Chase Freedom review: Earn 5% cash back
CardRatings Editor's Analysis: Pros & Cons
- Chase Freedom® is routinely named among CardRatings' picks for best cash-back credit card as it is one of the best cards on the market for cardholders who keep track of rotating categories.
- Earn a $200 cash-back bonus for spending just $500 within the first three months of account opening.
- Reap the benefit of a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (then, 16.49% - 25.24% Variable).
- Watch out for the cap on bonus cash back and be sure to set reminders to sign up for bonus categories each quarter.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- CHASE FREEDOM® REWARDS
- CHASE FREEDOM® SIGNUP BONUS
- HOW TO USE CHASE FREEDOM® TO MAKE THE MOST OUT OF CHASE ULTIMATE REWARDS®
- CHASE FREEDOM® FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEE
- CHASE FREEDOM® TRAVEL BENEFITS
- POTENTIAL DOWNSIDES OF THE CHASE FREEDOM® CARD
- HOW CHASE FREEDOM® COMPARES TO OTHER CREDIT CARDS
- IS CHASE FREEDOM® A GOOD CARD?
The information related to Chase Freedom® and Chase Sapphire Preferred® has been collected by CardRatings and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card.
Chase has carefully tailored its offerings so that its various rewards credit cards are best suited to different types of consumers.
With that said, all of the cards' rewards come in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards®, so the points are interchangeable and you could very well benefit from holding a couple of Chase cards that you use strategically to maximize your points. (We'll explain more below.)
While the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (This card is not currently available on CardRatings) resonates with jet-setters who love luxury experiences, Chase Freedom®'s brand aligns with frugal Americans who love to uncover extra cash in their daily activities. Plus, with Chase's current deal, you have the opportunity to earn a $200 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.
In addition, new cardholders are offered a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (then 16.49% - 25.24% Variable), so Chase Freedom® stands to benefit cardholders who have a large purchase on the horizon or need to consolidate some existing credit card debt as they work to pay it off.
Chase Freedom® is a rotating categories cash-back card. Here's what that means:
- Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate.
- Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
If you're strategic with your spending, you could stand to earn a substantial amount of cash back – and you can do it with a $0 annual fee.
- Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
- Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
- 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.
The Chase Freedom® kicks things off with a $200 bonus for new cardholders who spend at least $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Greater still, Chase Freedom® enables cardholders to sign up for quarterly bonus offers. Those opt-in deals offer 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate.
On paper, other cash back cards offer slightly bigger rebates than Chase Freedom®; however, those cards often come with annual fees in the high double digits, and it's no fun to see your rebate evaporate at renewal time. With a $0 annual fee, Chase seems willing to bank on your long term loyalty with Chase Freedom®. If the lack of annual fee and chance to rack up rewards aren't enough, remember that new card members enjoy a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (then 16.49% - 25.24% Variable). There is a 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5, but this is common for balance transfer credit cards. Plus, thanks to the $200 bonus, you can easily help to cover or offset any balance transfer fees you might have to pay.
Remember how we said that you could possibly benefit from having all three of these cards in your wallet? Here's the deal:
When you pair Chase Freedom® with Chase Freedom Unlimited®, you can earn 5% on travel Chase travel purchases, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases (as well as 5% cash back at grocery stores (excluding Target and Walmart) for the first $12,000 spent during your first year) – it's automatic (as opposed to just 1% with Chase Freedom®).
Then, if you also carry the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards® points between the cards. Since Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholders receive 25% more value when they redeem points for travel through Ultimate Rewards®, the points you earn with your Chase Freedom® or Chase Freedom Unlimited® could be worth more.
Chase Freedom® offers cardholders many attractive benefits. However, when the time comes to travel overseas, for business or pleasure, this card is one you will probably want to leave home as it charges a 3% fee on all foreign transactions.
What does that mean in terms of real expense? Say you take even just one international trip a year, and spend $3,000 on that trip. You'll be looking at an extra $90 on top of that expense because of foreign transaction fees.
