Editorial Review

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

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

Claire TsosieNovember 25, 2019

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Our Take

4.1

NerdWallet 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 Credit Card

on Chase's website

on Chase's website

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

16.49% - 25.24% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months

Recommended Credit Score

Quick Facts

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

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

Alternate Pick: Simple rewards

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

Compare to Other Cards

Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

16.49% - 25.24% Variable APR

Regular APR

13.49% - 24.49% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Regular APR

15.74% - 25.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months

Intro APR

0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 14 months

Intro APR

0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
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 in bonus categories that change every three months and 1% back on all other purchases. Plus, you start out with an easy-to-snag sign-up bonus and a lengthy 0% introductory APR period.

Chase Freedom®: Basics

Card type: Cash back.

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 in quarterly bonus categories, on up to $1,500 per quarter in spending. You must opt in to the categories each quarter.

  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

Chase Freedom® bonus rewards categories for 2019

Q1 (Jan. 1 - March 31)

• Gas stations. • Tolls. • Drugstores.

Q2 (April 1 - June 30)

• Home improvement stores. • Grocery stores.

Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30)

• Gas stations. • Select streaming services.

Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)

• Department stores. • PayPal. • Chase Pay.

Interest rate: 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 16.49% - 25.24% Variable APR.

Balance transfer fee: Within the first 60 days of account opening: 3% or $5, whichever is greater. After 60 days: 5% or $5, whichever is greater.

Foreign transaction fee: 3%.

Rewards redemption options

Rewards earned on this card come in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. Points are 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 (1 cent per point).

  • Amazon purchases (0.8 cents per point).

You can also transfer your points to other Chase cards that offer higher-value redemption options. More on that later.

Key benefits of the Chase Freedom®

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

BONUS CATEGORIES INCLUDE COMMON 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, department stores and wholesale clubs. (See categories from the past several years here.) Many cardholders will be able to rack up big rewards without changing their spending habits at all.

One caveat: You must opt in to the bonus category each quarter by "activating" it online. Forget to do so, 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.

You get a long 0% intro period

The interest-free introductory period on the Chase Freedom® is one of the longest you'll find on any rewards credit card. You get an introductory APR of 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 16.49% - 25.24% Variable APR. That gives you plenty of time to pay off a major purchase. You can also move high-interest debt to the card to pay it down more quickly, although you'll pay a fee to do so.

TRANSFERRING POINTS AMPS UP YOUR 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® to one of these other cards, you can supercharge your rewards:

  • With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, each point is worth 1.25 cents when redeemed for travel booked through Chase's online portal, operated by Expedia. That makes your effective rewards rate 6.25% in the bonus categories and 1.25% everywhere else.

  • With the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, each point is worth 1.5 cents apiece when redeemed for travel booked through Chase. That makes your effective rewards rate 7.5% in the bonus categories and 1.5% everywhere else.

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 these three cards have an annual fee, so the extra value at redemption comes with its own costs. But if you're already carrying one of them, the Chase Freedom® just becomes that much more attractive.

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®. Instead of 5% bonus categories, it earns a flat 1.5% back on all purchases.

Which is the 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® could be the stronger option. For a more thorough breakdown of the differences, read NerdWallet's comparison of the two.

One last point: There's nothing that says you can't carry both of these cards, using the Chase Freedom® in the bonus categories and the Chase Freedom Unlimited® everywhere else. That's more effort than some people want to put into their credit cards, but others get a thrill out of optimizing their rewards.

Chase Freedom®: Drawbacks and alternatives

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. For minimal effort, consider a card that offers the same rewards rate on all purchases. For example:

  • The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer offers a best-in-class rewards rate for a $0-annual-fee card. You earn 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% when you buy something, plus 1% when you pay it off. There's no sign-up bonus, though.

  • The Chase Freedom Unlimited®, mentioned above, pays 1.5% on all purchases. It doesn't offer a cash bonus like the Chase Freedom® but instead starts you off with a higher introductory rate — 3% on the first $20,000 in purchases in the first year.

  • The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card gives you 1.5% cash back on all purchases and an easy-to-earn cash bonus: One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. Its annual fee is also $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® Cash Rewards Credit Card, described above, is one of the few cash-back cards that don't charge these fees.

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 $150 bonus after spending $500 in eligible net purchases within 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.