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If you're looking for a good, everyday cash back card that offers an intro bonus, no annual fee and more, the Chase Freedom® card, which offers 5% back on purchases in rotating categories, may be an excellent choice.
If you're looking for a straightforward rewards program, however, you may want to skip this card. Also, you'll likely earn a low rewards rate on most of your purchases. Here's what you need to know about the card and how to maximize its value.
|High rewards rate on rotating bonus categories||Maximizing rewards requires a little legwork|
|Long introductory 0% APR promotion on both purchases and balance transfers||Low base rewards rate|
|Sign-up bonus is easy to earn|
|Customer Service Contact Info|
1 (800) 432-3117
The Chase Freedom® card offers 5% cash back on everyday spending categories that rotate every few months. If your goal is to maximize the amount you earn in cash back rewards, the card can certainly help you do it.
As a new cardholder, you'll also start out with an available cash intro bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months plus an introductory 0% annual percentage rate (APR) on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. If you're hoping to finance a large purchase or transfer a balance from a high interest credit card to pay off the debt interest-free, you'll have plenty of time to do it.
It's important to keep in mind, though, that there's a cap on how much you can earn in bonus rewards, and that all non-bonus spending nets you just 1% cash back. With several other credit cards offering 1.5% or 2% back on all of your purchases, you may want to consider some strategies to maximize your rewards.
Earn 5% Cash Back on Rotating Categories
The Chase Freedom® card offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent each quarter on rotating bonus categories (activation is required), and 1% back on all other purchases. The card's bonus categories change every three months and can also vary from year to year.
To give you an idea of what to expect, here's what the card's cash back calendar looks like for 2019:
- January to March: Gas stations, tolls and drugstores
- April to June: Grocery stores and home improvement stores
- July to September: Gas stations and select streaming services
- October to December: Department stores and purchases made using PayPal or Chase Pay
To earn the bonus cash back, you have to activate the categories each quarter. You can activate in one of five ways: online, via email, over the phone, at your local Chase branch or at any Chase ATM.
The deadline to activate is roughly two weeks before the end of the quarter in which you're earning the bonus rewards. So for October through December 2019, the deadline is December 14. The good news is that even if you activate late, the 5% bonus rate will be applied retroactively to all the eligible purchases you've made during the quarter.
Earning 5% cash back is nice, but you'll only get 1% back on all other purchases. This means that if you reach the cap early in the quarter or you don't spend a lot in a given quarter's bonus categories, you may end up earning cash back at a mediocre rewards rate most of the time.
To mitigate this risk, consider pairing the Chase Freedom® card with one that offers 1.5% or 2% back on everything, such as the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card or the Citi® Double Cash Card. Use the Chase Freedom® for its 5% categories and the second card for everything else to avoid settling for 1% on any purchase.
Easily Attainable Sign-Up Bonus
As a new cardholder, you'll earn a $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 in the first three 3 months from account opening. That's just a little more than $166 per month, which may be achievable even on the tightest of budgets.
Note, however, that the bonus is only available to new cardholders who haven't received the same bonus in the past 24 months.
When you first open the account, you'll also get an introductory 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. If you're hoping to finance a large purchase or pay down a balance carrying high interest, that promotion could provide more value in the form of interest savings than the sign-up bonus.
For example, let's say you use the card to pay for some home renovations. You spend $3,000 and plan to pay it off over 15 months. With the Chase Freedom® card, you won't pay any interest, as long as the balance is paid off before the introductory period ends.
But let's say you put that same purchase on a credit card with the industry average interest rate of about 15%. If you still pay it off in 15 months, you'll end up paying about $309 in interest over that time.
Even if you don't pay off the balance in full by the time the promotional period is over, you'll only owe interest on the remainder, not on the original balance.
Choose How You Use Your Chase Ultimate Rewards
While Chase Freedom® is called a cash back credit card, you actually earn Ultimate Rewards points, which are usually worth 1 cent apiece when redeemed. You can use your redeemed points for any available reward option, including cash, gift cards, travel and Apple products.
You can also use your points to pay at checkout on Amazon.com and for Apple products. However, the value of your points drops to 0.8 cents apiece with these options.
If you're feeling savvy, you can potentially get even more value out of your Ultimate Rewards points if you also have one of Chase's travel credit cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card or the Chase Ink Business PreferredSM Card.
These three credit cards not only offer bonus value when you use your points to book travel through Chase, but they also allow you to transfer your points to a number of airline and hotel rewards programs. By combining points earned with the Chase Freedom® card with points earned with one of these cards, you can get more than the maximum of 1 cent per point the Chase Freedom® offers.
Extra Protection for Safer Purchasing
When you use your card, you'll get zero-liability fraud protection and purchase protection, which covers new purchases for up to 120 days if they're damaged or stolen.
The card is also a contactless credit card, which means that you can tap the card to a contactless card reader instead of swiping or inserting it. The tap-and-go process goes more quickly than using the card's chip but still provides the same level of security.
All-in-One Mobile App
Whether you have an Apple or Android phone, you can do a lot with the Chase mobile app. That includes monitoring your activity, making payments, redeeming your rewards, and even locking and unlocking your card if it's lost or stolen.
|Purchase APR: 0% APR for the first 15 months, then 16.49% - 25.24% Variable||Grace period: 21 days|
|Transfer APR: 0% APR for the first 15 months, then 16.49% - 25.24% Variable||Annual fee: $0|
|Cash advance APR: 26.49% Variable||Balance transfer fee: 3% of the transfer amount with a $5 minimum for the first 60 days, then 5% with a $5 minimum|
|Minimum interest charge: None||Cash advance fee: 5% of the advance amount with a $10 minimum|
|Foreign transaction fee: 3%|
|Late payment fee: Up to $39|
|Returned payment fee: Up to $39|
You can add an authorized user to your Chase Freedom® account at no charge. Your authorized user will have the same account number as you and get their own copy of the card to make charges on your credit line. However, you are responsible for paying off all debts incurred on the card.
Review the Chase Freedom® authorized user policy for more information.
Is This Card Right for You?
The Chase Freedom® offers an excellent opportunity to rack up serious rewards on some everyday spending categories. But it requires a little more effort on your part to maximize the value the card offers.
Also, because of the card's low base rewards rate, it's best paired with another credit card with a high flat rewards rate, or at least with one of Chase's Ultimate Rewards travel credit cards, which offer better redemption options.
As with any credit card, it's important to shop around and compare features to determine the right fit for your spending habits and preferences.
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