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Is Chase Freedom’s 5% Cash Back Right for You?

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Chase Freedom Review

The Chase Freedom card is one of the most popular rewards credit cards offered due to its valuable rewards program and low fees. So why has this card been so successful? Let’s take a look.

Introduction to Chase Freedom

This card features 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent each quarter at eligible merchants, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. For example, in the second quarter of 2015 (April – June), the bonus categories were for purchases from Bed Bath, & Beyond, H&M and Overstock.com (check with the issuer for the latest offers, as they are subject to change). To receive the 5% cash back on eligible purchases, cardholders must go online and activate the bonus categories. Thankfully, the activation can be done throughout most of the quarter, and once completed, it applies to previous purchases during the quarter. In fact, you can even activate the bonus categories by email, text message, over the phone, at a Chase branch or even at a Chase ATM.

Points are earned in Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program, and are worth one cent each towards gift cards, merchandise, travel reservations or cash back. There is no limit to the amount of points you can earn, and points never expire. In addition, bonus points are also available through Shop With Chase, the bank’s online shopping portal.

New Chase Freedom cardholders also receive 15 months of interest-free financing on both new purchases and balance transfers, with a 3% balance transfer fee. There is no annual fee for this card, but there is a 3% foreign transaction fee imposed on all charges processed outside of the U.S.

Sign-Up Bonuses

If you’re in the market for a rewards credit card, the sign-up bonus can be a big draw. For example, in mid-2015, Chase had a limited-time offer to new applicants of $200 cash back after making just $500 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. In addition, cardholders could receive another $25 cash back when they add an additional authorized cardholder who makes a purchase, also within the first three months of account opening. As with any credit card offer, check with the issuer to see the latest deals as they are subject to change.

Chase Freedom’s Advantages

Cardholders who can utilize the bonus categories can earn hundreds of dollars in cash back each year. The bonus categories typically include popular types of purchases such as grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations. This card also offers unlimited 1% cash back, so you earn rewards on all of your purchases, not just those in the bonus categories. Finally, this card has no annual fee, so there is very little trade-off when opening an account.

Chase Freedom’s Disadvantages

Some cardholders do not like having to keep track of bonus categories of spending that change each quarter, and some cardholders find it burdensome to have to activate the 5% categories, they aren’t automatically enrolled. Earning 1% cash back on purchases outside the bonus categories is no longer considered very competitive, now that there are other cards offering 1.5%-2% rewards as cash back or travel statement credits.

Like all rewards credit cards, Freedom will have a higher interest rate than similar cards that do not offer rewards. In this case, the standard APR is a variable 14.24% – 23.24%, depending on your creditworthiness at the time of the application. Finally, there is a 3% balance transfer fee, and a 3% foreign transaction fee. In terms of alternatives, the Chase Slate card has no fee for balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening, and there are now many cards with no foreign transaction fees.

Is the Chase Freedom a Good Match for You?

This is a great card for people who like to play the rewards game, but don’t want to pay an annual fee. Yes, it’s kind of a game to sign up for the bonus categories each quarter, and then remember to use your Freedom card to make eligible purchases. Cards that have annual fees may offer more valuable rewards, but this is a card for those who are modest spenders who might not be charging enough purchases to justify paying to use the card. Finally, the 12 months of 0% APR financing, while not among the longest such offers available, can be very valuable to those who are carrying a balance, and those who may need to do so in the future.

Here’s something to keep in mind before you apply for the Chase Freedom – or any credit card, for that matter: Check with the issuer to be sure you meet their credit guidelines. If you’re not sure of your credit standing, now is a good time to check it. There are many ways to see your credit scores for free — including through Credit.com, which offers two credit scores for free and updates them every 30 days so you can watch for any changes.

If you meet the issuer’s general credit requirements, fully understand the card’s terms and find it will meet your needs, this one could be a good fit for you. If your credit standing doesn’t meet the issuer’s requirements, you may want to take steps to work on your credit and apply when your scores are higher.

Common Questions About Chase Freedom

Can you create a reminder to activate the bonus categories?

Yes, you can create activation reminders for text or email by going to chase.com/freedom.

If I choose to receive my rewards as cash back, how is the money received?

You can receive the cash back as a statement credit to your account, or as a direct deposit to a linked bank account.

How do I know what the eligible categories are?

Chase lists some of the eligible categories in advance on its Freedom Calendar, and you find out the finalized list when you activate your bonus categories.

How does Chase know what category a purchase is in?

Every merchant that accepts credit cards has to choose a merchant code to represent the type of business they are in. Since this is up to the discretion of individual merchants, it’s possible that some charges may not appear in the category you think they will.

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

At publishing time, the Chase Freedom card is offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.


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Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.