Tired Of Hearing That Rolling Stones Jingle? Here’s The Real Scoop On The Chase Freedom Card

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I'm free?I often write these posts with CNBC on in the background for some noise (interestingly, I usually can’t see the television), and for what seems like the fifteenth time in the last hour, they’ve played a commercial for the Chase Freedom credit card. You’ve probably seen the commercial if you’ve had your television on at all in the last month … it features a single line from the old Rolling Stones’ song “I’m Free” over and over again. I’m free… to do what I want… any old time.

Apparently, the advertising scheme is working, because several people have written to me in the last week asking me about the offer: is it worthwhile? The short answer is that it’s not.

When I look at a credit card offer, I look at five crucial factors to judge whether or not it’s worthwhile.

Is it from a widely accepted credit card chain? I generally discard offers from Discover, and I almost always discard offers that aren’t from American Express, MasterCard, or Visa right off the bat because these cards simply aren’t widely accepted. If I can’t ubiquitously use the card, it becomes much less of a tool for my spending.

Does it have a grace period? I look for cards that have some sort of grace period on purchases before the interest rate kicks in. I’m very methodical and timely with my payments, so having a grace period usually means I pay no interest at all on virtually any of my purchases.

Is the interest rate low? Sometimes, I do wind up paying interest on a card, particularly when I’m on the road. When this happens, I want the interest rate to be nice and low.

Do I earn more than 1% cash back? The best cash back credit cards award more than 1% cash back. If the card can’t even do that, then it’s out.

Do I earn more than 2 points on the average dollar, and can I actually use them for something I want? If I’m going to go for points, I better be earning a lot of points and it better be for things that I use. Since we do a lot of our bulk shopping on Amazon.com, for example, we really clean up on the bonus points with our Amazon card – we can effectively get 3% cash back on our bulk purchases.

So, if we take a look at the specifics of the credit card offer itself, we can quickly see how it does with this criteria.

It’s widely accepted; it’s a Visa. That’s a positive.

It has a 20 day grace period. That’s not particularly stellar; some cards have a longer period. But, still, better than no grace period.

The interest rate isn’t so good. The card has several “levels” of interest rates, but even the best one isn’t stellar – 14.24% variable is the best they can do, and that’s the best rate? 14.24% variable means that the interest rate can be adjusted upwards for a huge variety of reasons. I’m not comfortable with that kind of interest rate.

It earns only 1% cash back. That’s not good.

It earns less than 2% rewards points unless your spending is focused entirely on groceries, gas, and fast food. If you only use a card in those categories, you can possibly beat 2%, but for most people, the points won’t add up to 2%, so I don’t even care how good the stuff I can get with the points is.

Some people have wondered to me if the commercial is saying that you earn both cash and rewards points from the card. No, you don’t; you can choose which one you want to get, but you do not earn both at the same time.

In short, don’t go for the Chase Freedom card. If you want to read about a card that matches my criteria for a good card, check into the Citi Driver’s Edge Platinum Select card. If you commute to work, you can easily leverage this card to earn 3 to 4% cash back on all purchases overall, and it at least matches the Freedom card in the other categories.

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20 thoughts on “Tired Of Hearing That Rolling Stones Jingle? Here’s The Real Scoop On The Chase Freedom Card

  1. I agree with your analysis, but I should mention one thing. Having a fixed interest rate doesn’t mean much. My main card had a fixed 9.99% rate when I signed up for it. They then changed the fixed rate to a variable rate. Currently my originally fixed rate is now 19.99%.

    I am now looking to get a new card.

  2. I completely agree about the relative merits of the card. Sound advice, as usual, Trent. The worst aspect of the card is probably the song on the ads.

    However, if one has been (or is in the future) lucky enough to catch the Chase Freedom card during one of its $250 bonus moments — and if one meets the conditions for that bonus (never hard a card with Chase) — then I feel like a quick $250 isn’t so bad.

    Make a single small purchase, redeem the bonus rebates for the $250 check, and frankly you don’t ever have to look at the card again. This is what I recently did. I also got a Citi Professional card for the 10,000 bonus points, which I then immediately converted into a $100 student loan rebate check. I still use the card for restaurant purchases, though, because it gets 3% on those, which my primary card does not.

