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Making the Most of the Chase Freedom

June 14, 2016
Cash Back Credit Cards, Credit Cards
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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.

The aptly named Chase Freedom® allows cardholders to earn 5% cash back freely across everyday spending categories that change throughout the year, plus 1% cash back on all other purchases. Using the card in the 5% categories, though, is just part of maximizing the value you get from this credit card.

Here’s how to make the most of theChase Freedom®.

Use the quarterly bonus categories

Carrying the Chase Freedom® and not taking advantage of its quarterly 5% bonus categories is like buying a Ferrari and driving it exclusively back and forth to the supermarket: You’re missing the point entirely. To get the 5% rewards on this card, you need to “activate” the bonus category each quarter and then use your card at eligible merchants.

Activate the category each quarter. You can activate easily by logging into your account online or using the Chase Freedom® Mobile app. The trick is in remembering to do it each quarter. That’s why Chase offers automatic alerts via email and calendar notification.

Use your card on bonus categories. Once you activate, you get 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in spending in the bonus categories for the quarter. Once you hit the $1,500 limit in a quarter, any additional spending in that category earns 1% cash back. Here are the categories for this year:

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)• Chase Pay.
• Wholesale clubs.
• Department stores.

Combine it with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to maximize Chase Ultimate Rewards

Strictly speaking, the Chase Freedom® doesn’t give you cash. Rather, it gives you Chase Ultimate Rewards points that you can redeem for cash. For every $1 you spend, you get 1 point; in the 5% bonus categories, you get 5 points for $1. When redeemed for cash back, the points are worth 1 cent apiece, so the effect is the same.

However, if you also carry the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can boost the value of those points by 25%. You do that by transferring points from your Chase Freedom® to your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, and then using them to book travel through the Ultimate Rewards travel platform. When you use points this way, each has a value of 1.25 cents. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns unlimited 2 points per $1 on travel and restaurants and 1 point per $1 everywhere else. Combining these two cards gives you a points boost on what you earn with the Chase Freedom® and bonus points all year round via the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Win-win.

Save money on purchases with ‘Shop through Chase’

“Shop through Chase” is Chase’s online shopping portal that offers up to 15% cash back on purchases like electronics, clothes and travel accessories. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Log in to Shop through Chase with your Chase account.
  2. Choose a retailer from Chase’s list of partners. Clicking on the retailer’s link takes you to its website.
  3. Shop at the retailer’s site as you normally would, and be sure to pay with your Chase Freedom® card.

If you’re a Chase cardholder and you’re about to make any large purchase, it’s always worth checking Chase’s shopping portal before you spend — if you want to save money, that is.

Get the new-cardholder perks

There are a handful of other ways to squeeze more value out of yourChase Freedom®, most of which require minimal effort from cardholders.

Spend enough to get the sign-up bonus. Lest we forget, theChase Freedom® comes with a nice sign-up bonus: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. The spending requirement for the bonus isn’t particularly high, and most people can probably meet it by putting their regular expenses on the card. Just make sure you reach the threshold, or you’re leaving free money on the table.

Take advantage of the 0% APR period. If you’re planning a major purchase or carrying high-interest credit card debt, theChase Freedom® gives new cardholders time to pay it off without interest. It has an introductory APR of 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 16.99% - 25.74% Variable APR.

Use a different card abroad. The Chase Freedom® charges a foreign transaction fee of 3%, making it a poor choice for spenders who are looking for a card to use outside the United States. Plenty of other cards come without foreign transaction fees.

How to redeem rewards on theChase Freedom®

To redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards Points:

  1. Log onto your Chase account.
  2. Scroll to yourChase Freedom®. (If you have several Chase cards, they’ll all be displayed together.)
  3. Click “Go to Ultimate Rewards.”
  4. Choose how you’d like to use your points.

With theChase Freedom®, you can redeem points for cash back for 1 cent per point starting at 500 points (or $5). There are other ways to redeem your points beyond cash back, but, as they say, cash is king.

Kevin Cash is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: kcash@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @kevin_cash.