2021 Review: Chase Freedom – Cash Back Reward Credit Card
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The Chase Freedom features a quarterly revolving rewards program with a high 5% cash back rate, but you’ll need to activate your categories each time they change. You’ll also gain some useful shopping and travel protections, with a few more perks thrown in.
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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 no annual fee.
Why We Like It
- 5% cash back categories that rotate every three months
- 5% back on Lyft purchases
- The 5% rate will be applied to previous eligible purchases if you activate later in the quarter
- An introductory bonus of $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
- 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 It Could Be Better
- You have to manually activate the 5% categories each quarter (except for Lyft)
- 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® 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.
You’ll enjoy a $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months, a solid offer that’s easy to get compared to some other cards. And you can find additional discounts in the Shop through Chase marketplace.
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.
Insider Advice: Getting the Most Out of Your Card
- Use your card for everything: Use this card for a variety of different kinds of spending throughout the year. Your rotating categories, combined with the stable 5% categories, give you plenty of flexibility.
- Don’t forget your bonus categories: 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.
- Maximize your rewards: Keep an eye on the current 5% categories so you know where to use your Chase Freedom card to earn the most cash back.
- Take a Lyft: Pay for Lyft rides to earn 5% cash back, through March 2022 (no activation required).
- Reach the welcome bonus: $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
- Make purchases without worrying about interest: Take advantage of the long 0% APR for 15 months to pay off large purchases at no interest before the regular 14.99% - 23.74% Variable kicks in.
- Look for the discounts: Check the Shop through Chase shopping portal and Chase Offers program now and then, and before making big purchases. You may find a nice discount.
You’ll earn 5% cash back on groceries and Lyft rides (one of the highest cash back rates you’ll find), as well as on a variety of different purchases that switch every three months. You’ll earn 1% on every other purchase.
|Introductory Bonus Offer|
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||2021 Categories||2020 Categories|
|January – March||
|April – June||
|July – September||
|October – December||
Do you spend a lot of money at merchants like these throughout the year? It’s interesting to see that they include PayPal 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 in the rotating categories every three months, or $300 per year.
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. (A similar card, the Discover it® Cash Back (Review), won’t retroactively apply rewards.)
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 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: 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
- Ink Business Preferred® Credit 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 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.
- DoorDash membership: 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.
- 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.
- Chase Offers: Browse and activate special offers from a selection of retailers on the Chase app.
- 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. The Credit Journey service is free and available to anyone, whether you’re a Chase cardholder or not.
- 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.
- Trip Cancellation and Interruption Insurance: If your trip is interrupted or cancelled for an eligible reason, you can be reimbursed up to $6,000 per trip, and $1,500 per person (Visa Signature only).
The Terms & Fees
|Purchase APR||Balance Transfer APR||Cash Advance APR|
|0% for 15 months, then 14.99% - 23.74% Variable||14.99% - 23.74% Variable||24.99% Variable|
|Annual Fee||Foreign Transaction Fee|
|$0||3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars|
|Balance Transfer Fee||Cash Advance Fee|
|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 purchases. 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.
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 and other fees. 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.
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 0% interest rate for purchases to take advantage of, which is a pretty competitive offer compared to other cards. And with no annual fee, it doesn’t have to cost you anything at all if you can 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 Do I Apply for the Chase Freedom Card?
You can apply now for the Chase Freedom card securely by following the link below.
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.
What Credit Scores Do I Need to Qualify for the Chase Freedom Card?
It’s recommended for you to have good credit before applying for the Chase Freedom.
That would mean your credit scores would have to be within the ranges of 670–739 for FICO and 700–749 for VantageScore.
It’s worth noting however that credit card issuers take more factors into account than just your scores. They’ll look at things like income and source of income when deciding your creditworthiness. So that means even if your credit scores are lower than what’s recommended, you still might be approved. But that also means if your scores are higher than what they call for, you could be denied.
Qualifications and Requirements
- Must be 18 to apply
- Personal identifying information: Social Security number, email address, phone number
- Financial information: Total annual income, 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
Frequently Asked Questions
What 5% quarterly bonus categories can I expect to see?
The 5% quarterly categories for July–September are Amazon and Whole Foods. You’ll also earn 5% cash back on Lyft rides and groceries, in addition to the rotating bonus categories. Take a look at past categories this card has offered.
What’s Chase’s 5/24 rule?
Chase’s 5/24 rule is an informal rule (you won’t find it officially stated) that typically prevents people who have opened five or more credit cards in the past 24 months, with any card issuers, from being approved for Chase credit cards.
How do I log in to my Chase Freedom account?
Simply head over to Chase’s website and plug in your Chase account information.
Alternatives to the Chase Freedom
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