Chase Freedom review: No annual fee and terrific rotating bonus categories20th March 2020
The Chase Freedom® is a no-annual-fee credit card which currently comes with a $150 cash bonus after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. With the card, you’ll earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories which rotate each quarter when you activate them.
This card is perfect for anyone who already has a travel credit card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points or for people looking to get into the hobby and start earning points they can use for free travel. It consistently makes our list of the best cash-back credit cards.
Apply for the Chase Freedom card here.
Here’s everything you’ll want to know about the Chase Freedom to decide if it’s a good cash back fit for your wallet.
Wake up to this view on Oahu by using your Chase Freedom bonus to offset your travel costs. (Photo by Jeff Whyte/Shutterstock.)
Who is the Chase Freedom for?
First, this is a great card for anyone looking for a no-annual-fee keeper. That’s one reason I’ve had this card in my wallet for years.
It’s also one of the easier cards to qualify for. According to reports online, you’ll need a credit score in the 680+ range before applying. Just note that if you’ve had the card before, you won’t qualify for the bonus unless it’s been at least 24 months since you earned the previous bonus. Also, the Freedom card is affected by the Chase 5/24 rule — if you’ve opened five or more cards from any bank (not counting certain business credit cards) in the past 24 months, you won’t be approved.
If this describes you, wait until you are back under the limit of five cards opened in the past 24 months before applying for the Chase Freedom.
With the Chase Freedom card, you’ll earn a $150 cash bonus (15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Considering that there is no annual fee, it’s hard to make a mistake with this cash-back card offer.
However, your sign-up bonus can easily be worth more. Depending on other Chase credit cards that you have in your wallet, you might be able to pool the points you earn on the Freedom to those cards and…
If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, you get a 25% bonus when redeeming your points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal (meaning your 15,000 points are worth $187.50)
If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you get a 50% bonus when booking travel through the Chase portal (meaning your points are worth $225 in travel).
Plus, if you have any of the cards mentioned above, you can combine your points and then transfer them to Chase’s travel partners, like Hyatt and United Airlines, and potentially get much more value. This is one advantage the Freedom has compared to the Discover it® Cash Back card.
Benefits and perks
When you use the Chase Freedom to purchase an item, the card will extend the time period of a U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year on eligible warranties of three years or less. That lets you avoid purchasing additional warranties when making big-ticket purchases.
The Chase Freedom offers protection against damage or theft for up to 120 days on new purchases, up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
This Chase service is a great benefit. The bank will provide unlimited free access to your credit score as well as automatically enrolling you in alerts that can help you identify fraud.
Rental car insurance
You’ll get secondary rental insurance when you pay for the rental using your Chase Freedom.
Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
If your trip is canceled or impacted by an eligible situation, like sickness or injury, you can be covered with your Freedom card. You can be reimbursed up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable fares.
How to earn points
The Chase Freedom card earns 1% cash back (or one Chase Ultimate Rewards point per dollar spent) on every single purchase you make. However, what makes this card so powerful is the ability to earn 5% cash back (or five points per dollar) in rotating categories every quarter on up to $1,500 in combined spending when you activate the bonus.
For example, from April 1 to June 30, 2020, Chase is offering 5% cash back at grocery stores, on gym memberships and at fitness centers. If you make the most of your spending every quarter, you can earn $300 per year (30,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) in bonus-category spending alone.
How to redeem points
You can redeem points you earn with the Chase Freedom at a rate of one cent each for cash back, paid travel or gift cards. However, as mentioned earlier, to really get the most value out of your Freedom you’ll want to pair it with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. Then you’ll be able to book paid travel through the Chase Travel Portal at a better rate or transfer your points to travel partners.
Is the Annual fee worth it?
The Freedom card has no annual fee, so it’s a perfect card to open and keep long term. This can help you maintain a healthy credit score because the age of your accounts is one factor that is considered when calculating your score.
You can earn even more travel when you transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to one of Chase’s transfer partners, airlines like United Airlines and Southwest, and hotel chains like Marriott and Hyatt. If you have one of the cards mentioned above, you can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to travel partners at a 1:1 ratio.
That means if you have Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you can transfer them to United Airlines and book flights at United.com within minutes. By transferring your points to partners, you can really increase the value of your points exponentially.
For example, you can turn 35,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points into a round-trip flight to Hawaii from the West Coast by transferring your points to Singapore Airlines for United Airlines award flights. That’s a potential savings of hundreds and hundreds of dollars, as opposed to the $350 cash back you would have earned with the Chase Freedom alone.
Or, for example, you could transfer 8,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt for a one-night stay at the Hyatt Place Las Vegas. This stay could otherwise easily cost you $100+, under normal circumstances. After meeting minimum spending requirements, you’ve got almost enough points for two nights.
Credit cards similar to the Chase Freedom
I think the 5% cash back (5x Chase Ultimate Rewards points) on rotating categories is a great way to boost your Chase points balance, but the activation and tracking of bonus categories might be too much for some to keep track of. Luckily, Chase has a similar card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, which earns a flat 1.5% cash back (1.5x Chase Ultimate Rewards points) on purchases. I have both cards, in addition to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, in order to earn the most points for every purchase.
If you have a small business, you might want to consider the Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card which is also a no-annual-fee card that has a sign-up bonus of $500 (50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. This card, like the Freedom Unlimited, earns a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases, but the $500 sign-up bonus is where it really stands out. And qualifying for a small business card may be easier than you think.
Or you could earn Amex points with the no-annual-fee The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express which earns 2x points on the first $50,000 in purchases each calendar year, then 1x points. That’s an excellent return, even though the card doesn’t have a welcome offer.
The Chase Freedom is perfect for anyone who already has a card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points because you can combine points from multiple Chase cards. This card is also great for people looking to get their feet wet with a no-annual-fee card that can help you earn free travel. Remember, the Chase Freedom currently comes with a $150 cash bonus (15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening, which is a great way to start building your points balance.
You can earn 5% cash back (5x Chase Ultimate Rewards points) every quarter on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in rotating bonus categories, which translates into as much as an additional $300 cash back or 30,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points each year. You can turn those points into travel memories when you pool your points with annual-fee Chase cards like the Sapphire Preferred, then transfer them to Chase’s travel partners like British Airways and Southwest.
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