Chase Freedom Flex Review: Multiple Bonus Rewards Wrapped in One Card

It's the best of two worlds: 5% rotating categories, plus fixed bonus categories like dining and some travel. There's also a huge sign-up bonus that includes big rewards on groceries in the first year, all for no annual fee.

Erin HurdNovember 19, 2020
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Our Take

5.0

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: This card is lucrative and ideal for optimizers who don't mind putting in some work to keep track of its rewards structure. If you want a no-fuss cash-back card that requires no maintenance, look elsewhere.

Chase Freedom Flex

on Chase's website

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

14.99% - 23.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months

Recommended Credit Score

Quick Facts

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

Compare to Other Cards

NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

14.99% - 23.74% Variable APR

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

Regular APR

11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months

Intro APR

0% intro APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

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Full Review

Among rewards credit cards, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ strikes a powerful and unique pose. That's because this $0-annual-fee card — which replaced the decommissioned Chase Freedom® — features the best of both worlds: fixed bonus categories that range as high as 5% back, on top of 5% bonus categories that change each quarter.

In addition, new cardholders can enjoy a massive intro rewards rate on groceries: 5% cash back for the first year on up to $12,000 in spending. There's something for everyone.

Of course, all of those bonus categories mean there's a lot of tracking involved, so if you're seeking simpler, more straightforward rewards with less maintenance, other cash-back cards will likely suit you better. But if you're an optimizer willing to follow and activate quarterly bonus categories while also paying attention to ongoing bonus tiers, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ packs plenty of muscle.

Chase Freedom Flex℠: Basics

Card type: Cash back.

Annual fee: $0.

Sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, for new cardholders only, earn 5% cash back at grocery stores for the first year on up to $12,000 in spending. (Target and Walmart don't qualify, but grocery delivery services like Instacart, Shipt and Peapod do.)

Rewards:

  • 5% cash back in quarterly bonus categories on up to $1,500 in combined spending each quarter. Activation of bonus categories is required. (See the quarterly 5% bonus calendar below.)

  • 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 3% back on dining, including takeout and delivery services.

  • 3% back on drugstore purchases.

  • For all cardholders, through March 31, 2022, 5% back on qualifying Lyft services purchased through the Lyft app.

  • 1% on all other purchases.

Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Flex℠* bonus rewards categories for 2020

Q1 (Jan. 1 - March 31)

• Gas stations. • Select streaming services. • Internet, cable and phone services.

Q2 (April 1 - June 30)

• Grocery stores. • Gym memberships and fitness clubs. • Select streaming services.

Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30)

• Amazon.com. • Whole Foods Market.

Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)

• Walmart. • PayPal.

*The Chase Freedom Flex℠ was introduced in mid-September 2020, so the first bonus categories that apply to the card for a full quarter are those for Q4.

Interest rate: 0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.99% - 23.74% Variable APR.

Foreign transaction fee: 3%.

Other benefits: The Chase Freedom Flex is a World Elite Mastercard, meaning you'll get perks like:

  • Discounts and incentives via services like Lyft, Fandango, Shoprunner, Boxed and more.

  • Hotel perks via the Mastercard Luxury Hotel and Resorts program.

Ways you can redeem your Rewards

While the Chase Freedom Flex℠ is considered a cash-back card, rewards actually come in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. If you choose to redeem points for cash back, you'll get 1 cent apiece. You can get the cash direct-deposited into your U.S. checking or saving account, or you can opt for a statement credit.

You can also redeem points for:

  • Gift cards (1 cent per point).

  • Travel booked through Chase (1 cent per point).

  • Amazon purchases (0.8 cent per point).

If you want to use your Chase Ultimate Rewards® points for travel, you can unlock greater value by pairing your Chase Freedom Flex℠ with another Chase card that offers higher-value redemption options. (More details below.)

Chase Freedom Flex℠ vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited®

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the Chase Freedom Unlimited® have similar names and some shared benefits. But there's a key difference.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® has fixed bonus categories that don't change, plus an industry-standard flat 1.5% back on "everything else." So if you like to keep things simple, it could be the better choice.

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ earns just 1% back on non-bonus-category purchases. But unlike the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, it also comes with 5% quarterly rotating bonus categories. This seriously boosts its earnings power but also means there's more to keep track of.

Nerd tip: The Chase Freedom Flex℠ runs on the Mastercard payment network, while the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a Visa. In terms of acceptance, it doesn't matter much if you carry a Visa or a Mastercard, but those networks do provide some different side perks.

