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The Chase Freedom is a very popular rewards credit card, with a good cash back program for people who make a variety of purchases throughout the year.
It offers 5% cash back in categories that rotate every 3 months, giving you a chance to earn on many different types of spending. Payment systems like PayPal and digital wallets are sometimes included, giving you a pretty wide range of eligible purchases.
You’ll also enjoy a $150 introductory bonus offer for spending $500 in the first 3 months, a solid bonus that’s easy to get compared to some other cards. And you can find additional discounts in the Shop Through Chase marketplace.
The Freedom card is available at either a Visa Platinum or Visa Signature level. If your credit line when approved is $5,000 or above you’ll get a Visa Signature, with an upgraded set of benefits. Otherwise you’ll get a Visa Platinum with basic protections.
Keep reading for more details on the many features you’ll find with this card, and to learn if it might be right for you.
Our Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
We give the Chase Freedom 5 out of 5 Stars because it can provide quite a bit of cash back every year and gives you some time to pay at no interest, all for free.
Why we like this card
- 5% cash back categories that rotate every 3 months
- The 5% rate will be applied to previous eligible purchases if you activate later in the quarter
- An introductory bonus of $150, which is pretty good
- No annual fee
- If your credit limit is $5,000 or above when approved you’ll get a Visa Signature version of the card
Why this card could be better
- You have to manually activate the 5% categories each quarter
- If you don’t get a Visa Signature card you’ll get a Visa Platinum, which only has some pretty basic benefits
The Chase Freedom could be a good card choice for many people, providing a way to get cash back on certain purchases throughout the year. But if you don’t happen to shop much in the 5% categories it won’t do you much good. Check out some other cards with different 5% rotating categories below, as well as other types of rewards cards.
Insider Advice: Using This Card as Part of Your Credit Card Strategy
- Use this card for a variety of different kinds of spending throughout the year, rather than as your go-to card for any particular types of purchases.
- Remember to activate your 5% cash back categories each quarter. You can set up email alerts to remind yourself. Categories can be activated about 15 days before they begin, up until about 15 days before they end.
- Keep an eye on the current 5% categories so you know where to use your Chase Freedom card to earn the most cash back.
- Spend $500 with this card in the first 3 months to earn a $150 cash back introductory bonus.
- Take advantage of the long 15-month 0% intro rate on purchases and balance transfers to pay off purchases or a balance at no interest before the regular 16.74%–25.49% Variable APR kicks in.
- Check the Shop Through Chase shopping portal now and then, and before making big purchases. You may find a nice discount.
|Introductory Bonus Offers|
So you’ll earn 5% cash back on a variety of different purchases, switching every 3 months. Chase announces the 5% bonus categories gradually throughout the year, and we’re currently still waiting to see the categories for the latter six months.
Here are the 5% cash back bonus categories for 2018:
|QUARTER||5% CASH BACK CATEGORY|
|January – March||Gas Stations, Internet/Cable/Phone Services, Various Digital Wallets|
|April – June||Grocery Stores, PayPal, Chase Pay|
|July – September||Gas Stations, Lyft, Walgreens|
|October – December||Department Stores, Wholesale Clubs, Chase Pay|
Do you spend a lot of money at merchants like these throughout the year? It’s interesting to see that they include PayPal, Chase Pay, and other digital wallets because that gives you a pretty wide variety of eligible purchases, for both online and physical stores. Up to $75 in cash back can be earned at the 5% rate every three months, or $300 per year.
You’ll need to manually activate your 5% categories for each quarter. You can do this by logging in to your online account.
If you don’t activate the categories, you won’t earn cash back at the 5% rate. You can activate the categories early, about 15 days before each quarter starts. And you’ll be able to activate your rewards later on in the quarter. If you do that you’ll get the 5% cash back retroactively applied to all the eligible purchases you previously made.
