Chase Freedom® Review: Bonus Cash-Back Up to 5% for Everyday Purchases

Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom®

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Best for: Bonus cash rewards and no annual fee Chase Freedom®

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Our Bottom Line

The marquee feature is the fact that this offer earns up to 5% cash back, but the card is packed with a deep bench of perks that is rare in the cash back category. It's a leading pick no doubt.

Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent

  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee

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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.

Why you can trust me

Some might say I'm a credit card analyst or guru. I prefer to just say that I have a passion for personal finance and anything money related, including credit cards. That's why I've carried 19 different credit cards and earned thousands of dollars in rewards without paying costly interest charges or annual fees. Further, I launched The Ascent's credit card reviews and ratings and analyzed hundreds of card offers during that process to inform our reviews.

What I 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 who makes a purchase 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. 

5% bonus cash-back -- Perhaps what stands out most 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 for purchases -- The card includes a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases, which is a long promo period among competing cash-back cards.

0% intro APR for balance transfers -- The offer also includes the same 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers. The promo period far 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.

What could be improved

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

To earn cash back and avoid interest charges

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 up to 5% rates only to watch as they get eaten up by far higher double-digit rate interest charges.

To ensure you qualify for the sign-up bonus

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.

Remember to activate bonus categories

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. Note, Chase provides email notification to activate, which can be done quickly with a couple clicks.

When wanting to optimize cash back

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.

The case for carrying a Chase companion card

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 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.