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Updated January 2, 2020

Chase Freedom Card Review

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Chase Freedom is one of the best credit cards for cash back, if used the right way. If not, there are drawbacks. Read on for the pros and cons to determine if this card is right for you.

9/15/2020 Update: Chase Freedom is no longer available on CreditDonkey. This offer may have been discontinued or may no longer be available to new applicants.

Overall Score

4.3

Rewards

4.5

Interest Rates

4.0

Fees

4.5

Benefits

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

Pros and Cons

  • Earn a $150 Bonus
  • 5% bonus rotating categories
  • Intro APR
  • No annual fee
  • Foreign transaction fee

Bottom Line

Excellent cash back credit card for cardholders who pay in full

In addition to its rotating 5% cash back categories, Chase Freedom offers an introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months and the opportunity to earn a $150 bonus for new customers. With no annual fee, it is possibly the best cash back credit card.

But that's only true if it's used correctly.

Learn how this card works and how to use it to your advantage. Read on to see if it's right for you.

Who Chase Freedom is Good For

  • If you want to maximize cash back without paying an annual fee. This card gives 5% cash back in categories that change every 3 months (on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in the bonus categories each quarter). We'll cover the category calendar later in this review.

    Counterpoint: If you are not organized, cannot keep track of changing categories, or your spending is varied (e.g., you spread it between gas, groceries, shopping, dining out), then consider Chase Freedom Unlimited instead. Freedom Unlimited gives you a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

  • If you're planning on making large purchases. This card has a promotional APR.

  • If you have a premium Chase Ultimate Reward card. If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Chase Ink Business Preferred, you can pool your points onto the premium card account. This will allow you to maximize your points, which can then be transferred to Chase airline and hotel partners. We will explain how to pool points later in this review.

How Chase Freedom Works

One of the top features of the Chase Freedom card is the quarterly rotating 5% cashback rewards categories. Chase Freedom offers a standard 1% cash back on all other purchases, but you earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases (for up to $75 cash back) in bonus categories each quarter. These bonus categories that offer 5% cash back change each quarter - every three months - and requires activation each quarter in order to take advantage of the 5% categories.

In our opinion, you get the best value from this card if you pay close attention to the spending categories each quarter and are diligent about charging any purchases under those categories to this card. The opportunity for up to 5% back is HUGE in the credit card world (most cards only offer 1% or maybe 2%).

Keep in mind, if you spend over the $1,500 quarterly limit in the bonus categories, you go back to the regular 1% cash back rate until the new categories rotate in after the three months are over.

It's a good idea to check out the type of rewards categories Chase Freedom offers first and see if they fit with your lifestyle and normal spending patterns before seriously considering this card.

Categories

The bonus categories for 2020 are:

  • Q1 (January - March 2020): Gas Stations, Select Streaming Services, and Internet, Cable & Phone Services

Categories and merchants are announced before the start of each quarter.

Remember, you have to activate the 5% cash back categories every quarter. You can activate online, by text message, via email, by mobile app, by calling customer service, or in person at a Chase bank. Activating online is probably the easiest way to go as you can do it while checking out your account statement. If Chase is a bank you frequent already, then activating in person at a Chase ATM machine might be more convenient for you.

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

To give you an idea of some of the other 5% cash back categories offered in the past, here they are for the previous few years. Note that this is for historical reference only as categories do not necessarily repeat.

The bonus categories for 2019 were:

  • Q1 2019: Gas Stations, Drugstores, and Tolls
  • Q2 2019: Grocery Stores and Home Improvement Stores
  • Q3 2019: Gas Stations and Select Streaming Services
  • Q4 2019: Department Stores, PayPal and Chase Pay

The bonus categories for 2018 were:

  • Q1 2018: Gas stations, internet/cable/phone services, and Chase Pay, Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay mobile wallets.
  • Q2 2018: PayPal, Chase Pay, and Grocery stores.
  • Q3 2018: Gas stations, Lyft, and Walgreens.
  • Q4 2018: Wholesale clubs, department stores and Chase Pay.

