Chase Freedom Review

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Chase Freedom is a rewards credit card with popular bonus categories that rotate quarterly. You can receive money back on all your purchases, as well as a solid sign-up bonus if you meet the spending requirement. There’s no annual fee, and you can redeem your rewards for cash back, gift cards, merchandise, travel, and more. 

The Chase Freedom card is no longer open to new applicants, but the new Chase Freedom Flex card offers many of the same features and benefits.

Who Is This Credit Card Best For?

The Chase Freedom works best for consumers who want to earn rewards from a credit card and can max out its 5% bonus-earning categories each quarter. For 2020, those categories have included spending on gas, internet, cable, and phone services, groceries, and streaming services. If you spend a lot in those types of categories, this card may be a good fit.

The card is also great for people chasing travel rewards who have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve card. You can pair the cards to maximize your earnings and redeem them for travel at a good rate.

Pros
  • Generous rewards

  • Mutliple redemption options

  • Cardholder perks

Cons
  • Earning caps

  • Bonus earnings requirements

  • High ongoing APR

Pros Explained

  • Generous rewards: The card earns a generous 5% on a limited amount of spending in rotating categories, plus an unlimited 1% back on all other purchases. You also get a solid sign-up bonus if you meet the spending requirement.
  • Multiple redemption options: Whereas some cash-back credit cards only let you redeem for statement credits, the Chase Freedom also gives you the option to cash in your points for gift cards, travel, merchandise, and more. 
  • Cardholder perks: The Chase Freedom offers a generous selection of consumer protections and free insurance products that you won’t find with most other cash-back credit cards. You can also activate a three-month membership that will waive DoorDash food delivery fees. (More on that later in this review.)

Cons Explained

  • Earning caps: This means your 5% back categories can only yield you up to $75 per quarter, or $300 per year. 
  • Bonus earnings requirements: The Chase Freedom requires you to “activate” your card’s bonus categories each quarter. If you fail to do so by the deadline, you won’t earn bonus rewards on your spending that quarter. 
  • High ongoing APR: Despite the 0% APR on purchases for 15 months, there are sizable consequences for carrying a balance after this period is over. If you do wind up with long-term debt on this card, you’ll have to pay a variable rate of 14.99% to 23.74%.

Bonus for New Cardholders

The Chase Freedom rewards you with $200 in bonus cash after you spend $500 on your card within three months of account opening, which is pretty standard among cash-back credit cards with no annual fee. This bonus should be easy to earn since you only have to spend $167 a month on your card for three months in a row to qualify.

Earning Points & Rewards

The Chase Freedom offers two tiers of rewards—5% back on up to $1,500 spent in categories that rotate each quarter, plus an unlimited 1% back on all other spending. With this card, cash back is earned in the form of points: 1 cent back = 1 point. Through March 2022, you'll also earn 5 points per dollar spent on Lyft rides.

To put this in card's earning rate in perspective, if you spend $1,500 in each quarter’s bonus category for an entire year, plus $1,000 on regular purchases every month, you’ll earn a total of $300 per year in bonus earnings plus $120 in cash back on your regular spending. Add in the $200 sign-up bonus and you’ll have a total of $620 in rewards at the end of year one.

Your rewards don’t expire as long as your account remains open or you transfer your points to another Chase credit card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points. 

Redeeming Rewards

The Chase Freedom offers many different options when it comes to redeeming rewards, and you can redeem for cash back in any increment you want. Other redemption options include:

  • Gift cards for 1 cent per point, and occasionally for less
  • Experiences such as sporting events, concerts, and special dinners (point values vary)
  • Travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal at a rate of 1 cent per point, including airfare, hotels, rental condos, activities, car rentals, and more
  • Purchases made through Amazon.com or Apple at a rate of 1 cent per point

If you want to get more value for your rewards when redeeming for travel, consider pairing the Chase Freedom with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve cards.

You can transfer points from your Chase Freedom account to your Chase Sapphire Preferred account, for instance, and then when you redeem them through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you get 25% more value for your points. (With a Chase Sapphire Reserve account, you get 50% more). 

Once you transfer, you also have the option of transferring points again to airline and hotel partners. This can be the most lucrative option of all because, for instance, you can sometimes get flights that are expensive in dollars but relatively cheap when paid for with points.

How to Get the Most Out of This Card

Spend $500 on your card within three months to earn the sign-up bonus, then make sure you use this card for any purchases you make in the bonus categories each quarter (up to the $1,500 limit). Use your card for all other purchases to maximize the 1% back you earn as well. To maximize your redemption value, cash in your points for gift cards that give more than 1 cent per point in value or pair your card with a Chase Sapphire card and redeem for travel. 

To learn more about earning and redeeming points with this card, see our complete guide to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

Chase Freedom’s Excellent Perks

Cash-back cards aren’t known for having a lot of great perks, but the Chase Freedom has two that our editors have classified as “excellent” because they stand out from the standard perks that come with many cards. 

  • Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance: This coverage can reimburse you for prepaid travel expenses if your trip is canceled or interrupted due to a covered reason. Coverage is good for up to $1,500 per person and up to $6,000 per trip. 

