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Chase Freedom Review 2018: 5% Cash Back, $150 Bonus

With valuable rewards in rotating bonus categories, this card is an ideal choice for everyday spending.
July 13, 2018
Chase Freedom Review: Who Wouldn't Want 5% Cash Back?
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We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

Chase Freedom® Editor's Rating: 4.1 / 5

With an annual fee of $0 and generous cash-back rewards, the Chase Freedom® is a good fit for rewards rookies and cash-back connoisseurs alike.

The card offers 5% cash back on rotating quarterly bonus categories and 1% back on all other purchases. You can even qualify with less-than-excellent credit. On top of that, there’s an easy-to-snag sign-up bonus: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom®

Apply Now on Chase's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 690
    850
    Good - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • No annual fee
    • 5% rewards on rotating categories
    • Access to Chase’s Ultimate Rewards site to earn more cash back

    Cons

    • If you value simplicity, a flat rate cash back card may be better
    • A foreign transaction fee

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • APR: 16.74% - 25.49% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 26.74%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

    Intro APR

    • 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months
  • Additional Information
    • 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 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
    • 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 Journey℠
    • No annual fee

Key features

Here’s what the Chase Freedom® offers:

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Sign-up bonus: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Ongoing rewards:
    • 5% cash back on quarterly rotating categories (listed below) on up to $1,500 per quarter; 1% cash back after that
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Intro APR: 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 16.74% - 25.49% Variable APR
  • Balance transfer fees: 5% or $5, whichever is greater
  • Foreign transaction fees: 3%

Current bonus categories

Current bonus categories

Chase Freedom® bonus rewards categories for 2018
Q1 2018 (Jan. 1 - March 31)• Gas stations
• Internet, cable and phone service
• Purchases via Chase Pay, Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay
Q2 2018 (April 1 - June 30)• Grocery stores
• PayPal, for online, mobile or in-app purchases
• Chase Pay, for online, mobile or in-app purchases
Q3 2018 (July 1 – Sept. 30)• Gas stations
• Lyft
• Walgreens
Q4 2018 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)To be announced (in 2017: Walmart and department stores)

Rewards earned on this card come in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, worth 1 cent each when redeemed as cash back. You can get that cash back in the form of a statement credit or a direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Points can also be redeemed for:

  • Gift cards (1 cent per point)
  • Travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®  (1 cent per point)
  • Amazon purchases (0.8 cent per point)

It’s also possible to move your rewards to other Chase accounts that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards®  points, potentially getting more value out of each redemption. More on that later.

Where the Chase Freedom® shines

The Chase Freedom® is an easy-to-maximize card for everyday spending. Here’s why it could be a great fit for you.

Its bonus categories include common household Expenses

The 5% bonus cash back is available on broad categories that a lot of people spend a lot of money on; categories in the past have included gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, drugstores and wholesale clubs. For many cardholders, earning these rewards doesn’t require many spending acrobatics.

One caveat: You must opt into the bonus category each quarter by “activating” it online or through the card’s mobile app. Forget to do it, and you’ll be stuck with 1% rewards even in the bonus category. Generally, though, you’ll have until the 14th day of the third month in the quarter to sign up and earn retroactive rewards for that quarter, which is plenty of time for most people.

GOOD CREDIT may be ENOUGH

Many top rewards credit cards are available only to those with excellent credit and a long credit history. You may be able to get the Chase Freedom® even if you don’t have excellent credit, so it’s a great fit if you’re just starting out. If you’re unsure, check out NerdWallet’s tool to prequalify for Chase credit cards.

It pAirs well with the Sapphire cards

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® also earn Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, which are typically worth 1 cent apiece. But if you redeem them for travel booked through Chase, the value of each point jumps to 1.25 cents with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and 1.5 cents with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. The Chase Freedom® isn’t eligible for these more-valuable travel redemptions — but if you have either of the Sapphire-branded cards, you can transfer your Chase Freedom® points to it. If you do this, and then redeem for travel, your effective rewards rate gets even better:

  • If you transfer to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, your effective rate becomes 6.25% in the bonus categories and 1.25% everywhere else.
  • If you transfer to the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, your effective rate becomes 7.5% in the bonus categories and 1.5% everywhere else.