So even if you forget for a while you can still get your 5% back. But there will still be a deadline. Usually the deadline will be around the 15th of the last month in the quarter. For example, for the April – June quarter, the deadline to activate was by June 15th. Activate by then, and you’ll get 5% cash back on all the eligible purchases you previously made in that quarter. But after that you’ll be out of luck.
It’s unfortunate that you need to personally activate your bonus categories in this way. According to Chase’s website, they “ask you to activate because [they] want to make sure you’re aware when categories change and where you can earn 5% cash back.” But it would be much easier if Chase just activated the categories automatically.
You can sign up for email alerts, however, to let you know when it’s time to activate. And it’s a good thing that you’ll get the 5% cash back applied retroactively to previous purchases. It would be pretty disappointing to spend a lot of money only to find that you’ve been earning 1% back when you thought you were getting 5%.
The Discover it, another card with 5% rotating categories, also requires you to activate the categories but you won’t get your rewards applied retroactively. The U.S. Bank Cash+ Card lets you pick your own 5% categories. But you have to choose them five days before the beginning of the quarter, or earlier, or you won’t get the 5% rate at all for the entire quarter.
In that context the Freedom card is actually pretty forgiving. For other cards with stable bonus categories that don’t rotate, like the Amex Blue Cash Everyday, you’ll be able to earn rewards without ever needing to activate any categories.
The rewards you earn are technically points, rather than cash back. Each point is worth 1 cent when redeemed normally. But in most cases it will be simplest to just refer to the rewards as cash back.
You’ll have a few different ways to redeem your cash back.
- Cash back statement credits: This is often the best option, providing the full value for your cash back.
- Gift cards: Gift cards will usually provide less than $1 for every $1 in cash back that you redeem.
- Ultimate Rewards travel portal: Cash back can be used to pay for travel expenses, but the value you get will vary.
- Pay with Points with Chase Pay: You can use your points to pay for purchases at certain merchants, like Amazon, but you’ll only get 80 cents per $1 redeemed.
- Transfer to a different Chase card: Your cash back can be transferred to certain other cards, if they’re part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, where they’ll be worth more.
The quickest and easiest method is to redeem your cash back for statement credits. These will reduce the balance of your account.
The other options will provide less value or will take much longer to process, with the exception of transfers to other Chase cards. If you transfer your cash back to certain cards you’ll be able to redeem it for a better value. We’ll go over that next.
Transferring Rewards to a Different Chase Card
If you have another Chase card in the Ultimate Rewards program, you can transfer the cash back you earn with the Freedom card over to it. Every cent of cash back will be worth 1 point in the Ultimate Rewards program. This could end up giving you a better rewards value overall.
There are three other Chase cards that you can use to get a better value for your cash back. These cards provide a bonus when redeeming through Ultimate Rewards:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (Review): 25% point bonus
- Chase Sapphire Reserve (Review): 50% point bonus
- Chase Ink Business Preferred Card (Review): 25% point bonus
These cards also allow you to transfer points to a number of traveler loyalty programs at a 1:1 rate, including both airline and hotel partners. You can often get a better value by converting to airline miles or hotel points.
So, the basic strategy here is:
- Earn cash back with the Freedom card.
- Transfer that cash back to one of the three cards above, where it will be counted as Ultimate Rewards points.
- Redeem or transfer your points:
- Redeem through Ultimate Rewards to get a point bonus of 25% or 50%, depending on which card you have.
- Transfer your points to an airline or hotel loyalty program where they may be worth more to you.
If you put all the rewards you earn through this process, you can effectively get more than 5% cash back with the Freedom card when spending in the bonus categories. If you end up getting a 25% point bonus you would get a cash back equivalent of 6.25%. And if you get a 50% point bonus, your cash back equivalent would be 7.50%.
The Chase Freedom has 2 possible service levels: regular Visa Platinum, and the upgraded Visa Signature. If you’re approved with a credit limit below $5,000 you’ll get a Visa Platinum. If your credit limit is $5,000 or above, you’ll get a Visa Signature. The credit limit you get will be based on your creditworthiness.
