Reason #1: 5% cash back
The Freedom gives you a full 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.
What are the quarterly spending categories for 2015? The 5% cash back categories reward cardmembers for spending in very practical, everyday purchase categories. We'll update the exact details for Q4 as soon as information becomes available:
- Q1 (Jan. 1 - March 31, 2015): Grocery stores (excluding Walmart® and Target® purchases), Starbucks® stores and movie theaters
- Q2 (April 1 - June 30, 2015): Restaurants, Bed Bath & Beyond®, H&M®, and Overstock.com.
- Q3 (July 1 - Sept. 30, 2015): Gas stations and Kohl's
- Q4 (Oct. 1 - Dec. 31, 2015): Amazon.com and more this fall
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 the 5% 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.
Reason #3: There's no annual fee, no inactivity fee, and no expiration of your rewards
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. Fortunately, 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. 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 a gift card for less than face value, stretching the value of each point:
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...
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 between 2x and 15x back. Just remember to log in to your account first and click through to these partner merchants via the "Shop through Chase" program.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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% 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, hotel and other travel 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.
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.
Verdict for 2015?
The Chase Freedom delivers an excellent return on your spending and offers some perks as well - and there's never an annual fee so you don't ever have to ponder whether this card is earning enough to offset some cost. This is a solid rewards card that makes sense for almost everyone's wallet, as evidenced by how popular the card is with our forum members.