    My primary card, by the way, is your favorite, the Citi Driver’s Edge card. I put about 425 miles a week on my car just commuting, not counting miscellaneous weekend driving. That translates into a lot of gas (a lot of San Francisco Bay Area gas, no less) plus a lot of mileage rebates, once I redeem them. We also spend a lot on groceries because we’re gastronomes, so that pumps up my rebates on the card as well. All told I end up with about $50 (equivalent) in Citi Thank You Points each month, which gets rolled into a $50 rebate check on my student loans once all the forms are filled out. It’s not a lot, but it helps, and it’s money I _wasn’t_ getting before I signed up for these cards. So, a hearty “hear, hear!” for the Driver’s Edge card.

    Though, honestly, if I didn’t have a god-awfully long commute, I don’t think I’d miss the rebates.

  3. Sorry Trent, but I couldn’t disagree with you more.

    I’ve had the Chase Freedom for just about 6 months and it’s been set in cash back the whole time. I spend every single dollar I possibly can on this card. I get 3% cash back on groceries, and gas (and “quick service restaurants”, but I have no idea what exactly is included in this) and 1% cash back on all other purchases. As of right now, I have about $85+ in cash back rewards sitting on my card. I pay my balance in full every month (almost 2 weeks before the due date), so I haven’t paid a dime in interest, and I don’t intend to.

    Here’s the really great thing about this card in my eyes. Once I build up $200 in cash back rewards, I can turn that in for a $250 check. That’s 25% more cash for free! If you always wait for that (and why wouldn’t you?!?) that turns out to be about 3.75% on groceries and gas, and 1.25% on all other purchases, which is pretty much the best cash back rewards I’ve seen other than something like BlueCash (although they don’t send you a check for your cash back, so you can’t put it into an account anywhere).

    I even did the math (in a very Trent like way) to find out what was better, waiting for the $250 or getting $50 back whenever it was available (you can only redeem in ammounts of $50). Based on my spending, waiting for the $250 was always better, by about %15.

    As a points card, don’t bother with this card, as the rewards are pretty dumpy, but as a cash back card, I think it’s hard to find a better one out there assuming you always pay your bill in full.

  4. I don’t have a car so the driver’s edge doesn’t benefit me.

    I signed up for the chase freedom for the $250 signup bonus but it’s been a good card. Yes the interest rate is a ridiculously high 18% but I will never pay interest. I have chase.com set to autopay the balance from my high interest account. It’s also better than my wachovia debit card which has .25% reward points.

    Also it’s a Visa signature card so you get all those benefits like an extra year on your warranty and travel insurance.

  5. I have the chase card and currently am waiting for the 6-8 weeks before the $200 signup bonus check comes. Do I have to wait and then call them to redeem it, or do they send it, or what not?

    Needless to say it’s a garbage credit card in any other respect besides the signup bonus.

  6. hehe. I never looked at the offer. I just insert my own words into the song “I’m free, to go into debt, any old time…” I figure anything someone is insisting that it makes me freer would probably have the opposite effect…

  7. As I understand it, the BlueCash rewards are only 1% on “everyday purchases” and .5% on others until the amount charged for the “Rebate Year” reaches $6,500.00; the higher rewards of 5% and 1.5% begin on amounts charged beyond that point. When I read about this requirement to get to the generous rewards I lost interest in that card.

  8. I have to disagree too, and agree with Aaron on the cash back. I think the extra $50 back for nothing is super.

    I actually had the Amazon card for almost a year and switched to the Freedom card because I was finding that Amazon just wasn’t the best deal anymore, even bulk items didn’t usually work out in my pricebook.

    I certainly haven’t found anything better than this card. The Citi card you mention isn’t a universal rewards card like this and for someone who doesn’t have a car, it doesn’t do much for me earning only 1% on everything that’s not gas (which I don’t buy).

  9. I have had problems in the past with the cards that offer extra rewards in the grocery category. None of my local grocery stores are eligible for the reward (the card issuer specifically excludes all my local stores) because although the stores process the charges to the grocery category, the stores also sell other items. Not all of the stores are hypermarkets, either. For instance, Kroger is excluded by my card issuer (and dropped to the 1% back category) because they happen to sell a few sundries in addition to their main grocery category.

