October 20, 2021

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Chase Freedom Unlimited Vs Discover It Miles: Credit Card Comparison

10 min read

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Opening a credit card that earns more than 1x rewards on all purchases is a smart move, especially if you spend a lot in categories that don’t typically earn a bonus with other cards. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Discover it® Miles fit this bill, earning at least 1.5x rewards on spending — and neither charges an annual fee.

That’s about where the similarities end. While the Discover it® Miles earns a flat 1.5x miles on all spending, with no bonus categories to keep track of, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers the opportunity to earn higher rewards on dining, drugstores, travel, and rideshares — along with 1.5x points (1.5% back) on all other purchases.

The way these cards are advertised might seem a little confusing, too. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is framed as a cash-back credit card, but it actually earns rewards in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which you can redeem for cash back, travel, merchandise, gift cards, and more.

Read more: The best Discover credit cards of 2021

Meanwhile, the Discover it® Miles is marketed as a travel card, earning “miles” that really are just a fancy way of saying cash back. These aren’t like airline miles or even transferable rewards (like Capital One miles), and your redemption options are all variations on the cash-back theme — with 1 Discover mile equal to 1 cent (or 1% back).

Here’s what to know to help decide whether the Chase Freedom Unlimited® or Discover it® Miles is a better fit for your wallet.

Regular APR

14.99%–23.74% variable APR

Credit Score

Good to Excellent

Featured Reward

$200 after spending $500 in the first three months from account opening

Chevron icon It indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Details

  • Pros
    • Solid flat cash-back rate
    • You can combine cash-back rewards with Ultimate Rewards points if you have an eligible card
    • No annual fee
    Cons
    • Some other cards offer a higher rate of cash back on certain types of purchases
    • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
    • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
    • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
    • No annual fee
    • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 – 23.74%.
    • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open

    Read Our Review
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    Comparison: Chase Freedom Unlimited vs Discover it Miles

    Welcome bonuses

    If you’re looking for an upfront bonus without having to meet a high minimum spending requirement, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a better choice. You’ll earn a welcome bonus of $200 after spending $500 in the first three months from account opening (and remember, the $200 is actually 20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points).

    Read more: Chase Freedom Unlimited card review

    The Discover it® Miles doesn’t come with a standard welcome bonus, but — if you’re a big spender — the card has the potential to be a lot more lucrative in the first year. Discover’s Cashback Match program extends to the Discover it® Miles card (it’s just called Unlimited Bonus instead), and after your first year, Discover will match all of the miles you’ve earned with no limit.

    For example, if you spent $2,000 a month on your Discover card in the first year (total $24,000), you’d earn 36,000 miles. Discover would match another 36,000 miles, for a total of 72,000 miles in the first year (worth $720 in cash back). This effectively makes the Discover it® Miles a 3% cash back on everything card for the first 12 months.

    Read more: Discover it Cash Back card review

    You won’t find any no-annual-fee cards that can match a 3% rate of return on all purchases, but keep in mind you’ll only get this turbocharged earning from the Discover it® Miles for the first 12 months — then it effectively becomes a 1.5% back card on everything. 

    Earning rates

    Chase Freedom Unlimited® cardholders earn 5x points (5% cash back) on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal, 5x points (5% cash back) on Lyft purchases through March 2022, 3x points (3% cash back) on dining (including takeout and eligible delivery services), and 3x points (3% cash back) at drugstores. On everything else, you’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back (1.5x).

    Read more: The best cash-back credit cards of 2021

    If you spend a lot at restaurants and drugstores, earning 3x points on those purchases with the Chase Freedom Unlimited® can add up very quickly — and you’ll earn even more if you book your flights, hotels, and rental cars through the Chase portal to earn 5x points.

    For this reason, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® has an advantage over the Discover it® Miles, which doesn’t offer any extra categories or ways to boost earning — you’ll earn a straight 1.5x on all purchases, with no caps.