Chase Freedom’s Other Features

  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Extended warranty
  • Insurance for damaged or stolen purchases 
  • Roadside dispatch
  • Travel and emergency assistance 

You can also get a three-month complimentary subscription to DoorDash's DashPass, which allows you to enjoy no delivery fees on orders over $12. You must activate the subscription by Dec. 31, 2021. Once the initial three-month period ends, your subscription will automatically roll into a nine-month subscription at half off and after that, you'll be auto-enrolled at the going rate.

Customer Experience

Chase earned the No. 4 spot in J.D. Power’s 2019 Credit Card Satisfaction Study, only behind Discover, American Express, and Barclays. Where the industry average was 806 out of 1,000 points, Chase earned 807 out of 1,000 points.

Beyond 24/7 customer support, Chase offers access to your FICO credit score online and on the Chase mobile app for free. You can also track your credit health via Credit Journey, a credit dashboard that summarizes your credit report and provides credit score insights. 

Security Features

Besides monitoring your account for suspicious activity, Chase lets you set up account alerts for when purchases are made, made, your payment is due, and more. You can also lock your account via the mobile app if you misplace your card or it’s stolen. 

Chase Freedom’s Fees

The card’s fees are standard for the industry, but frequent travelers take note: There is a 3% foreign transaction fee on any purchases made at merchants outside the U.S.

Chase Freedom vs. Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Card is similar to the Chase Freedom Unlimited in several ways. Both cash-back cards don’t charge annual fees, and they offer similar bonuses and promotional purchase APR deals. Even the ongoing interest rates of both cards are the same. It’s the cash-back earning rates that really differ—the Freedom is designed to maximize earnings on some purchases and is best when paired with another card, while the Freedom Unlimited is all about simplicity on its own.

The Chase Freedom card offers a high rate of cash back (5%), but only on up to $1,500 spent each quarter on purchases in certain bonus categories that rotate quarterly. Everything else earns 1% back. That means you may get extra rewards on gas and grocery purchases in spring, but not in the fall. You have to activate the bonus category offers before a deadline, too. If you forget to activate, you’ll earn just 1% back on everything that quarter. 

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is much simpler and potentially more rewarding if the Freedom bonus categories don’t align with your spending habits. This card offers 1.5% back on every purchase—and that’s it. There are no bonus categories to track or activate, or earning limitations. 

Both cards award cash back in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points and give you 1 point for each cent of cash back earned. You can redeem rewards earned with either card in several ways, including statement credits and travel.

Here’s a head-to-head comparison of what each cash-back card offers: 

Chase Freedom vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited
Card Feature Chase Freedom Chase Freedom Unlimited
Annual fee $0 $0
Bonus offer $200 cash back for spending $500 within the first 3 months $200 cash back for spending $500 within the first 3 months
Promotional APR offer 0% on purchases for 15 months 0% on purchases for 15 months
Cash-back earning rate 5% back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases on rotating bonus categories each quarter. Unlimited 1% back on everything else 1.5% back on each purchase
Earning limitations? Yes No
Estimated annual earnings* $343 $364

*We estimate the value of the rewards an average household would earn with each of these cards based on annual spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources. This figure doesn’t consider all possible bonus categories a rotating cash-back card (such as the Chase Freedom card) may offer, as those vary year-to-year. We have chosen three common ones to include. Also note that if you spend more than the average American household on a bonus category or anything else, your earnings for either card will be higher. 

Deciding which Freedom card to apply for depends on how much effort you want to put into tracking and earning rewards day-to-day. If you’re keen on maximizing your cash-back earnings in the specific bonus categories, the Chase Freedom Card is for you. After all, earning 5% on a spending category like groceries is better than making 1.5% on them. Just be mindful of the quarterly earning limits and the category activation deadlines. 

Once you hit the category threshold for the quarter, you’ll only earn 1% on that category, which is obviously not as good as 1.5%. The solution: We recommend pairing the Freedom with another card that offers 1.5% or 2% on all purchases. 

On the other hand, if you’d prefer not to keep tabs on rotating purchase categories and just want one simple cash-back card for daily use, consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. 

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At The Balance, we are dedicated to giving you unbiased, comprehensive credit card reviews. To do this, we collect data on hundreds of cards and score more than 55 features that affect your finances.
  • Our Reviews Are Always Impartial: No one can influence which cards we review, the way we present them to you, or the ratings they receive. The scores and reviews come directly from the data we collect and our editorial expertise, and we focus on three areas:
  • How Much Does It Cost? With credit card debt at an all-time high, we believe you should know the cost of carrying a balance. Because of that, we give regular purchase APRs significant weight in overall scores, and cards receive low marks if they have an array of pricey fees.
  • What Are the Rewards Worth? Cards accumulate rewards in different currencies—points, miles, cash back—and their values vary widely. To simplify the problem, we built a system that fairly compares rewards and gives them a dollar value. We do this by looking at the ways you can earn and use rewards, which includes evaluating Americans’ typical spending habits and analyzing common travel patterns.
  • Does It Make Your Life Easier? Our scoring system favors cards that accept a wide range of credit profiles and offer simple solutions for things like checking your credit score or contacting customer service. Finally, we give preference to credit cards that have several tools for dealing with fraudulent charges.
  • For every review on The Balance, we hold the credit cards to these standards, and we set the bar high. While we recognize the appeal of splashy features like six-digit sign-up bonuses, our approach ensures that credit cards with the best combination of value, affordability, and accessibility receive the highest scores. See our full methodology for more details.