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The Chase Freedom® is a 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 three 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.
Lyft purchases will also earn 5% back, through March 2022.
You’ll also enjoy a $150 introductory bonus offer for spending $500 in the first three 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.
This card features contactless technology, allowing for quick tap-and-go payments.
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.
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.
|Introductory Bonus Offer|
So you’ll earn 5% cash back on a variety of different purchases, switching every three months. Chase announces the 5% bonus categories gradually throughout the year, and we’re currently still waiting to see the categories for the last quarter.
Here are the current and recent 5% cash back bonus categories:
|Quarter||2020 Categories||2019 Categories|
|January – March||
|April – June||
|July – September||
|October – December||TBA||
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 (not counting Lyft purchases).
You’ll need to manually activate your 5% categories for each quarter (except for the Lyft category). 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 Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card, another card with 5% rotating categories on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter, 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 Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (Review), 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.
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.
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:
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:
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 two 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:
Cardholders can subscribe to DoorDash’s DashPass membership for free for three months, and then get a 50% membership discount for the following nine months. The membership offers free delivery and reduced service fees on orders over $12.
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 these offers (which are only current at the time of publication):
|Merchant||Points per Dollar||Cash Back Equivalent|
|Norton by Symantec||16X||16%|
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.
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 Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (Review) 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.
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.
This card comes with a few other features that are common to many credit cards, like:
|Intro APR for Purchases and Balance Transfers||Purchase APR||Balance Transfer APR||Cash Advance APR|
|0% for 15 months||16.49% - 25.24% Variable||16.49% - 25.24% Variable||26.49% Variable|
|Annual Fee||Foreign Transaction Fee||Balance Transfer Fee||Cash Advance Fee|
|$0||3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars||3% when you transfer during the first 60 days of account opening, with a minimum of $5. Then, either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.||Either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.|
|Penalty APR||Late Fee||Returned Payment Fee|
|None||Up to $39||Up to $39|
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.
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.
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.
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 16.49% - 25.24% 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.
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.
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.
|Introductory Bonus Offer|
So it’s a pretty similar rewards program to the Chase Freedom. The 5% cash back calendar for the Discover it Cash Back for 2020 is:
|Quarter||5% Cash Back Category|
|January – March||Grocery Stores, Walgreens, CVS|
|April – June||Gas Stations, Uber, Lyft, Wholesale Clubs|
|July – September||Restaurants, PayPal|
|October – December||Amazon.com, Target.com, Walmart.com|
The Discover it Cash Back 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 Cash Back 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 doesn’t offer many extra card benefits, unfortunately. There are only 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.
The Discover it Cash Back 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 13.49% - 24.49% Variable will apply to purchases and balance transfers on the Discover it Cash Back.
There are no foreign transaction fees with the Discover it Cash Back, while the Freedom card charges 3%. But Discover cards aren’t accepted very widely outside the U.S., so the Discover it Cash Back 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 Cash Back 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 it Cash Back 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 Cash Back Credit Card
Unlike the Chase Freedom or the Discover it Cash Back, 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. This makes it fairly unique, especially among U.S. Bank’s selection of credit cards.
|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 Cash Back.
Currently, you can pick any two of these:
|5% Cash Back Categories|
|TV, Internet, Streaming Services||Cell Phone Providers||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 Cash Back, 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.
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.
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (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 (current offers at the time of publication).
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.
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 (then 12.99–23.99% Variable), the exact same intro APR as the Chase Freedom before its 16.49% - 25.24% Variable APR starts .
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.
There’s an upgraded version of the Blue Cash Everyday, called the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (Review). For a $95 annual fee (Rates & Fees) you’ll get 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on the first $6,000 spent per year (then 1%) and 3% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores. If you’re going to spend over $2,600 on groceries and $1,300 on gas per year, the Blue Cash Preferred will end up more rewarding than the Blue Cash Everyday, even after accounting for the annual fee.
Read more in our Review of the American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card
The Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer (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.
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 used to come with some popular shopping and travel benefits such as Purchase Protection, Travel Accident Insurance, and Trip Cancellation and Interruption Protection, but these perks are no longer included with the card.
A Personal Concierge Service is ready and waiting for Double Cash cardholders, something you won’t get with the Freedom.
Overall, the benefits of the Double Cash are probably on par with the Freedom. But it might depend on what you’re looking for, and they probably won’t be a deal breaker either way.
The Double Cash card has no annual fee, and it charges 3% for foreign transactions. 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 0% for 18 months on Balance Transfers only, not purchases, followed by a regular rate of 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable). 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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For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, please click here.
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