The bonus categories for 2017 were:

  • Q1 2017: Gas stations and local commuter transportation (includes taxis, subways, local commuter buses and trains; does not include parking, tolls, and Amtrak®)
  • Q2 2017: Grocery stores (does not include Walmart®, Target®, discount or warehouse club store purchases) and drugstores (must be primarily a drug store and not just a store with a pharmacy in it)
  • Q3 2017: Restaurants and movie theaters
  • Q4 2017: Walmart and department stores

The bonus categories for 2016 were:

  • Q1 2016: Gas stations and local commuter transportation (includes taxis, subways, local commuter buses and trains; does not include parking, tolls, and Amtrak®)
  • Q2 2016: Grocery stores (does not include Walmart®, Target®) and Wholesale Clubs (such as BJ's® and Sam's Club®)
  • Q3 2016: Restaurants and Wholesale Clubs
  • Q4 2016: Department Stores (such as JCPenney®, Kohl's®, and Macy's®), Wholesale Clubs (such as Costco, BJ's and Sam's Club) and Drug Stores (such as Walgreens, CVS and Duane Read)

The bonus categories for 2015 were:

  • Q1 2015: Grocery stores (not including Target® and Walmart®), movie theaters and Starbucks®
  • Q2 2015: Restaurants, Bed Bath & Beyond®, H&M®, and Overstock.com®
  • Q3 2015: Gas stations and Kohl's®
  • Q4 2015: Amazon.com, Zappos.com, Audible.com, and Diapers.com

The bonus categories for 2014 were:

  • Q1 2014: Gas stations, movie theaters and Starbucks®
  • Q2 2014: Restaurants and Lowe's® home improvement stores
  • Q3 2014: Gas stations and Kohl's®
  • Q4 2014: Amazon.com, Zappos.com and select department stores

What is the Best Chase Credit Card Promotion for 2020?

Other Things We Like About Chase Freedom

The huge 5% cash back bonus in select categories is no doubt the best thing about the Chase Freedom card. But there are plenty of other attractive benefits as well.

Drawbacks of the Card

© noddymini (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

Despite its benefits, there are a few reasons why you might want to consider a different rewards credit card.

  • You have to actually pay attention to rotating rewards categories: You'll want to do some thinking before you shop to make sure you're getting the most rewards possible. For some people, this adds a fun dimension to shopping, but for others, it might just be a pain.

    Keep in mind that the most you can get back at the 5% level is $75 a quarter as the card stops giving you 5% after you've spent $1,500 on combined purchases in the bonus categories. While $75 isn't chump change, some people may be turned off by the threshold.

    Don't want to worry about rotating rewards categories? You might want to consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited with unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase (Chase Freedom vs Freedom Unlimited).

  • It can tempt you into buying things you do not need: By calling your attention to the different bonus categories every quarter, the card may prompt you to buy more at certain stores than you normally would, just to get the higher percentage of cash rewards.

  • You have to actually sign up to activate the rewards each quarter: We recommend setting up a notification through Google Calendar or on your phone so that you remember to sign up to reap the 5% bonus categories. If that sounds like a hassle, you may want a credit card that has a more consistent rewards program, like cash back or points on purchases that don't change.

  • There's a foreign transaction fee. If you do a lot of international travel, you may want to opt for a card with no foreign transaction fee. Chase Freedom charges a foreign transaction fee of 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars. In comparison, credit cards from Discover and Capital One have no foreign transaction fee.

Is Chase Freedom: A Good Credit Card?

© robie06 (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

Is it worth applying for?

If you have good credit, then YES.

Chase Freedom is a strong contender as either a primary card or a secondary card. And there's little downside in adding it to your wallet since it has no annual fee.

And there is a lot of upside. By timing your spending correctly, it's hard to beat this card's bonus cash back on rotating categories. Because of this, some people use the Chase Freedom as a secondary card specifically for charges that line up with the bonus rotating cash back categories.

This card is great for people who are looking to earn cash rewards, rather than trying to figure out points or miles. It's a solid choice from a big bank for the "everyman/everywoman," considering its cash back program for everyday items, no annual fee, and introductory APR. Because of the foreign transaction fee, it might not be the best card for international travelers, but if you stay in the U.S. and use your card frequently, you'll be rewarded nicely.

Rewards Redemption Tip: Want to get the most bang for your buck? Take the rewards even further when used alongside the Chase Sapphire Preferred, a great card for travelers in particular. With the Chase Freedom alone, you cannot transfer the points you earn to frequent flyer programs or get any additional discounts on booking travel. But when you pool your Chase Freedom points with those you get from Sapphire Preferred, you can transfer them to many frequent flyer partner programs or score a 20% discount when you redeem points to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards online portal. This combined card tactic can really help you maximize your points.

How Chase Freedom Card Compares

© marfis75 (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

Though there's little downside to owning this card, it's still smart to compare similar cards to see which one suits your needs best. Here's our assessment to help you make an informed decision.

If you want the same rewards rate for every purchase:

 

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Annual Fee$0 annual fee
Cash Back DealEarn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Cash BackEarn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
RestaurantEarn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.

