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Do you like the idea of being able to earn up to 5% back on every purchase? Several tiered rewards credit cards offer this perk but today we are going to focus on one card. This Chase Freedom® review will help you decide if this is the best card to earn cash and travel rewards.

Chase Freedom Review
This Chase Freedom review explains how you can earn 5% back on purchases. Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

Many also consider the Chase Freedom because it doesn’t have an annual fee. This gives you the flexibility to use the Freedom Card as your primary or secondary rewards credit card.

Learn more about the Chase Freedom®: Cash Back Credit Cards

Chase Freedom Review: $150 Signup Bonus

The Chase Freedom has one of the easiest-to-earn signup bonuses. You only have to spend $500 in the first 3 months of account opening to earn $150 cashback. This bonus is competitive with some of the other best cash back credit cards 2019.

A fun fact is that Chase awards this bonus at 15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. It’s then your choice if you want to redeem the points for cash or travel rewards. Whatever you choose, the bonus is worth $150 in cash or travel.

Chase also gives you an introductory 0% APR on new purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months. Balance transfer must happen during the first 60 days to qualify for the promotional rate. Transferring during the first 60 days also means your transfer fee is 3% (with a minimum of $5) instead of the standard 5%.

Get 5% Back on Purchases

The main reason to get this card is for the 5% bonus categories. You get 5% back on the first $1,500 in quarterly bonus category purchases (then 1% back). All non-bonus purchases earn an unlimited 1% back.

Some of the bonus categories include gas stations, groceries, home improvement stores, and public transit.

Current Freedom cardholders own this card for different reasons. For some, it’s their primary credit card and they redeem the point for cash rewards. Others use this card only for the 5% bonus categories when one of their Chase Sapphire cards earns fewer points for the same purchase.

Learn how to get 5% back on the quarterly bonus categories in this Chase Freedom review.

Chase Freedom Calendar

Each calendar quarter, Chase rotates the bonus categories. Although you can see the quarterly bonus theme, the precise bonus categories are unknown until approximately two weeks before the new calendar quarter starts.

The Chase Freedom bonus categories for 2019 are:

  • 1st quarter: gas stations, tolls, and drugstores
  • 2nd quarter: grocery stores and home improvement stores
  • 3rd quarter: gas stations and select streaming services
  • 4th quarter: department stores and purchases using PayPal or Chase Pay

It’s a guessing game to figure out the bonus categories beforehand. But, the Chase Freedom 5% calendar is pretty consistent year-to-year so it’s not incredibly difficult either. For instance, gas stations usually get 5% back January through March, grocery stores April through June, gas stations (again) July through September and retail stores October through December.

Before you start earning the 5% bonus, you must opt-in each quarter.  You can easily do this by logging into your Chase account. Chase should also send you a 1-click activation email.

Learn more about the Chase Freedom®: Cash Back Credit Cards

Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Some cashback credit cards only let you redeem your purchase rewards for monthly statement credit cards. That’s not the case with the Chase Freedom.

While Chase considers the Freedom a cash rewards card, you earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points that redeem for cash and travel rewards. The Chase Sapphire and Chase Ink Business card families also earn Ultimate Rewards points. These cards are also some of the best Chase credit cards.

Below is a quick example of how the rewards program works.

If you earn the full 5% quarterly bonus, you first earn 7,500 Ultimate Rewards points. When redeeming through your Chase Freedom account, they are worth $75 for cash, travel, gift cards, and Amazon.com points. You can also pool your rewards points with your other Chase credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points, as is exemplified in this Chase Sapphire Preferred review.

Shop through Chase

Chase also has an online shopping portal where you can get up to 15% back at select Shop through Chase merchants.

This tool is similar to Rakuten Travel Thursdays to get extra cashback when booking travel deals.

Chase Offers

It’s also possible to get one-time cash statement credits with the Chase Offers program. These offers are available on every Chase-issued credit card, although some cards offer more discounts than others. Some examples include 10% back at Starbucks and $5 back at SiriusXM.

Learn more about the Chase Freedom®: Cash Back Credit Cards

Chase Freedom Review: Redeeming Rewards

The Chase Freedom has very flexible and straightforward rewards options. You have the option to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for the following travel and cash rewards.

For cash, travel and gift cards, each point is worth 1 cent each. Your points are worth less than 1 cent each when redeeming for merchandise rewards.