Visa Platinum cards come with a basic set of protections, while Signature cards come with extra and upgraded protections.
Chase also provides some benefits, which will come with both versions of the card.
We’ll go over the card benefits below. You can also check the Guide to Benefits for each card online:
$100 Cash Bonus for Referring Friends
You can earn a $100 cash bonus for every friend you refer who successfully applies for the Chase Freedom. Up to $500 can be earned per year in this way.
Friends must be invited using your personal referral link to be eligible.
Shop Through Chase
Cardholders can get more cash back at select retailers with the Shop Through Chase marketplace. You’ll find deals that come and go over time, which let you earn a good reward rate outside the bonus categories.
You’ll earn a certain number of points per dollar at these retailers, and each point will be worth 1 cent when redeemed for cash back statement credits with the Freedom card. If you have a different card in the Ultimate Rewards program you can get more per point, as explained above.
In the table below, the Points per Dollar column shows the total points you’ll get, of one base point plus some number of bonus points.
The deals available in Shop Through Chase include:
|Merchant||Points per Dollar||Cash Back Equivalent|
|Norton by Symantec||16X||16%|
Chase Credit Journey
Chase offers the Credit Journey credit monitoring tool, providing a way to keep track of your credit from month to month. This provides your VantageScore 3.0, based on your TransUnion credit report.
This is a pretty handy tool because it charts your VantageScore over time, and tells you the key factors influencing your credit. There’s a simulator that lets you see how particular changes would affect your credit, like adding more credit cards, paying off debt, or maintaining a history of positive payments. And you can also see actual data from your TransUnion credit report, like the sum of your balances, your open and closed accounts, and the hard inquiries you’ve had in the last two years.
The Credit Journey service is free and available to anyone, whether you’re a Chase cardholder or not.
Many credit card issuers today offer some sort of credit monitoring service, although it’s not usually as comprehensive as this one. Most issuers simply provide one of your credit scores, either a FICO or VantageScore, along with some advice on how to improve it. But the Credit Journey tool presents an organized set of data from your TransUnion credit report, giving you a way to easily investigate the details on your credit report for free.
Discover provides their FICO Credit Scorecard, offering a FICO score based on your TransUnion report but not providing access to your actual credit report. Capital One has the CreditWise service, which is actually very much like Chase’s Credit Journey. It gives your VantageScore 3.0 based on your TransUnion report, and also provides information from that credit report. Both Discover and Capital One offer these services for free to anyone, cardholder or not, just like Chase. Amex, on the other hand, provides a FICO score based on your Experian credit report, and this service is only available to cardholders.
This is a benefit that comes with Visa Platinum cards. Return Protection will provide reimbursement for eligible items you buy with your Freedom card if the merchant refuses to take them back.
However, you won’t be able to use this protection for just any situation where you can’t return a purchase. The item must be in like-new/good working condition to be eligible for Return Protection. So if you break it, you still bought it.
Take note of the conditions you’ll need to meet to use this benefit. These are just a few of them:
- You must file a claim within 90 days of the date of purchase.
- Reimbursement is available up to $250 per item, and $1,000 per year.
- This coverage is in excess of any store guarantees, it does not replace them.
- Keep your receipts and any other documentation related to the purchase.
There are also quite a few types of purchases that won’t be covered.
Items Not Covered by Return Protection (Partial List)
- Boats, automobiles, aircraft, and any other motorized vehicles and their equipment
- Formal attire, like cocktail dresses, tuxedos, gowns, and formal accessories
- Jewelry, art objects, rare or precious coins, antiques, collectibles
- Medical equipment
- Real estate, and items items intended to become part of real estate like garage doors and ceiling fans (and maybe lawn gnomes?)
- Seasonal items, like holiday decorations
- Perishables, consumables, and limited-life items like rechargeable batteries
- Items purchased outside the United States
- Items purchased for resale, professional, or personal use
- Items upon which alterations have been made
So there are quite a few items that won’t be covered, including some purchases which are typically very expensive, unfortunately. But many common household items should be covered by Return Protection.
