Over the years many reward credit cards have come and gone, but the Chase Freedom® card has been a popular option for a decade. It's undergone changes in its reward structure over the years, and has evolved to be the reigning king of cash back cards in 2014 for three main reasons:
Reason #1: 5 percent cash back
The Freedom gives you a full 5 percent rebate on multiple categories that rotate on a quarterly basis. There's a limit to the spending that qualifies for 5 percent 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 percent on up to $6,000 of your spending every year.
What are the quarterly spending categories for 2014? The Chase Freedom 5 percent cash back categories are expansive and reward cardmembers for some useful and fun everyday spend categories:
This year, gas was featured twice, giving cardholders half the year to earn rewards on a common expense. Also note the Q4 categories, which offer extra rewards at places where people generally do a lot of holiday shopping.
- Q1 (Jan. 1 – March 31, 2014): Gas stations, Starbucks® stores, and movie theaters
- Q2 (April 1 – June 30, 2014): Restaurants and Lowe's® home improvement stores
- Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30, 2014): Gas stations and Kohl's®
- Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31, 2014): Amazon.com, Zappos.com and select department stores
Reason #2: You get cash back on your other purchases, too
The Chase Freedom offers you an unlimited 1 percent 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 percent on all other purchases isn't as glamorous as 5 percent, 1 percent is still competitive among cash-back cards. Other cards out there will offer you above 1 percent on all purchases – but those cards don't have the boosted 5 percent categories like the Freedom does.
Reason #3: There's no annual fee, no inactivity fee, and no expiration of your rewards
The rewards you earn on this card will never expire as long as your account remains open. You also never have to worry about annual fees or inactivity fees.
Rewards redemption without the BS
Some cards come with high redemption thresholds – you have to redeem a certain (sometimes large) amount of rewards to get the cash. The cash back you've earned will be on lockdown until you've reached the threshold. Fortunately, the Chase Freedom has a threshold of $20 worth of cash back for statement credits and direct deposits, which is pretty easy to reach. 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 can get diluted when you redeem for cash back.
The rewards program is not just for cash back, though. Via the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, you can also redeem your points for:
- Travel – You can 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 even more value out of your rewards when redeeming this way. That's because you can get a gift card at a discount:(This screenshot was taken to show some past examples. The current selection may vary.)
You also get a number of unique benefits...
What many people don't realize is that 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 RewardsVerdict for 2014?
The Ultimate Rewards program provides a lot of ways to save money and earn even more points on your spending.
- Shop at over 400 popular online stores and earn more rewards for every dollar spent. Earn between 2x and 10x back by shopping online at Lowe's, Best Buy, Macy's, Target, Drugstore.com and more.
- Book your air travel through Ultimate Rewards and get double points on every dollar spent. Keep in mind, the ability to earn that extra point on travel via Ultimate Rewards is going away Dec. 31, 2015.
- If you 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 percent 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 percent (5x point) categories can be worth up to 6.25 percent 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, hotel and other travel programs. If you then redeem strategically for a free hotel night or flight, you can squeeze a lot of value out of your 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/$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.
As you have seen in this in-depth review, the Chase Freedom delivers a great return on your spending and offers some perks as well – and there's never an annual fee. This is a solid rewards card that makes sense for almost everyone's wallet. If you are a regular reader of our card forum you will quickly realize it is a crowd favorite, for good reason.