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

Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom®

Apply Now
Secure lock icon.

On Chase's Secure Website.

Our Bottom Line

Packed with a deep bench of perks that is rare in the cash-back category, including an easy-to-pocket bonus, long 0% intro APR offers, and bonus cash back. It's a leading pick no doubt.

What we Like:
  • Cash sign-up bonus
  • Earn up to 5% cash back
  • 0% intro APR offer for 15 months
  • No annual fee
Key Scores:
5.0 5 Perks
4.0 5 Fees
4.0 5 APR
Perks 5.0/5
Fees 4.0/5
APR 4.0/5
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 16.99%-25.74%, variable
  • Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 15 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 months
Highlights
  • 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
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.99-25.74%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
  • 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 JourneySM
Show More Arrow graphic to expand and collapse content

Chase Freedom® has become the standard by which all other bonus category credit cards are judged. A lucrative new cardholder bonus only adds more value to this rewards card, which offers up to 5% cash back on spending in certain bonus categories every quarter.

Why you can trust me

I’ve used travel and cash-back credit cards to earn big sign-up bonuses and pay for vacations I’d never be able to afford on my own, all without paying a dime in interest. I owe a lot of it to Chase’s credit cards, which, when used correctly, can be especially rewarding. Below, I’ll share what I’ve learned using Chase’s credit cards, and why Chase Freedom® will always have a key place in my wallet.

What I like about Chase Freedom®

  • $150 new cardholder bonus -- Qualifying new cardholders who spend at least $500 on new purchases in the first three months from account opening receive a $150 cash-back bonus. That’s like getting 30% cash back on your first $500 of spend.
  • 5% bonus cash back -- This credit card’s killer feature is its bonus rewards. Chase Freedom® pays 5% bonus cash back on up to $1,500 of quarterly spending in rotating categories. Chase’s categories are usually very practical, and have included things like gas, restaurants, department stores (just in time for the holiday season), and even wholesale clubs. Max out these categories ($6,000 of annual spending) and you’ll earn $300 in cash back each year. If you spend more than $1,500 in one category in one quarter, no problem, any extra spending will accrue rewards at the ordinary 1% rate.
  • 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers -- This credit card blurs the lines between a 0% intro APR card and a rewards card, offering a 15-month, 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers.
  • No annual fee -- Because Chase Freedom® is a no-annual-fee credit card, it’s a great starter cash-back credit card if you want a card you can keep open for life, helping you build credit history that can stay open and reporting on your credit report forever.
  • No minimum redemptions -- Many cards require you to rack up $25, $50, or even $100 in rewards value before cashing out. Chase Freedom® doesn’t have a minimum redemption requirement for statement credit redemptions, so you can make a redemption whenever you want in amounts as small as you want. (A statement credit reduces the balance you owe.)

What could be improved

  • Base 1% cash-back rate -- Though Chase Freedom® rewards you handsomely with a 5% cash-back rate on the first $1,500 of spending in quarterly categories, its base rate is less impressive at just 1%. Many cash-back credit cards offer a higher rate on all spending.

How to best use Chase Freedom®

When it comes to Chase Freedom®, there are only four best practices to follow to ensure you get the most value from the card.

  1. Collect the new cardholder bonus -- Qualifying cardholders should be sure to spend at least $500 in the first three months after account opening to collect the $150 cash-back bonus for opening this card. The sign-up bonus is one of the best among no-annual-fee cards, so you won’t want to miss out.
  2. Activate your bonus categories -- You don’t automatically receive 5% cash back for spending in certain categories. To start earning bonus cash back, make sure you log into your account and opt-in for the bonus category once every three months. Otherwise, your spending will only earn at the base cash-back rate of 1%.
  3. Avoid carrying a balance to maximize the benefits -- No amount of cash back is ever worth carrying a balance. While 5% cash back is great, carrying a balance for as little as three months can result in interest charges that exceed what you earn in rewards. Don’t chase small amounts of cash back at the cost of paying more in interest. It never makes sense.
  4. Prioritize your spending to earn higher rewards -- This card is most valuable when used for spending in bonus categories that qualify for 5% cash back. Because of its relatively low base cash-back rate of 1%, you’d be wise to put non-category spending on a card that offers a higher rewards yield.