This is one perk you’ll find on many credit cards today, but not all. Amex offers something similar with their Blue Cash Everyday, for example.
Lost Luggage Protection
Your luggage and its contents are protected against loss, theft, and damage when traveling by common carrier. This protection is automatically provided when you pay for at least some portion of the fare with your Chase Freedom Visa Signature card. It’s not available for Visa Platinum cards.
To be eligible for this benefit you must report the loss or damage of your bags to the carrier itself, as soon as you exit the vehicle. You’ll need to provide proof of this later on, so be sure to keep all related documentation.
- This benefit covers both checked and carry-on baggage, as well as eligible personal property contained within.
- Up to $3,000 in reimbursement is available per claim (only up to $500 for electronic equipment).
- You and your immediate family members are covered.
- You must contact customer support and submit a claim within 20 days of the incident.
Certain items and situations will not be covered by this benefit:
Items and Situations Not Covered by Lost Luggage Protection
- Loss of documents or valuable papers, money, checks, or tickets.
- Any loss of property resulting from you or an immediate family member committing an illegal or international act.
- Any loss of property resulting from a declared or undeclared war.
- Any situations in which the U.S. government prohibits loss-of-property insurance.
Many situations and items will be covered by this benefit, with just the few exceptions above. Aside from any money, documents, or furs, you can usually expect your luggage and its contents to be protected when paying for common carrier travel with your Freedom card.
Other Visa Platinum Protections
- Price Protection: If you buy an item and find it being sold for a lesser price elsewhere, you may be eligible for reimbursement.
- Purchase Protection: Eligible purchases are covered for 120 days against damage and theft, up to $500 per claim.
- Extended Warranty Protection: Manufacturer’s warranties of three years or less can be doubled by up to one additional year, when eligible.
- Travel and Emergency Assistance Services: Provides coverage for theft and collision damage of rental vehicles, as long as the rental company’s own insurance is declined.
- Roadside Dispatch: Call 1-800-847-2869 for towing, tire changes, fuel delivery, and other services. A flat fee will apply when eligible.
- Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver: Eligible rented vehicles are covered against damage and theft, as long as the rental company’s own insurance is declined.
Visa Platinum is the basic benefit level that you’ll find on many cards. The Chase Freedom Unlimited (Review) has the same setup as the Freedom card, coming as either a Visa Platinum or Visa Signature. See how the two compare here.
You’ll usually get some of these same protections even if you don’t have a Visa card. The Amex Blue Cash Everyday includes several of them like purchase protection, the Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Travel Assistance Services, and others.
Discover is an exception here because they recently discontinued many of their card benefits. Cardholders are left with Price Protection, and that’s about it.
Other Visa Signature Protections
If you get a Visa Signature version of Freedom card you’ll get the following benefits, in addition to the Visa Platinum benefits above. These benefits are a bit more rare among credit cards.
- Travel Accident Insurance: Up to $100,000 in coverage is available for accidental death and dismemberment while traveling by common carrier.
- Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption: If your trip is cancelled or interrupted for an eligible reason, you can be reimbursed up to $5,000.
This card comes with a few other features that are common to many credit cards, like:
- Zero Liability Protection: You won’t be held responsible for unauthorized charges.
- Fraud Alerts: Sign up to get notified of any possibly fraudulent card activity.
- Fraud Protection: Real-time fraud monitoring software to help protect your account.
The Terms & Fees
|Intro APR for Purchases and Balance Transfers||Purchase APR||Balance Transfer APR||Cash Advance APR|
|0% for 15 months||16.74%–25.49% Variable||16.74%–25.49% Variable||26.74% Variable|
|Annual Fee||Foreign Transaction Fee||Balance Transfer Fee||Cash Advance Fee|
|$0||3%||5%, $5 minimum||5%, $10 minimum|
|Penalty APR||Late Fee||Returned Payment Fee|
|Up to $38||Up to $38|
The Chase Freedom comes with some pretty favorable terms. You’ll get 15 months at 0% APR, for both purchases and balance transfers. That’s definitely on the longer end compared to most credit cards. It gives you quite a while to either pay off your purchases with the card, or pay off a balance from a different card with a high interest rate.