Chase Freedom Unlimited: Pricing information including interest rates, benefits and fees was obtained on June 3, 2020 from published websites and is believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.

Disclaimer: The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited® has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Chase Freedom Unlimited: This card is similar to the Chase Freedom, but instead of the rotating categories, it offers unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. It's ideal if you just want the same rewards rate for every purchase.

If you have an existing balance to transfer:

 

Chase Slate

 

Interest Rates and Fees

Introductory APR for Purchases0% introductory APR for 15 months
Introductory APR for Balance Transfers0% introductory APR for 15 months
Purchase APR14.99% to 23.74% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Balance Transfers APR14.99% to 23.74% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Balance Transfer Fee$0 intro balance transfer fee on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Annual Fee$0 annual fee

Chase Slate: Pricing information including interest rates, benefits and fees was obtained on November 25, 2019 from published websites and is believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.

Disclaimer: The information for the Chase Slate has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Chase Slate: Chase Slate is the balance transfer king. Though both Chase Freedom and Slate offer a promotional interest rate for the first 15 months if you transfer a balance from another credit card (assuming you make at least the monthly minimum payment), there's one huge difference: Chase Slate will not charge you a balance transfer fee if you transfer within 60 days of opening your account. So, if you need to move $3,500, you'd save $105 doing with Chase Slate.

The Chase Slate also has a Blueprint "Full Pay" plan, where you can check off categories you know you'll pay in full each month (groceries, gas, etc.) and no interest will be accrued. Or you can use the "Finish It" plan, which allows you to set a date you expect to pay off your balance and the amount you need to pay each month will be adjusted to make that happen. If you can't pay off your total balance every month, you can at least isolate certain purchases this way.

There aren't any cash rewards associated with the Chase Slate, so it's really not an ideal card for new purchases when there are so many rewards cards out there. It's best suited for those carrying cards with a high APR who need a break on their interest rates, not as an all-around card for everybody.

If you're planning on making a large purchase soon:

 

Discover It

 

Interest Rates and Fees

Introductory APR for Purchases0% introductory APR for 14 months
Introductory APR for Balance Transfers0% introductory APR for 14 months
Purchase APR11.99% to 22.99% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Balance Transfers APR11.99% to 22.99% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Annual Fee$0 annual fee
 

Benefits and Features

Cash Back DealDiscover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year (only for new cardmembers).
Cash Back1% cash back on all other purchases.
Bonus Cash Back5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in rotating categories that change each quarter (requires free and easy sign-up for 5% Cashback Bonus)*
Limitations apply*. See issuer's website for additional program details.
Bonus Categories for 2020:
January - March 2020: Grocery Stores, Walgreens & CVS
April - June 2020: Gas Stations, Uber, Lyft & Wholesale Clubs
July - September 2020: Restaurants & PayPal
October - December 2020: Amazon.com, Walmart.com & Target.com

Discover It: Pricing information including interest rates, rewards, benefits and fees was obtained on April 1, 2020 from published websites and is believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.

Disclaimer: The information for the Discover it® Cash Back has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Discover It: The Discover It card also has a 5% cash back for quarterly rotating categories. And it offers a great introductory cash back bonus: it will match the cash back you earned in the first 12 months after you open the account (for new customers only), so it's a good choice if you plan to make a lot of large charges in the first year.

Other pros of the Discover It include: a relatively lower regular APR after the introductory APR period lapses (and it won't raise if you do pay late occasionally), a free FICO credit score every month, highly-rated customer service and no minimum for redeeming your cash rewards.

Plus, there are no foreign transaction fees, which makes the Discover It a solid card for those who travel abroad. But Discover cards aren't accepted everywhere, so you'd be wise to have a Visa or MasterCard as well just in case.

Tip: Best Credit Card for International Travel

If you eat out and travel abroad frequently:

 

Chase Sapphire Preferred

 

Interest Rates and Fees

Purchase APR15.99% to 22.99% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Balance Transfers APR15.99% to 22.99% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Annual Fee$95 annual fee
 

Benefits and Features

Bonus DealEarn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Travel2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Airline1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
Hotel1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
Points2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Restaurant2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Airline Transfer PartnersChase airline transfer partners include United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, British Airways, Air France, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Iberia, Emirates, and Aer Lingus.

Chase Sapphire Preferred: People who travel a lot, foreign or domestically, stand to get more in return for their purchases than regular users of Chase Freedom. Points are geared towards travel, and there's a 1:1 point transfer to participating travel partners. This means that 1,000 Chase points/miles equal the same for partner miles/points, including British Airways Executive Club and Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards.

