Chase Freedom Review: Closed to New Applicants, but the 5% Bonus Remains

This card is no longer accepting applications. Existing cardholders still earn 5% back in rotating bonus categories they activate each quarter, on up to $1,500 in combined quarterly spending, plus 1% back on everything else.

Claire Tsosie, Melissa LambarenaSeptember 23, 2020
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This page includes information about the Chase Freedom® currently unavailable on NerdWallet.

Our Take

3.9

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: This card has been effectively replaced by the Chase Freedom Flex, which offers similar benefits, including 5% rotating bonus categories — like gas stations, Amazon and more — that tend to sync up well with household budgets.

Chase Freedom Credit Card

Chase Freedom®

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

14.99% - 23.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% intro 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

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

Compare to Other Cards

NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Annual Fee

$95

Annual Fee

$0 intro for the first year, then $95

Regular APR

15.99% - 22.99% Variable APR

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 12 months

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

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Full Review

As of September 2020, the venerable, long-serving Chase Freedom® credit card stopped accepting new applications.

However, existing cardholders can continue to use the $0-annual-fee card and earn rewards as before. And those rewards are generous. The card still offers bonus cash back in categories that change every three months and 1% back on all other purchases.

If you’re looking for a similar card, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ is a close match and was released essentially as the Freedom's replacement.

Both Freedom cards require you to track bonus categories throughout the year and activate them. If that’s too much maintenance for you, consider a flat-rate cash-back card that earns a solid rate on all purchases.

Chase Freedom®: Basics

Card type: Cash back.

Annual fee: $0.

Rewards:

  • 5% cash back in quarterly bonus categories, on up to $1,500 per quarter in combined quarterly spending (you must opt in to the categories quarterly; 1% back on other spending).

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.

Nerd tip: Through March 31, 2022, the card also earns 5% back on qualifying Lyft services purchased through the Lyft app.

Interest rate: A variable APR applies.

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 things like:

  • 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.

Chase Freedom® vs. Chase Freedom Flex℠

The Chase Freedom® has been replaced by the Chase Freedom Flex℠, and the two cards share similar features, including the same yearly 5% bonus-category calendar and the same terms for earning those rewards.

But the Chase Freedom Flex℠ goes a lot further, also earning 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®; 3% back at restaurants (including takeout and eligible deliveries); 3% back on drugstore purchases; and 1% back on everything else.

Current Chase Freedom® cardholders who prefer the rewards structure of the Chase Freedom Flex℠ may request a product change to that card.

Nerd tip: The Chase Freedom Unlimited® runs on the Visa payment network, while the Chase Freedom Flex℠ is a Mastercard. In terms of acceptance, it doesn't matter much if you carry a Visa or a Mastercard. But Visa and Mastercard do offer some differing side perks, and if your card changes from one network to another, your account number also will change.

The table in the dropdown menu below highlights the differences in rewards between the discontinued Freedom and the new Freedom Flex, as well as the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, which is still available but does not offer 5% rotating bonus categories.

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

Why the Chase Freedom® could be a keeper

BONUS CATEGORIES INCLUDE COMMON EXPENSES

This card's 5% bonus cash back is available on broad and frequently used spending categories. 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.)

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.

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 the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. 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 other Chase cards have annual fees, so the extra value at redemption comes with its own costs.

Drawbacks and alternatives

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. Other cards require less effort. Some examples:

  • The aforementioned Chase Freedom Unlimited® has fixed bonus categories, as opposed to ones that change quarterly. It earns 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®; 3% back at restaurants; 3% back on drugstore purchases; and 1.5% on all other non-bonus-category purchases. It also comes with a large bonus: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. On top of that, new cardholders earn 5% cash back at grocery stores on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

  • The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer offers an excellent 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.

IT'S NOT GOOD FOR TRAVELING ABROAD

If you're traveling internationally, the 3% foreign transaction fees on the Chase Freedom® can get expensive. The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card is one of the few cash-back cards that don't charge these fees. It earns 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

BONUS CATEGORIES MAY NOT MATCH YOUR SPENDING

The Chase Freedom®'s bonus categories will be right for many people, but not for all.

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. Bonus categories in the past have included things like restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores and more. There's a unique bonus for newcomers: 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! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 to $300.

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 combined spending each quarter; an unlimited 2% back 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.

Information related to the Chase Freedom®has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

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