    Redemption options

    Regular APR

    11.99% – 22.99% Variable

    Intro APR

    0% intro APR for 14 months on purchases

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  • Pros & Cons
  • Details

  • Pros
    • Unlimited 1.5x miles on all purchases
    • Discover matches all the miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year
    Cons
    • Limited benefits compared to other travel rewards cards
    • Unlimited Bonus: Only Discover will automatically match all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. There’s no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match.
    • Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase – with no annual fee.
    • Redeem Miles to pay any part of your monthly bill, including your minimum payment.
    • Turn Miles into cash in any amount, any time. Or redeem as a statement credit for travel purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more with no blackout dates. However you redeem, Miles keep the same value. And Miles never expire.
    • No Blackout Dates. Simply pay for travel purchases like airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more with your Discover it® Miles card.
    • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
    • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
    • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
    • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
    • Click “APPLY NOW” to see rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Discover Match® details & other information.

    Read Our Review
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    The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a solid choice if you want to earn cash back, but that’s not the only way you can use your rewards. Along with redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards points for cash back at a rate of 1 cent apiece, you’ll also have these redemption options:

    • Gift cards (1 cent per point)
    • Airfare, hotels, car rentals, and more through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal (1 cent per point)
    • Apple purchases (1 cent per point)
    • Pay Yourself Back (more than 1 cent per point, categories and value vary)
    • Amazon purchases (0.8 cents per point)

    Read more: How to earn, redeem, and maximize Chase Ultimate Rewards points

    The Chase Freedom Unlimited® becomes even more valuable if you also carry certain other Chase cards, because you can combine points between your accounts. For example, if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, you’ll unlock the ability to transfer points to Chase’s airline and hotel partners. You’ll also have more ways to redeem points through Chase’s Pay Yourself Back program, and when you book travel through the Chase Travel Portal, your points have a higher value.

    In fact, pairing a Freedom card with one of the Chase travel cards mentioned above is one of the best ways to increase the value of your Ultimate Rewards points and maximize your rewards. 

    The Discover it® Miles doesn’t offer as wide a range of redemption options, and there’s no way to squeeze extra value from your rewards. You can redeem miles at rate of 1 cent each for:

    • A credit toward travel purchases made with your card in the past 180 days 
    • An account statement credit (to lower your balance)
    • Direct deposit to your bank account
    • Check out at Amazon or PayPal

    Benefits and features

    Between the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Discover it® Miles, one card is a clear winner when it comes to benefits.

    The Chase Freedom Unlimited® comes with a decent range of travel and shopping protections — including a few you don’t often see on a no-annual-fee card.

    Meanwhile, the Discover it® Miles doesn’t come with any flashy perks. Cardholders receive a few benefits that come standard with many cards, including access to a free FICO score and the ability to freeze their account in the event they misplace their card or suspect fraudulent use.

    There’s one advantage the Discover it® Miles has over the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. If you travel abroad, the Discover it® Miles is a better choice, because it doesn’t add foreign transaction fees (the Chase Freedom Unlimited® adds a 3% fee to international purchases). The Discover it® Miles also waives the late payment fee for your first late payment (but afterward charges up to $40).

    Read more: The best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees

    Both cards come with an introductory 0% APR offer, but the Chase Freedom Unlimited® has a slight edge. It offers a 0% APR on purchases for the first 15 months of account opening, followed by a 14.99%–23.74% variable APR.

    The Discover it® Miles 0% APR offer on purchases is slightly shorter — 14 months — and after that, a 11.99% – 22.99% Variable applies.

    Bottom line

    If you have to choose just one card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is the right pick for most people. It’s got a great sign-up bonus, better all-around earning, and more opportunities to redeem rewards — plus the option to combine points with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards. It also offers substantial benefits for a no-annual-fee card which can save you a lot of money.

    Read more: Chase Freedom Flex versus the Chase Freedom Unlimited: Which cash-back card is right for you?

    However, if you’re a big spender, the Unlimited Bonus (Cashback Match) offered by the Discover it® Miles has the potential to get you more rewards in the first year. The card is also a better fit if you travel outside the US because it doesn’t add foreign transaction fees.

    Of course, there’s no reason why you can’t have both — and, in the first year (because of Discover’s match), doing so is a great strategy for maximizing rewards on all of your everyday expenses. 

    Jasmin Baron is an associate editor at Personal Finance Insider, where she helps readers maximize rewards and find the best credit cards to fit their lifestyles. She has covered credit cards, points and miles, and loyalty programs for over seven years, and she’s a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF).

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