You'll also get a fair amount of travel benefits, including trip cancellation/interruption insurance and car rental collision damage waiver. Plus, the Sapphire Preferred has no foreign transaction fee.

While the Sapphire Preferred has a travel-friendly rewards program and a $0 foreign transaction fee, it does have an annual fee. There's no promotional APR on purchases or balance transfers, which won't win over consumers who carry a balance. You'll also need excellent credit to be approved for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, so if your FICO credit score is low, you should look elsewhere.

Expert Tip: If you have the Chase Freedom and Sapphire Preferred, you can use both to maximize rewards and combine points. A good strategy is to use the Chase Freedom on select spending categories (which earn up to 5% cash back) and Sapphire Preferred on travel and everything else. Generally, rewards earned with the Freedom card can't be transferred to frequent flyer programs, but by combining your points, you're ultimately getting more mileage out of every dollar spent.

If you want cash back without rotating bonus categories:

 

Citi Double Cash

 

Interest Rates and Fees

Introductory APR for Balance Transfers0%* introductory APR for 18 months*
Purchase APR13.99% to 23.99%* (Variable) based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Balance Transfers APR13.99% to 23.99%* (Variable) based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Annual Fee$0 annual fee
 

Benefits and Features

Cash BackEarn cash back twice on every purchase: 1% cash back when you buy; plus an additional 1% cash back as you pay for those purchases

Citi Double Cash: Pricing information including interest rates, rewards, benefits and fees was obtained on March 20, 2020 from published websites and is believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.

Disclaimer: The information for the Citi® Double Cash Card has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Citi Double Cash: This card attracts frequent credit card users who like the incentive of earning cash back on their payments. You get cash back twice: 1% on eligible purchases and 1% when you pay.
But there's no signup bonus and no 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories (which you may prefer it if don't want to bother signing up for the rotating categories each month). However, one thing to beware of with the Citi Double Cash is that you'll lose the cash you earned if you don't make an eligible purchase or a payment within a year's time. For more on how the cards compare, see Chase Freedom vs Citi Double Cash).

If you spend a lot on groceries and gas:

 

Blue Cash Everyday

 

Interest Rates and Fees

Introductory APR for Purchases0% introductory APR on Purchases for 15 months
Purchase APR13.99% to 23.99% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Annual Fee$0 annual fee
Terms Apply. See Rates & Fees
 

Benefits and Features

Cash Back DealEarn a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
Cash Back3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 2% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores. 1% back on other purchases.
Gas2% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations.
Grocery3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).

Blue Cash Everyday: If you want hassle-free cash back with no rotating rewards categories and no enrollment required, this card from American Express, a CreditDonkey partner, has the same rewards categories year-round. You earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1% after that), 2% cash back at gas stations and select U.S. department stores, and 1% on other purchases. In our opinion, it's a great cash back card if you spend a lot on groceries and gas.

Bottom Line

© Global Panorama (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

For a quick review, here are the pros and cons when considering Chase Freedom:

Pros:

  • Earn a $150 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter (for up to $75 in cash back rewards). Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter (requires activation) like gas stations, restaurants, and drugstores. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a (See Issuer's Website) APR.
  • No annual fee.

Cons:

  • 3% foreign transaction fee of each transaction in U.S. dollars.
  • Must remember to activate rewards categories each quarter to get the 5% bonus categories.

In our opinion, there are very few cons with this card. But if you think bonus categories that change every quarter are a hassle, this rewards credit card may not be for you.

However, for everyone else, especially those who prefer getting cash rewards rather than airline miles, the Chase Freedom card is a first-rate way to earn cash back as long as you have excellent/good credit. But keep in mind that you get the best value out of this card only if you remember to activate the quarterly categories and are careful with your spending.

Since the Chase Freedom has no annual fee, it's a cost-effective way to earn those rewards (assuming you pay off the balance every month).

9/15/2020 Update: Chase Freedom is no longer available on CreditDonkey. This offer may have been discontinued or may no longer be available to new applicants.

David R is a contributing writer at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to David R at davidr@creditdonkey.com

Note: This website is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content. You do not have to use our links, but you help support CreditDonkey if you do.

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.

Editorial Note: 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 any card issuer. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday card, please click here.

Disclaimer: The information for the Chase Freedom, Discover it® Cash Back, Chase Freedom Unlimited®, Citi® Double Cash Card, and Chase Slate has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

More from CreditDonkey:


Best Chase Credit Card


Chase Sapphire Review


Chase Slate Review


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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed on this page are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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