Olga Balkina works in NerdWallet User Operations, where she chats online with visitors to the site and answers their questions — which often deal with which credit cards are right for them. A natural question for Balkina, then, is what's in her own wallet, and why.
Balkina's newest card is the Chase Freedom®, which offers 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter (on up to $1,500 in spending each quarter), and 1% back on everything else. The card's annual fee is $0, and it has an introductory APR of 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases, and then the ongoing APR of 14.99% - 23.74% Variable APR.
Nerd tip: The Chase Freedom® still exists, but is closed to new applicants. It can be product-changed to a Chase Freedom Flex℠ if you call Chase and make the request.
More about this card
Why do you carry the Chase Freedom®?
"I had the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and wanted to have another rewards card that rotated categories so I could earn rewards for all purchases," Balkina says. The bonus categories on Chase Freedom® have included common areas of spending such as gas stations, grocery stores and major retailers. "When I got it earlier this year, it was offering gas bonus rewards. We’re big drivers so this was a good reason for getting it and maxing out our rewards.
"I don't mind checking the categories," she says, "but my fiance texts me to ask which is the best card to use for a specific purchase. I like planning which cards to use."
What's your favorite feature of the Chase Freedom®?
"Right now, it's the 0% APR offer," Balkina says. She also likes that rewards earned on the card can be redeemed as cash back or transferred as Ultimate Rewards points to other Chase cards. "We're saving points for next year's travel. It's great to be able to combine points from all my Chase cards," she says.
"If you have Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can get a 20% discount if you book your travel through Chase’s site," she says. "And you also get more cash back by shopping for merchandise on Chase's site, depending on the category."
Is there anything you dislike about the Chase Freedom®?
"The only thing I don’t like is that you have to opt in for the bonus categories each quarter," she says. You activate by logging in to your account. If you forget to activate the category, you don't get the 5% cash back — just the regular 1% rate. However, you can opt in at any time up until the last couple of weeks of the quarter and get the 5% retroactively.
Any idea how much the rewards have saved you?
"Oh, yes! Chase has a rewards tracker on its website that lets you see how much you've spent and how much cash back bonus you've earned. And it shows how far you are from maxing out the category. I like the tracker, and I use it often to see how much I'm earning."
What's the biggest purchase you've made with the Chase Freedom®?
"My wedding dress alteration. It was a lot of money, and even though it wasn’t a bonus category, I used the card because of the 0% APR. I'll pay it off before that expires."
Interviews by Ellen Cannon.