There’s no annual fee to pay for the privilege of earning cash back and having a long intro period. That means this card can be 100% free to use, as long as you avoid accruing interest charges. You can do this by simply paying off your entire statement balance in full each billing period.
Paying your full statement balance will do more than just prevent interest from accruing on purchases, helping you stay out of credit card debt. It will also keep your credit utilization lower, which is better for your credit scores overall.
What is the Credit Limit of the Chase Freedom?
Many readers have been asking us what the starting credit limit is on the Chase Freedom. Credit limits are set based on your creditworthiness when you apply, so the answer to this question depends on your particular credit history, current finances, and rent or mortgage payments.
As explained above, the Freedom card will be issued as either a Visa Platinum or Visa Signature.
- Visa Platinum cards will come with a minimum credit limit of $500
- Visa Signature cards will come with a minimum credit limit of $5,000
After you’ve had the card for about 6 months, you can try requesting a credit limit increase. Chase may also choose to increase your credit limit automatically on occasion, if you show that you’re a responsible credit user.
|Chase Customer Support||
1-302-594-8200 (outside U.S., call collect)
We spoke with Chase to learn a bit more about how they issue cards, and the Freedom card in particular. There were three questions in total:
- Some people report being denied for Chase cards because they had five or more new credit card accounts in the last 24 months. Is this true?
- Is it possible to upgrade from the Visa Platinum to the Visa Signature version of this card if your credit limit reaches $5,000?
- Does the Visa Signature version of the card come with Visa perks like the concierge service and Luxury Hotel Collection?
In response to the first question, we were told that Chase does not have this 5/24 rule as an official policy. Every card issuer has their own acceptance standards, which aren’t always made public. So we can’t make a definitive conclusion about this here. Feel free to contact us if you think you were denied a Chase card simply for having five new accounts.
For the second question, we learned that it may be possible to upgrade your Chase Freedom Visa Platinum to a Visa Signature card. You’ll need to visit a physical Chase bank and inquire about this in person, however. Apparently it can’t be done online or over the phone.
And regarding our last question, we found that no, the Chase Freedom Visa Signature does not come with the better Visa perks, like a concierge service.
Chase typically has decent customer support, in our experience. Although it took a little while on the phone to get answers to these questions, they are probably a bit out of the ordinary compared to the typical questions a customer might ask. Overall it was a pretty good customer service interaction.
Every year, J.D. Power conducts their Credit Card Satisfaction Study. In 2017 they ranked the top 11 credit card companies, and Chase came in 5th, a bit below the industry average. That’s about where they typically land, just like in 2016. Usually you can contact them to find out what you need to know, though sometimes we’ve found their reps to be less knowledgeable than they could be.
You can learn about the Freedom card on Chase’s website, where it will be explained pretty well. It might be tough to find some of the information about the card benefits, however. So we’ve provided links to more information about the card benefits above.
Chase cardholders can use their secure message system to send messages online, which can sometimes be easier than calling although it will usually take a few days to get a message back. Or, anyone can contact them at their Twitter customer support account, @ChaseSupport. Never share your personal or account information on Twitter or other social networks.
The Bottom Line
The Chase Freedom is a great card for people who spend a significant amount of money in the 5% reward categories. If you’re already making those purchases, why not get rewarded for them?
If you don’t spend in the 5% categories very often, you obviously won’t get very much out of this card. So your shopping habits should decide if it’s right for you. Just remember to activate those reward categories every quarter.
There’s a nice 15-month 0% interest rate to take advantage of before the regular 16.74%–25.49% Variable APR starts, which is a very competitive offer compared to other cards. And with no annual fee, it doesn’t have to cost you anything at all if you avoid being charged interest.
