The Chase Freedom® credit card offers 5% cash-back on purchases in bonus categories that rotate each quarter. You’ll have to activate the bonus category first, but then you’ll earn the 5% on up to $1,500 of qualified purchases (potentially $75 in cash back). You also get unlimited 1% cash-back on all other purchases when you use your Chase Freedom credit card. If you’re willing to put in a little extra effort by keeping up with changing categories, the Chase Freedom card is a great cash-back card that can earn you substantial rewards each quarter.
|Card||Ongoing Purchase APR||Annual Fee||Intro Bonus||Credit Needed||Key features|
|Chase Freedom®||16.49% - 25.24% Variable APR||$0||$150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening||Good to excellent||Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter.|
What we like about the Chase Freedom® card
The primary benefits of the Chase Freedom® card include the high 5% cash back rate on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate, a 0% intro APR for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers (16.49% - 25.24% Variable APR afterward) and a $150 bonus cash for spending $500 on purchases in your first three months. Between the cash-back rewards and lengthy interest-free introductory period, you can leverage the benefits of this card for everyday spending and major purchases.
Things to consider
The main drawback of this card is that you’ll need to pay attention to the rotating categories and manually activate them by the deadlines. The activation process requires you to go to the Chase website or mobile app, navigate to the Cash Back Calendar page and click “Activate Now” for the category you want to earn 5 percent back on. You will see the deadline for activation right there on the page.
After clicking activate, you will have to enter the primary cardholder’s last name, the last four digits on the card and your ZIP code. If you forget to activate the category one quarter, you will miss out on your cash-back rewards, which is a bit of a bummer. We recommend scheduling a reminder each quarter to go and activate the category.
Another potential drawback is that the quarterly categories may not always match up to your spending habits, causing you to lose out on the card’s primary perk. In addition, the 5 percent bonus categories feature is capped at $1,500 quarterly.
Chase Freedom® cash back details
How does the cash back work?
The rewards are tracked in the form of points, so every $1 you earn in cash back is equal to 100 points. For example, if you spend $100 in the bonus category for the month and earn $5 cash back, you would get 500 points. You can use your points to redeem a variety of reward options from gift cards and cash to travel and offerings available exclusively through the program. Note that the value for the redemption of your points can vary depending on which reward option you choose. A perk is that the rewards don’t expire as long as your account is open, so you don’t have to worry about losing them. Plus, you can redeem them at any time as there is no minimum amount requirement.
To really maximize your returns, you’ll need to align your spending habits with the rotating bonus categories and find the reward options that offer you the highest redemption value for your points.
Chase Freedom® Fee details
While there’s no annual fee, Chase Freedom® has a 3 percent foreign transaction fee. If you travel internationally often or even if you’re planning a quick trip abroad, the foreign transaction fee may be a deal-breaker — especially if you aren’t reaping the card’s full cash-back benefits. We recommend you use another card with no foreign transaction fee when you travel.
As for other fees, the card offers a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that, either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater. Although you’ll incur this fee, transferring an outstanding balance from a current credit card with a high interest rate to this one with 15 months of no interest (then an ongoing 16.49% - 25.24% Variable APR) can help you save on interest and pay down your debt quicker.
How does it compare to other cash-back cards?
If you’re on the hunt for a cash-back credit card, the Discover it® Cash Back card has a very similar offer with no annual fee, 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. It has a slightly lower regular ongoing APR range (13.49% - 24.49% Variable), and its introductory 0 percent APR on purchases and balance transfers lasts for 14 months vs. 15 months with the Chase Freedom® card. Also, instead of the $150 sign up bonus, Discover automatically matches all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.
Next, the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card has no annual fee and features unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases. It also comes with a 0 percent intro APR for 15 months on purchases and transfers, followed by a variable APR of 15.49% - 25.49% (Variable). Plus, earn a $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in your first three months. While the cash-back rate is lower than the attractive 5 percent, it applies to all purchases so you don’t have to worry about keeping up with changing categories. Moreover, the rewards are unlimited.
Chase Freedom®’s combination of cash back bonus categories, an extended interest-free introductory period and an intro cash bonus makes it an attractive option. It’s preferable for those who spend in a variety of categories, don’t mind the quarterly activations and want a bonus sooner rather than later.
The bottom line
The Chase Freedom® card is a great option if your purchasing tendencies align with its bonus categories. If you’re able to max out your cash back each quarter, you can earn an extra $300 a year — not including cash back on regular purchases. However, if you want a more straightforward cash-back card that earns you automatic rewards without caps, you may benefit by exploring other Chase credit cards.
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