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Chase Freedom® Student credit card review: Solid intro to Ultimate Rewards

A great credit card for students just getting started

 /  11 min
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Snapshot

3.4

Bankrate rating
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Rating: 3.4 stars out of 5

Bottom line

The Chase Freedom Student credit card is a solid starter card for students who want to earn cash back rewards and build their credit. While there’s a ton to love about this card for new cardholders, there are other options with lower barriers to entry and higher earning potential.

Best student card for benefits
Image of Chase Freedom® Student credit card

Chase Freedom® Student credit card

  • Introductory offer
    Rating: 1 stars out of 5
    1 / 5
    Fees
    Rating: 2.6 stars out of 5
    2.6 / 5
    Rewards value
    Rating: 3 stars out of 5
    3 / 5
    Features
    Rating: 3 stars out of 5
    3 / 5
Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
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Recommended Credit

Intro offer

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1%

Rewards Rate

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Annual fee

Regular APR

Chase Freedom Student Card Overview

The Chase Freedom Student credit card* is a great pick for college students who want to start their credit journey off on the right foot. Along with rewarding you on every purchase you make, it offers a nice incentive for paying your bill on time each month, making it work similarly to a credit-building card or starter credit card

The Chase Freedom Student keeps costs low for students building credit by charging no annual fee and offering a relatively low ongoing APR. The card also comes with a respectable list of perks and makes for a great entry point into the lucrative Chase Ultimate Rewards program, one of the most flexible and potentially valuable rewards programs on the market. It’s by far the best Chase card for a student with its fair balance of accessibility, rewards and perks that’ll help you use credit responsibly.

That said, the card’s rewards rate, while better than nothing, is not the best rate you can find on a student credit card. You can find a handful of student credit cards that offer more than 1 percent back on every purchase or in specific spending categories.

What are the pros and cons?

Pros

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    This card is built with students in mind, so it might be easier to qualify for than the top rewards cards on the market.

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    A small welcome offer awards cardholders with a $50 bonus after making their first purchase with the card within the first three months of opening their account.

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    No annual fee makes this card accessible to most students on a budget who need access to credit.

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    Possible credit line increases and good standing bonuses give cardholders an incentive to use credit and pay their bill responsibly.

Cons

  • The card’s 1 percent cash back rate is less than you can get with other starter or student credit cards.

  • No introductory APR on purchases or balance transfers makes this card a poor choice for current cardholders who want to escape interest on a balance they are carrying.

A deeper look into the current card offer

Quick highlights

  • Rewards rate: Earn 1 percent back on all purchases
  • Welcome offer: Earn a $50 bonus after your first purchase within three months of account opening
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Purchase intro APR: N/A
  • Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
  • Regular APR: 19.74 percent (variable)

Current welcome bonus

Chase is currently offering a $50 cash bonus (5,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) to cardholders who make a purchase with the Chase Freedom Student Unlimited card  within three months of opening a card account. This bonus is incredibly easy to earn considering any purchase can qualify — even a pack of gum.

Although it’s not a huge amount of money, the Chase Freedom Student card’s $50 bonus and rock-bottom spending requirement are impressive. The typical rewards card requires at least a few hundred dollars’ worth of spending to secure a sign-up bonus and most student credit cards carry no sign-up bonus at all.

Rewards rate

As a flat-rate cash back card, the Chase Freedom Student card makes it easy to earn rewards without worrying about enrolling in bonus categories or tracking where, when or what you buy. Simply use the card for every purchase you make and you’ll earn consistent cash back.

How you earn

The Chase Freedom Student card keeps things simple with a flat 1 percent cash back rate on every purchase. Technically, though, you’ll earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be used in a variety of ways — not just as cash back.

While 1 percent or 1 point per dollar back on all purchases can add up over time, it falls short of the rate you’ll find on some competing student rewards cards. Although this is standard for rewards cards, it’s worth clarifying on a card that promises cash back on all purchases. You won’t earn cash back for betting transactions, such as lottery ticket purchases, casino gaming chips or race track wagers. 

How to redeem

You can use your Chase Freedom Student rewards for cash back in the form of a statement credit, gift cards, travel or towards purchases with merchants that partner with Chase.

You can also use your points towards purchases at Amazon, which can pair well with a student Amazon account. Apple users can redeem points for all Apple purchases through Ultimate Rewards.

The Chase Ultimate Rewards portal is where you’ll use points for travel. This issuer rewards portal provides competitive rates on bookings and can offer incredibly generous redemption bonuses for anyone who holds a premium Chase credit card. It might be wise to build a healthy balance of points with your Chase Freedom Student card now if you plan to later apply for a Chase travel card.