Reward credit cards come in many shapes and sizes, though only a few offer 5% rotating categories like the Chase Freedom. Check out those other rotating category cards below, along with some cards with stable bonus reward categories.
How to Apply for the Chase Freedom Card
You can apply for the Chase Freedom card securely on the Chase website.
Most applicants will get an instant decision, but it could take longer in some cases. Chase may contact you for more information.
You’ll receive either a Visa Platinum or Visa Signature version of this card, depending on your creditworthiness. If you’re approved with a credit line less than $5,000 you’ll get a Visa Platinum. If your credit line is $5,000 or above you’ll get a Visa Signature, with slightly better benefits.
Qualifications and Requirements
- Must be 18 to apply
- Personal identifying information, including SSN, email address, and phone number
- Total annual income, and source of income
- Monthly mortgage/rent payment
- Some people report being denied for Chase cards for having five or more new credit card accounts in the last 24 months
Alternatives to the Chase Freedom Card
There are a couple other credit cards with rotating categories, as well as many cards with stable bonus categories. Here are a few other reward cards to consider.
- Discover it® Credit Card (Review): No annual fee, different 5% cash back rotating categories, double cash back in your first year
- U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature® Card: No annual fee, your choice of two 5% cash back categories and one 2% category, $150 introductory cash bonus
- American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card (Review): No annual fee, 3% back on groceries, 2% back on gas and select department stores, $150 introductory cash bonus
- Citi Double Cash Card (Review): No annual fee, 2% cash back on all purchases, 0% intro rate for 18 months on balance transfers
|Introductory Bonus Offer|
So it’s a pretty similar rewards program to the Chase Freedom. The 5% cash back calendar for the Discover it for 2018 is:
|QUARTER||5% CASH BACK CATEGORY|
|January – March||Gas Stations & Wholesale Clubs|
|April – June||Grocery Stores|
|July – September||Restaurants|
|October – December||Amazon.com & Wholesale Clubs|
The Discover card provides a Cashback Match instead of a cash bonus, which means you’ll get 10% cash back in the bonus categories during the first year. Since you’re limited to $1,500 in category spending per quarter, that means you can earn up to $150 per quarter. And you’ll be getting 2% cash back on every other purchase you make, a great deal.
You have to manually activate your 5% categories every quarter, just like with the Chase Freedom. But unlike the Freedom card, the Discover it will not apply the 5% rate to eligible previous purchases. So if you don’t activate before the quarter starts you might miss out on some cash back. This makes the Freedom card a bit more forgiving and easier to use.
Discover also provides access to the Discover Deals marketplace, which is similar to the Shop Through Chase service. This provides rewards at specific retailers outside the bonus categories, like Blue Apron, Reebok, and the Apple Store. Any cash back you earn here will be doubled in your first year as well.
Discover doesn’t offer many extra card benefits, unfortunately. Currently the only protection you’ll get is Price Protection, which also comes with the Chase Freedom.
Other than that there are a few other minor benefits. Cardholders get Free Social Security Number Alerts, a service that will monitor thousands of risky websites to see if your SSN ever appears on one. You can get Cash at Checkout at participating retailers, a way to quickly get some cash when making purchases, much like a debit card.
There’s also the FICO Credit Scorecard, which provides your FICO 8 Credit Score based on your TransUnion credit report. It shows the key factors affecting your score, like if you have too many hard inquiries or high balances. You can also see some data from your TransUnion report, like the number of open accounts you have and your overall revolving utilization. This is a nice feature to have, though the Chase Credit Journey will show even more information from your TransUnion report.
Costs & Fees
The Discover it has costs and fees that are very similar to the Chase Freedom. There’s no annual fee. And you’ll also get a 0% intro APR for 14 months for both purchases and balance transfers, just a month shy of the 15 months you’ll get from the Chase card. After the introductory periods end, the regular APR of 13.99%–24.99% Variable will apply to purchases and balance transfers on the Discover it.
