Full Review of Chase Freedom Credit Card
High bonus rewards rate
Two decent introductory offers
Flexible redemption options
You must register quarterly to maximize your rewards
Bonus spending is capped
- High Bonus Rewards Rate: You'll earn a whopping 5% cash back on select purchase categories that change every quarter, and from year to year as well. Historically, these quarterly specials highlight either an everyday staple, such as gasoline or groceries; purchases from a type of retailer, such as department stores; or the use of a particular mode of payment, such as Paypal.
- Two Decent Introductory Offers: This card's cash bonus offer, while relatively small, is easy to earn. You'll earn $200 cash back when you spend $500 in the first three months, which essentially represents a remarkable 40% return on your spending. On top of that, you'll get an introductory 0% APR on purchases for the first 15 months.
- Flexible Redemption Options: While the Chase Freedom is technically a cash-back credit card, you actually earn rewards in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points. That slightly complicates tallying the value of your rewards, since you need to multiply the points by a cent apiece to see what they’re worth as a credit to your statement, a deposit into a U.S. checking or savings account, a gift card, or for purchasing items from the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. More complex math is required to calculate their (reduced) value on Amazon.com or to make Apple purchases, where in both cases points are worth 0.8 cents apiece. A plus to earning points is that you can transfer them, on a 1:1 basis, to potentially earn more than you would on cash rewards. Transfer options include other Chase cards with an annual fee that earn Ultimate Rewards points. This potentially allows you to earn points with the Chase Freedom at high rotating rates, and then transfer them to another Chase card with an annual fee that earns Ultimate Rewards and offers better travel redemption options.
- You Must Register Quarterly to Maximize Your Rewards: Earning this card's rotating rewards takes some work and a degree of organization. You need to keep track of when the categories change and register for the offer in each quarter. If you neglect to do so, you’ll earn only 1% on all purchases.
- Bonus Spending is Capped: You'll only earn 5% cash back on the first $1,500 spent in combined purchases in the bonus category (or categories) each quarter. During many quarters, that cap should suffice. For example, in the third quarter of 2019, the card's bonus categories were gas (with average household spending of about $500 a quarter, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) and streaming services, on which typical families spend about $90 a quarter, according to a study from Vendicia. During that quarter, a typical household might spend less than half of the cap. At other times, you could hit the limit relatively easily. In 2019's second quarter, for instance, groceries (with average household spending of about $1,100 a quarter) could have easily used up much of the $1,500 limit, leaving too little of the limit remaining to buy materials for a major home project at home improvement stores, the other bonus category for the quarter.
This Card is Best For
Seeks to maximize cash back earnings across spending categories
Resists or refuses an annual fee on principle or due to cost
Primarily responsible for household grocery and other major purchases
Incurs gasoline or other commuting expenses each month
The Chase Freedom is ideal for credit card users determined to earn high rewards rates and willing to do some work to get them. Since the card's rewards program isn’t straightforward, cardholders must be savvy and committed to sign up for its rotating categories that pay 5% in cash back.
This card can be especially valuable for people who have, or are willing to get, other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards. Points earned on all such cards, including the Chase Freedom, can be transferred among them.
That allows each transaction to be charged to the Chase card that maximizes point earnings and subsequently transferred to the one that maximizes redemption rewards. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Business Preferred cards both offer 25% more value when you redeem points for travel through Chase, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve gives you 50% more.
Chase Freedom Credit Card Bonus
The card offers $200 cash back when you spend $500 in the first three months with the card. With such a low spending requirement—a minimal $167 per month—it should be easy even for people on a tight budget to reach the needed spending to earn the reward.
Rewards Earning Details
The card offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in combined purchases in rotating bonus categories when you activate each quarter. While those categories can change from year to year, here are Chase’s Q1 2020 offerings along with 2019’s offerings for Q2–Q4:
- January–March 2020: Gas stations, internet, cable and phone services and select streaming services
- April–June (2019): Grocery stores and home improvement stores
- July–September (2019): Gas stations and select streaming services
- October–December (2019): Department stores and purchases made using PayPal or Chase Pay
Remember, you will need to activate your bonus categories each quarter to get the full 5%, which you can do online, via email or phone, or at a Chase branch or ATM. You can request an email reminder. If you forget nonetheless after the quarter begins, you can still activate up to about two weeks before the period ends. You’ll still get 5% back on qualifying purchases you’ve already made during the quarter.
All other purchases, including those in bonus categories after you’ve reached the $1,500 spending cap per quarter, will earn you just 1% back.
Rewards Redemption Details
The Chase Freedom gives you five options when it comes to redeeming your hard-earned rewards. The simplest option is to request cash back in the form of a statement credit or direct deposit. With this option, you can redeem anytime and for any amount.
You can also use your points to buy gift cards or book travel, though the minimum redemption amount can vary. The final two options include purchasing Apple products through Chase Ultimate Rewards or using points to shop on Amazon.com.
