Chase Freedom® review

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Holly D. Johnson @ClubThrifty  in  Cash Back How we rate our cards  |  Advertiser Disclosure
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Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months
Regular APR:
14.99%–23.74% Variable
Terms and Restrictions Apply

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

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

Chase Freedom®: Details and benefits

The Chase Freedom® is unique among cash back credit cards due to the fact you can earn 5 percent back in categories that change each quarter (then 1 percent). If you’re able to take advantage of this card’s bonus categories and max them out with $1,500 in combined spending every three months, you can earn up to $75 in rewards every quarter of the year — or $300 in bonus rewards every 12 months.

Fortunately, taking advantage of Chase Freedom® bonus categories is pretty easy for most average spenders. While these categories change from year to year, they normally include popular spending categories like dining, rideshares, groceries and wholesale clubs.

Also remember that, once you max out the $1,500 in combined spending for the bonus category each quarter, you’ll still earn unlimited 1 percent back. You’ll also earn unlimited 1 percent back for each dollar you spend on non-bonus purchases, which can add up quickly.

This card comes with no annual fee as well as a generous zero percent APR offer on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (14.99 – 23.74 percent variable APR thereafter) that can help you save money on interest. Cardholder benefits like purchase protection against damage or theft, extended warranties and zero liability protection sweeten the deal.

Advantages

  • Earn 5 percent back (up to $1500 in combined spending) each quarter in lucrative bonus categories (then 1 percent)
  • No annual fee
  • Generous $150 bonus when you spend $500 within three months of account opening
  • Zero percent APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (14.99 – 23.74 percent variable APR thereafter)

Disadvantages

  • Caps on bonus categories limit earning potential
  • You have to “activate” categories each quarter to earn 5 percent back
  • A 3 percent balance transfer fee (minimum $5) applies to balance transfers made within 60 days; after that, the fee climbs to 5 percent (minimum $5)

Get the most value from the Chase Freedom® rotating categories

While the new rotating bonus categories haven’t been released yet for the remainder of the year, we do know where you can earn 5 percent this quarter.

April through June 2020:

  • Grocery stores (not including Target or Walmart)
  • Fitness clubs and gym memberships

Making the most of this quarter’s category should be easy if you buy the average amount of groceries, which is between $897.40 and $1,071.40 per month for the typical family of four according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

To make the most of this quarter’s bonus 5 percent categories, simply use your credit card for all your spending in the rotating categories, up to $1,500 in combined purchases, to earn $75 in bonus cash (then 1 percent). Once you reach the spending cap, you can continue using your Chase Freedom® to earn 1 percent back or switch to another cash back credit card that earns a higher rate of return on regular purchases.

If you’re paying for a gym or fitness club membership, this spending will also earn 5 percent back until you reach the quarterly limit on bonus rewards on up to $1,500 spent in combined quarterly bonus categories (then 1 percent).

How to activate bonus categories

One important detail to note about this card is the fact that you won’t earn 5 percent back automatically. You have to “activate” this feature every quarter in order to earn bonus rewards, but fortunately, doing so is a breeze.

To active your bonus categories each quarter, sign into your Chase credit card account and look for a button that says “Activate.” You can also call the number on the back of your credit card and activate over the phone, or even activate bonus categories using a Chase ATM if you have a checking account with the bank.

How much are Chase Ultimate Rewards points worth?

When you have the Chase Freedom® as a standalone rewards credit card, there are plenty of redemption options to choose from. You can cash in your points for statement credits or cash back, for gift cards or for merchandise through Apple or Amazon.com. You can even redeem rewards for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Most of these options will net you one cent per point in value.

The exceptions to this rule include gift cards, since Chase very frequently extends “gift card sales” that let you get more than one cent per point in value. Redemption values for merchandise can vary as well.

How to maximize the Chase Freedom®

The Chase Freedom® is really best when paired with other Chase cards in the Ultimate Rewards program, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Each of these cards charges an annual fee — which can be substantial depending on which card you get — but will boost your redemption value by 25 to 50 percent through the Ultimate Rewards program when you redeem through the Chase portal.

For example, when you transfer your Chase Freedom® points to the Chase Sapphire Preferred®, they increase in value by 25 percent. In other words, 100 Ultimate Rewards points are worth 125 Ultimate Rewards points when you have both cards and redeem for travel through the Chase portal.

Also consider how having multiple Chase credit cards could help you earn more rewards. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® and Chase Sapphire Reserve® offer bonus points on dining and travel, so you could use these cards for those purchases in order to rack up more rewards, leaning on your Chase Freedom® for spending in 5 percent bonus categories, on up to $1,500 spent in combined quarterly bonus categories (then 1 percent). You could even throw in the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and use it for all your non-bonus spending, since this card gives you 1.5 percent back on everything you buy with no annual fee.

Alternatively, you may choose the Chase trifecta, which includes the Chase Freedom® or the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card. This combination of cards would help you earn rewards on business spending, bonus points on dining and travel, and more rewards on regular purchases or additional bonus categories. Then, you could pool all your points in your Chase Sapphire Reserve® account for the best redemption options.

How to redeem and get the most value

Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred® and Chase Sapphire Reserve® help you get more value from your points when you redeem them for travel through the Chase portal, but these cards offer another benefit in the form of point transfers.

When you carry either of these cards (as well as the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card) in addition to your Chase Freedom® card, you get the option to transfer your points 1:1 to popular airline and hotel partners like British Airways, United MileagePlus, Emirates, World of Hyatt and Marriott Bonvoy, among others.

If you decide you only want the Chase Freedom®, you’ll still get great value from each purchase. This card lets you redeem for a wide range of redemption options and get one cent per point in value along the way. Considering the bonus rewards you can earn and the 1 percent back you’ll get on everything else you buy, that’s a pretty sweet deal.

The information about the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.