There are no foreign transaction fees with the Discover it, while the Freedom card charges 3%. But Discover cards aren’t accepted very widely outside the U.S., so the Discover it won’t be very useful for traveling abroad. Check out some travel credit cards if you want to take a trip outside the country.
The Discover it and Chase Freedom are pretty similar. You’ll be able to earn more cash back from Discover’s cashback match than with Chase’s $150 introductory bonus, because you can get $150 in cash back per quarter with the Discover card. But if you’re not going to spend much in Discover’s categories that great rate won’t do you any good, so the right card for you will depend on how well you fit into the 5% categories.
Read more in our Review of the Discover it Credit Card
U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card
Unlike the Chase Freedom or the Discover it, the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card lets you choose your 5% categories. Not only that, you also get to choose an additional 2% category, giving this card more base earning potential than either of its rotating-category competitors.
|Introductory Bonus Offer|
So you’ll get a higher quarterly spending limit than the Chase card, $2,000 instead of $1,500. And you also get unlimited cash back at the 2% rate, in yet another “everyday” category.
The categories you can choose from are subject to change on a quarterly basis. You’ll be able to choose your categories starting 45 days before the beginning of a quarter, up until 5 days before the start of that quarter. And you can change your designated categories up to that time. But after that point, you can’t pick 5% categories — even if you were approved for the card during that time. You’ll need to wait until the next quarter to choose categories. In this way, the U.S. Bank Cash+ card is more restrictive than either the Chase Freedom or Discover it.
Currently, you can pick any two of these:
|5% Cash Back Categories|
|Car Rentals||Cell Phones||Department Stores||Electronics Stores|
|Fast Food||Furniture Stores||Ground Transportation||Gyms/Fitness Centers|
|Home Utilities||Movie Theaters||Select Clothing Stores||Sporting Goods Stores|
And one of these:
|2% Cash Back Categories|
|Gas Stations||Grocery Stores||Restaurants|
This rewards program is very flexible, offering perhaps more category options than any other credit card. Some of the categories will probably be more useful than the others, like home utilities, department stores, and ground transportation. But this will depend on what you buy the most.
If your spending habits don’t align with the rotating categories of the Chase Freedom or Discover it, you can use this card to craft your own rewards program every 3 months. You can adjust it as you buy different things throughout the year, or stay focused on particular purchases.
That introductory bonus is very good too, and it’s identical to the Chase card’s offer.
The U.S. Bank Cash+ comes as a Visa Signature card, so it will have a fairly good set of benefits and protections. These include many of the same protections mentioned above for the Chase Freedom, like Purchase Security and an Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver.
The Cash+ also comes with some more valuable benefits, like Visa Concierge, a personal assistant to help with all sorts of non-emergency tasks. There are shopping discounts at specific retailers, and several complimentary services and amenities when booking certain hotels through the Luxury Hotel Collection.
The Chase Freedom may come as a Visa Signature, depending on your credit limit. But you’ll only get some extra protections, not these more valuable perks. So it seems like the U.S. Bank Cash+ has the superior benefits.
Costs & Fees
There’s no annual fee for the U.S. Bank Cash+ card, and foreign transactions will have a fee of 3%. That’s just like the Chase Freedom.
The Cash+ card has a 0% intro rate for 12 months that applies to balance transfers only, not purchases. So this is clearly less useful than the Freedom’s 15-month 0% rate for both.
Basically, the main difference here is that the Cash+ is more flexible in the rewards program. However, we’ve seen reports that its 5% categories are narrowly defined, making it hard to find merchants that qualify for them. And U.S. Bank isn’t known for having the best customer support — they’ve been coming in even lower than Chase in J.D. Power’s Credit Card Satisfaction Surveys. You can probably expect a more stable experience from Chase, in general.
