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Chase Freedom Credit Card Review

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Chase is no longer accepting applications for Chase Freedom, but the newly launched Chase Freedom Flex card provides all the rewards and benefits of the original Freedom card along with an enhanced bonus and rewards earning structure. Current Freedom cardholders will be allowed to keep their current card or convert to the Freedom Flex card. The review below is for the product as it existing prior to 9/15/20.

The Chase Freedom is an excellent credit card for people who are looking to maximize their rewards on everyday purchases without paying an annual fee. The card offers a hefty 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories for which you must register every quarter. There’s also an easily-earned cash bonus and a fairly generous introductory 0% APR promotion.

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

Pros Explained

  • 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 or to make Apple purchases, wherein 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.

Cons Explained

  • 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

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 to 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 

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, 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 1.88 cents on average, and United MileagePlus miles are worth 1.98 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—say, 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.

Standard Benefits

  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Secondary rental car insurance
  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • Roadside dispatch

Cardholder Experience

Chase ranks fourth in J.D. Power's 2021 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.

Security Features

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.

Our Verdict

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 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.

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Overall Star Rating Explained
To rate credit cards we objectively assess, score and weight nearly 100 individual card features which roll up into five major feature sets: fees, interest, rewards, benefits and security/customer service. Here’s how we weighted those feature sets for the overall star rating of a card:
We have applied our proprietary rating methodology to every generally-accepted credit card in the U.S. domestic market to allow consumers to make fully informed choices. It’s important to note that for our overall score that we make a number of assumptions about how you would be using your credit card:
  1. While we make no assumption as to whether balances are carried on a given card we do assign varying weights to all credit cards’ introductory APR (if present) in addition to the regular, long term purchase and balance transfer interest rates.
  2. We utilize BLS (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) income and average category spending data to calculate annual earnings rates for rewards cards that offer cash back, points or miles rewards at a set rate on all spending or in consideration of bonus rewards for certain spending categories, like gasoline, groceries, restaurants or travel.
  3. We determine the maximum points value of rewards cards by dividing the points, cash back or miles required to exchange for the retail price of the most valuable redemption option (for example, in the case of a card that offers a domestic roundtrip airline ticket as a redemption option vs. another redemption option of lesser value that requires the same amount of points or miles to acquire, we would base the rewards value on the airline ticket).
  • Cards that are selected best overall in their respective categories generally feature most if not all of the following attributes:
  • Low or Reasonable Fees Credit card fees come in many forms but the primary ones involve those for annual card membership and balance transfer. There are a myriad of reward and non-reward card options that charge no annual fee but for the many that do assess an annual fee the cost is often justified by their lucrative ongoing rewards and initial signup bonuses. Balance transfer fees are occasionally waived during introductory periods with certain cards, a factor which is heavily and positively weighted in our scoring model for cards offering this benefit. When charged, balance transfer fees range between 3% - 5%, which we grade accordingly. Other standard fees can generally be avoided, such as those for paying late or taking cash advances but we rate those relative to other cards in the market for reference, though with less weight assigned
  • Competitive Interest Many cards offer 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for varying lengths and then revert to a permanent or regular APR (based on a variable rate tied to the prime rate) that applies to any balances not paid in full. We rate both introductory APR percentage and length (in months) along with the midpoint of the variable regular APR interest rate range.
  • Valuable Rewards Credit card reward programs can be based on cash back, points or travel rewards (which can be generic or travel partner-specific, as with airline and hotel co-brand card programs). For cards that offer rewards we determine the value per dollar spent along with average redemption values and assign more favorable ratings to cards that offer superior consumer value. We also assign value to sign-up bonus offers and their initial spending requirements, when present.
  • Excellent Benefits Credit card benefits cover a range of offerings like concierge service, TSA Pre-check, auto rental coverage, travel accident insurance, lost luggage assistance and free credit scores. We rate cards on the number and level of over a dozen standard and upscale benefits and provide extra weighting emphasis for those travel-related perks that apply to premium travel cards when present.
  • Solid Security/Customer Service Security and customer service features like lost or stolen card replacement, being able to lock one’s card from an issuer app and 24 hour customer support are becoming more standard across the card market and we provide a significant amount of weighting to features in this area.
  • You can also read the full version of our methodology for a more in-depth look at how we assess cards and award them the best in various categories.