Chase Freedom card review

Our rating

3 stars 3/5

See explanation of our ratings system

See breakdown of this card’s rating

This offer for Chase Freedom is temporarily unavailable on CreditCardForum. The following information is for reference only.

Note: Chase recently launched another version of the Freedom – the Freedom Unlimited, which has no categories but earns 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases. Read more about the Chase Freedom Unlimited here.

Many reward credit cards have come and gone over the years, but the Chase Freedom® card (with 5 percent cash- back categories)has been a popular option for a decade. It’s undergone changes in reward structure, branding and card design since its debut, and has evolved to be the reigning king of cash back cards for three main reasons:

Reason #1: 5% cash back

The Freedom gives you a 5% cash back rebate on multiple categories that change every three months. There’s a limit to the spending that qualifies for 5% cash back, but it’s quite high (up to $1,500 in category spending per quarter when you enroll). This means, if you maximize the categories, you can earn 5% on up to $6,000 of your spending every year.

With the Chase Freedom, you need to enroll each quarter to receive 5 percent back – but Chase allows you to set up email or text reminders so you don’t forget.

The 5% cash back categories for 2016 reward cardmembers for spending in practical, everyday purchase categories.

Q1 (Jan. 1 – March 31, 2016): Gas stations and local commuter transportation (not including parking, tolls and Amtrak purchases)
Q2 (April 1 – June 30, 2016): Grocery stores, wholesale clubs
Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30, 2016): Restaurants and wholesale clubs
Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31, 2016): Holiday shopping and wholesale clubs

Reason #2: You get cash back on your other purchases, too
The Chase Freedom offers you an unlimited 1% on all other purchases. This makes it an excellent “all-in-one” choice if you don’t want to have multiple reward cards.

While earning 1% on all other purchases isn’t as lucrative as earning 5% in special category spending each quarter, it’s still competitive among cash-back cards. Other cards will offer you above 1% on all purchases (or on certain categories year round) – but those cards don’t have the enhanced 5% earning opportunities that Chase Freedom offers and may charge an annual fee. (Note: There’s another no-annual-fee Chase Freedom product called the Chase Freedom Unlimited. It offers 1.5 percent cash back on all eligible purchases rather than the 5 percent categories).

Reason #3: Your rewards don’t expire
The rewards earned with Chase Freedom never expire as long as your account remains open. You also never have to worry about annual fees or inactivity fees.

Rewards redemption without jumping through hoops

Some cards come with high redemption thresholds – the cash back you’ve earned will be on lockdown until you can redeem a certain (sometimes large) amount of accumulated points or cash back rewards dollars at once. The Chase Freedom has a reasonable threshold of $20 worth of cash back for statement credits and direct deposits, which is quite easy to reach. If you’d like to redeem a smaller amount, you can do so with Chase’s online shopping partners.

And you always get a full 1-cent-per-point value. That’s an important distinction because, with some other cards, the value of your rewards is less than that when you redeem for cash back.

Chase Cash Back Conversion

The rewards program is not just for cash back, though. Via the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, you can also redeem your points for:

  • Travel – Use your points for flights, hotels, and car rentals.
  • Merchandise – There are thousands of options. Just do a little comparison shopping first, to make sure you’re getting a good value for your points and that the item you want isn’t on sale elsewhere.
  • Experiences – There are all sorts of unique opportunities for concerts, culinary events, the hottest games, safaris/tours and much more.
  • Gift Cards – Sometimes you can get a gift card for less than face value, stretching the value of each point:

Gift Cards For Rewards

(This screenshot was taken to show some past examples. The current selection may vary.)

You also get a number of unique benefits…

The Chase Freedom card’s benefits go above and beyond just rewards. You get purchase and travel benefits as well. For example…

Participation in Chase Ultimate Rewards
The Ultimate Rewards program provides a lot of ways to save money and earn even more points on your spending.

  • Shop more than 200 popular online retailers and earn an extra 1 percent to 15 percent cash back. Just remember to log in to your account first and click through to these partner merchants via the “Shop through Chase” program.
  • Shop with points at Amazon.com. You can seamlessly redeem your points at checkout (for all or part of your order) when making purchases on Amazon. There’s no minimum redemption amount for this option, so it can be a good way to redeem leftover points. Note that the value of Amazon redemptions was just decreased to 0.8 cents per point (from 1 cent per point) in Sept. 2016.
  • If you also have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you can transfer/combine points you earn on the Freedom with the Sapphire Preferred. If you do this, your points may become even more valuable. Why? Because if you transfer and then redeem them through your Sapphire Preferred account, you can get 20% off travel with Ultimate Rewards. For example, you can get a $500 flight for just 40,000 points. Think about it… that means your 5% (5x point) categories can be worth up to 6.25% if you transfer the points to Sapphire Preferred before spending them. Also, the Sapphire Preferred lets you convert your points into real loyalty points with a variety of airline and hotel programs. That means, if you transfer points earned with the Freedom to the Sapphire Preferred and then redeem strategically for a free hotel night or flight, you can squeeze a lot of value out of your points.
transferring points

Price Protection (aka Lowest Price Guarantee)
Have you ever bought something at a retail store only to see it go on sale afterward? If that happens with qualified purchases made with the card, you can use Chase Freedom’s Price Protection and get refunded for the difference. This coverage is offered for 90 days from date of purchase, up to $500 per claim and up to $2,500 annually. This is a rare perk, and many cards with annual fees don’t have it. But the Freedom does – and it has no annual fee to boot.

Why we gave it 3 out of 5 stars

The Chase Freedom’s rating was based on our cash-back card ranking standards for no-annual-fee cards (which you can read about here).

The Chase Freedom delivers a decent return on your spending and offers some perks as well. Because there’s no annual fee, you don’t ever have to ponder whether this card is earning enough to offset some cost. Pairing with the Chase Sapphire Preferred ups its rewards-earning potential. However, its lack of unique perks and the enrollment requirement for the categories docked it two stars. Here’s the breakdown:

Full starRewards-earning rate: The Freedom meets our requirements for no-annual-fee cash-back cards by rewarding EITHER above 1 percent on all spending OR above 3 percent in its bonus categories. The Freedom therefore gets a star for having 5 percent bonus categories.
Full starRedemption value: The Freedom meets our requirement of 1 cent per point when it comes to cash-back redemptions.
Empty starRewards simplicity and transparency: We docked this card one star because cardholders must enroll in bonus categories, and these earnings are capped.
Full starBonus-earning opportunities: The Freedom earns this star for its consistently lucrative sign-up bonus and its robust bonus-shopping program, Shop with Chase, which allows you to earn extra cash-back on purchases.
Empty starUnique perks: The Freedom does not offer a free FICO score or other noteworthy consumer-protection benefits. It does offer Price Protection (a rare perk), but this benefit is work-intensive on the part of the cardholder and has lots of fine print.
If you don’t think you do enough shopping in the Freedom’s bonus categories, consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Updated Oct. 4, 2016