When you exclude Chase’s credit cards that are offered in partnership with major airline and hotel brands (like those from Marriott and United) there are only three basic card products from Chase: Slate, Freedom, and Sapphire Preferred. The latter of which is high-end travel rewards card and if you would like to learn more about it, here’s our Chase Sapphire Preferred card review.
However, if you’re not interested in a premium travel rewards card that leaves either the Chase Freedom or the Slate as the primary options from Chase. How do these cards compare? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
Annual Fee: None
Credit Requirements: Previously this card was marketed as being for “average credit” but now it’s labeled as being for “good to excellent credit.” It also used to have a somewhat novel verticle card design, but that was recently replaced with a new more traditional design. As with all credit cards and issuers, this doesn’t really tell you much. Based on forum feedback, however, people with FICO credit scores in the high 600’s have been approved for Slate, so it would appear that the minimum is somewhere around that range. It seems to be easier to qualify for than Freedom since Slate doesn’t involve a reward component (and therefore is probably Chase’s most attainable card).
Noteworthy Benefits: The reason Slate doesn’t offer and cash back, points or miles rewards is because the card is specifically designed for those who consistently carry balances. This is actually a good thing, as rewards can tempt a person into spending more than they should and paying the higher interest on balances that reward cards typically charge wipes out any reward benefits. Slate also offers a feature called Blueprint, which is a very useful tool for managing outstanding balances:
- You can set up a payment plan for how rapidly you want to pay off down your account balance.
- Slate offers no-fee balance transfers during the first 60 days of account opening
- You have the ability to choose which categories of spending you wish to pay in full each month. For example, maybe you want all of your groceries and gas paid in full every month, but at the same time you want to spread out payments for a big furniture purchase.
- There are also tools for analyzing your spending, allowing you to set goals for each category of spending.
Although your own interest rate can vary based on creditworthiness, it’s worth noting that the APR range for the Slate is lower than the Freedom, probably due to the fact is doesn’t have an expensive rewards program.
Annual Fee: None
Rewards: 5% cash back on categories which rotate each quarter. 1% cash back on everything else. During any given quarter there are typically 2-3 different categories that earn 5%. Please note that you have to signup for the 5% each quarter in order to earn it (you can do that online or over the phone). It’s not hard to do but it still requires you to take the intiative.
Credit Requirements: Versus the Slate the Chase Freedom will probably be a bit tougher, as it requires excellent credit. Although a FICO in the 700s should an adequate credit score to qualify for Freedom, there have been instances where individuals with scores in that range have reported being denied. Conversely, there have those with lower scores (mid to high 600s) getting approved, but with a low credit limit of $500. That’s only slightly better than being denied, honestly. Though it’s worth noting that many of those people had lower scores because they had limited credit history, not because they had bad credit. Banks have more risk tolerance for someone with a clean slate vs. a repeat credit offender. Bear in mind that a low credit limit translates into low rewards earning potential as well, though. It might be best to build up your credit history for a year or so with a card like Slate if you might fall into this credit category.
Noteworthy Benefits: What makes this card stand out is the ability to earn 5% cash back (FYI there is a cap on the 5% that can be earned). It’s the best credit card deal out there if you want a $0 annual fee and 5% rewards.
Which is best for you in 2016?
If you have a solid credit score credit and rarely if ever carry a balance, then you will most likely want to go with Chase Freedom.
If you only have average credit and/or carry a balance, then the Chase Slate will probably be a better option, at least until you pay off any outstanding balances and build your credit score to a higher level. Even though having no rewards may seem like no fun, keep in mind that it can be to your advantage since having a rewards program can tempt you to make new purchases rather than pay down your balance. Earning cash back, points or miles on each dollar of unnecessary spending may seem like a good deal at the time, you have to remember that the other 99% of that spending is wasted and a set back if you are already in debt.
This article was written or last updated January 13, 2016