How the Chase Freedom® calendar works

The appeal of this card is the big 5% bonus cash back based on Chase's cash back calendar. New categories are unveiled about two weeks before the start of the quarter in which they begin. So, the fourth-quarter categories are unveiled in mid-September, for example, at which time you can enroll to start earning as soon as the next quarter begins.

How to activate Chase Freedom® rewards

Keep in mind that getting the 5% bonus on certain categories is not automatic. You’ll need to do one of the following things once every three months to ensure you are always enrolled in the 5% bonus category for that period.

  1. Enroll online -- Once you have your card, simply visit chase.com/freedom once every three months to click to enroll in each quarter’s bonus.
  2. Phone in -- Call the number on the back of your card and ask the customer service representative to activate your bonus cash back.
  3. Make an in-person request -- Visit a Chase branch where any personal banker can activate your bonus upon request.
  4. Use an ATM -- Cardholders who have a Chase checking account can activate their 5% cash-back categories while making a cash withdrawal. It only takes a click.

You can set up reminders in your Chase account to alert you to enroll when a new category is approaching. Otherwise, it may be helpful to add reminders to your calendar at the end of March, June, September, and December, so you never miss out on any spending in bonus categories. Without these bonus categories, Chase Freedom® is a pretty unimpressive cash-back card.

The case for carrying the Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited®

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.

Other than different cash-back rates, the two credit cards are practically the same in terms of their features, including 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.

As of Sep. 05, 2019
Chase Freedom® Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Rating image, 4.5 out of 5 stars.
4.5 stars
ToolTip Icon for Star Rating. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor.
Rating image, 4.5 out of 5 stars.
4.5 stars
ToolTip Icon for Star Rating. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor.
Apply Now
Secure lock icon.

On Chase's Secure Website.

Read Full Review
Apply Now
Secure lock icon.

On Chase's Secure Website.

Read Full Review

Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent Clickable tooltip icon for credit rating info.

Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent Clickable tooltip icon for credit rating info.

Bonus: $150 After Spending $500 Within Three Months Bonus: 3% cash back on your first year purchases ($20,000 spending cap)
Rewards Program: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate, 1% on all else Rewards Program: Unlimited 1.5% cash back
Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 15 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 months Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 15 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 months
Regular APR: 16.99%-25.74%, variable Regular APR: 16.99% - 25.74%, variable
Annual Fee: $0 Annual Fee: $0

Highlights:

  • 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
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.99-25.74%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
  • 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 JourneySM

Highlights:

  • New Offer! Double Cash Back: Earn 3% cash back on all purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent. After that earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.99-25.74%. A Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit JourneySM
  • No annual fee

Show More Arrow graphic to expand and collapse content
Apply Now
Secure lock icon.

On Chase's Secure Website.

Show More Arrow graphic to expand and collapse content
Apply Now
Secure lock icon.

On Chase's Secure Website.

What to know about Chase's 5/24 rule

Chase’s lineup of credit cards boasts top-tier bonuses for new cardholders and excellent rewards yields on every dollar of spending. For this reason, Chase can afford to be a little pickier about who it approves. To that end, Chase has what’s known as the 5/24 rule, where people who have opened five or more credit cards in the last 24 months will be automatically denied if they apply for a Chase credit card.

Is the Chase Freedom® the right credit card for you?

Chase Freedom is an excellent no-annual-fee credit card that is a good fit for most people who want a bonus category card on their roster. If any of the statements below apply to you, you’d be a good candidate for the card:

  1. The bonus categories match your budget -- You'll likely get the most rewards from any card by ensuring the highest cash back rate it offers aligns with what you spend most on.
  2. You want a one-card wallet -- The lineup of perks this card offers makes it a Swiss-army knife.
  3. You want to avoid interest charges -- The long 0% intro APR offers on this card make it a solid pick whether you're using balance transfer strategies to pay off debt or have a big purchase on deck that you want to break up into smaller monthly payments, interest free.