Think about if you take a few trips like this a year— you could end up spending hundreds of dollars in fees. This is another reason why it makes good sense to carry the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card as well— it charges no foreign transaction fees. Plus, it offers two points on travel and dining purchase worldwide.
Chase Freedom® isn't commonly thought of as a travel rewards card, especially given the bit we just covered above. Though it may not be great for international travel, that doesn't mean this card isn't beneficial for travelers at all. There are a few notable travel benefits Chase Freedom® cardholders have to look forward to, including:
- Trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance, offering reimbursement up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable passenger fares, if your trip is canceled or cut short by covered situations like sickness or injury.
- Travel and emergency assistance services, which provodies you with legal and medical referrals or other travel and emergency assistance when you run into a problem away from home.
- Auto rental collision damage waiver, providing you with coverage for theft and collision damage for most cars in the U.S. and abroad. In the U.S., this coverage is secondary to your personal insurance.
- Roadside dispatch if you have a roadside emergency - anything from a tow or a jumpstart to a tire change, lockout service, winching or gas delivery. Roadside service fees will be provided when you call and will be billed to your card.
There's great potential to earn points for cash back, travel and more with Chase Freedom®, but you'll only maximize those rewards if you keep up with the quarterly categories and spend accordingly. Remember, too, that you have to sign up each quarter to reap the 5% rewards. If you don't want to give your credit card usage that much thought, a flat-rate or tiered rewards credit card might be a better bet for you.
When it comes to balance transfers, the 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months is a great feature, but you will pay 3% when you transfer during the first 60 days of account opening, with a minimum of $5. Then, either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater. If you're primarily looking for a card to use for a balance transfer, take a look at our "Best Balance Transfer Cards" for some options that might be a better fit.
Chase Freedom® vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited®
The Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited® cards are both solid cash back earning rewards credit cards from Chase with great bonus opportunities for new cardholders and no annual fees. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® card is also currently offering $200 cash back to new cardholders who spend $500 within the first three months of account opening.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers flat rate 1.5% uncapped cash back earning without activation or rotating categories as well as 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases. You also earn 5% cash back on up to $12,000 in grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) during your first year as a cardholder. However, for those who prefer the ability to earn higher cash back rates and don't mind keeping up with rotating categories, the Chase Freedom®'s' 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in quarterly bonus categories and 1% on all other purchases might be the way to go.
Chase Freedom® vs. Citi® Double Cash Card
The Citi® Double Cash Card is another good option if keeping up with tiered or rotating categories isn't really your thing. With this card you can earn up to 2% cash back on all purchases, with no limits. You'll earn 1% when you buy, and an additional 1% when you pay for those purchases. To earn cash back, just be sure to pay at least the minimum due on time.
There is no traditional welcome bonus, however, there is a 0% intro APR offer on balance transfer for 18 months, which has the potential to be worth much more than a cash-back bonus if you're carrying a hefty balance on another credit card. This offer will give you a lengthy 18 months to pay off that balance without worrying about interest charges. After the intro period expires, regular 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable) APR will apply.
Neither card charges an annual fee, but they both charge foreign transaction fees so neither are ideal options for traveling abroad.
Chase Freedom® vs. Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card
(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card is a no annual fee tiered-rewards credit card, meaning you won't need to keep up with rotating categories in order to earn bonus cash— so it could be a better option if you aren't willing to strategize with your credit-card spending.
This card also features a unique offering in that you can maximize your cash back in the category of your choice between: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishing. Now earn 3% cash back in your choice category and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases), and unlimited 1% on all other purchases. You can update your choice category for future purchases once each calendar month using the mobile banking app or online banking, or do nothing and it stays the same.
The new cardholder bonus offer isn't stellar, but this card also doesn't charge an annual fee, which easily makes up for this. Especially because it offers cardholders the opportunity of 5% back on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter. In short, if you're the type of person who doesn't mind keeping up with rotating categories to maximize your rewards, this is a great card. However, it's likely not the best option for someone looking for a card to use while abroad, due to the 3% fee charged on foreign transactions.