While distribution of COVID-19 vaccines has already begun, many Americans aren’t ready to travel just yet. Few have booked out-of-state travel for 2021. But even if you’re planning on staying home after getting vaccinated, it’s not too early to start planning a savings strategy for future travel.
If paying for a premium travel rewards credit card feels like a waste of money right now, the Chase Freedom Flex could be a good alternative. The Flex is marketed as a cashback credit card, but you actually earn Chase Ultimate Rewards when you spend on this card. Of course, you can redeem your rewards for cash back, but you can also use them to book trips if traveling is your goal.
While you’re waiting to book future travel, you can use it to rack up rewards points for your other purchases and transfer those points to a premium card to get more value later on. Here’s a look at the Chase Freedom Flex’s benefits and how this card can become part of your travel savings strategy.
Chase Freedom Flex: what benefits does it offer?
- Sign-up bonus: Earn $200 cash back after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. While this card is marketed as a cashback card, you'll actually earn this bonus in the form of Chase Ultimate Reward points which you can cash out or use for travel.
- No annual fee: Unlike with premium travel rewards credit cards, the Chase Freedom Flex has a $0 annual fee.
- Rotating quarterly bonus categories: With this card, you can earn 5% on rotating quarterly categories (on up to $1,500 spent) and travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Each quarter, you can look forward to new Chase Freedom bonus categories. Past categories have included grocery stores, gas stations, and specific retailers like Walmart and Amazon.
- Rewards rate: In addition to bonus category and Chase travel earnings, the Chase Freedom Flex earns 3% back at restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and drugstores and 1% back on all other purchases. If you spent $200 per month on takeout, in a year’s time you’d have $72 in rewards to put towards future travel.
- Ultimate Rewards points: The rewards you earn when you shop with your Chase Freedom Flex card are Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be transferred to premium Ultimate Rewards credit cards. This strategy allows you to maximize the value of your points by 25-50% as explained further on.
- Low introductory APR: You’ll pay 0% intro APR on new purchases for the first 15 months with the Chase Freedom Flex, which can be helpful if you need to make a large purchase.
- Other perks: The Chase Freedom Flex comes with a limited-time offer for 5% back on Lyft rides (through March, 2022) and a complimentary three-month DoorDash DashPass membership when you apply before the end of the year. You’ll also get basics like purchase protection, cell phone protection, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, and an auto rental collision damage waiver.
How to use the Chase Freedom Flex for travel rewards
There are a few ways you can use the Chase Freedom Flex credit card to save money on travel. The first is to simply apply and start using your credit card: the lucrative sign-up bonus can be used for future travel. You can also book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and get 5% cash back for your purchase, which you can redeem as a statement credit, direct deposit, or gift card; use to pay for your Amazon purchases; or put towards your next trip.
Not only can you earn cash back on your travel purchases, but you can also earn points towards future travel just by using the Chase Freedom Flex for your everyday shopping. You’ll earn 3% back at restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and drugstores. Those points can be used to book free or discounted travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, or transferred to another Chase credit card that allows you to get even more value for your points — more on this in a moment.
Maximizing the value of your Chase Ultimate Rewards
Once you’re ready to start booking future trips again, you might want to apply for a premium Chase Ultimate Rewards card. Not only will you get another awesome sign-up bonus, but you can transfer all the points you’ve been earning with the Chase Freedom Flex to your new card, where they could be worth even more towards travel.
For example, if you transfer your points to the Chase Sapphire Preferred card or the Chase Ink Business Preferred card, they’ll be worth 25% more when you use them to book travel through the Chase Ultimates Reward portal. That $200 bonus you earned on the Chase Freedom Flex? It’ll be worth $250 if you transfer it to the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Add to that the 60,000 points you can earn if you spend $4,000 in the first first 3 months with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, and you’ll have $1,000 towards future travel.
If you want to get even more bang for your buck and you plan to spend enough on travel to absorb the annual fee, you might consider applying for the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. With this card, your points will be worth 50% more towards future travel, and you’ll also get premium perks like airport lounge access and a $300 annual travel credit.
A note on transfer partners
Another way you can redeem your points, besides using them to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, is to transfer them to one of Chase’s 13 airline and hotel partners. Points can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio, and redeeming points via a Chase travel partner might offer you greater value. You might be able to snag an award flight or hotel stay that’s worth more than one cent per point, so your points will stretch further and you can save more on travel. Chase has even offered instant bonuses on transfers in the past.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to 10 frequent-flyer loyalty programs and three hotel programs:
- Aer Lingus AerClub
- Air France-KLM Flying Blue
- British Airways Executive Club
- Emirates Skywards
- Iberia Plus
- JetBlue True Blue
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- United Mileage Plus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- IHG Rewards Club
- Marriott Bonvoy
- World of Hyatt
You should always do the math to ensure the transfer offers a decent value for your points. For example, you may be able to get an award flight that’s worth greater than one cent per point at a transfer partner, but if it doesn’t stack up to the added value you get from using your premium card to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, it might not be worth it.
Is the Chase Freedom Flex a good card?
Yes. The Chase Freedom Flex offers several ways to earn a high cashback value, especially when compared to other credit cards with no annual fee. You can get 5% on rotating quarterly categories (on up to $1,500 spent) and travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal; 3% at restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and drugstores; and 1% on all other purchases.
And like the best cashback credit cards, the Chase Freedom Flex offers flexible redemption options. You can use your points to get a statement credit, purchase gift cards, transfer to airline partners, and more.
What credit score do you need for the Chase Freedom Flex?
You’ll likely need good or excellent credit to be approved for the Chase Freedom Flex. Consider checking your credit report prior to applying to review your score. As with any other credit card, applying for the Chase Freedom Flex requires a hard credit check, which will cause a small and temporary dip in your credit score. While this dip is typically temporary, it may make sense to wait until you’re likely to be approved before you apply.
What's the difference between the Chase Freedom Flex and the Chase Freedom Unlimited?
The main difference between the $0-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex and the $0-annual-fee Chase Freedom Unlimited is that the Chase Freedom Unlimited earns 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases. Chase Freedom Flex cardmembers earn 5% on rotating quarterly categories (on up to $1,500 spent) and travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal; 3% at restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and drugstores; and 1% on all other purchases.
Otherwise, the two cards offer similar benefits. If you’re interested in learning more about both cards, check out our Chase Freedom Unlimited vs. Chase Freedom Flex comparison.
The best travel credit cards often come with annual fees, which you may not feel are worth paying for if you’re not traveling yet. But it’s still possible to start earning points towards future travel purchases with the Chase Freedom Flex. Later on, when you need perks like no foreign transaction fees, higher travel redemption value, or airport lounge access, you can consider pairing the Chase Freedom Flex with a premium travel rewards card such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
But for now, go ahead and treat yourself to takeout with the Chase Freedom Flex, and don’t forget to activate your quarterly bonus categories. When you transfer points from these bonus categories to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, they’ll be worth a whopping 7.5 cents per dollar spent.