Points on the Sapphire cards could also be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to other loyalty programs, such as United Airlines, British Airways or Hyatt. Potentially, that could get you an even higher effective rewards rate.

» MORE: Chase credit cards mobile app review

Chase Freedom® vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited®

If you have an eye on the Chase Freedom®, you might also be considering its sibling card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. This card offers the same sign-up bonus, but instead of 5% bonus categories, it comes with a flat 1.5% back on all purchases. So, is it a better choice?

It depends. If your spending falls neatly into common household categories, such as gas and groceries, the Chase Freedom® is probably the more valuable card for you. But if your spending is all over the place, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is likely the stronger option. For a more thorough breakdown of the differences, read NerdWallet’s comparison of the two.

How the cards compare

How the cards compare

 Chase Freedom®Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Sign-up bonusEarn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
Introductory APR0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 16.74% - 25.49% Variable APR0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 16.74% - 25.49% Variable APR
Annual fee$0 $0
Rewards5% cash back on rotating bonus categories (up to $1,500 in spending per quarter) each quarter you activate

1% back on everything else
1.5% cash back on every purchase
Are rewards transferrable?Yes — you can transfer rewards to any of your other Chase cards in the Chase Ultimate Rewards® programYes — you can transfer rewards to any of your other Chase cards in the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program

Use the calculator below to decide which one is a better fit for you.

Chase Freedom®: Pitfalls and other possibilities

Even great credit cards aren’t a perfect fit for everyone. Consider these potential drawbacks before committing.

Rotating categories can be a hassle for some

The Chase Freedom® bonus categories change every three months, and tracking and activating them can be tedious — especially if your spending habits don’t always align with the new categories.

The flat-rate Chase Freedom Unlimited®, mentioned above, comes with a simpler rewards structure. It offers 1.5% back on all purchases, and the same sign-up bonus and flexible rewards as the Chase Freedom® offers.

You could also go with the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. Though it lacks a sign-up bonus, the card lets you earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy, plus 1% as you pay. The annual fee is $0.

It’s not good for traveling abroad

If you’re traveling internationally, the 3% foreign transaction fees on the Chase Freedom® might be a deal-breaker for you.

The Capital One® Quicksilver® Card - 0% Intro APR for 15 Months, one of the few cash-back cards that doesn’t charge these fees, could be a better choice. It gives you a flat 1.5% cash back on every purchase, and it comes with an annual fee of $0. It also comes with a solid sign-up bonus: One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.

Bonus categories MAY not match your spending

The Chase Freedom®’s bonus categories will be right for many people, but not for all.

If you’re looking for more customizable rewards, try the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card. It offers 5% cash back on two bonus categories you choose from a list that changes quarterly, on up to $2,000 combined spending each quarter; an unlimited 2% on an everyday category you choose (such as gas or groceries); and 1% elsewhere. The higher spending cap might also get you more rewards, if you spend a lot in those categories. It also comes with a New Cardmember bonus: $150 after you spend $500 in eligible net purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

The Discover it® Cash Back also offers a similar rewards program to the Chase Freedom®, but with different categories. You earn 5% cash back in quarterly categories, on up to $1,500 per quarter in spending. (You must activate the categories.) All other spending earns 1% cash back. There’s a unique bonus for newcomers: Discover will match ALL the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

Should I get the Chase Freedom®?

If you’re looking for a no-fuss, flat-rate cash-back card, you might be better off with another offer. But if you spend in line with the Chase Freedom®’s 5% bonus categories, this card could potentially net you an extra $300 a year, assuming you max out your categories every quarter. If that sounds like a good deal to you, consider applying.

Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom®

Apply Now on Chase's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 690
    850
    Good - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • No annual fee
    • 5% rewards on rotating categories
    • Access to Chase’s Ultimate Rewards site to earn more cash back

    Cons

    • If you value simplicity, a flat rate cash back card may be better
    • A foreign transaction fee

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • APR: 16.74% - 25.49% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 26.74%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

    Intro APR

    • 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months
  • Additional Information
    • 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 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
    • 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 Journey℠
    • No annual fee