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Looking for a $0-annual fee credit card with rewarding bonus spending categories? Look no further than the Chase Freedom Flex℠, a solid Chase travel card for beginners that offers up to 5% in bonus reward categories that change every three months.
But before you apply, consider those rotating categories, how to get the most out of your rewards and the all-important Chase 5/24 rule — which limits the number of personal credit cards you can open within a two-year period. Here are a few things you should know before getting the Chase Freedom Flex℠ credit card.
About the Chase Freedom Flex℠
This card has a tempting bonus offer for new cardmembers: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Plus, you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in bonus categories each quarter that you activate those categories, 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and delivery services, 3% on drugstore purchases, and 1% on everything else.
Combine all that with a $0 annual fee and flexible rewards that don’t expire as long as your account is open. It's a solid card for newbies, which introduces them to Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
» Learn more: How to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards®
What to know before getting the Chase Freedom Flex℠
Not everyone can make the most of this card’s unique benefits. Here are four things you should know before you apply.
1. How to activate bonus categories every quarter
Chase Freedom Flex℠ features a set earning rate in most spending categories. But there are also bonus spending categories that pay up to 5% cash back — if you activate them in time. These categories change every quarter.
The trick is remembering to manually activate bonus categories before the activation deadline and understanding what bonus categories are open at any given time. Fortunately, Chase publishes a cash-back calendar for this card so you can plan some of your spendings to earn more in each quarter.
For example, the 2021 bonus calendar was:
January–March: Wholesale clubs; internet, cable, and phone services; and select streaming services.
April–June: Gas stations and home improvement stores.
July–August: Select streaming services and grocery stores (not including Walmart and Target).
October–December: Purchases made using PayPal at Walmart.
Again, you have to manually activate each bonus category before the deadline to earn the 5% cash back. There are several ways to do so:
Get notified by email and activate with one click. Ensure the email address associated with your online account is up to date.
Use the Chase Mobile app.
Call the number on the back of your card.
Visit any Chase bank and have a personal banker activate for you.
If you're a Chase checking customer, use an ATM and activate it while making a cash withdrawal.
Some might consider this an annoying extra step, but it's worth it to earn more cash back.
If you have multiple Chase Freedom cards, you'll have to activate bonus categories on each one individually.
2. How to get the most out of your points
There's no minimum when it's time to redeem your cash-back rewards, and you can redeem them for a statement credit or have them deposited into your checking account (points are worth 1 cent apiece).
You can even book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, an option made even more valuable if you also have a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. That’s because you can transfer the rewards you earned with the Chase Freedom Flex℠ to your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card account and use them to book and pay for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal where points are worth 25% more.
Alternatively, you can redeem rewards for gift cards or link your Chase Freedom Flex℠ card to your Amazon account and use rewards to pay for all or part of your purchases. Keep in mind that these are the least valuable redemption options, as your points will be worth about 0.8 cents a piece on Amazon.
» Learn more: 4 best credit card combinations to maximize rewards
3. How to win with the "Chase Trifecta"
If you want to earn the most points and rewards possible, consider using the Chase Freedom Flex℠ credit card along with the two other cards that make up the Chase trifecta.
Start by applying for three complementary cards, including one like the Chase Freedom Flex℠ that offers bonus category spending, a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card that offers more earning potential on non-bonus category spending and a card like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® that offers a flat 1.5x rewards rate for other purchases.
Then spend strategically. Use the Chase Freedom Flex℠ for bonus category purchases, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for purchases such as travel not booked through the Chase travel portal and the Chase Freedom Unlimited® for anything you’d only get 1x rewards for on the other cards.
When it’s time to redeem your rewards, transfer them all to the account that offers a redemption bonus. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for example, rewards cardmembers with a 25% bonus when you redeem points for travel in the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal.
You might consider upgrading your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Though the card comes with a $550 annual fee, it gets you a 50% boost on travel booked in the portal.
4. The Chase 5/24 rule
Just be sure to keep in mind Chase's 5/24 rule, which isn't published anywhere on Chase's website but stipulates that Chase credit card applicants must have fewer than five approvals for credit cards within the last 24 months to be approved for another. So if your goal is to apply for multiple cards, space those applications out.
The bottom line
If you don’t mind a card that requires a bit more hands-on attention than a card that offers flat, possibly less lucrative rewards, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ might be a good card for you. Just be sure to activate your bonus spending categories every quarter and consider pairing it with another Chase credit card (or two) for ultimate earning and redeeming potential.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card