Chase Freedom Review: The Best Cash Back Card? [2020]

In this Chase Freedom review, we’ll go over how this card can help you earn incredible amounts of cashback rewards in select categories each quarter.
Last updated Sep 15, 2020 | By Kat Tretina

FinanceBuzz is reader-supported. We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Having a strong cashback card in your wallet can help you earn big rewards on purchases. By forgoing a rewards card, you could essentially be leaving money on the table. But with so many options to choose from, choosing the right cashback card that suits your needs could prove to be overwhelming.

The Chase Freedom Card is one of the most popular rewards credit cards available. Offering a high rate of rewards in certain categories each quarter, this card can help you quickly earn a lot of cash back. But just because the Chase Freedom is one of the best credit cards for earning cash back, doesn't mean it's right for everybody.

In this review, we’ll go over how the Chase Freedom works and the fees associated with it to help you decide if it’s right for you.

Eye-popping Cash Back

Benefits

  • $200 sign-up bonus
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases
  • 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories

Drawbacks

  • Bonus categories must be activated each quarter
  • Has foreign transaction fee

In this Chase Freedom review

Who should get the Chase Freedom?

Bargain shoppers looking to maximize rewards on purchases should consider the Chase Freedom Card. With rotating bonus categories that change each quarter, you can earn 5% cash back on purchases up to a combined $1,500 per quarter, and there’s a $0 annual fee.

Because each bonus spending category has to be manually activated before you begin earning 5% rewards, it’s important to consider how active you’ll likely be in opting into categories four times per year. Doing so will allow you to fully take advantage of the Chase Freedom's benefits and earn the most bonus cash. 

But if you’re looking for a card that doesn’t have rotating bonus categories, it may be a better idea to consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited, which offers fixed bonus categories.

Lyft rides also earn 5% back, so big spenders on rideshare apps should consider this card as well. You get 1% back on all other purchases.

To qualify, you’ll need to have a good or excellent credit score. You’ll also be subject to the unofficial 5/24 rule, meaning if you’ve applied for more than five credit cards within 24 months, you won’t be eligible for another Chase card.

Card basics

Card type Cash Back
Card issuer Chase
Annual fee $0
Intro bonus $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months
Reward rate 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories (up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter) and 1% cash back on all other purchases
Recommended credit score Excellent, Good
Intro APR 0% for 15 months on purchases
Foreign transaction fee 3%

Chase Freedom benefits and perks

  • Big rewards in rotating categories: By activating the quarterly bonus categories on your card, you may be able to earn more cash back throughout the year than if you used a flat-rate cashback card, depending on your spending habits. You can earn 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories (up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter) and 1% cash back on all other purchases. In addition, you can also earn 5% back on Lyft rides.
  • Generous sign-up bonus: The Chase Freedom gives you the chance to earn $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months after account opening. That’s a 30% return on spend.
  • Intro APR offer: If you’re planning a big purchase, you can take advantage of the card’s intro APR offer and avoid expensive interest charges. You get 0% APR for 15 months on new purchases. After this intro period, the interest rate will return to normal. So to get the most savings from this card, you'll want to pay off your balance within the intro months.
  • DoorDash perks: Chase Freedom cardholders will get a free 3-month membership to DoorDash's DashPass program, which offers reduced fees on eligible food delivery orders of $12 or more. After the 3-month period, you are automatically enrolled in DashPass for another 9 months at a 50% discount (normally membership is $9.99 a month). 
  • Built-in protection: Enjoy peace of mind with built-in coverage. When you use your card, you’ll be covered by Chase purchase protection, extended warranty protection, fraud protection, and more.
  • Trip cancellation insurance: If you paid for your travel arrangements with your Chase Freedom Card and something prevents you from taking that trip, you can be reimbursed for up to $1,500 per traveler for non-refundable costs (with a limit of $6,000 per trip). So if you get sick or severe weather interrupts the trip, you can rest assured knowing you could get some of your money back.

  • Chase Credit Journey: As a Chase cardholder, you’ll have free access to Chase Credit Journey, a credit monitoring tool. It tracks your VantageScore 3.0, based on data from your TransUnion credit report.

Drawbacks to this card

  • Manual activation of bonus categories: If you want to take advantage of the rotating bonus category, you'll need to pay attention. You have to manually activate this category each quarter for it to go into effect. That said, you will also be emailed reminders from Chase and if you log in to the Chase portal you will also receive reminders.
  • Foreign transaction fee: This isn't the best Chase card if you want to travel outside the U.S. due to the foreign transaction fee of 3%.

Earning & redeeming cash back

Potential earnings in years one and two

Here's a look how your cash back (in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points) can add up with the Chase Freedom card. To calculate these values, we used a point valuation of 1 cent per point since that is their cashback value.

Remember, this is an estimation. The actual value will be determined by how much you spend and in which categories you spend.

Year one earnings: $485

Year two earnings: $335

These numbers only take into account the 1% cashback rewards. If you were to take advantage of the quarterly bonus categories and spend all the way up to the maximum allowed each quarter, those bonus points alone would amount to $75 back each quarter, for a total of $300 per year. Whether or not you're able to take full advantage of that extra earning will depend on your personal spending and the bonus categories that Chase announces.

These values are based on the FinanceBuzz Credit Card Rewards Valuation Model which takes a look at points earned via spending, the welcome bonus, and the annual fee.

