Updated January 16, 2018

Chase brings cardholder value in spades with its $0 annual-fee, cash-back credit card, Chase Freedom®. We appreciate Chase Freedom® for its money-savvy features, including a 0% intro APR offer and cardholders will undoubtedly welcome the low hurdle to qualify for the new cardholder bonus. Let’s dive deeper and uncover whether Chase Freedom® is a good fit for you.

Chase Freedom®
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Pros

  • $150 new cardholder bonus
  • 5% bonus cash-back categories
  • $0 annual fee
  • 0% intro APR

Cons

  • Bonus categories require activation
  • 1% base-rate cash-back

What we like about Chase Freedom®

  • $150 new cardholder bonus – Qualifying new cardholders spending at least $500 on new purchases within the first three months from account opening can expect an extra $150 in their pockets. This is a competitive bonus for the spending hurdle.
  • $25 authorized user bonus – Adding an authorized user within the first three months from account opening will net you a $25 bonus. Keep in mind that authorized users can legally charge purchases to your card, but only you have the legal obligation to pay the balance. 
  • Earn up to 5% bonus cash-back – Perhaps what stands out most for the Chase Freedom® card is the card’s 5% bonus cash back in rotating categories, which have included gas, restaurants, groceries, and wholesale clubs (yes, Costco, too!). It’s worth noting that the 5% bonus cash back is capped at $1,500 in combined spending per quarter (or $75 in quarterly bonus rewards) each quarter you activate. You’ll continue to collect 1% on all spending over and beyond the $1,500 limit, though.
  • $0 annual fee – Generally, credit cards packed with valuable features tend to charge high annual fees. Chase Freedom® balances this relationship well by eliminating the annual fee, which makes it a solid credit card for people with modest spending habits not spending enough to justify an annual fee.
  • 0% intro APR – Chase Freedom® a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. The offer length outpaces many cash-back credit cards on the market and is a handy feature for cardholders wanting to pay off debt faster with balance transfer strategies of to defray the costs of a large purchase, while earning rewards.

What could be improved for Chase Freedom®

  • Base rate 1% cash back – All purchases outside of bonus categories earn unlimited 1% cash back. Note, this rate is in line with cards offering bonus cash back in rotating categories. More than anything, it highlights the need to match a high cash back rate with your biggest spending categories to earn the most rewards.

How to best use Chase Freedom®

  • Cash-back cardholders will generally be better off paying balances by the due date each month to avoid interest charges. It’s a losing strategy to rack up debt for the sake of earning rewards at single-digit rates only to watch as they get eaten up by far higher double-digit interest charges.
  • Spend at least $500 on purchases within the qualifying period to earn a $150 bonus. The clock starts ticking upon account opening, not when you receive and activate your card, so pay close attention.
  • Transfer high-interest credit card debt to chip away at debt balances faster. We Fools always encourage smart use of debt, and transferring balances to a 0% intro APR card can help avoid costly interest charges. In fact, paying down a $5,000 balance over 12 months will cost a whopping $462 in interest charges at an 18% APR. 
  • Be sure to activate the quarterly 5% bonus cash-back categories to ensure you’re maxing out rewards. Missing the activation period will result in bonus category purchases earning the low 1% base rate.
  • Consider placing bonus category purchases on the Chase Freedom® card and all other purchases on a card that earns a higher rate than 1% cash back (more on that below) to increase overall rewards..

Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited®

As mentioned, Chase Freedom®’s base cash-back rate is relatively low. Overall cash back can be increased by using Chase Freedom® for bonus-category purchases and Chase Freedom Unlimited® for all other purchases, to earn 1.5% cash back, not a lower 1%.

Other than different cash-back rates, the two credit cards are practically the same in terms of their features, including sign-up bonuses, 0% intro APR offers, and $0 annual fees. If choosing one, the decision may ultimately come down to bonus category spending habits and your willingness to be more hands-on with your credit cards by activating bonus categories each quarter. Read our full Chase Freedom Unlimited® review to learn why we picked it as one of the best cash-back credit cards.

Earn up to 3% cash back on gas

Cardholders looking for a solid cash-back credit card should expect one packed with valuable features, such as Bank of America® Cash Rewards. This credit card dishes out a lucrative $150 cash rewards bonus offer after spending at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days. Tons of other perks are available as well, including bonus-category cash back of 3% on gas and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on the first $2,500 quarterly in combined bonus category purchases), a 0% intro APR offer for 12 billing cycles on new purchases and balance transfers made within the first 60 days, and access to your FICO® Score for free. For these reasons, we think it’s also one of the best credit cards of 2017. Read our full Bank of America® Cash Rewards review to learn more.

Final take

Chase Freedom® perks span the spectrum of cardholder favorites, making it a Swiss Army knife-style solution that may be a fit for the masses, who just want one credit card that’s right for their primary needs. If simplicity is your calling and carrying one, perhaps two cards fits your needs, Chase Freedom® may be what you’re looking for.

Apply Now On Chase's Secure Website

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