Chase Freedom Student Card Review: Solid Incentives for Credit Newbies

It earns 1% cash back on purchases. And with responsible use, you may also qualify for "Good Standing" rewards, a potential credit limit increase and, perhaps eventually, access to a higher-tier Chase card. Terms apply.

Melissa LambarenaMar 17, 2021
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Our Take

4.6

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: With decent rewards plus features that are friendly to those with no credit history, this student card gets a good grade for products in its class.

Chase Freedom Student Credit Card

on Chase's website

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

14.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Quick Facts

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Earns rewards

  • Opportunity for credit limit increase

Cons

  • Has foreign transaction fee

Alternate Pick: Richer rewards

Discover it® Student chrome
NerdWallet rating 

Discover it® Student chrome

Plus a 0% intro APR period

The $0-annual-fee Discover it® Student chrome earns 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter (1% back on other purchases). It may also come in handy if you need to finance a large purchase. It offers 0% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months, and then the ongoing APR of 12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR.

Read our review

Compare to Other Cards

NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

14.99% Variable APR

Regular APR

12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Regular APR

12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

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Full Review

For products in its class, the $0-annual-fee Chase Freedom® Student credit card gets good marks, thanks to its credit-building features, solid incentives and potential upgrade path to higher-end Chase cards.

While you must be a student to qualify, the card's underwriting is friendly to those with thin or nonexistent credit files. In fact, it's really the only starter credit card Chase offers. By comparison, other rewards-earning cards from Chase typically require at least good credit (FICO scores of 690 or above) — a high bar to meet for credit newbies.

With responsible card use, you may qualify for "Good Standing" incentives, a potential credit limit increase and perhaps a product change to an even better Chase card after you graduate.

Still, it's possible to find richer ongoing rewards on other student credit cards, and this card does charge a foreign transaction fee, meaning it's not ideal if you're studying abroad.

Chase Freedom® Student credit card: Basics

Card type: College student.

Annual fee: $0.

Bonus: $50 Bonus after first purchase made within the first 3 months from account opening.

Rewards: 1% cash back on all purchases.

Nerdy tip: Through March 31, 2022, the card also earns 5% back on qualifying Lyft services purchased through the Lyft app. Plus, cardholders get a complimentary three-month subscription to DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service that provides unlimited deliveries for a $0 delivery fee on orders over $12.

Even though the Chase Freedom® Student credit card is marketed as a cash-back product, technically what you're earning are Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, which are worth 1 cent each when redeemed for cash back. (For example, 2,000 points equals $20.)

You can redeem your rewards for statement credit, a direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts, Amazon purchases, travel or gift cards. Redemption values may vary depending on which option you choose.

APR: The ongoing APR is 14.99% Variable APR.

Foreign transaction fee: 3% of the amount of each transaction in U.S. dollars.

Other perks:

  • "Good Standing" rewards: Accounts in good standing receive $20 after each account anniversary year for the first five years. (Your account must be open and not in default.)

  • A potential credit limit increase after making five monthly payments on time within 10 months of opening an account.

  • Payments reported to the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian), which helps you build credit.

  • Travel and retail benefits such as trip cancellation insurance, purchase protection and extended warranty protection.

Why you might want the Chase Freedom® Student credit card

ongoing rewards, easy-to-snag sign-up bonus

Every bit of value helps when you’re juggling the cost of books, tuition, rent and everyday expenses. The Chase Freedom® Student credit card earns 1% cash back on purchases. Plus, if your account is in good standing, you may also qualify for an extra $20 after each account anniversary for the first five years.

And while student credit cards aren’t known for handing out sign-up bonuses, this one does. It's not the richest around, but it's quite easy to get. Earn a $50 Bonus after first purchase made within the first 3 months from account opening. Unlike with some other cards, you don’t have to meet a minimum spending requirement to earn it.

These kinds of rewards can potentially cover groceries for a week or some pizza delivery as you study for finals.