American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card
The American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card (Review) has some bonus categories, but they don’t rotate throughout the year. Instead, you’ll be able to use this card for the same purchases year-round, every year.
|Introductory Bonus Offer|
So you’ll get a maximum of 3% cash back with this card, limited to $6,000 in spending per year. That comes to $180 in cash back per year at the 3% rate. And you’ll earn unlimited cash back at the 2% and 1% rates.
The $150 cash bonus is pretty good, though it takes twice as much spending to get as the bonus from the Freedom card, which provides the same amount. But most people can probably reach the $1,000 requirement fairly easily over 3 months.
This card is focused on its three reward categories. If you make these types of purchases frequently, the Blue Cash Everyday could provide some reliable cash back year after year. It has no changing bonus categories, so it can be your go-to card every time you buy anything at grocery stores, gas stations, and department stores.
The Blue Cash Everyday has a pretty basic set of benefits and protections. Many of them are similar to what you’ll get with the Chase Freedom, but they differ in the details.
Amex cardholders have access to Amex Offers, which is basically like the Shop Through Chase shopping portal. There are some significant deals to be found here, including merchants like Hilton, Etsy, TurboTax, and Levi’s.
You’ll also get guaranteed lowest hotel rates when booking through Amex Travel. And complimentary ShopRunner membership, which provides free two-day shipping and returns at select online retailers. There are a few other benefits too, although these seem like the most valuable ones to us.
Costs & Fees
You’ll pay no annual fee to use the Blue Cash Everyday card. And it has a 15-month 0% intro rate for purchases and balance transfers, the exact same as the Chase Freedom.
The Blue Cash Everyday and the Chase Freedom could be used together, one each for certain types of purchases. You can pay with the Chase Freedom to get 5% back in its categories, and the Blue Cash Everyday for gas, grocery, and department store spending. But sometimes the Chase Freedom card offers gas or groceries for its quarterly categories, so be sure to check and always use the card that will give you the most cash back.
Read more in our Review of the American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card
Citi Double Cash Card
The Citi Double Cash Card (Review) doesn’t have rotating bonus reward categories, or any spending categories at all. Instead you’ll get the same reward for every purchase you make, no matter where or when you shop.
|Introductory Bonus Offers|
That’s it. Very simple, compared to a card with rotating categories.
A simple rewards program like this can make a great complement to the 5% categories of the Chase Freedom card. If you have both cards, you can use them together to get a decent amount of cash back no matter where you shop. Use the Freedom card whenever you’re spending in the active categories, and use the Double Cash for every other expense. That strategy gives you either 5% or 2% back for every purchase.
You’ll get a fairly good set of benefits with the Double Cash. They’re pretty comparable to the Chase Freedom, for the most part, although there are some differences too.
The Double Cash is issued as a Mastercard, and it comes with Purchase Protection, Travel Accident Insurance, and Trip Cancellation and Interruption Protection, among other protections. Some of these will come with the Visa Platinum version of the Chase Freedom, while others will only be available at the Visa Signature level.
A Personal Concierge Service is ready and waiting for Double Cash cardholders, something you won’t get with the Freedom. The Citi card also comes with the Price Rewind tool, which is Citi’s version of Price Protection. But this version is better, because it will search the internet for you, looking for your purchases being sold at cheaper prices. You need to register purchases to use the service, but it’s pretty convenient because you can just set it up and let it search on its own.
Overall, the benefits of the Double Cash are probably a bit better than the Freedom. But it might depend on what you’re looking for, and they probably won’t be a deal breaker either way.
Costs & Fees
The Double Cash card has no annual fee, and it charges 3% for foreign transaction. Those are the same terms you’ll find on the Chase Freedom.
You’ll get a different introductory APR offer with the Double Cash, however. It provides 18 months at 0% interest for balance transfers only, not purchases. If you’re looking to transfer a balance and pay it off over a very long time, this is one of your better options. But there are also some other great balance transfer credit cards to consider.
The Double Cash and Freedom cards have very different rewards programs, but that’s what makes them a good pair. They’re almost like two pieces of a puzzle that fit together.
Read more in our Review of the Citi Double Cash Card
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