Best ways to earn

Categories Rewards rate
Rotating bonus categories (up to $1,500 quarterly) 5%
Lyft rides 5%
All other purchases 1%

Each quarter (four times per year), Chase launches a new 5%  bonus category. To earn rewards at the 5% cashback rate, be sure to monitor the Chase Freedom bonus category calendar and activate each category as it becomes available. Here are the current bonus categories:

Chase Freedom bonus categories for 2020
January-March Gas stations; internet, cable and phone services; select streaming services (includes Netflix, Sling, Vudu, FuboTV, Apple Music, SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify, Hulu and ESPN+)
April-June Grocery stores, gym memberships and fitness club memberships
July-September Amazon.com, Whole Foods
October-December Walmart, PayPal

And here’s a look at last year’s bonus category schedule so you can get an idea of what sort of bonus categories might come back around:

Chase Freedom bonus categories for 2019
January-March Gas stations, tolls, drugstores
April-June Grocery stores (not including Walmart or Target purchases) and home improvement stores
July-September Gas stations, streaming services (includes Netflix, Hulu, Sling, Vudu, FuboTV, Apple Music, SiriusXM, Pandora, and Spotify)
October-December Department stores, PayPal, Chase Pay

Because Lyft rides also earn 5% back, adding this card as your default payment method in the rideshare app also makes this one of the best credit cards for commuters if you typically get to work via rideshare.

Maximizing your redemptions

The Chase rewards program offers redemption options for using up the rewards earned with your Chase Freedom credit card:

  • Statement credits: You can opt for a statement credit to be applied toward your credit card balance, giving you the full value of your rewards.
  • Gift cards: You can redeem your rewards for a gift card, but note that the gift card value may be worth slightly less than your rewards balance.
  • Travel: You can book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards for things like flights, cruises, and hotel stays.
  • Chase Pay: You can pay for eligible purchases with your rewards.
  • Transfer to a premium Chase card: If you have a premium Chase card, you can transfer your points to it for extra value. For instance, if you were to transfer your Chase Freedom rewards to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, your points would be worth 25% more when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

If your primary intention is to use the Chase Freedom as a cashback credit card, then your best option is to redeem your rewards as statement credit. The Chase Freedom can also become a valuable travel rewards credit card, though. 

What you actually earn with the Chase Freedom are Chase Ultimate Rewards points that you redeem as cash. But, if you also have a premium Chase card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, then you can transfer your Chase Freedom rewards to your Sapphire card. This is valuable because the Sapphire cards have bonus value when redeemed for travel through the Chase travel portal. Chase Sapphire Preferred rewards are redeemed at an extra 25% value, while Chase Sapphire Reserve rewards receive an extra 50% value.

When you're ready, to can also take your earning of Chase Ultimate Rewards points to another level by applying for a Chase Ink business credit cards. This would complete what is known as the Chase Trifecta, which is the most effective path to earning and redeeming Chase points.

Chase Freedom FAQs

What credit score is needed for the Chase Freedom Card?

You’ll need to have a good or excellent credit score to qualify for the Chase Freedom. According to the FICO scoring model, this means you’ll likely need a credit score of 670 or higher.If you have recently applied for a Chase card and you haven't heard a definitive answer back yet, you can also easily check on your Chase credit card application status.

What is the average credit limit for the Chase Freedom Card?

When you submit your application, Chase will determine your credit limit based on your creditworthiness. If approved, you’ll be issued a card at either the Visa Signature or Visa Platinum level. Visa Signature cards offer a minimum credit limit of $5,000, while Visa Platinum cards offer a minimum credit limit of $500.

How do I activate the 5% cashback bonus categories?

When bonus categories are announced, you’ll have a specific window of time to snag the offer. To activate a 5% cashback bonus category, log into your card account or call the number on the back of your Chase Freedom Card to ask a customer service representative to activate it for you.

Does the Chase Freedom have foreign transaction fees?

Yes, the Chase Freedom Card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee. If you’re planning to travel internationally, you may want to use another card with no foreign transaction fees in order to save money. The ideal cards for travel are the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve.


Other cards to consider

The Chase Freedom Card does offer significant rewards, but it requires you to activate special cashback categories to earn your bonus rewards. If you miss the deadline to opt in, you’ll lose out on those rewards for the quarter. You could look to other credit card companies for other credit card offers that might be a better fit for you, but you really don't have to look beyond Chase if you don't want to.

If you prefer a simpler credit card without rotating bonus categories, consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited. The Chase Freedom Unlimited has a $0 annual fee and you can earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases. It also offers a 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months.

If you plan to travel overseas and/or you want more robust travel benefits, consider opting for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. This card earns you 5X on Lyft rides, 2X points on eligible dining and travel, and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases. It also offers you the opportunity to earn 80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. That bonus alone can be worth up to $1,000 in travel when your points are redeemed through the Chase travel portal.

Eye-popping Cash Back

Special Offer

$200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months

See how these cards compare:

Chase Freedom Unlimited
Chase Freedom Unlimited
  • $200 sign-up bonus
  • 5% cash back grocery store purchases for the first year (up to $12k)
  • Bonus rewards on travel, dining, and drugstores
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • 80,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 5X points on select streaming services (up to $1,500) until September 30, 2020
  • 3X points with Instacart (up to $3,000), and at gas stations (up to $1,500) until September 30, 2020
  • 2X points on eligible dining and travel purchases
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits