Chase Freedom Flex℠ review
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Chase Freedom Flex℠ Overview
If you’re looking for a winning combination of year-round rewards and rotating cash back, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ should be one of your first stops. Boasting no annual fee, solid cardholder perks, a terrific balance of practical everyday bonus categories and niche extras, as well as one of the most flexible cash back rewards programs out there, the Freedom Flex is easily one of the best cash back credit cards on the market.
That said, the card’s rotating categories may not be the best fit based on your spending habits. Read on to learn more about where the Freedom Flex shines, how it stacks up against other rewards credit cards and whether it makes sense as part of your cash back strategy.
What are the pros and cons?
- Must pair with a higher-tier Chase card to take advantage of travel partners
- Must remember to enroll in rotating categories each quarter
- Carries cash back limits in its rotating bonus categories
A deeper look into the current card offer
- Rewards rate: Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. 5 percent cash back on activated bonus category purchases each quarter (up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1 percent) and on Chase Ultimate Rewards travel purchases; 5 percent cash back on Lyft rides (through March 2022); 3 percent cash back on dining (including restaurants, takeout and eligible delivery services) and drugstore purchases and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases
- Welcome offer: $200 cash bonus after spending $500 within your first three months
- Annual fee: $0
- Purchase intro APR: 0 percent for 15 months
- Balance transfer intro APR: 0 percent for 15 months
- Regular APR: 14.99 percent to 23.74 percent variable
Current sign-up bonus
The Chase Freedom Flex’s current sign-up bonus clocks in at $200 after you spend $500 in your first three months of card ownership. This bonus has held steady since the card’s launch and is quite generous considering the card charges no annual fee and carries a very attainable spending requirement. After all, a handful of competing cards, for example, require you to spend $750 or even $1,000 to earn a comparable bonus.
Even cardholders who prefer flat-rate cash back should appreciate the mix of consistency and variety offered by the Freedom Flex. While most cash back cards earn rewards at either a flat rate on all purchases, in specific bonus spending categories or in rotating bonus categories, the Freedom Flex blends multiple cash back styles with a boosted rewards rate year-round in select categories and on a quarterly basis in others.
How to earn cash back
The Freedom Flex card’s backbone is the rotating 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in each quarter’s activated bonus category spending (then 1 percent back). Chase’s bonus categories are announced quarterly and usually feature essential expenses. The next quarter’s categories will spotlight Walmart and PayPal purchases from October to December, but you can still earn heightened cash back at grocery stores (excluding Walmart and Target) and on the following select streaming services through the end of September 2021:
- Fubo TV
- YouTube TV
- Apple Music
Better still, you’ll always have the opportunity to rake in unlimited 5 percent cash back on Chase Ultimate rewards travel purchases and 3 percent back on drugstore and restaurant purchases, including takeout and eligible delivery services. These are even bigger reward opportunities when you pair them with your 5 percent cash back on Lyft rides (through March 2022), complimentary three-month DoorDash DashPass subscription and the nine-month 50 percent DashPass discount afterward (subscriptions typically $9.99 per month).
Other rotating category cards, like the Discover it® Cash Back, offer similar bonus categories, but the Freedom Flex sets itself apart with the additional rewards categories it shares with the Chase Freedom Unlimited®.
How to redeem cash back
The interesting part about Chase’s cash back cards is that you’re not earning cash back directly—you’re earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points. You can redeem them for cash back in the form of a statement credit or direct deposit, or you can use your points for any of the following redemption options:
- Travel and event bookings through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Pay with points at Amazon.com and PayPal
- Gift cards for 150+ brands
- Merchandise using Shop through Chase
- Apple Ultimate Rewards Store purchases
How much are the rewards worth?
Value-wise, your points are all worth 1 cent per piece when you redeem for cash back, travel, gift cards and merchandise through the Ultimate Rewards store. Paying with rewards on Amazon.com slightly devalues your rewards to 0.8 cents per point, however.
On the other hand, you can squeeze even more value from your Chase points by pooling them with a premier Chase travel card.
Your points gain far more value if you redeem them for travel in the Ultimate Rewards portal using either the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card at a boosted 1.25 cents per point or the Chase Sapphire Reserve® at 1.5 cents per point. If you’re feeling generous, your Freedom Flex rewards can also bump up to 1.25 cents per point when you contribute them to participating charities using Chase’s Pay Yourself Back feature. But if you’ve been eagerly waiting to dine in at your favorite restaurant again, you’ll also be able to use your points through Pay Yourself Back at a boosted 1.1 cent rate toward up to $250 of dining purchases until September 30, 2021.
Other cardholder perks
Compared to other no-annual-fee cards, the Freedom Flex offers an impressive variety of benefits that carry everyday value. A few standout features include its light travel perks, shopping protections and World Elite Mastercard benefits.
Although many of the most eye-catching benefits are temporary — like the sign-up bonus, Lyft categories and the complimentary three-month DashPass subscription — the Freedom Flex’s ongoing advantages may be more than enough to compete with other rotating category cards.
Travel insurance benefits
The Freedom Flex’s trip cancellation and interruption insurance is a valuable perk that you rarely see on cards with no annual fee. The protection is downgraded a bit from its premium Sapphire sibling cards, but a $1,500 per person/$6,000 per trip reimbursement for nonrefundable passenger fares is enough coverage to earn some peace of mind.
In case you’re dealing with a rental company during your travels, Freedom Flex also provides an auto rental collision damage waiver, which will save you money on insurance in the event of theft as well. If you’re in a pinch, you also receive travel and emergency assistance.
World Elite Mastercard benefits
Unlike its predecessor, the Freedom Flex is a World Elite Mastercard, meaning it comes with a few extra benefits you might not know about. For instance, cardholders who take three Lyft rides in one month can earn a $5 credit toward their next ride.
Flex cardholders also earn 5 percent cash back on purchases with HelloFresh to use toward their next delivery — a particularly valuable benefit if you’re not ready to explore the restaurant scene just yet. For another at-home perk, Mastercard Elite cards also offer users a free membership to ShopRunner, which provides complimentary, two-day shipping from dozens of major retailers.
The cellphone protection benefit is one of the most valuable on the Freedom Flex since it saves you money on the road and at home. In fact, the Freedom Flex is the only personal Chase card to even carry cell phone protection.
Your phone is covered for up to $800 per claim ($1,000 yearly coverage, up to two claims per year) in the event it’s stolen or needs repairs, and you qualify simply by paying your cellphone bill with your credit card (a $50 deductible per claim applies).
Free/discounted DashPass membership
Fans of food delivery service DoorDash will also enjoy a special perk with the Freedom Flex. Cardholders are eligible to sign up for a free DashPass membership, which covers three months of membership fees. After the first three months, you’re automatically enrolled at a 50 percent discount for nine more months.
With DashPass, cardholders get $0 delivery fees and reduced service fees on qualifying orders. DoorDash estimates this can save users an average of $4 to $5 per order—which can add up significantly for takeout enthusiasts. Even after the initial three months of free membership, the reduced membership cost is around $5 a month for the remainder of the year, meaning you only have to order delivery twice a month to cover the cost.
Rates and Fees
The no annual fee Freedom Flex card comes with a pretty generous zero-interest intro APR on new purchases and balance transfers. Cardholders can save on interest for 15 months with a 0 percent intro APR before the normal 14.99 percent to 23.74 percent variable APR kicks in—which is a bit below the current average interest rate.
This is particularly valuable for cardholders who need to pay off a large purchase or a previous balance over time and don’t want to rack up interest. Not only will you save on fees, but you can also earn rewards along the way. Just make sure to account for the balance transfer fee (3 percent, $5 minimum, for the first 60 days, 5 percent after that) and pay off your balance before the intro period ends, or interest can add up fast.
Since there are a good number of travel benefits to support your 5 percent cash back on Chase travel, it’s also worth being aware of the 3 percent foreign transaction fee when you use your card abroad.
How the Chase Freedom Flex compares to other cash back cards
With an eye-catching combination of year-round and rotating bonus categories, the Freedom Flex remains a leader at the top of the no-annual-fee cash back card pack. Nevertheless, it might not be the best card for every spender. Depending on where you spend most of your money—and if you prefer reliable, flat-rate cash back on all purchases—the following alternatives might make more sense for you:
Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited
The choice between these two cards will likely come down to your spending habits and how much work you want to put into earning rewards. If you get a kick out of strategizing about how and when to buy to maximize your rewards, the Freedom Flex can be a great fit, but if you favor consistency and ease of use, the Freedom Unlimited is likely a better choice. While the Freedom Flex offers a 5 percent cash back rate on the first $1,500 you spend per quarter in a wide variety of rotating categories (then 1 percent), you won’t have any control over which categories are offered, and you may struggle to maximize your earnings in the card’s categories each quarter. The Freedom Unlimited, meanwhile, will get you a flat 1.5 percent cash back rate on all purchases outside the Chase travel, restaurant and drugstore categories (it offers the same rate as the Freedom Flex in these categories). That’s much lower than the cash back rate offered in the Freedom Flex card’s rotating categories, but you won’t be at the mercy of the Chase cash back calendar and won’t need to track or enroll in categories. As such, it could be a better long-term option for everyday spending.
Chase Freedom Flex vs. Citi Custom Cash
If you’re looking for a mix of variety and consistency, but would rather avoid some of the legwork that’s required for maximizing value with the Freedom Flex, the Citi Custom Cash could be a terrific alternative. You’ll automatically earn 5 percent cash back in whichever category you’ve spent the most in each billing cycle (on the first $500 spent per billing cycle, then 1 percent), making the Custom Cash a great hybrid of a rotating cash back card, a choose-your-own-category cash back card and a tiered bonus category card. While using the Custom Cash as your standalone rewards card could mean leaving some cash back on the table in your second- and third-highest spending categories, you’ll get a chance at the highest cash back rate you can get in a ton of categories without paying an annual fee, including restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment.
Best cards to pair with Chase Freedom Flex
Thanks to its diverse earning categories, the Freedom Flex also makes for a great card to stack with other products. By pairing the card with another that earns a better flat rate on general purchases or offers more diverse redemption options, you can ensure your rewards are maximized.
For example, you could pair the Freedom Flex with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, in order to take advantage of the Reserve card’s 50 percent bonus on Ultimate Rewards when redeemed for travel in the Ultimate Rewards portal. Alternatively, the Reserve lets you transfer to one of Chase’s many travel partners—another way to potentially boost point value. By pooling all your Chase points onto the Reserve, you reap the benefits of more earning categories and a competitive redemption value.
Another great option is to pair the Freedom Flex with a flat-rate cash back card that offers a higher rewards rate on general purchases. If you want to stay within the Chase ecosystem, the Chase Freedom Unlimited can be a good option here. Although the Freedom Unlimited’s bonus earning categories are almost identical to the Freedom Flex, it offers a flat 1.5 percent on non-bonus category purchases in lieu of a rotating category.
Or if you don’t mind venturing out to another card issuer, the Citi® Double Cash Card is one of the most valuable flat-rate cards on the market. It offers an unlimited 1 percent cash back on all purchases, plus another 1 percent cash back as you pay off those purchases, for up to 2 percent back.
Bankrate’s Take—Is Chase Freedom Flex worth it?
The Chase Freedom Flex card is at the top of the cash back game. Its familiar rotating categories appeal to rewards junkies who don’t mind shopping around to get the most value, while year-round earning categories ensure you can always find ways to earn significant cash back.
Plus, the card is a World Elite Mastercard packed with hidden benefits that make it easy to find extra value—all for no annual fee.