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Updated April 10, 2015

Chase Freedom Review: $100 Bonus Cash Back

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With its sign-up bonus, rotating 5% cash back categories, and 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, the card is one of the most popular no-annual-fee rewards cards. Read this Chase Freedom review to see if this cashback credit card fits your lifestyle.

Chase Freedom

Overall Score

4.1

Rewards

4.5

Interest Rates

3.5

Fees

4.5

Benefits

4.0
5-point scale (the higher, the better)

Pros and Cons

  • $100 bonus after you make $500 in purchases in your first 3 months
  • 5% bonus rotating categories
  • Full 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months
  • No annual fee
  • 3% foreign transaction fee

Bottom Line

Excellent cash back credit card for cardholders who pay in full

What You Need to Know

You earn cash back every time you use the Chase Freedom — either 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases if the purchases fall under one of the card’s bonus categories, which change every 3 months, or 1%.

The most you can get back at the 5% level is $75 a quarter as the card stops giving you that higher amount after you've spent $1,500 on purchases that fall under the bonus categories.

It’s a fairly simple rewards setup, but it can take awhile to get the hang of this credit card if you've never had a cash back credit card before. You’ll need to sign up to participate in the rotating categories (previous quarters have included purchases at supermarkets, gas stations, Starbucks, and Amazon) every 3 months. It’s easy to sign up — Chase gives you several ways to remind yourself to do it — but you will have to have your card handy or memorize the last four digits of the card to do it.

The cash you earn can be redeemed for cash in your bank account, statement credit, or you can make it go further by turning it into a gift card.

2015 Categories: Reward Calendar

You earn bonus cash back on rotating categories throughout the year (free activation required each quarter). You earn 5% cash back in select bonus categories on up to $1,500 worth of quarterly purchases. If you spend over this limit, you go back to regular 1% rate. You earn an unlimited 1% cash back rate on all other purchases.

The bonus categories for 2015 are:

  • Q1 (January 1 – March 31, 2015): Grocery stores (not including Walmart® and Target® purchases), movie theaters and Starbucks® stores
  • Q2 (April 1 – June 30, 2015): Restaurants, Bed Bath & Beyond®, H&M®, and Overstock.com®
  • Q3 (July 1 – September 30, 2015): Gas stations and more
  • Q4 (October 1 – December 31, 2015): Amazon.com and more

(Additional categories or merchants will be announced before the start of each quarter.)

Remember, you need to activate the 5% cash back categories. You can activate the 5% cash back categories online, by text messages, via email, by calling customer service, or in-person at a Chase bank.

In addition, you can earn extra cash back by shopping online through Ultimate Rewards Mall, Chase's online shopping portal.

Benefits

  • It's rewarding: The Freedom card helps you earn cash back on virtually everything you buy. Even without the bonus categories, you earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

  • It has an attractive introductory offer: Spend $500 within the first 3 months of opening the account, and you’ll get a $100 bonus. And that money you charge during that time won’t be subject to any interest charges for over a year; the card comes with a 0% APR introductory rate for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After the intro period, a variable APR, currently 13.99% - 22.99%. This introductory rate can give you time to pay off a big purchase or consolidate your debt onto this one card (balance transfers are subject to a 3% fee).

  • It's easy to redeem: You can redeem rewards for cash back ($20 or more) in your choice as a statement credit, direct deposit or a paper check. You can also redeem through Chase Ultimate rewards for gift cards.

  • Visa credit card: You’ll enjoy widespread merchant acceptance than you would with cards from American Express or Discover. This is an important differentiating factor if you frequently patronize smaller businesses.

  • No annual fee

Disadvantages

  • You’ll need to pay attention to rotating categories: When you add this card to your credit card mix, you may want to do some thinking when you shop to make sure you’re getting the most rewards you can each time. For some people, such a prospect adds a fun dimension to shopping; for others, that may be a pain.

  • It can tempt you into buying things you don’t need: By calling your attention to the bonus categories every quarter when you sign up, the card may prompt you to buy more at certain stores than your normally would, just to get the higher percentage of cash back.

  • You have to sign up each quarter: If that sounds like something you may not want to do, you may want a card that has a more consistent rewards program, with cash back or points on purchases that don’t change every 3 months.

Who It's Best For

Chase Freedom caters to people who love to get a deal and enjoy using credit cards to get cash back, rather than trying to figure out points or miles. It also offers percentages off certain popular stores when you make a purchase through its website (Ultimate Rewards), and because you always get at least 1% off your purchases, it makes for a great everyday card.

Promotion Deal

For new cardholders, check out this deal. If you make $500 worth of purchases on your card within the first 3 months of your account, you earn a $100 bonus. This bonus is in addition to your regular cash back rewards.

Since this card has no annual fee, the introductory deal gives you an easy and cost-effective way to earn some extra cash back.

Related: 23 Ways to Help Meet $500 Minimum Spending Requirement

0% Introductory APR: Balance Transfer

This card also has a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After that, the APR will be a variable rate, currently 13.99% - 22.99% depending on your creditworthiness. Keep in mind, you will be charged 3% of the amount transferred, with a minimum fee of $5.00. Most likely, the amount you will save on interest in those 15 months will more than make up for this fee. Make sure to read our guide on balance transfers.

Related: How to Save Money on Credit Card Debt

Foreign Transaction Fee

If you plan to frequently travel internationally, you might want to consider a credit card with no foreign transaction fee instead. The Freedom has a 3% foreign transaction fee which can quickly add up.

Pros

  • Earn a $100 bonus after your first $500 of purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earns up to 5% bonus cash back (on up to $1,500 in purchases) in new rotating bonus categories throughout the year
  • Earns 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • No annual fee

Cons

  • 3% foreign transaction fee

Bottom Line:

If you think bonus categories that change every quarter is a hassle, this card may not be for you. Also, consider your travel schedule. If you do a lot of international travel, you may want to opt for a card with no foreign transaction fee: the Freedom charges a 3% foreign transaction fee.

For everyone else, especially those who prefer getting cash back rather than airline miles, the Freedom card is a first-rate way to earn cash back for those with excellent/good credit. And since the Chase Freedom has no annual fee, it's a very cost effective to earn those rewards (assuming you pay off the balance every month).

Next Step: View the issuer's official application, terms, and details

Follow @CreditDonkey or write to David R at davidr@creditdonkey.com
David R is a contributing writer at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and financial education website. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped consumers make savvy financial and lifestyle decisions. (read more)

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by Chase. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by Chase. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

Disclaimer: This content was first published on March 14, 2012. This content may have been updated on April 10, 2015. Information including APR, terms and benefits may vary, be out of date, or not applicable to you. Information is provided without warranty. Please check Chase website for updated information.

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Chase Freedom
Apply for Chase Freedom
At Chase's Secure Site
  • Named a Best Card for Cash Back by MONEY® Magazine
  • Earn a $100 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn a $25 Bonus after you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within this same 3-month period
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After the intro period, a variable APR of 13.99-22.99%
  • 5% Cash Back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases between 4/1/15-6/30/15 at Restaurants, Bed Bath & Beyond®, H&M®, and Overstock.com®.
  • You'll enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months like Gas stations, Restaurants and Amazon.com. It's free and easy to activate your bonus each quarter!
  • Unlimited 1% Cash Back on all other purchases
  • No annual fee and rewards never expire as long as your account is open
  • Go to issuer's official application, terms, and details
Intro APR for PurchasesIntro APR for Balance TransferRegular APRAnnual Fee
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
13.99% - 22.99% Variable
$0

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