Chase Freedom

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This card can give you some real cash-back bang for your buck.

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If you’re up for the challenge of tracking bonus rewards categories, Chase Freedom can give you some real cash-back bang for your buck. For travel junkies and road warriors, this card is ideal when paired with an eligible Chase card to reap maximum travel rewards on your spending.

If you don’t want to do the work, get a card that offers a flat cash-back rate better than what you’ll find here.

Review

Among the cash-back credit cards we’ve reviewed that don’t carry an annual fee, this one just barely gets edged out of the top spots because of its rewards structure. All things considered, we prefer a simple rewards program that pays the same rate for all spending. But your mileage may vary.

Chase Freedom is a great cash-back card for those who don’t mind doing a little bit of work to maximize its value. The card pays an unlimited 1% back on all purchases.

Easy right? Here’s the tricky part. Where this card really shines is with the rotating bonus cash-back categories – like restaurants and movie theaters — which change quarterly and pay 5% back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases.

That’s a nice enhancement, but with a maximum quarterly benefit of $75 on those rotating categories, you’ll need to decide if the effort is worth the extra 65 bucks of potential rewards over the standard 1% return.

One other thing to keep in mind: Spending more than you normally would because it will earn you extra cash back is self-defeating. So don’t be tempted to overspend if you choose this card.

Who should get this card

In order to access the 5% bonus you have to register online, which is super easy to do. But you have to remember to do it before the end of the quarter, and you have to keep track of when to use this card over another. If you think you’re up for that kind of challenge, this is an awesome card to maximize your cash-back earning power.

You can also redeem points for a gift card through the Chase portal or transfer points directly as Chase Ultimate Rewards points into the account of one of your other Chase rewards credit cards. For those who are willing to do the work, when this card is paired with other eligible Chase cards, the redemption value may increase when used in conjunction with Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal.

Advantages
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate.
  • There’s a sign-up bonus worth $150 in cash back if you spend at least $500 within the first three months of card ownership.
  • You can redeem your points as a cash-back deposit to your bank account, a statement credit, or transfer them as Chase Ultimate Rewards points to an eligible Chase card that has Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Disadvantages
  • On-line sign-up required each quarter to earn the 5% in the bonus categories might be too much for some.
  • There’s a 3% foreign transaction fee, so you may want to consider using a different card for international travel.
  • The 5% balance transfer fee is high, other cards offer balance transfers at no cost.
  • There are other flat rate cards that offer 2% cash back, so depending on how you spend, you might earn more back over time with one of those options.

Fees and APR

  • This card charges no annual fee.
  • You’ll be charged a 3% foreign transaction fee on every purchase made outside of the United States.
  • Chase Freedom comes with an introductory offer of 0% APR for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. Regular APR is a variable 15.99% to 24.74%.

Extras, perks and using rewards

For those who enjoy the sport of maximizing credit card rewards to redeem for travel, the Chase Freedom, when paired with an eligible Chase card, can squeeze even more value out of your everyday spending.

On its own, this card gives a flat 1% rewards rate for every dollar spent. This means that if you spend $10,000 with this card, you earn 100 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be redeemed as a $100 statement credit or used for purchases at a value of $100 through Chase’s shopping portal.

If you maximize your spending in one of the 5% bonus categories, the math can really work in your favor. Let’s say you spent the maximum allowable amount of $1,500 at the supermarket when it was a bonus category. That would earn you 75 Ultimate Rewards Points.

Here’s where pairing the Chase Freedom with another premium Chase card really starts to pile on the value.

When you transfer your points to the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, for example, those same points increase in value by 25%. So 100 Ultimate Rewards points become worth $125 when redeemed for hotels, airlines tickets or anything else that Chase categorizes as travel.

Alternatively, if you transfer the same 100 points to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, they increase 50% in value, so that 100 points is now worth $150 in travel benefit through the Chase portal. Yes, the math can be confusing, but for some the payoff of increased value is worth the legwork.

There’s no fee for redeeming points.

How this card compares

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Card Details
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase — it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee
Credit Needed Good
Regular APR 15.99% - 24.74% Variable
Annual Fee $0
Purchase Intro APR 0% for 15 months
Balance Transfers Intro APR 0% for 15 months

Chase Freedom Unlimited is a solid, straightforward cash-back rewards card that’s ideal for cardholders who just don’t have the time or energy to track spending categories. It ranks among the very best cash-back credit cards we track.

There are other cards that offer better rewards, but the Chase Freedom Unlimited’s 1.5% cash-back on everything is an excellent reward coming from a no-annual-fee credit card.

Citi® Double Cash Card
Card Details
  • Earn cash back twice on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.49% - 24.49% based on your creditworthiness
  • Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases.
  • No categories to track, no caps on cash back, no annual fee*
Credit Needed Excellent
Regular APR 14.49% - 24.49%* (Variable)
Annual Fee $0*
Purchase Intro APR N/A
Balance Transfers Intro APR 0% for 18 months*

When it comes to rewards value, the Citi Double Cash Card ranks among the very best cash-back credit cards that charge no annual fee.

So why, you might ask, does this card not receive a higher score from Bankrate? There are a couple reasons, but the main thing dragging this card down is this: Because Citi Double Cash offers no sign-up bonus, it struggles to compete with many cards in this category.

Card Details
  • Intro Offer: Discover will match all the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Earn 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Target now through December 2017, on up to $1,500 in purchases when you activate. Plus, 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • New! Receive Free Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.
Credit Needed Excellent
Regular APR 11.99% - 23.99% Variable
Annual Fee $0
Purchase Intro APR 0% for 14 months
Balance Transfers Intro APR 0% for 14 months

You won’t earn one of those huge sign-up bonuses other cards offer, but if you’re looking for a no-frills cash-back card, the Discover it credit card does come with one intriguing feature: Discover automatically matches all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.

Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card

This card offer is currently unavailable on Bankrate. To see more cards in this category, please visit our 0% apr category page.

Card Details
  • Earn 3% cash back in year one & 2.5% cash back after.
Credit Needed Excellent
Regular APR 10.74% to 23.74% based on your creditworthiness. This APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.
Annual Fee $59, waived for the first year
Balance Transfers Intro APR

The Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Credit Card pays 3% back during the first year of card ownership, then 2.5% thereafter. You have to be a credit union member to be eligible for the card.

 

EDITORIAL NOTE

Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.