Editorial Review

Chase Freedom Review: $150 Bonus and 5% Cash Back

Earn 5% cash back in popular categories such as grocery stores and gas stations. There's some hassle involved, but this card is a favorite among those who aim to maximize their cash back

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Our Take

4.1

Editor's overall rating

The Bottom Line: With bonus categories that sync up with most people's regular spending, this card is a fine choice whether you're a hardcore optimizer or just a one-card sort of person.

Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom®

on Chase's secure website

Chase Freedom®

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
16.74% - 25.49%

Variable

Intro APR
0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months

Quick Facts

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
16.74% - 25.49%

Variable

Intro APR
0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months

Alternate Pick: Simple rewards

Citi® Double Cash Card

NerdWallet Rating

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

2% cash back, no categories to track

Some people carry a wallet full of credit cards and enjoy squeezing the maximum rewards out of every purchase. Others prefer to use a single card that pays a great rate on everything. This card gives you 2% back on everything — 1% when you make a purchase and 1% when you pay it off.

Read our review

Pros & Cons

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

recommended credit score

Full Review

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.

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 in spending; 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 fee: 5% or $5, whichever is greater
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%

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 in to the bonus category each quarter by “activating” it online. 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 Marriott. 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 and 0% intro APR period, but instead of 5% bonus categories, it pays 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.

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

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 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 $0 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 don’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 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 you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.

For more information on choosing a cash-back credit card, browse our list of the best credit card deals.

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 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.

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