The points you earn during the current statement period are redeemable after the period closes.

Cash Back

You can redeem your points in any amount for a cash statement credit or direct bank deposit.

Travel

Another option is redeeming your points for award travel. The Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal is powered by Expedia. You can book flights, hotels, rental cars, cruises, and local activities through the portal.

If you don’t have enough points to cover the purchase, you can also pay with cash or a mixture of points and cash.

The Chase Freedom doesn’t offer a travel redemption bonus like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (25%) or Chase Sapphire Reserve® (50%). And you can’t transfer your points to the 1:1 airline and hotel partners like Southwest, United, Hyatt, and Emirates. These privileges are only available to Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards that charge an annual fee.

Gift Cards

You can redeem points for over 195 gift card options. Your favorite store, restaurant, grocery store, or travel brand most likely offers a gift card. Some gift cards are available with balance as low as $5. However, $10 to $15 tends to be the minimum balance for most merchants.

Gift cards are one way you can get a Chase Freedom redemption bonus. Select gift cards go on sale and require fewer points to purchase.

For instance, a $20 gift card usually requires 2,000 points. But during select periods, you might find some that only require 1,800 points for a $2 savings.

Amazon and Apple Shopping Credit

You can use Ultimate Rewards points to cover all or part of your purchase at Apple or Amazon. Each point is only worth 0.8 cents each unless a limited-time promotion makes each point worth 1 cent each.

While this is a redemption option, your points are worth 20% less. Instead, you are better off charging the purchase to your Freedom Card and redeeming your points as a cash reward for 1 cent each.

Experiences

You might also find some exciting dining, sports, and entertainment experiences in the Ultimate Rewards portal. Because the Chase Freedom isn’t a luxury card, Chase may keep some of the most exclusive options for Chase Sapphire cardholders. One example is attending the Emmys.

Combine Points

A final redemption option is to combine Ultimate Rewards points. You can transfer points to other Ultimate Rewards accounts you or a household member own. Transfers are free and you only need the account number and accountholder’s last name to start.

This can be a wise option if you want to redeem your points for award travel. Remember that points are worth 1 cent each for award travel booked with your Freedom account. They are worth 1.25 cents each with the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Ink Business Preferred. And, each point is worth 1.5 cents each with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

These three cards also let you transfer points on a 1:1 basis to the Chase Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel partners. It’s also why they are some of the best Chase credit cards.

Learn more about the Chase Freedom®: Cash Back Credit Cards

Chase Freedom Review: Additional Benefits

The Chase Freedom offers some travel protection benefits that can save you money.

Trip Cancellation and Trip Disruption

Chase may reimburse your non-refundable travel expenses when qualifying delays like weather or sickness happen. You can receive up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip for non-refundable travel purchases.

Rental Car Damage Waiver

You get free secondary auto rental collision and theft coverage by declining the rental agency’s coverage. If your rental car is involved in an incident, you will first need to submit a claim with your auto insurance provider. The secondary Chase coverage will reimburse your deductible amount for most rentals.

If you happen to not have personal auto insurance or a similar policy, Chase covers up to the cash value of the rental vehicle.

While this coverage isn’t as extensive as the Chase Sapphire Preferred rental car insurance benefits, you still have extra peace of mind.

Purchase Protection

Your retail purchases may have up to $500 in purchase protection when the item is stolen or damaged. The incident must happen with 120 days of the purchase date to qualify.

Contactless Payments

More merchants across the world accept contactless payments. With the Chase Freedom, you only have to hold the card above the card reader to complete the purchase.

Your card still comes with the front-embedded EMV chip and backside magnetic stripe as well.

Learn more about the Chase Freedom®: Cash Back Credit Cards

Chase Freedom Fees

The Chase Freedom doesn’t have an annual fee but charges several other fees:

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 16.99% to 25.74%
  • Balance transfer fee: 5%
  • Cash advance APR: 26.99%

You will want to consider another best miles credit card to avoid the foreign transaction fee if you travel abroad regularly.

Don’t forget Chase is offering a 0% APR for the first 15 months on new purchases and balance transfers.

Chase Freedom Review: Credit Score Needed

You have the best approval odds with a 670 credit score or above. It’s still possible to be approved as long as your score is above 600. You may get a lower credit limit or won’t receive an instant approval decision.

