Chase Freedom Review: 5% Cash Back is King

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The Chase Freedom® is one of the best rewards credit cards in the business, with no annual fee and great cash-back rewards. It offers cardholders 5% cash back on rotating quarterly bonus categories and 1% elsewhere. There’s also a great signup bonus: Get a $100 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Since it’s a fairly easy credit card to qualify for, it’s great for rewards rookies and cash-back connoisseurs alike.

Chase Freedom Credit Card
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At a glance
Annual fees None
Foreign transaction fee 3%
Rewards program Cash back
Signup bonus Get a $100 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Verdict: If you fit in with the bonus categories, go for it
Good for:
  • Someone whose spending aligns with the Chase Freedom®’s rotating bonus categories
  • Someone with a short credit history
  • Someone who has the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (we’ll explain later)
Bad for:
  • Someone who doesn’t want the hassle of changing bonus categories
  • Someone who doesn’t fit in with the bonus categories

In this article:

The Chase Freedom® basics
Chase Freedom® vs. the other 5% cash-back credit cards
Where it shines
Where it falls short

The Chase Freedom® basics

The Freedom is a 5% cash-back card, which means it gives 5% back on bonus categories that change every quarter — up to $1,500 spent quarterly. For 2015, the bonus categories are as follows:

  • Q1 (January – March): Grocery stores, movie theaters and Starbucks stores
  • Q2 (April – June): Restaurants and more (in 2014, Lowe’s home improvement stores)
  • Q3 (July – September): Gas stations and more (in 2014, Kohl’s)
  • Q4 (October – December): and more (in 2014, and select department stores)

Aside from the 5% cash back on bonus categories (up to $1,500 spent quarterly), it gives an unlimited 1% cash back elsewhere. The card has an annual fee of $0 and an introductory APR of 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 22.99% (Variable). Whether you’re looking to make a big purchase and pay it off over time, or simply earn good rewards, this is a great card to have.

Example image of Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom®

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  • Bonus cash back categories
  • No annual fee
  • 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months

Sign-up Bonus

Get a $100 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

Annual Fee


Intro APR Promotions

0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers


  • APR: 13.99% - 22.99% (Variable)
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 23.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn a $100 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn a $25 Bonus after you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within this same 3-month period
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After the intro period, a variable APR of 13.99-22.99%
  • 5% Cash Back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases between 1/1/15—3/31/15 at grocery stores (not including Walmart® and Target® purchases), movie theaters, and Starbucks® stores
  • You'll enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months like restaurants, gas stations, and It's free and easy to activate your bonus each quarter!
  • Unlimited 1% Cash Back on all other purchases
  • No annual fee and rewards never expire as long as your account is open

The perks don’t stop there for the Chase Freedom®. The Nerds have found that it’s pretty easy to qualify for if you’re a young adult, recent college grad or someone with a short credit history. Also, the Chase Freedom® grants you access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards site, an online storefront that gives you up to 10% cash back on your online purchases.

Chase Freedom® vs. the other 5% cash back-credit cards

Other 5% cards include the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card and Discover it®. Here’s how they stack up:

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card: The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card beats the Chase Freedom® in most ways, but suffers for the lack of a signup bonus. The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card gives an unlimited 5% cash back on two bonus categories (you choose from a list that changes quarterly), 2% on gas, groceries or drugstores, and 1% elsewhere. But even better, if you save up for $100 worth of cash back, you’ll get $25 extra, effectively raising your rate to 6.25% and 2.5% on the bonus categories and 1.25% elsewhere. However, it doesn’t have a signup bonus or access to a bonus mall like Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Discover it®: The Discover it® offers a similar rewards program, with a $1,500 quarterly cap on bonus spending and an unlimited 1% rewards elsewhere. The Discover it® doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, but Discover isn’t as widely accepted overseas as Visa and MasterCard. The Chase Freedom® also offers a signup bonus, whereas the Discover it® doesn’t.

Where it shines

The Chase Freedom® is an excellent card if your spending habits closely resemble the bonus categories. Otherwise, you can find better cash rewards elsewhere.

If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Chase Freedom® is a great card to pair with it. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns Ultimate Rewards Points, which are worth 1.25 cents each if you redeem for travel booked through Chase. The Chase Freedom® isn’t eligible for this perk, but you can transfer the points earned on the Chase Freedom® to your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card account to take advantage of the points value boost. If you use this rewards hack, the Chase Freedom® effectively earns 6.25% rewards on bonus spending and 1.25% everywhere else.

Where it falls short

As we mentioned above, there are cases where the Chase Freedom® isn’t the best option for you. Here are two profiles of people who shouldn’t get the Chase Freedom®:

Someone who doesn’t want the hassle of changing bonus categories

If you don’t want the hassle of opting into and keeping track of 5% bonus categories, you should consider the Citi® Double Cash Card instead. Offering 1% back on all purchases when you make them and another 1% when you pay them off, the Citi® Double Cash Card gives high rewards without rotating categories or the need to opt in to them. The card also boasts an annual fee of $0 and an introductory APR of 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 12.99% - 22.99% (Variable).

Someone who doesn’t fit in with the Chase Freedom®’s bonus categories

If you don’t spend money in line with the Chase Freedom®’s bonus categories, you won’t get much value out of the card. In this case, you may want to consider one of the other 5% cards that better fits your spending habits, or the Citi® Double Cash Card , as mentioned above.

Bottom line: If you spend in line with the Chase Freedom®’s 5% bonus categories, it’s a great card — especially when used in conjunction with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Otherwise, you’ll want to go with a high cash rewards card, like the Citi® Double Cash Card , or another 5% rewards card with bonus categories that match your spending profile.

Appendix: Select department stores

Most popular department stores:

  • JCPenney
  • Kohl’s
  • Macy’s
  • Sears

This excludes, among others, Target, Walmart and membership warehouses (such as Costco). Full list:

  • BELK
  • The Big Store
  • bloomingdale’s
  • Bon-Ton, including
    • Bergner’s
    • Boston Store
    • Carson’s
    • Elder-Beerman
    • Herbergers
    • Younkers
  • Boscov’s
  • Bradley’s
  • burke’s
  • Cayman’s
  • Cee & Cee Department Store
  • christensen’s
  • Cook Brothers
  • Dillard’s
  • Getz’s
  • JC’s 5 Star
  • Jeffery
  • Lord & Taylor
  • Magic Mart
  • MAX & JILL
  • Neiman Marcus
  • RH Renny
  • Saks Fifth Ave and Off 5Th
  • UHAN’S Department Store
  • nunya_bid

    the problem is, as always, the fine print. only certain merchants fall into the 5% categories. for instance, this quarter to date, i’ve spent $1k on dining, so i should have nearly 4000 bonus points ($40 in cash back reward) but i only have about 1500..that’s computing with the 4% above the std 1% reward. so, the bonus is kinda BS with no transparency as to how much bonus they give to which charges. the only info i can see is how many total points i have, not to which charges they’re attached. i might ditch this card and just use my sapphire preferred. such bull.

  • Rocky

    Called Chase to request for a smart card – the ones with a chip. They told me that, at present, this feature was only available to the residents of Elysium (Sapphire Card holders). I called Citibank and got me my smart card. Guess who is getting my business from this point on! Chase told me essentially what the nut said to the bolt – “Screw me!”

    • Chelsea

      They now have Freedom cards with the chip functionality, starting August 1st :)