No credit history required

According to Chase, a credit history isn't an eligibility requirement for the Chase Freedom® Student credit card. However, you do need to be a student, and Chase may verify your enrollment status. Also, it's important to keep in mind that simply being a student doesn't guarantee that you'll be approved — and that goes for all student credit cards. And if you're younger than 21, you'll need to show proof of independent income when applying.

A report to all three credit bureaus

The Chase Freedom® Student credit card reports to all three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. This is a must-have benefit for a starter card since these companies record the information used to calculate your credit scores.

Lenders look at those scores when weighing creditworthiness to determine whether you're likely to pay them back. A credit score of 690 or higher can open doors to lower interest rates on auto or home loans, for example. It can also help you qualify when applying for your first apartment.

A potential credit limit increase if eligible

The card also offers qualifying cardholders an automatic credit limit increase after making five monthly payments on time within 10 months of opening the account. Terms apply. A credit limit increase can have a positive impact on your credit score because it can reduce the percentage of available credit you’re using. This is known as your credit utilization ratio, and it factors into your credit scores.

A possible product change after graduation

Another feature ideal for a student credit card is a path to upgrade to a regular credit card with the same issuer — ideally a card with better benefits and incentives. While Chase doesn’t offer an automatic path to upgrade, it does offer a possible route. After graduation, you can potentially switch (or product-change) your Chase Freedom® Student credit card to a different Chase card, depending on your eligibility, a Chase spokesperson confirmed.

Why you might want a different credit card

The Chase Freedom® Student credit card has a flat rewards rate that's in line with the 1% that some other student cards offer, but it's possible to find higher rates, introductory APRs, or other benefits.

Here are a few reasons why you might consider a different credit card:

other cards offer more robust bonuses and ongoing rewards

For richer ongoing rewards, consider the $0-annual-fee Discover it® Student Cash Back, which offers 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories that you activate, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter (1% back on all other purchases). Previous categories have included restaurants, grocery stores, Lyft, Uber and Amazon.com, to name a few.

There’s also a potentially healthy sign-up offer, which Discover phrases this way: "INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for- dollar match." Discover notes that there's no FICO history requirement for this card.

There's No 0% intro APR offer

If you're looking to finance a large purchase like textbooks or move-in expenses, a better choice might be the Discover it® Student Cash Back. It offers new cardholders a 0% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months, and then the ongoing APR of 12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR.

The $0-annual-fee Discover it® Student chrome offers similar terms, and its rewards structure might be a little easier to keep track of. The card earns 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. All other purchases earn 1% back. (That simplicity is a big reason it was named NerdWallet's award winner for Best Student Credit Card of 2021.) You don’t need a FICO history to qualify for it.

It's not ideal if you're an international student or you plan to study abroad

Like most credit cards, the Chase Freedom® Student credit card requires a Social Security number or an ITIN to apply. This requirement may present an obstacle for some international students. In that case, consider an option like the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students, which doesn't require a Social Security number from international students. The issuer can use its own underwriting process to evaluate applications based on alternative data. The card earns 1% cash back on all purchases, and it also offers some perks like one year of Amazon Prime for those who qualify and a cell phone protection benefit. It has a $0 annual fee. Terms apply.

The Chase Freedom® Student credit card also isn't the best fit for U.S. students who intend to study abroad. While it's widely accepted internationally by merchants as part of the Visa payment network, it charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, which can add up.

Other student credit cards skip this fee. The $0-annual-fee Journey Student Rewards from Capital One is a good example. It earns 1% cash back on all purchases, plus a 0.25% bonus every month you pay on time. That can bring the effective rewards rate to 1.25% in cash back. It also offers a potential credit limit increase with eligibility. Terms apply.

To see how the Chase Freedom® Student credit card stacks up, see NerdWallet's list of the best credit cards to get.

Should you get the Chase Freedom® Student credit card?

The Chase Freedom® Student credit card offers incentives for responsible account management, giving you the training wheels you need as you’re getting started. And it's an excellent entree into the Chase portfolio of credit cards.

But if you're looking for richer ongoing rewards or you intend to study abroad for several months, look to other student credit cards.