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

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Nouri Zarrugh Twitter logo @nourizarrugh  in  Student How we rate our cards  | 

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Best student card for benefits

Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
14.99% Variable
Terms and Restrictions Apply

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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 and is by far the best Chase card for a student.

Along with giving you a chance to build credit as a student, the Chase Freedom Student keeps costs low, charging no annual fee and earning rewards on every purchase you make. 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 out there.

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

Want more details? Jump to the following sections:

What are the advantages and disadvantages?

Advantages

  • Since it’s geared toward students who are building credit, the card will be easier to qualify for than the top rewards cards on the market.
  • There’s no annual fee, and cardholders earn a flat rate of 1 percent back for each dollar they spend, making it easy to slowly but steadily save up cash back rewards.
  • Comes with free access to your credit score, which will help you monitor your credit-building progress.
  • You may be eligible for a credit line increase once you make at least five on-time payments on your credit card over a period of 10 months (when meeting credit criteria).
  • Comes with more perks than the average student card, including a sign-up bonus, rewards for keeping your account in good standing, and benefits like travel insurance and purchase protection.

Disadvantages

  • The card’s 1 percent cash back rate is less than you’ll get with some other starter cards.
  • Doesn’t offer an introductory APR on purchases or balance transfers, which could be a deal-breaker if you have existing debt or want a way to pay off a large purchase over time.

A deeper look into the current card offer

Quick highlights

  • Rewards rate: Earn 1 percent back on general purchases and 5 percent back on Lyft rides (through March 2022)
  • Welcome offer: Earn $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: 14.99 percent (variable)

Sign-up bonus

You can earn a $50 cash bonus (5,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) when you make a purchase with your card within three months of your Chase Freedom Student card account opening. This bonus is very 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 is impressive given the typical rewards card requires at least a few hundred dollars’ worth of spending to secure a sign-up bonus and the majority of 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 everyday purchases like groceries, gas and online shopping, 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. The Discover it® Student Cash Back card, for example, not only earns 1 percent back on general spending, but also a whopping 5 percent back in rotating bonus categories like dining and online shopping. The catch is you’ll have to enroll in a bonus category each quarter, and you’ll only earn 5 percent back on your first $1,500 in spending in that category each quarter (1 percent back after that).

How you redeem

You can use your Chase Freedom Student rewards for cash back in the form of a statement credit, a check in the mail, or for gift cards, merchandise, experiences and even travel through Chase.

How much are the rewards worth?

The value you get out of your Chase Freedom Student card rewards will depend on how you redeem them. While redeeming points for cash back is simple enough, with 1 point equal to 1 cent in cash back, you may squeeze less value out of your points if you redeem for merchandise through Chase or if you use your rewards to make purchases directly through Amazon.com.

While point values for merchandise redemptions vary, they typically can’t match cash back redemption values. Meanwhile, using your points to make purchases through Amazon.com will get you a sub-par point value of just .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, they still typically fall short of those you’d find on the best credit cards. However, the Chase Freedom Student comes with quite a few added benefits, including these:

$20 Good Standing bonus

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

Purchase protection

The Chase Freedom Student card includes purchase protection coverage in case something you bought with the 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 could be a life-saver.

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. This means if you bought something with the card that offered a one-year warranty, you’d 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 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.

The months of complimentary DashPass membership

As a Chase Freedom Student cardholder, you’ll get three months of a DashPass membership at no cost when you enroll by Dec. 31, 2021, followed by a 50 percent discount on your next nine months as a member (should you choose to keep your DashPass membership you will be automatically enrolled). DashPass is a subscription service from DoorDash that typically costs $9.99 per month and gets you $0 delivery fees on DoorDash orders of $12 or more.

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 14.99 percent variable is lower than the average credit card interest rate. While it will still be terribly expensive to carry a balance long-term, this rate is a bit more forgiving than the APR you’ll find on some 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. Cardholders can also be subject to a 5 percent (minimum $10, whichever is greater) cash advance fee and a 5 percent (minimum $5, whichever is greater) balance transfer fee.

How the Chase Freedom Student card compares to other student cards

While the Chase Freedom Student card is a solid choice for building credit and earning rewards, there are other student credit cards that offer a chance at more cash back while still charging no annual fee. The Discover it® Student Cash Back is a popular option since this card lets you earn 5 percent back in rotating categories with no annual fee (upon enrollment, on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter, then 1 percent back). Not only that, but Discover will match all the rewards you have earned after the first year, and you even get an introductory interest rate on purchases and balance transfers.

The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One  is also worth a look since you can get unlimited 1 percent cash back on all purchases—boosted to 1.25 percent for the month when the card is paid on time. That’s not a big difference on a small amount of spending, but getting 25 percent more in rewards can add up to a decent amount of cash back over time.

Feature Chase Freedom® Student credit card Discover it® Student Cash Back Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
Annual Fee $0 $0 $0
Rewards Rate 1% back on general purchases and 5% back on Lyft rides (through March 2022) 5% back on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly bonus categories (upon enrollment, then 1% back) and 1% back on other purchases 1% back on purchases—boosted to 1.25 percent for the month when the card is paid on time
Welcome Offer $50 bonus after your first purchase within three months of account opening Discover will match all rewards earned after the first year Up to $60 in streaming subscription credits when you pay on time (exclusions apply)

Best cards to pair with this 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 also pair this card with another student card that offers more rewards in specific categories. The Discover it Student Cash Back is one great option: Discover’s Cash Back calendar offers a good variety of bonus categories and changes every quarter, so pairing it with the Chase Freedom Student could help you maximize your cash back across a wider array of categories.

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

The Chase Freedom Student card could be an ideal option for students who need the chance to build credit with a starter credit card. It offers good approval odds, carries a competitive 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 fair credit, and some offer higher rewards rates or valuable introductory APR offers.