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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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.