I waited until I graduated from college to apply for a credit card. Once I had a full-time job and was living on my own for the first time, I decided it was time to start building my credit. Plus, now that I wasn’t living with mom and dad anymore, I couldn’t borrow their credit card to make online purchases.
So I went to my credit union and asked to apply for a credit card. Because I had just started my first job, the credit union was only willing to give me a card with a $500 limit.
I waited a year and went back with proof of a stable income. I got a credit limit increase, but I was still only looking at a $1,000 limit. While I’m no big spender, this just wasn’t cutting it. When it came time to book plane tickets for an upcoming vacation, I found myself having to borrow my parents’ credit card once again because my limit was too small to book the tickets. That’s when I knew it was time to find a new credit card—enter the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card.
With no annual fee and a simple rewards system, I was able to dip my toes into handling a larger limit and began to learn how I could take advantage of having a credit card.
Why Chase Freedom Unlimited is a good fit for me
The Freedom Unlimited card is a very low-maintenance credit card, which made it an ideal first credit card for me when I was learning how to navigate using credit. The lack of annual fee was a big draw for me because I wasn’t quite sure how to if I would be able to rack up enough points to balance out paying an annual fee. At the time, my salary was on the lower side, so my spending was, too.
Thanks to the higher $5,000 limit I got with the Freedom Unlimited card (which has almost doubled since) and a substantial increase in income and spending over the years, I am seeing the rewards roll in. With this cash back credit card, the reward scheme is very straightforward. You get 1.5 percent cash back on general purchases and bonus cash back on travel purchases made through the Ultimate Rewards portal – 5 percent. Dining and shopping at drugstores also lead to more cash back – 3 percent on each category.
I find trying to navigate travel rewards really overwhelming, so right now, I always redeem my points for cash back. I like to save the points for a while until I have a particularly hefty bill, so I can save a bit on that payment. This feature is known as the Pay Yourself Back tool and you can use it to pay for purchases made within the last 90 days with a 25 percent to 50 percent value boost.
Between the straightforward rewards and lack of annual fee, this rewards credit card is really easy to manage.
A card pairing on the horizon
Now that I am more comfortable using a credit card and have some hefty purchases coming my way (like post-pandemic travel and a major furniture overhaul), I’m considering maximizing my cardholder benefits by signing up for a higher-tier Chase travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
While the Sapphire Preferred does come with an annual fee, it’s low, at $95. This card also has some perks that could really help me save money, like no foreign transaction fees. Back when I first applied for the Freedom Unlimited card, that $95 fee wouldn’t have made sense with how little I was actually using my credit card, but now some of the perks could really pay off, especially when traveling, as you get 2X points for any airfare, hotel, and dining out purchases. The Preferred also comes with 100,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months, which could work out well for me with my upcoming expenses.
Extra card perks that are worth it
While I do love the simplicity of the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, there are times when some of the card’s extra bells and whistles come in handy, especially when online shopping. My Chase card allows me to shop through the Ultimate Rewards program online shopping portal. Basically, you search for a retailer in this portal and then when you shop with them, you can earn special offers. Sometimes these offers come in the form of a discount, other times you get bonus points on your purchase. If you get lucky, you may even find a “buy one get one” deal at your favorite retailer.
How can you not love a credit card that saves you money when you shop?