  10. Just signed up for the Chase Freedom card, and they now claim it as your top three “Essential” categories (groceries, gas & convenience stores, department stores, etc.)

    So, may be a way to dilute the $$$ in your top three categories, but if you spend a lot at a few specific stores, might work out.

    (NOTE: My account is too new to have any practical experience.)

  11. I agree with Trent actually. There are better cards out there with rewards. Even with the $250 promo (which ended earlier this month), I wouldn’t get this card.

    Citi Diamond Preferred Rewards Mastercard, 5% supermarkets, drug stores, and gas stations, 1% otherwise, 6k bonus TY points, under 14% APR.
    https://web.da-us.citibank.com/cgi-bin/citifi/scripts/infrastructure/external_site_popup.jsp?BS_Id=CardsAGDiam&BV_UseBVCookie=yes&BS_Branding=NoBranding

    Citi Diamond Preferred Rewards American Express, just like the above card but AmEx instead
    https://web.da-us.citibank.com/cgi-bin/citifi/scripts/infrastructure/external_site_popup.jsp?BS_Id=CardsAGDiamAmex&BV_UseBVCookie=yes&BS_Branding=NoBranding

  12. A slight clarification to the above post – those Citi Diamond 5% rates are only guaranteed for 12 months – and they are given in Thank You Points which can be redeemed for GIFT CARDS – not cash.

  13. Chase ussually has good/great sign-up offers.

    for a while they were offering 250 free bucks for signing up for the card..

    did it just for that.

  14. I have the Chase Freedom card, I specifically got it for their balance transfer offer which was 0% for 18 month and 7.99% Intrest Rate on Purchases made in the same 18 months. After this offer expires I will seek out another good 0% Balance Transfer offer.

  15. Is it from a widely accepted credit card chain? I generally discard offers from Discover,

    Where, exactly is Discover not accepted? I use my Discover card as my main card and have yet to find a place that accepts credit cards who does not take Dsicover.

  16. I signed up for the Chase Freedom only because they offered it to me when I got my new checking account there. The only reason I got the checking account was for the $100 promotion I got in the mail.

    As soon as she printed out the form, I looked at it and saw 24% interest. I immediatly called chase and told them this is not what I signed up for and they reduced it all the way to 6.99%. This is the best rate I have seen on any of my credit cards.

    Only problem is finding where exactly these 3% transactions are. They say at eligible gas, grocery, etc, but are there specific ones? I just emailed chase asking for more information.

  17. I find myself fleeing in revulsion at the ad before it gets a chance to ‘win me over’.
    A lunatic shreiking “I’m free…” in falsetto while pinching his nose…is not what I identify with.

  18. OR…you could just not use any credit cards at all.

    That is true freedom.
    Cash is widely accepted.
    Unlimited grace period…nothing to pay back
    No cash back, because you never gave it to them in the first place.
    Interest rate is 0%.
    Never a late fee.
    never a bill to pay.
    Just a tiny bit simpler.

    But wait, you say. no rewards or cash back. You are falling into the trap they set.

    Those rewards and cash back do not even come close to offsetting the risk associated with credit cards for the average person. risk of “oops, we never rec’d your payment, risk of “universal default”, risk of them changing the rules “interest rate” in the middle of the game.

    You must always assess risk in conjunction with financial decisions. Risk is too high for the “reward”

    Credit cards are not a tool. A drill is a tool. Credit cards are…credit cards. They are money you don’t have to spend.

    Always remember, you are playing by thier rules at their game they created to make them money, not you. It is like gambling. Only fools think they can consistently beat the house. Credit cards are accidents waiting to happen.

  19. The card is much better for college students, from what I’ve seen. Discover selects categories every three months for which you get 5% back – most of them correspond to purchases middle aged consumers would make – hotels and gas get an extra 5% back in the summer, etc. A gas card’s also out since college students in cities almost never drive (I go to Loyola in Chicago and only drive 4 months out of the year). Even at many suburban/rural schools, underclassmen can’t have cars on campus. My parents have Discover, and that works out much better for them – I’ll probably switch once I graduate and move out.

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