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A cash back credit card can help you earn a percentage back on your everyday spending, but how you maximize your cash back value varies from card to card. Some cash back cards offer a flat rate on every purchase regardless of the category, and other types of cash back credit cards have bonus categories that earn boosted rewards rates.

Among any type of rewards card, flat cash back rewards are often the simplest, but they also offer great value. Two of our favorite cash back cards available today — the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited — are in this card category. But while both have flat cash rewards, they have some distinct differences when it comes to additional bonus rewards, benefits, and more.

If you’re considering adding a cash back card to your wallet, either can make a solid choice. Before you decide, here’s what you need to know to choose the right card for your spending habits and credit goals.

Side-by-Side Comparison

Wells Fargo Active Cash Card Chase Freedom Unlimited
Annual Fee $0 $0
Welcome Offer $200 bonus cash when you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months of account opening $200 bonus cash when you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months of account opening
Cash Back Rewards • 2% back on all purchases • 5% back on up to $12,000 in grocery store spending the first year

• 5% back on Lyft rides (through March 2022)5% back on travel booked through Chase

• 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases

• 1.5% back on all other purchases

Other Benefits • 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.99%, 19.99% or 24.99%

• Cell phone protection worth up to $600 ($25 deductible applies)

• Visa Signature benefits, including concierge service

• 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.99% to 24.74%

• Purchase protection against damage or theft

• Extended warranties

• Secondary auto rental coverage

• Trip cancellation and interruption insurance

• Travel and emergency assistance services

Bonus Comparison

Both of these cash back credit cards offer $200 welcome bonuses, although the Chase Freedom Unlimited bonus is easier to earn. You only have to spend $500 on your Chase Freedom Unlimited within three months of account opening to qualify. That’s just $167 per month in spending for three months in a row.

To earn the same bonus with the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card, you’ll need to spend at least $1,000 within the same period. That’s at least $334 in average monthly spending for three months in a row after account opening. Before you apply, it can be useful to look at your past spending to ensure that’s attainable within your regular budget.

Rewards and Benefits Comparison

To start, both of these cards offer a baseline flat cash back rate on every purchase. Where the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card offers a higher cash back rate of 2% on everything you buy, the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a lower rate of 1.5% back on every purchase. 

However, the Freedom Unlimited also has bonus rewards categories to boost how much you earn on certain everyday spending. You’ll get 5% cash back when you book your travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 5% back on up to $12,000 spent at grocery stores (not including Target or Walmart) for the first year, and 5% back on Lyft rides through March 2022, and 3% at restaurants and drugstores.

Pro Tip

If you’re hoping to get more value out of the Chase Freedom Unlimited, consider pairing it with a premium Chase travel credit card. You can get more value when you redeem points for travel, and it unlocks the option to transfer points to Chase airline and hotel partners.

To decide between these cards, consider whether you’d prefer to earn a lower 1.5% back on everyday spending with access to additional bonus categories with the Chase Freedom Unlimited, or you want to keep your rewards as simple as possible with the 2% Wells Fargo Active Cash Card.

Here’s an example to help show how much you could earn with either card. Let’s say you spend $1,189.40 per month on groceries, which is a standard cost for a family of four with two kids ages 12 and 13, according to data from the USDA. In addition, you spend an average $300 per month dining out, $100 per month on essentials at drugstores, and $1,000 per month on miscellaneous purchases and bills.

In this case, you would earn:

  • $51.78 in cash back in one month with the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card  ($2,589.40 in spending with 2% cash back)
  • $86.47 in cash back in one month with the Chase Freedom Unlimited ($59.47 on grocery spending, $12 back on dining and drugstore purchases and $15 in cash back on other purchases)

With this being said, remember that the 5% rate on grocery spending with the Chase Freedom Unlimited only applies up to $12,000 for the first year. After that, you only earn 1.5% back on grocery store purchases. This means that, after you met the $12,000 grocery spending threshold in the first year, and every year after, rewards would look like this with the same monthly spending:

  • $51.78 in cash back in one month with the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card  ($2,589.40 in spending with 2% cash back)
  • $44.84 in cash back in one month with the Chase Freedom Unlimited ($17.84 on grocery spending, $12 back on dining and drugstore purchases and $15 in cash back on other purchases)

Beyond rewards rate alone, the Chase Freedom Unlimited has more cardholder perks and consumer protections. The Wells Fargo Active Cash Card’s primary added benefit is cell phone protection — but it’s also a Visa Signature card, and comes with some added benefits through the program. Chase Freedom Unlimited boasts purchase protection against damage or theft, extended warranties on eligible purchases that come with a manufacturer’s warranty, secondary auto rental coverage, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, and travel and emergency assistance services.

APRs

These cards come with nearly identical introductory APR offers for purchases and balance transfers, and similar ongoing variable APRs.

  • Wells Fargo Active Cash Card: 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.99%, 19.99% or 24.99%.
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited: 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.99% to 24.74%.

Fees

If you use either of these cards to consolidate and pay down debt, they charge the same 3% (minimum $5) balance transfer fee initially. After 60 days of account opening, the fee goes up to 5% (minimum $5) with Chase. Wells Fargo increases the fee to 5% (minimum $5) if you make a transfer after the first 120 days of account opening.

Both cards also charge the same 3% foreign transaction fee, as well as a cash advance fee of 5% (minimum $10). Other fees include a late payment or returned payment fee, which can be up to $40 with either card.

Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card

Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card

Editor’s Score: (4.6/5)

  • Intro bonus:
  • Annual fee:

    $0

  • Regular APR:

    14.99%-24.99% (Variable)

  • Recommended credit:

    670-850 (Good to Excellent)

  • Learn more externa link icon At our partner’s secure site
Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Editor’s Score: (4.7/5)

  • Intro bonus:
  • Annual fee:

    $0

  • Regular APR:

    14.99% – 24.74% Variable

  • Recommended credit:

    670-850 (Good to Excellent)

  • Apply Now externa link icon At Chase’s secure site
Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi® Double Cash Card

Editor’s Score: (4.4/5)

  • Intro bonus:

    N/A

  • Annual fee:

    $0

  • Regular APR:

    13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)

  • Recommended credit:

    670-850 (Good to Excellent)

  • Learn more externa link icon At our partner’s secure site

Deciding Between Wells Fargo Active Cash Card and Chase Freedom Unlimited

Editorial Independence

As with all of our credit card reviews, our analysis is not influenced by any partnerships or advertising relationships.

The Wells Fargo Active Cash Card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited are two of the best cash back credit cards on the market today, so you can’t go wrong with either one. The best way to determine the right card for you is by figuring out which offers the most value for your individual spending habits. If you spend a lot within the Freedom Unlimited’s bonus categories, it could bring you more value over time. Otherwise, the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card’s higher flat rewards rate could be the better long-term choice. 

Neither rewards strategy is right or wrong, but one may work better for you based on your spending style and goals.

You may also consider whether you would pair either of these cards with another credit card. With just flat rewards, the Wells Fargo card could pair well with any other rewards credit card in your wallet, to help you earn more on purchases that fall outside of rewards categories. 

And with the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you can unlock even more value by pairing it with a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve. Not only can you pool all your Chase points from both cards in your premium travel card account for 25% more value with Chase Sapphire Preferred and 50% more value with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but you can also transfer your points to Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners at a 1:1 ratio.

Before you apply for either card, consider your preferences for welcome bonus, rewards, redemptions, and how it fits into your overall budget to make the most informed decision.