How much are the rewards worth?

The value of your Chase Freedom Student card rewards depends on how you choose to redeem them. While redeeming points for cash back is simple enough, with 1 point equal to 1 cent in cash back, you may get less value out of your points if you redeem for merchandise through Chase. Meanwhile, using your points to make purchases through Amazon.com will get you a sub-par point value of just 0.8 cents per point.

On the flipside, you can sometimes enjoy more than 1 cent per point in value for your rewards if you redeem for certain gift cards. That’s because Chase Ultimate Rewards has frequent gift card “sales” that see gift cards offered at discounted rates.

Other cardholder perks

While student cards tend to offer better perks than many credit-building cards, their offerings still fall short of what you’ll find on the best credit cards. However, along with zero liability and fraud protection, the Chase Freedom Student comes with quite a few added benefits that make it stand out from other cards in its class.

$20 Good Standing bonus

If you keep your account in good standing by paying your balance on time, you can qualify for a $20 good standing credit each year. Chase offers this credit on your cardmember anniversary each year for up to the first five years. While this is not an earth-shattering amount of money, it’s a nice added bonus for staying on the right track financially.

Possible credit limit increase

Chase offers a credit limit increase if you make at least five on-time payments in a period of 10 months with your Chase Freedom Student Unlimited card. This is a great incentive to exercise responsible credit card use and bill payment. Combined with the $20 Good Standing bonus, cardholders have no shortage of reasons to make prompt payments each billing cycle.

Purchase protection

The Chase Freedom Student card includes purchase protection coverage in the event something you bought with your card is damaged or stolen. This coverage is good for up to 120 days after the purchase date and covers you up to $500 per claim and up to $50,000 per account. Given how much the average student spends on expensive items like textbooks and electronics, this kind of coverage could be a lifesaver for anyone living in communal spaces like dorms, shared apartments or houses in unfamiliar areas.

Extended warranty coverage

For items purchased with the card, you can get an extra year’s worth of coverage added to manufacturers’ warranties of three years or less. If you buy something with the card that offers a one-year warranty, you can be covered for two years — which should offer a bit more peace of mind.

Trip cancellation and interruption insurance

The Chase Freedom Student card also comes with trip cancellation and interruption insurance, which is practically unheard of among student credit cards. Trip cancellation insurance can reimburse you for non-refundable travel expenses if you need to cut your trip short or cancel due to a covered reason like severe weather, an illness or a death in the family. Trip interruption insurance, meanwhile, covers you if you need to return home from a trip early due to a covered reason.

The Chase Freedom Student card’s coverage is good for up to $1,500 per person and up to $6,000 per trip when an eligible trip is canceled or interrupted for a covered reason.

Rates and fees

Like most student credit cards, the Chase Freedom Student card doesn’t charge an annual fee, making it a better option than many credit-building cards available for non-students.

Unfortunately, however, the card lacks an introductory APR offer on new purchases and balance transfers, so it won’t be a good fit if you’re looking for a way to save on interest as you pay off existing debt or chip away at the cost of a large purchase over time.

That said, the card’s ongoing APR of 19.74 percent variable is slightly lower than the current average credit card interest rate. While it can still be expensive to carry a balance long-term, this rate is a bit more forgiving than the APR you’ll find on other student cards and on the vast majority of credit-building cards.

Other fees include a late payment fee and returned payment fee of up to $40. This card doesn’t charge an over-the-limit fee or a returned check fee. Should you ultimately decide to transfer any existing debt to this card, you will face a 5 percent (minimum $10, whichever is greater) cash advance fee and a 5 percent (minimum $5, whichever is greater) balance transfer fee.

Staff Experience: Here's what our experts say

Just after finishing high school, Bankrate Editor Steve Dashiell learned the hard way that many of the credit card options pushed on students and young people are either unrewarding, way too expensive or outright predatory. Based on his experience, the Freedom Student card should be a much better option for many college students looking to build credit.  

A few months after I graduated high school, I got a credit card offer in the mail. I applied without really understanding the terms because, hey, I needed to pay for some textbooks (and buy a new computer).

I came to find out later that the card had a sky-high APR, earned no rewards and charged dozens of fees. It was awful. 

The Chase Freedom Student card is the sort of card I wish I'd received an offer for instead. It charges no annual fee and carries a much lower APR than the card I ended up with — important for someone like me, who had absolutely no idea how to manage a credit card (I only paid just above the minimum because I figured I’d be safe from interest charges if I hadn’t maxed my card — a fool’s gambit). 

