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Most people today still prefer cash back credit cards versus travel rewards cards, which is one reason why I’ve decided to start giving cash back credit cards more attention. Two cards that offer great cash back returns with no annual fees are the Wells Fargo Cash Wise and the Chase Freedom Unlimited.
In this article, I’ll take a look at the Wells Fargo Cash Wise vs Chase Freedom Unlimited and give some insight into which article could be better suited for you.
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Ultimate Rewards vs cash back
It’s worth noting from the beginning that the Chase Freedom Unlimited earns Ultimate Rewards.
These points can be redeemed for cash back at a rate of 1 cent per point. But if you have a premium card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can transfer those points out to some great travel partners. This gives the Freedom an edge if you’re interested in travel and can get a premium Chase card.
But if you’re solely interested in cash back, the transfer partners are less of an issue.
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One area where the Wells Fargo Cash Wise outshines the Chase Freedom Unlimited is the sign-ip bonus. You can earn $200 cash back after spending $1,000 in the first three months with the Wells Fargo Cash Wise. Many have to wait up to three months to receive their bonus so that delay is a bit of a drawback.
With the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you’re only given $150 after spending $500 in the first three months (though authorized users get an additional $50 back). Update: there is a new Chase Freedom Unlimited offer allowing you to earn 3% back on the first $20,000 in purchases each year but does not come with the sign-up bonus.
So for maximum up-front value I have to give the edge to the Wells Fargo Cash Wise, although the lower spend requirement of the Chase Freedom might be better for other people.
Both cards earn 1.5% back on purchases so it’s a dead tie on the standard bonus earning. Update: there is a new Chase Freedom Unlimited offer allowing you to earn 3% back on the first $20,000 in purchases each year but does not come with the sign-up bonus.
But the Cash Wise offers an additional 20% bonus on mobile wallet transaction bonus cash reward above the base earn of 1.5% on net purchases or a total of 1.8% cash rewards during the first 12 months from the date the account is opened. So if you use things like Apple Pay or Google Pay then you could be earning 1.8% back on all of those purchases for a year which can certainly add up.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited has offered special promotions for earn additional bonus points before. For example, you’ve been able to earn up to 10% back at places like WalMart and Best Buy. Those offers don’t provide the consistent value offered by the Cash Wise so I wouldn’t consider them as valuable.
Other bonus earning potential
If you want a Wells Fargo card with bonus earning on categories like dining gas, the Wells Fargo Propel card could be a good fit for you.
Also, don’t forget about the original Chase Freedom card which earns 5% back on rotating quarterly categories. If you’re debating between which Chase Freedom card is the best for you then take a look at this comparison between the two cards.
Both cards come with no annual fee.
0% Intro APR
The Wells Fargo Cash Wise earns 0% APR on the first 12 months but the Chase Freedom Unlimited has a 0% intro APR for 15 months. So if you’re trying to extend that period of no interest the Chase Freedom has the longer 0% APR period.
Balance transfer fees
Although the Chase Freedom Unlimited has the longer 0% intro APR period, it does fall short in the balance transfer department. That’s because it incurs a balance transfer fee of 5% while the Wells Fargo Cash Wise only incurs a balance transfer fee of 3%.
Thus if your plan is to pay off your balance within 12 months then the Wells Fargo Cash Wise is going to be a better option since you’ll save 2% on the initial transfer fee which can add up quickly if you’re talking about thousands of dollars being transferred.
But if you’re really concerned about doing a balance transfer, Wells Fargo has the Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Card which offers a 0% APR period for up to 18 months.
Cell phone benefit
One surprising perk that the Wells Fargo Cash Wise has is that it comes with cell phone protection. If you pay your monthly cell phone bill with the Wells Fargo Cash Wise you can to get up to $600 protection for damage or theft of a cell phone.
Reimbursement is limited to the repair or replacement of your original cell phone, less a $25 deductible with a maximum benefit limit of $600 per claim and $1,200 per 12 month period. This benefit does not cover cell phones that are lost.
$25 is a low deductible so if you’re prone to damaging your cell phone the Wells Fargo Cash Wise can provide you with a special perk that the Freedom doesn’t come with. If you had an iPhone but didn’t have something like Apple Care to cover an accident like a broken screen, then this protection could end up saving you a couple of hundred bucks.
Redemption minimums for cash back
The Wells Fargo Cash Wise redemptions are redeemable in $25 increments only. Note that this is not just a minimum but a an incremental amount. So you’d have to redeem in increments of $25, $50, $75, etc.
Meanwhile the Chase Freedom has no minimum for cash back so you don’t have to worry about your points ever getting stranded.
It might not seem like a big issue, but leaving sums like $10 or $20 in a rewards account is something that turns off many people to redemption minimums.
Both Chase and Wells Fargo have shopping portals that you can use to earn additional cash back. Here’s a link to the Wells Fargo shopping portal. And here’s an article explaining how the Chase Shopping Portal works.
I haven’t done an extensive case study on the rates earned with these portals. I’ve used the Chase Shopping Portal a ton and know it often has great rates. Based on my review of the Wells Fargo shopping portal, it looks like it earns pretty standard return rates as well.
Foreign transaction fee
Both cards have foreign transaction fees of 3%.
Both banks prefer you to have a relationship with them when approving you for credit cards. However, the Chase Freedom cards are usually great entry points into Chase and I know many people who have been approved for those cards with no banking relationship with Chase.
However, Wells Fargo in my experience has a clear preference for people who bank with them. Thus, if you have never banked with Wells Fargo and are not able to open up an account with them to establish a relationship, the Chase Freedom could present you with better approval odds.
But do keep in mind that the Chase Freedom Unlimited is subject to the Chase 5/24 Rule and other Chase credit card application restrictions. The 5/24 rules means you won’t be approved if you’ve opened up 5 or more credit card accounts within the past 24 months so if that applies to you, the Wells Fargo Cash Wise might be the better option.
One area where the Chase Freedom has a major leg up is that you can earn Ultimate Rewards when you refer friends and families and they get approved for the Chase Freedom Unlimited. In fact these referrals can be as high as $100 per approval up to $500 per year. That kind of cash can add up quick and involves little to no work on your part.
Meanwhile Wells Fargo does not offer a referral program so you lose out on the value potential here.
Wells Fargo Cash Wise vs Chase Freedom Unlimited
So in the end where are all of the advantages?
Wells Fargo Cash Wise strengths
The Wells Fargo Cash Wise has the following strengths:
- Better sign-up bonus (worth $25 more)
- 1.8% on mobile wallet transactions during the first 12 months
- Lower balance transfer fee
- Cell phone benefit
Chase Freedom Unlimited strengths
The Chase Freedom Unlimited has the following strengths:
- Ability to transfer Ultimate Rewards
- Longer 0% APR period
- No minimum redemption
- Referall program
What this tells me is that you probably want to go with the Chase Freedom Unlimited if you think that you want to earn Ultimate Rewards that will eventually be transferred to travel partners or perhaps used with the Chase Travel Portal. Also, if you’re looking to pay down a big purchase over the course of 15 months, the Freedom Unlimited is the better option.
But if you want to earn a little bit more on the sign-up bonus in cash back, would like to transfer a balance and pay it off within 12 months, plan on using mobile wallet payments, or would like to have cell phone protection up to $600 per claim then the Wells Fargo Cash Wise could certainly be the better cash back option for your wallet.
The battle of the Wells Fargo Cash Wise vs Chase Freedom Unlimited comes down to your personal goals and preferences. I honestly don’t think that you can go wrong with either one since they both offer unique advantages. But one can definitely be better than the other if your personal goals align with the strengths of one card over the other.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.