Chase Freedom® Credit Card – Review
Chase Freedom® was among the first true cash back credit cards. Imitators have come and gone, but its promise of unlimited 1% cash back and up to 5% cash back (up to $1,500 per quarter) in select quarterly spending categories remains – though you do have to manually activate your 5% cash back categories, which is often an annoying extra step to take. Chase Freedom® has long had an attractive sign-up bonus – currently $150 cash for $500 in qualifying purchases within 3 months of account opening – and it has never charged an annual fee.
Chase Freedom® has plenty of other perks too, including a 15-month purchase and balance transfer promotion and no penalty APR. Though Chase doesn’t specify the precise credit score you need to qualify, Freedom is openly marketed to more inexperienced credit card users with less-than-perfect credit scores and moderate incomes. Comparable cash back credit cards include Discover it (which comes in several versions), Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, and Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard® (note: this offer is no longer available).
Spend $500 within three months of account opening and get a $150 bonus cash back credit. You can get an additional $25 bonus by making your first purchase and adding an authorized user to the account, both also within the first three months of account opening.
Chase Freedom® pays 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in total purchases ($75 in total cash back rewards) in certain quarterly rotating spending categories. These categories vary widely, so check Chase’s website for an up-to-date list.
After you hit the quarterly spending cap, additional purchases in the 5% cash back categories earn an unlimited 1% cash back. All other purchases earn an unlimited 1% cash back, as well.
Keep in mind that you have to manually activate your 5% cash back spending categories before the middle of the last month of the applicable quarter. Once you activate, your cash back earnings are retroactive throughout the quarter.
You can redeem for a statement credit, bank account deposit, gift card, or purchases made through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards shopping portal. There’s no minimum to redeem and your cash back earnings never expire.
The Cash Back Boost feature promises bonus cash back on purchases made directly through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal (also known as “Shop Through Chase”). Extra cash back earnings usually range from 1% to 5% on top of the unlimited 1% baseline cash back, but can occasionally reach or exceed 10% – for instance, ProFlowers periodically offers 10% cash back. Cash Back Boost offers do change frequently, so sign up for email alerts to catch current deals.
Enjoy 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months from account opening. Balance transfers can be made at any time during the 15-month window to qualify for the promo rate.
Following the end of the introductory APR period, Chase Freedom’s regular APR rises to range between 16.99% to 25.74% variable, depending on your personal creditworthiness and prevailing interest rates. The cash advance APR is 26.99% variable from day one. There is no penalty APR.
Freedom doesn’t have an annual fee. Foreign transactions cost a flat 3% of the transaction amount, balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 3%, and cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%.
Chase’s Purchase Protection plan provides up to 4 months of complimentary protection for all purchases made in full with your Chase Freedom® card. The benefit is good up to $500 per covered item and $50,000 total per account. Coverage includes potential perils such as theft, damage, and loss.
When you decline the rental company’s insurance option and charge the entire rental to your Chase Freedom® card, you’re automatically covered for theft and collision expenses in the U.S. and most international markets (secondary to your own personal auto insurance).
You get a free credit score, updated weekly, with Chase Credit Journey.
This card requires very good credit. Some minor blemishes may be acceptable, but major dings are likely to disqualify your application.
While its baseline 1% unlimited cash back is no longer the gold standard for cash back credit cards, the lack of an annual fee and the promise of additional earnings for purchases made through the Ultimate Rewards portal certainly sweeten the deal. That said, you want to avoid this card if you prefer the simplicity of a flat-rate cash back rewards card or if you travel frequently, since the foreign transaction fee and limited travel rewards are problematic.
Chase Freedom® is an ideal card for frugal to moderate spenders who don’t anticipate regularly exceeding the $1,500 spending cap for the 5% categories, want to transfer high-interest balances from existing credit cards, and occasionally make a late payment. It’s not as useful for heavy spenders, nor for cardholders with excellent credit who are likely to qualify for more generous rewards cards.
The big benefits of this card include enhanced earnings through online shopping, the potential to earn 5% cash back in select categories, and the lack of an annual fee. Drawbacks include manual activation, somewhat low baseline cash back, and limited fringe benefits.
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Brian Martucci writes about frugal living, entrepreneurship, and innovative ideas. When he’s not interviewing small business owners or investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, he’s probably out exploring a new trail or sampling a novel cuisine. Find him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.
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Chase Freedom® Credit Card – Review