Chase also requires you to be at least 18 years old to qualify (19 years in Alabama and Nebraska, and 21 in Puerto Rico).

Also, make sure you haven’t added more than 5 credit cards in the last 24 months to your wallet. Chase has some of the most restrictive policies to discourage frequent card churning.

If you’re uneasy about submitting an application without knowing your approval odds, try prequalifying using CardMatch.

Minimum Credit Limit

Depending on your creditworthiness, your Chase Freedom will either be a Visa Platinum or Visa Signature.

Your minimum credit limit will be $500 if you get the Visa Platinum. Most applicants will qualify for the Visa Signature version meaning a credit limit of at least $5,000.

For example, Yulisa250 on March 12, 2019, was approved for a $1,000 credit limit with a 598 credit score. Jyross had a 770 credit score and was approved for a $9,200 card limit. Although 770 is excellent credit, Jyross’ average credit age was only 2 years and 8 months. Chase may give you a higher limit if you have well-established credit.

Both versions have the same rewards program, redemption options, and travel protection benefits are similar. However, the Chase Freedom Visa Signature may have more built-in benefits offered by Visa.

Chase Freedom Review: Positives and Negatives

Pros

  • Earn up to 5% back on purchases
  • No annual fee
  • Redeem points for cash, travel, or gift cards
  • $150 bonus cash after spending $500 in the first 3 months of account opening
  • Introductory 15-month 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers

Cons

  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  • Bonus categories change quarterly
  • No travel redemption bonus
  • 670 credit score needed for the best approval odds

Learn more about the Chase Freedom®: Cash Back Credit Cards

chase freedom review
As this Chase Freedom review explains, you can earn a good amount of cash back if you make purchases in relevant categories. Credit: Pexels

Chase Freedom Alternatives

How does the Chase Freedom compare to other rewards cards? Let’s take a look at some of the best alternatives.

Chase Freedom vs Chase Freedom Unlimited

The other Chase cashback credit card is the Chase Freedom Unlimited. Instead of earning either 5% or 1% back, you get unlimited 1.5% back on every single purchase. The points redemption options are identical.

You might like the Freedom Unlimited more if you like the simplicity of the flat-rate rewards cards or most of your purchases don’t fall under the 5% bonus categories.

Getting 1.5% back is one of the most competitive rates for a flat-rate rewards card. Plus, you still earn 50% more points on non-bonus purchases than cards (including the Freedom) that only earn 1% back. Check out our Chase Freedom vs Freedom Unlimited comparison for further details.

Chase Freedom vs Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Freedom vs Chase Sapphire Preferred comparison is more like comparing apples to oranges. Both earn rewards points but have different strengths.

A common approach is to first apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred because it’s the more robust card for earn travel reward. You get 2x points and travel and dining. Your points are worth 25% more (1.25 cents each) when booking award travel on Chase and you can transfer at a 1:1 ratio to 13 travel partners including Emirates, Southwest Airlines, United, and World of Hyatt.

Then, you apply for the Chase Freedom to get 5% back where your Sapphire only earns 2x or 1x points instead. When ready to book travel, you transfer the points from your Freedom to Sapphire account to enjoy the travel bonuses.

In addition to the numerous Chase Sapphire Preferred perks, it also has a 60,000-point signup bonus (worth $750 in award travel) by spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. The annual fee is $95.

Chase Freedom vs Citi Double Cash Card

Maybe you can’t apply for Chase credit cards at the moment because of the 5/24 rule. You might consider the Citi® Double Cash Card instead. The Double Cash requires an excellent 740 credit score. But, you earn unlimited 2% back on purchases and you won’t pay an annual fee.

Two downsides for the Double Cash, one of the best balance transfer credit cards, is that you can only redeem your rewards points for statement credit or checks with a minimum $25 redemption amount.

Summary of the Chase Freedom Review

This Chase Freedom review hopefully shows how it is one of the best rewards credit cards because you get up to 5% on purchases, have flexible redemption options, and don’t pay an annual fee. If you prefer travel rewards before cash rewards, you might consider a travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred first. It can be a quicker way to find more value from each point.

Learn more about the Chase Freedom®: Cash Back Credit Cards

Josh Patoka

The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Chase Freedom Review: Get $150 Bonus Cash and 5% Back
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