Edited by: Nick Ellis
& Stella Shon
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Having a card in your wallet that earns unlimited cash-back on every purchase can take the thought out of which card to use for your next daily purchase. If that card has no annual fee, it can be an even better scenario.
Today we’re focusing on 2 possible options for an everyday credit card, both of which offer flat-rate elevated earnings on every purchase you make.
These options include the popular Chase Freedom Unlimited® and the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card. You’ll find that the cards differ beyond how rewards are earned, including available bonus spending categories, options you’ll have at redemption time, and the types of additional benefits provided.
In today’s article, we’ll help you quickly sort through the differences until one card makes more sense for your situation than the other.
Stay with us as we compare these 2 everyday no-annual-fee cards.
We’ll expand on all the details of the Freedom Unlimited card and Wells Fargo Active Cash card next.
First, here’s a helpful overview of how the cards compare in all the key categories that add cardholder value.
|Feature or Benefit||Chase Freedom Unlimited®||Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card|
|Welcome Offer||INTRO OFFER: 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!||Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months|
||2% cash-back on all purchases|
|Travel Protections and Benefits||
|Shopping Protections and Benefits||
|Annual Fees and Authorized Users||
|Additional Benefits||0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 20.49% - 29.24%.||0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, then a 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% variable APR|
* Premium Chase cards include those with an annual fee, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, and Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
When you’re approved for either the Freedom Unlimited card or the Wells Fargo Active Cash card, you’ll have the opportunity to earn a welcome offer of additional cash-back during an initial specified period.
Welcome bonus offers, vary but you can expect a common welcome offer on either card to be worth $200 to $300. Always check for the most current offer before applying for either card:
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.
Don’t forget too, there’s 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 20.49% - 29.24%.
The Wells Fargo Active Cash card earns an uncapped 2% cash-back on all purchases with no annual fee.
Both the Freedom Unlimited card and Wells Fargo Active Cash card earn unlimited cash-back. While the Wells Fargo Active Cash card earns cash-back directly, the Freedom Unlimited card earns rewards first as points that can subsequently be redeemed for cash-back. This is a subtle, but important, difference that can affect the value you receive at redemption time.
We’ll talk about redemption options next, but here’s how each of our featured cards earns rewards on every purchase:
|Earning Category||Freedom Unlimited Card||Wells Fargo Active Cash Card|
||2% cash-back on all travel purchases|
|Dining, Including Carry-out/Delivery and Drugstores||3% cash-back||2% cash-back|
|All Other Purchases||1.5% cash-back||2% cash-back|
The mix of your spending will ultimately determine the amount of cash-back you’ll earn. For example, if your overall spending consists mostly of travel purchased via the Chase travel portal, on dining, and at drugstores, you could earn more with the Freedom Unlimited card.
Another key consideration is that if the majority of your spending is in non-bonus categories — think warehouse stores, gas stations, tuition, home repairs, etc. — you could earn more with the Wells Fargo Active Cash card with its 2% flat-rate cash-back earnings.
Earning rewards is an important element of a card’s value equation. The value you receive at redemption time will ultimately determine the overall value you’ll receive.
The Freedom Unlimited card earns flexible points that can be redeemed for cash-back but can also be redeemed for travel. And, for greater potential value, the points can be transferred to premium Chase credit cards.
Conversely, the Wells Fargo Active Cash card earns cash-back directly that is worth face value — 1 cent in cash-back is worth 1 cent — with no real option for elevated redemption value.
Here are your options at redemption time with both cards.
|Redemption Option||Freedom Unlimited Card||Wells Fargo Active Cash Card|
||Redeem cash-back as a statement credit for travel purchased with the card|
|Additional Redemption Options||Cash, a statement credit, transfer to bank account, check, gift cards, shopping with select online retailers, charitable donations||Statement credit; cash via Wells Fargo ATM; credit to Wells Fargo checking account, credit card, or mortgage; gift cards; checkout with PayPal|
The Freedom Unlimited card offers the additional redemption options of using rewards to purchase travel via the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Additionally, you can transfer those points to premium Chase credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Once the points are transferred, they can be redeemed for up to 50% more value for travel via the Ultimate Rewards travel portal or transferred to airline and hotel partners for greater potential value.
