-back||4x points|
|U.S. Supermarket Purchases||1.5% cash-back||4x points on the first $25,000 every calendar year|
|Drugstores||3% cash-back||1x points|
|Additional Earnings||5% cash-back on Lyft purchases through March 31, 2025
1.5% cash-back on all other purchases
|1x points on all other purchases|
From the chart above, we can conclude that the Amex Gold card generally earns superior rewards, especially considering our valuations of Amex points at 2.2 cents each.
As you can see, the Freedom Unlimited card earns at least 1.5% cash-back on every purchase, while the Amex Gold card earns at least 1 Membership Rewards point on every purchase.
We recommend evaluating your monthly spending habits to see which categories you spend the most on.
Redemption is one of the areas that sets apart the Amex Gold card from the Freedom Unlimited card.
The Amex Gold card earns Membership Rewards points, while the Freedom Unlimited card earns cash-back.
Sure, the Freedom Unlimited card’s rewards can be converted to those Ultimate Rewards points we all know and love, but it requires you to have an Ultimate Rewards card in your wallet, which can add some extra complexity to your personal finances.
As a standalone product, the Freedom Unlimited card earns rewards that can only be redeemed for cash-back, Amazon.com purchases through Shop with Points, gift cards, or Chase travel portal redemptions at a fixed value.
Beyond that, some other redemption options include gift cards, statement credits, charitable donations, and travel booked through Amex Travel.
Just be mindful that you’ll get subpar value for anything besides award travel booked through transfer partners.
All in all, the Freedom Unlimited card is fundamentally a cash-back card, while the Amex Gold card could potentially serve the purpose of both a travel rewards card and a cash-back card.
Also, keep in mind that the target demographic of the Freedom Unlimited card is totally different from that of the Amex Gold card.
Ultimately, the Amex Gold card is a food- and travel-centric card, while the Freedom Unlimited card offers great rewards on miscellaneous purchases in addition to its cash-back bonus categories.
Amex Membership Rewards points are incredibly valuable due to their potential to transfer rewards to travel partners and get some incredible value through luxury award travel.
The Freedom Unlimited card’s rewards are denominated in cash-back but can be converted to Ultimate Rewards points with another credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
Where Ultimate Rewards points perform exceptionally well outside of award travel with transfer partners is for points redemptions through the Chase travel portal, assuming you have an Ultimate Rewards card, thanks to the potential to get up to 1.5 cents per point in value.
In general, you won’t enjoy elevated hotel elite status with either of these cards through mainstream hotel chains. However, the Amex Gold card offers significant hotel perks, while the Freedom Unlimited card generally does not.
Right now, those with the Amex Gold card can book stays at The Hotel Collection, which consists of an impressive array of upscale and/or luxury hotels around the world.
When you book eligible stays of at least 2 nights at these properties using your Amex Gold card or with your Membership Rewards points (not recommended), you’ll get a $100 property credit and a room upgrade, subject to availability.
The Freedom Unlimited card comes with a free 3-month Instacart+ membership plus a $10 quarterly credit. This benefit must be activated by July 31, 2024.
On the other hand, the Amex Gold card offers up to $240 in annual benefits at participating dining partners and Uber.
To start with, this card gets you a $10 monthly statement credit (up to $120 annually) at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Milk Bar, select Shake Shack locations, and Wine.com. To get this benefit, enrollment is required.
Also, the Amex Gold card offers $10 in monthly Uber Cash (up to $120 per year), which can be used on U.S. Uber rides or U.S. Uber Eats orders.
Travel insurance and protection are increasingly important benefits to consumers. These perks offer peace of mind, which can ultimately be priceless to some.
The Amex Gold card and Freedom Unlimited card both offer complimentary secondary rental car insurance.
And while both cards generally exclude expensive or exotic automobiles, the other terms are about the same.
To get coverage, you’ll need to decline your rental car agency’s collision damage waiver (CDW) or loss damage waiver (LDW) and pay for your rental using your card.
Another potentially useful fact is that the Amex Gold card has the ability to purchase primary rental car insurance through Amex at a low rate, which is usually capped at $24.95 per rental. Some terms apply, including a maximum rental period of 42 days.
Just remember that the standard credit card coverage on both of these cards is secondary insurance, which means you’ll need to file a claim with your own insurance company first before filing any claims through the credit card insurance company.
The Freedom Unlimited card offers trip interruption and cancellation insurance, making it one of the few no-annual-fee cards that offer this.
Currently, on eligible incidents, you can get up to $1,500 per covered person and up to $6,000 per trip in reimbursements on prepaid, nonrefundable passenger fares for trips less than 60 days in duration.
Interestingly, the Amex Gold card does not offer any trip cancellation or interruption coverage.
However, trip delay coverage is offered, which makes you eligible for compensation if your trip is delayed for more than 12 hours. For covered delays, you can get up to $300 in reimbursement per trip with a maximum of 2 claims for every rolling 12-month period.
The Amex Gold card offers a well-thought-out baggage insurance plan covering you for up to $1,250 per person per trip (for carry-on bags) if your bags become damaged, stolen, or lost. For checked bags, the maximum coverage drops to $500 per person per trip.
In order to qualify, you must pay for the entire fare with your Amex Gold card or using your Membership Rewards points through Pay with Points.
The Freedom Unlimited card does not offer any baggage insurance.
If you get in a bind while you’re on a trip, both the Freedom Unlimited card and Amex Gold card can offer assistance.
The Freedom Unlimited card offers a dedicated hotline for Travel and Emergency Assistance Services to help with emergency transportation, legal referrals, medical assistance, transportation arrangements, emergency cash advances, and more.
