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Chase Freedom® Review: A First-Hand Account

Chase Freedom® Review: A First-Hand Account

My original foray into credit card rewards stemmed from a targeted mailer for the Chase Freedom® card. I was in my late 20’s and money was tight. With the Chase Freedom® card, I learned, I could score an initial signup bonus ($100 at the time) and earn 1-5 percent cash back for every dollar I spent. Needless to say, I was pumped to try it out.

It’s been a few years since then (I think it was 2009), and I still have the Chase Freedom® card in addition to the other rewards cards I carry. While I don’t use it for every purchase, the Chase Freedom® card has really stood the test of time.

If I had to summarize why I keep this card, I would say the lucrative bonus categories, consumer protections, and lack of annual fee have made me a believer.

Chase Freedom® Details

Before we dive into some of the best ways to use this card, let’s explore the current offer. Keep in mind that terms and bonus offers can and do change all the time.

Here are details for the current offer on this card:

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74 - 25.49%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠

Chase Freedom® Perks Worth Mentioning

After pursuing the general highlights of this card, it’s easy to see one of the biggest benefits of this card is the fact you earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in categories that rotate. From October through December 2019, the 5 percent cash back category includes purchases made at eligible department stores and purchases made using PayPayl or Chase Pay®. You will need to activate this offer by December 14th, 2019 to take advantage. Cash back categories for 2020 have not been announced yet.

Personally, I’ve had a lot of luck taking advantage of these categories. It’s easy as pie to spend $1,500 in three months at department stores, for example. And since their “department store” quarter aligns with the end of the year, it’s easy to score bonus points by doing most of my holiday shopping online.

And, when you really think about it, earning 1 percent cash back on regular purchases is nothing to sneeze at if you were using cash or debit before. If you spend $1,000 on credit per month outside of the bonus categories each year, which is fairly easy to do, you’ll earn 12,000 points worth $120 in cash back in addition to your $150 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months of account opening.

Other benefits that help the Chase Freedom® card stand out include:

  • Credit JourneySM - Gives you unlimited access to your credit score and more. It's free, even if you are not a Chase customer. Checking your score does not affect your credit.
  • Zero Liability Protection - Means you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information.
  • Purchase Protection – Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
  • Extended Warranty Protection – Extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of three years or less.

At the end of the day, the added benefits this card offers are valuable – especially if you actually use them. And since the Chase Freedom® doesn’t charge an annual fee, you’re basically getting them for free.

Where the Chase Freedom® Really Shines

While the cash back you earn with the Chase Freedom® can add up over time, one of the most lucrative ways to utilize this card is to pair it with a Chase travel credit card. If you get the Chase Freedom® card and add a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for example, you can pool your points in one account for superior travel redemptions.

With your points safely in your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Ultimate Rewards® account, you can transfer points to popular hotel travel partners like World of Hyatt®, Marriott Bonvoy™, and IHG® Rewards Club. You can also transfer points to popular airline partners like United MileagePlus®, JetBlue TrueBlue, Southwest Rapid Rewards®, and Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM at a 1:1 ratio.

This scenario is ideal if you want to maximize the points you earn with targeted spending. For example, the fourth quarter of 2019 calls for all eligible department store purchases to be made with the Chase Freedom®. Why? Because you’ll earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 (activate by December 14th, 2019), where you would only earn 1 point per $1 spent with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (on purchases other than travel and dining).

Meanwhile, all travel and dining would go on your Preferred® card since it lets you earn 2 points per $1 spent in those categories.

This is exactly how I maximize rewards with Chase. Normally, I use my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for all purchases including travel and dining, then whip out my Chase Freedom® card for purchases in the rotating bonus categories. This helps me earn more points over time.

Where the Chase Freedom® Comes Up Short

While it’s hard to complain about a rewards back card that doles out 1-5 percent back with no annual fee, I do have a few simple gripes about the Chase Freedom®.

First, it’s a lot less powerful when you don’t pair it with a premier Chase travel card. If you have only the Freedom card, you can’t transfer points to popular hotel and airline loyalty programs. In my opinion, the biggest benefit of Chase Ultimate Rewards is its transfer partners. With the Freedom card only, you’ll be relegated to redeeming your points for cash back, purchases on Amazon.com, or gift cards only.

And really, it’s hard to get too excited about a standard cash back rate of 1 percent when other cards offer more with no annual fee. For example, the Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard® (Offer Expired) comes with no annual fee and a signup bonus, yet still doles out 1.5 percent back for every dollar you spend.

Lastly, the Chase Freedom®’s bonus categories are limited to your first $1,500 spent in those categories each rotating quarter. So, the most “bonus cash” you can earn each quarter is $75. Sure, it’s free money, but these limits definitely put a damper on the fun.

Conclusion

As someone who has carried the Chase Freedom® since 2009, I can say with all certainty that I vouch for this card. Anyone who signs up has the opportunity to earn plenty of cash back over time. Plus, the card offers a slew of consumer protections that can help you save money.

Then again, there are better cards out there if you spend a lot on credit and want higher earning potential or if you want to redeem your points for travel. At the end of the day, I see the Chase Freedom® card as the perfect “starter” card for someone just getting into the hobby – or as the ideal complement to a premier Chase travel card.

If your goal is easy cash back and you don’t want an annual fee, put this card on your list to consider.

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