We estimate the value of Ultimate Rewards points at approximately 2 cents each while the cash-back earned on the Wells Fargo Active Cash card has a flat rate face value of just 1 cent with no potential upside.
If redeeming rewards for travel is important to you, the Freedom Unlimited card could have the edge at redemption time. Additionally, with a Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, you’ll be able to maximize redemption values even more.
Both the Freedom Unlimited card and Wells Fargo Active Cash Card can be issued as Visa Signature cards, resulting in similar travel insurance protections and benefits. Since the card issuer ultimately determines which benefits are offered on any specific card, there are differences.
Here are the protections and benefits you’ll find on both cards.
And here are a few more perks if your card’s network falls under Visa Signature:
The Freedom Unlimited card comes with the following additional travel insurance protection:
To learn more about the travel insurance coverage that comes with the Freedom Unlimited card, we’ve gone into all the details in this article on the topic.
Shopping protections can provide added coverage for eligible items purchased with your card. Benefits can save you money or provide added convenience.
Each of our featured cards comes with these shopping protections and benefits specific to each card.
The Freedom Unlimited card has a $0 annual fee, and so does the Wells Fargo Active Cash card with a $0 annual fee.
No-annual-fee cards allow you to keep them indefinitely, which may positively affect your credit score by increasing the average age of your credit.
There is also no fee for adding authorized users to either card.
You’ll enjoy an interest-free repayment period on new purchases and when you transfer your high-interest credit card balances to either card, up to 15 months from card approval. Here are the details:
Balance transfers may be made within the first 60 days after card approval on the Freedom Unlimited card and 120 days on the Wells Fargo Active Cash card:
On the Wells Fargo Active Cash card, a balance transfer request must be made within 120 days to qualify for the promotional APR.
It’s recommended to carry a good to excellent credit score to qualify for either the Freedom Unlimited card or the Wells Fargo Active Cash card. A good credit score is generally considered 670 to 749, a very good score of 750+, and an excellent score is generally considered 800 and above.
Foreign transaction fees can cost you money during your travels. Both the Freedom Unlimited card and Wells Fargo Active Cash card charge foreign transaction fees of 3% of the total purchase. You’ll want to use these cards primarily for domestic purchases.
The Freedom Unlimited card surfaces as the better card for most consumers over the Wells Fargo Active Cash card. This is based mostly on its flexible rewards earning and travel redemption options.
The Wells Fargo Active Cash card, with cell phone protection, may have an appeal if you do not have another card that offers this coverage. And, if your spending is focused on categories that are non-bonus earning and travel redemptions are not important to you, a case could be made for the card. The card does earn a respectable 2% cash-back on every purchase.
If you have, or plan to have, a Chase premium card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, the Freedom Unlimited card should be a strong consideration.
You might also want to check out the no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex℠ for comparison. Here’s our article comparing Freedom Flex card and the Freedom Unlimited card.
The information regarding the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Chase Freedom Flex℠ was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The Freedom Unlimited card is the better card because of the additional value provided at redemption time. Points can be redeemed for travel at 1 cent each or for greater potential value when combined with Chase premium credit cards.
While both cards earn unlimited cash-back on every purchase, the Freedom Unlimited card has bonus-earning categories that earn up to 5% cash-back. The Wells Fargo Active Cash card earns 2% cash-back on every purchase which can be good for earning in non-bonus categories.
Yes, the Wells Fargo Active Cash card charges foreign transaction fees of 3% of the total transaction.
No. To transfer points earned on the Freedom Unlimited card to airline partners, you must first transfer those points to a premium Ultimate Rewards-earning card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
Once transferred to premium Chase cards, you can then transfer points to airline partners and purchase award flights.
Yes, it can be. It’s recommended that you have a good to excellent credit score, generally considered 670 or above.
You cannot redeem cash-back to directly purchase travel but you can redeem cash-back earned on the Wells Fargo Active Cash card for a statement credit to offset a travel purchase.
You can also redeem cash-back as a credit to a qualifying Wells Fargo credit card or transfer the cash to your Wells Fargo checking account to offset a travel purchase.
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