For the most part, you'll get the same value regardless of how you redeem your rewards: each point is worth 1 cent. But with online shopping through Amazon.com, your points are worth just 0.8 cents apiece. And if you transfer points to some other Chase cards—including Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and Ink Business Unlimited—you may get "above par" value from them, at least for certain purchases.
Transferring Points to Partners
Points can also be moved, at a 1:1 ratio, to one of Chase's travel partners if you have another Chase card with an annual fee that earns Ultimate Rewards points. That can be very advantageous if you're a member of a loyalty program and find a good deal through a travel partner. By leveraging your Ultimate Rewards points to take advantage of limited-time offers through Chase's travel partners, you might be able to greatly increase the value of a point.
Here's a list of Chase's partners:
- Aer Lingus AerClub
- British Airways Executive Club
- Emirates Skywards
- Flying Blue Air France KLM
- Iberia Plus
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- United MileagePlus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- IHG Rewards Club
- Marriott Bonvoy
- World of Hyatt
To give you an idea of the value you can get, used to buy hotel stays World of Hyatt points are worth roughly 2.22 cents on average, and United MileagePlus miles are worth 2.16 cents each exchanged for flights, according to Investopedia's value calculations. Depending on where you transfer and how you redeem your rewards from there, you may be able to get more or less than those averages.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
First, be sure to spend the required $500 within your first three months with the card in order to qualify for its $200 introductory bonus. After that, be sure to use your card as much as possible, especially when you’re spending in one of the card's bonus categories. To ensure you don’t forget to activate your bonus rewards each quarter, request an email reminder.
To potentially earn more rewards, consider adding a second card to the mix, one that offers a better base rewards rate than the Chase Freedom. For example, you could pair the Chase Freedom with a card that offers a higher base rewards rate—for example, the Citi Double cash card, which offers 1% cash back on everything you purchase and another 1% when you pay your bill. To ensure you’re always getting an above-average rate, you could then use the Chase Freedom for its bonus categories and the other card for everything else.
Also, carrying other Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning cards in your wallet could allow you to redeem rewards as points at a better ratio than 1:1. Points can be transferred between the card on which they were earned to other Chase cards on which you’ll make more on them. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and Ink Business Unlimited credit card offer higher points values (1.25, 1.5, and 1.25, respectively), when you use rewards to book travel through Chase.
To help facilitate that, and to possibly earn more rewards, consider downloading Chase Pay to your devices and familiarizing yourself with how to use it. The app gives you one-stop access to all of your Chase credit cards. Transactions that use Chase Pay are sometimes included in the 5% bonus category, and so allow you to get the high rate on just about anything you buy in the quarter, at least to the $1,500 limit.
Finally, if you like the card and think it may suit your friends and family members, recommend it to them. Chase offers $50 cash back every time you refer someone who gets approved for the card. You can earn up to $500 a year in such rewards.
- Purchase protection
- Extended warranty protection
- Secondary rental car insurance
- Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
- Travel and emergency assistance services
- Roadside dispatch
Chase ranks fourth in J.D. Power's 2019 Credit Card Customer Satisfaction study behind Capital One, Discover, and American Express. That said, its overall rating is only slightly higher than the average among all national credit card issuers.
The bank provides free access to your VantageScore credit score through its Credit Journey program, but you can sign up at no charge for that score even if you don’t have a Chase credit card. Also, keep in mind that many major card issuers provide free access to your FICO credit score, which is more likely to be used by lenders.
Chase offers 24/7 customer service via phone, which is standard for the credit card industry. You can also send a secure message through your online account if the matter isn’t urgent. For general account management, you can use the Chase mobile app.
Credit card customers at Chase get a number of security perks, all fairly standard among card providers. At a high level, Chase offers safety precautions like multiple authentication checks when you're logging in via the website or mobile app. It also monitors your profile in order to detect fraud and encrypts your username, password, and other personal account information.
As with other card issuers, Chase provides 24/7 fraud monitoring—the bank will text, email, or call you if any unusual activity occurs on your account. It also provides card replacement services in case your card is lost or stolen, and it doesn't hold you responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card.
Chase allows you to lock and unlock your account through its mobile app, a feature that isn't standard among all card issuers and can be helpful if your card is lost or stolen.
The Chase Freedom also has contactless capability, which allows you to tap your card to a contactless-enabled card reader instead of swiping or inserting it. While this security feature is becoming more popular, it’s not quite standard for the industry.
Hidden Fees to Watch Out For
For the most part, the fees for the Chase Freedom are fairly standard for the industry.
Due to its complicated rewards structure, the Chase Freedom isn't a great fit for someone who wants a no-fuss credit card. But it belongs on the shortlist of those looking for a no-fee card that earns outstanding cash back on everyday spending, as well as a periodic outlying buys in eligible categories, such as those on home improvement.
The Chase Freedom is especially worth considering in combination with a solid rewards credit card with a high flat rewards rate or a Chase Ultimate Rewards credit card that offers extra value on travel redemptions.
But again, maximizing your rewards in tandem with a second card or by pooling your points with another Chase credit card does take more legwork and may not be ideal for someone who prioritizes simplicity.