The table below highlights the differences between these two cards and the older Chase Freedom®, which is no longer accepting applications and has been effectively replaced by the Chase Freedom Flex. (If you have an original Chase Freedom® card, you can product-change it to a Chase Freedom Flex℠ by calling Chase.)

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Chase Freedom®

Offer for new cardholders:

• $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

• 5% cash back at grocery stores (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

None — card is no longer accepting applications

Rotating bonus categories:

None.

• 5% back on quarterly bonus categories that you activate, on up to $1,500 per quarter in spending.

Ongoing bonus categories:

• 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

• 3% cash back at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services.

• 3% cash back on drugstore purchases.

None.

Rewards on other purchases:

1.5% cash back

1% cash back

1% cash back

Nerd tip: Through March 31, 2022, both the Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited will earn 5% back on qualifying Lyft services purchased through the Lyft app. Both cards also come with a complimentary three-month subscription to DashPass. It's DoorDash's subscription service that provides unlimited deliveries for a $0 delivery fee on orders over $12.

Why you might want the Chase Freedom Flex℠

STELLAR Sign-up bonus

The current bonus: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. That's close to as good as it gets for a no-annual-fee credit card. Not only that, you'll earn 5% cash back at grocery stores for the first year on up to $12,000 in spending. All told, that's a potential bonus of $800 just from a sign-up incentive.

rotating BONUS CATEGORIES + fixed bonus categories

The 5% bonus cash back is available on broad categories that many people spend on every day. Categories could include gas stations, grocery stores, department stores, wholesale clubs and Amazon.com. Many cardholders will be able to rack up big bonus rewards without changing their spending habits much. (Just remember to activate bonus categories every quarter.)

But on top of the rotating 5% categories, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers impressive rewards year-round in popular categories. Spend a good chunk of your monthly budget on dining out and delivery? Use your Chase Freedom Flex℠ card and you'll earn 3% cash back each time, plus 3% at the drugstore. Unlike the 5% bonus categories, which are capped at $1,500 in spending per quarter, the 3% earnings on dining and drugstores are unlimited.

point transfers to maximize value

Chase Ultimate Rewards® points are typically worth 1 cent apiece, but several Chase cards give you a way to redeem them for 25% to 50% more value. By transferring your points from the Chase Freedom Flex℠ to one of these other cards, you can supercharge your rewards:

Points on these cards can also be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to about a dozen hotel and airline loyalty programs, including United, Southwest, JetBlue, British Airways, Marriott and Hyatt. Depending on how you use transferred points, that could get you even higher value.

Keep in mind that unlike the Chase Freedom Flex℠, these other Chase cards have annual fees.

Chase Freedom Flex℠: Drawbacks and alternatives

it's not a 'set and forget' card

In order to make the most of the Chase Freedom Flex℠, you'll have to pay attention to bonus categories — in particular the 5% categories, which change each quarter. You'll need to make sure you activate the bonus categories every three months or you'll miss out and earn only 1% back on that spending.

If that sounds like a lot of work, a simpler card that requires minimal effort may make more sense:

  • The aforementioned Chase Freedom Unlimited® has set bonus categories that don't change, while everything else earns 1.5% back. That's still some work to remember, but not as much.

  • The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is even more straightforward. It earns 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% when you buy something, plus 1% when you pay it off. The annual fee is $0.

It's not ideal for international travel

If you're traveling internationally, you can do better with a different card. The Chase Freedom Flex℠ charges a 3% foreign transaction fee that will eat into your rewards. The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card is one of the few cash-back cards that don't charge these fees, plus it has a simpler rewards structure: You earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

BONUS CATEGORIES MAY NOT MATCH YOUR SPENDING

It's not always easy to optimize a card like the Chase Freedom Flex℠. Your spending patterns may not fit neatly into rotating categories on a quarterly basis. If your refrigerator breaks, you need a new one now, even if this quarter's bonus categories are groceries and streaming services.

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 of several options, on up to $2,000 in combined spending each quarter. It also earns an unlimited 2% on an everyday category you choose (such as gas or groceries) and 1% elsewhere.

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

Should you get the Chase Freedom Flex℠?

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is a perfect fit for optimizers looking to squeeze the most out of their spending. It offers a massive bonus, and the card's rotating 5% bonus categories can yield an extra $300 per year if you max them out. Combine that with 5% back on travel booked via Chase, 3% on dining and at drugstores, and 1% on everything else, and it's one of the most lucrative cash-back cards on the market.

But that's a lot to keep track of, so if you're looking for a no-fuss, flat-rate cash-back card, other cash-back credit cards may suit you better.

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