Chase Freedom® Credit Card Review

  • 8 min read

The Chase Freedom credit card offers two ways for cardholders to earn 5% cash back rewards on their purchases. Make a purchase within the current quarterly category or use PayPal or Chase Pay® and you will receive the higher cash back reward. This credit card is an excellent starter card for those with a good credit profile who do not mind signing up for rotating rewards categories each quarter.

Quick Facts About the Chase Freedom Credit Card

  • Earn 1% cash back on all purchases, as well as 5% cash back on category-specific purchases (up to $1,500) per quarter. All 1% cash back rewards are unlimited.
  • Warehouse club stores, Walmart®, and Target®, are excluded from quarterly rewards bonuses unless payment is made with PayPal or Chase Pay.
  • New cardholders enjoy a 0% APR for 15 months on purchases or balance transfers. Then the regular variable APR of 16.49%-25.24% applies to any balance.

Benefits and Perks of the Chase Freedom Credit Card

With carefully planned spending, it is possible to maximize the rewards potential of the Chase Freedom credit card. Chase provides cardholders with a quarterly calendar to help you know what your 5% cash back category will be at any time. You are also given an activation date to plan your purchases.Although the 5% reward is capped at $1,500, all purchases received an unlimited 1% cash back reward.

New cardholders will also receive a $150 bonus after spending $500 or more on purchases within the first 90 days of the account opening. This introductory rewards offer is subject to change.

Although the rotating categories do match everyday spending habits for the average household, they do require specific purchases. In the Q3 2017, for example, the qualifying category was restaurants and movie theaters. For those who do not go out to eat much or do not regularly see movies in the theater, the 5% cash back option was not much of a reward. Certain exclusions may apply in each category as well.

The quarterly calendar for 5% cash back rewards is nice to have as a cardholder, though Chase does not frequently update it. At the time of writing (May 2018), the calendar does not display what the third quarter bonus category will be, even though signups for it begin in the next 30 days. Since the purchasing categories are inflexible, the advantage of planning household spending is somewhat negated.

Fees and Expenses of the Chase Freedom Credit Card

For well-qualified applicants, the 16.49% regular APR is highly competitive for a credit card which offers up to 5% cash back on purchases. You can maximize your rewards advantage by linking your PayPal account or by using Chase Pay. There is no annual fee associated with this card.

All purchases qualify for a 1% cash back opportunity as well. Even if you have earned your cap on quarterly rewards, you’ll still earn 1% on your purchases. For those that tend to maximize their spending and keep to their categories each quarter, about $300 more in rewards can be earned each year when compared to other credit card offers.

The Chase Freedom card does charge a foreign transaction fee of 3% in US dollars for every international purchase. Outside of the introductory period, balance transfers have a 5% transaction fee, or a minimum fee of $5. Cash advances have a minimum fee of $10 or are charged at 5% of the transaction, whichever is greater.

The cash advance APR is also higher than the maximum regular APR for purchases. You’ll pay a 26.49% APR on cash advances and this APR does vary, based on the current prime rate.

Cardholders have less time with their grace period through this credit card as well. Although no interest is charged on purchases if the entire balance is paid by the due date each month, the due date is a minimum of 21 days (instead of a minimum of 25 days) after the close of each billing cycle.

Full Review of the Chase Freedom Credit Card

The Chase Freedom credit card is a good option for those who are starting to build their credit. It offers enough rewards, with limited fees, for those who have a strong credit profile as well. The application process is simple, straightforward, and takes about 5 minutes to complete. If approved, it will take about 7 business days for most new cardholders to receive their credit card.

Most rewards credit cards will offer 1% unlimited cash back on all purchases. The rewards perk to consider here is the 5% categories. They do tend to match spending habits, which means you see a boost in your rewards without really doing anything. In the first two quarters of 2018, Chase has offered 5% cash back using PayPal and Chase Pay at any location as well, which helps to maximize the opportunities for rewards with this credit card.

Account holders must activate their 5% cash back opportunities each quarter to receive them. You gain access to an activation dashboard that will answer questions or provide an example list of merchants that qualify for the reward. You will receive emails reminding you to sign-up for the rewards. You can also go to Chase’s home page to enter your contact information to activate the rewards.

The actual rewards process is somewhat restrictive. The grocery rewards category for Q2 2018, for example, excludes specific retailers that do sell groceries. Cardholders are forced to use PayPal or Chase Pay at excluded retailers to benefit from the increased cash back opportunities.

As for the 1% cash back rewards, they are automatically applied each month. You will see a rewards balance through your online dashboard.

Once approved for the Chase Freedom card, you can then access Chase Ultimate Rewards. This online storefront offers up to 10% cash back for the purchases you make through this online platform.

If you forget to sign-up for the quarterly cash back rewards, you can generally activate them before the beginning of the next quarter. When you do, you will earn retroactive rewards for your spending habits from that quarter. You are generally given a window of 60 days before the quarter to activate the bonus category, then about 90 days during the quarter as well. With the reminder emails, that is usually enough time to take care of the administrative details.

Even if you miss out on signing up for the 5% bonus, your purchases still receive the unlimited 1% cash back.

For most cardholders, the user experience with the Chase Freedom card is as one would expect. Use the card for purchases, then pay off the amount afterward before the due date. The primary complaint about the Chase Freedom card is not the effectiveness of the card itself. It is with the customer service given to account holders should something go wrong for some reason. It can take several contacts to resolve issues that can come up sometimes, such as fraudulent purchases or hard hits on a credit profile.

Here is the bottom line for this card. If you want a line of credit that offers flat-rate rewards, no hassles, and automatic applications, then the Chase Freedom card might not be for you. If, however, you have household spending which aligns with the higher cash back reward categories and you plan to maximize your rewards, you can earn more in rewards with this card than competitive cards.

View for more information about the Chase Freedom Credit Card.

Credit Cards Similar to the Chase Freedom Card

The Capital One Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers a flat 1.5% cash back on every purchase. This eliminates the need to track rotating categories, while eliminating the 5% reward-earning opportunity. It does not have an annual fee either. The regular APR for cardholders with excellent credit begins at 14.49% and there is no foreign transaction fee charged for international purchases.

The Discover it® credit card offers a rewards program that is similar to the Chase Freedom card. It provides a 5% cash back reward in rotating quarterly categories as well. The categories in 2017 were virtually identical. The one difference is the introductory offer. New account holders through Discover receive a complete match, dollar for dollar, of their rewards on their 1-year anniversary with the card.

The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card offers a similar user experience as well. It offers higher rewards, however, which may make it a better long-term line of credit for some applicants. There are two 5% bonus categories instead of one with this card. Fuel and grocery purchases earn an unlimited 2% cash back, while all other purchases earn the standard 1% cash back.

The final competitive card to consider is the Citi® Double Cash Card. It offers 1% cash back on all purchases, then provides another 1% cash back when you pay off those purchases. It comes with no annual fee and offers an 18-month introductory 0% APR offer for balance transfers and purchases.

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Christopher - BSc, MBA

With over two decades of combined Big 5 Banking and Agency experience, Christopher launched Underbanked® to cut through the noise and complexity of financial information. Christopher has an MBA degree from McMaster University and BSc. from Western University in Canada.