The Amex Gold card also offers similar services known as Global Assist. This 24/7 hotline can help with these same services when traveling more than 100 miles from home.
Just keep in mind that while both the Freedom Unlimited card and Amex Gold card offer travel and emergency assistance services, you’ll be responsible for any costs incurred.
Life goes on when you’re not traveling, which is why you need a card that can adequately protect you while you’re living your everyday life.
In this section, we’ll go over the key shopping benefits and protections each card offers.
The Amex Gold card and Freedom Unlimited card allow you to earn more points or cash-back statement credits on select purchases.
With the Freedom Unlimited card, you can enroll in Chase Offers, which usually offers discounts on specific purchases, such as 10% cash-back at Starbucks.
Similarly, the Amex Gold card entitles you to access Amex Offers, which are generally better than Chase Offers. That’s because you can get bonus Membership Rewards points, substantial cash-back offers, and so much more with Amex Offers.
Whether you use Chase Offers or Amex Offers, these bonus rewards and cash-back statement credits require enrollment, which can be done by logging into your account online and choosing the offers you’d like to enroll in.
Moving on to other shopping perks, both of these cards offer purchase protection, which can cover you against damage or theft on most items purchased on your card, provided certain conditions are met.
In the case of the Freedom Unlimited card, for new retail purchases within 120 days of the purchase, if a covered incident occurs, you can apply for up to $500 per item in reimbursements and up to $50,000 per calendar year.
The Amex Gold card’s purchase protection policy covers damage, loss, or theft for up to 90 days after the date of purchase. There’s maximum per-item coverage of $10,000 and maximum yearly coverage of $50,000.
The Freedom Unlimited card’s benefits include a substantial extended warranty policy, which offers up to 1 additional year on eligible warranties of 3 years or less.
Coverage includes a maximum of $10,000 per item and up to $50,000 per calendar year.
Extended warranty is offered to Amex Gold card members, which can get you up to 1 extra year of protection, so long as the eligible warranty is less than 5 years in length.
You must purchase the item using your Amex Gold card, and you can get up to $10,000 in additional coverage per item and up to $50,000 in extra coverage per calendar year.
In general, zero liability protection is offered on most credit cards these days; the Freedom Unlimited card and Amex Gold card are no exception.
For unauthorized purchases, you will not be held liable for these purchases on either the Amex Gold card or Freedom Unlimited card.
The Freedom Unlimited card comes with a 3% foreign transaction fee, unfortunately.
Meanwhile, the Amex Gold card has no foreign transaction fees. That means, for example, you can save $30 in foreign transaction fees when spending $1,000 on the Amex Gold card instead of the Freedom Unlimited card.
The Freedom Unlimited card has a traditional credit limit, while the Amex Gold card doesn’t have a preset spending limit.
That means you’ll probably want to use the Amex Gold card if you’re making a large purchase, as it is probably more likely to be approved in comparison to the Freedom Unlimited card.
On the Amex Gold card, no preset spending limit means your spending limit is flexible. Unlike a traditional card with a set limit, the amount you can spend adapts based on factors such as your purchase, payment, and credit history
The Freedom Unlimited card has no annual fee, while the Amex Gold card has a $250 annual fee.
The Freedom Unlimited card has no additional annual fees for authorized users, while the Amex Gold card has no additional annual fees for up to 5 authorized users. After that, there’s an annual fee of $35 per person, per year (rates & fees).
One of the features we love most about the Amex Gold card is its rewards on dining and groceries.
On the other hand, one of the features you can’t ignore about the Freedom Unlimited card is the unlimited 1.5% cash-back on other non-bonused purchases.
And with the right credit card pairing, the Freedom Unlimited card’s rewards can be converted to Ultimate Rewards points at a 1% cash-back to 1x points ratio, doubling your return on spending.
Remember, a lot of the benefits of the Amex Gold card pay for its annual fee, so we recommend the Amex Gold card to enthusiastic travelers looking for outsized rewards.
We recommend the Freedom Unlimited card to the no-frills customer looking to focus on cash-back rewards with low fees.
Amex Membership Rewards points are some of the most valuable points you can collect, so there’s no question you’ll get superb value with your rewards by using the Amex Gold card, whether you’re eating out, shopping at your local grocery store, or booking flights. There are some fantastic welcome offers currently available, including this 90k Amex Gold referral offer.
Now, you’re equipped with all of the best information to help you make a decision between the Freedom Unlimited card and Amex Gold card!
For the car rental collision damage coverage benefit of the American Express Gold Card, eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company. Car rental loss or damage coverage is offered through American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc. For the baggage insurance plan benefit of American Express Gold Card, eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company. For the extended warranty and purchase protection benefit of the American Express Gold Card, eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company.
The information regarding the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.
Some people think the Freedom Unlimited card is an Amex Gold card competitor. We believe they appeal to totally different groups of people. However, we can agree that the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, and even the Chase Sapphire Reserve card can be considered Amex Gold card competitors.
In our opinion, we think the Amex Gold card is superior, despite its higher price tag. The travel rewards and benefits you get can’t be discounted, though the Freedom Unlimited card offers great cash-back rewards with no annual fee.
By our valuations, Amex points are worth more than Chase points. However, it depends on how you use your points. Chase is generally more valuable for hotel stays, while Amex points are better for award travel and getting maximum value on flights.
The Amex Gold card is one of the highest-ROI cards out there. Earning 4x points is worth an 8.8% return on spending, but it does come with an annual fee. The Freedom Unlimited card has no annual fee and can offer great cash-back rewards if you’re more interested in that.
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