Credit cards don’t come with a manual, but you at least deserve one that doesn't bury you in fees and interest. If you're lucky, it will actually reward you. The Freedom Student is a winner on both fronts.

— Steve Dashiell, Editor, Credit Cards

 

How the Chase Freedom Student card compares to other student cards

Although this can be one of the best Chase student cards in the right hands, it doesn’t make it a one-size-fits-all card for every college student. For students looking for higher rewards rates, there are other options that may fit your budding lifestyle.

The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One is no longer available

Image of Chase Freedom® Student credit card

Chase Freedom® Student credit card

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

$50 Bonus
Info

Rewards rate

1%
Info

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info
Image of Discover it® Student Cash Back
Bankrate Score
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
Apply now Lock
on Discover's secure site

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

Cashback Match
Info

Rewards rate

1% - 5%
Info

Recommended Credit Score

No Credit History
Info
Image of Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

N/A

Rewards rate

1%
Info

Recommended Credit Score

Fair to Good (580 – 740)
Info

Chase Freedom Student card vs. The Discover it® Student Cash Back

While the Chase Freedom Student card is a solid choice for building credit and earning rewards, the Discover it® Student Cash Back offers a chance at more cash back while still charging no annual fee. You can earn 5 percent cash back in rotating categories upon enrollment (on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter, then 1 percent back) and Discover will match all the rewards you have earned at the end of your first year. 

Busier students may find this card to be a hassle when trying to keep up with Discover’s activation schedule. The Discover 2023 calendar could help you get a glimpse into the next quarter, but it doesn’t reveal the cash back categories for the full year. This can make it difficult to plan your spending ahead of time. Despite the category enrollment restriction for earning 5 percent cash back on select categories, you’ll still earn 1 percent back on all purchases, matching the Chase Freedom Student Unlimited card’s cash back rate.

It may also be easier to obtain the Discover it® Student Cash Back because it doesn’t require a credit history, Discover also offers a six month, 0 percent intro APR for new purchases and a six month, 10.99 percent intro APR on balance transfers then the standard variable APR of 18.24% - 27.24% applies, making this a great card if you have existing debt or large purchases coming up.

Chase Freedom Student card vs. The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

Like the Chase Freedom Student, the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One earns unlimited 1 percent cash back on all purchases, but the Journey card boosts your rewards rate to 1.25 percent for one month after the card is paid on time. Additionally, with the Journey you can get 5 percent cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel (terms apply), making it a great option for students traveling abroad.

For all the Journey Student Rewards card offers with its boosted rewards rates, it lacks a welcome bonus and Chase’s $20 Good Standing bonus. If you’re to compare spending on both cards to determine which can be more rewarding, you’ll need to spend $8,000 in one year with the Journey card earning rewards at 1.25 percent back to break even with Chase’s $20 annual bonus. This is a substantial amount of credit card spending for a student just to earn an extra $20 for the year. The Chase Freedom Student Unlimited is the better pick because it doesn’t require a heavy amount of spending to reward responsible credit card use; it promotes financial responsibility regardless of spending with an upfront bonus. 

Best cards to pair with Chase Freedom Student card

While you may want to stick with just one card for a while as you build credit and practice good financial habits, you could pair this card with another student card that offers boosted rewards in specific categories. The Discover it® Student Cash Back card could be a smart option as it offers a good variety of bonus categories that change every quarter. Pairing it with the Chase Freedom Student card could help you maximize your cash back earnings across a wider range of categories.

Bankrate’s Take — Is the Chase Freedom Student card worth it?

The Chase Freedom Student card could be an ideal choice for students who need the chance to build credit with a starter credit card. It offers good approval odds for applicants with good credit, carries an acceptable rewards rate and even offers a sign-up bonus and ongoing Good Standing rewards.

Even so, there are other credit cards for students or people with good credit, and some offer higher rewards rates or valuable introductory APR offers. Unless you need the credit limit increase and Good Standing incentives on this card to maintain responsible credit card habits, you should consider some of the credit cards for good credit.

*The information about the Chase Freedom® Student credit card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer

Holly Johnson writes expert content on personal finance, credit cards, loyalty and insurance topics. In addition to writing for Bankrate and CreditCards.com, Johnson does ongoing work for clients that include CNN, Forbes Advisor, LendingTree, Time Magazine and more.

Edited by Senior Editor, Credit Cards
Reviewed by Former Editor, credit cards

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.