Chase Freedom Review: The Best Cash Back Card?

Earn incredible amounts of cash back rewards in select categories each quarter.
Last updated Mar 5, 2020 | By Kat Tretina

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Having a strong cash back 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. With so many options to choose from, however, choosing the right one 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 cashback rewards.

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

  • $150 sign-up bonus
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories

Drawbacks

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


Who should get this card?

Bargain shoppers looking to maximizing 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 spend 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, however, will allow you to fully take advantage of the card’s benefits. If you’re looking for a card that doesn’t require much oversight, it may be a better idea to consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited, which offers a flat rewards rate on all purchases.

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

Annual Fee $0
Intro Bonus $150 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months
Recommended Credit Score Excellent, Good
Intro APR 0% for 15 months
Foreign Transaction Fee 3%

Top Card Benefits

  • Big rewards in rotating categories: By activating the rotating bonus categories on your card, you may be able to earn more cash back throughout the year than if you used a general cash back card, depending on your spending habits. You can earn 5% cash back in bonus categories you activate, up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter. In addition, you can also earn 5% back on Lyft rides and 1% back on all other purchases.
  • Generous sign-up bonus: $150 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months. That’s a 30% return on spend.
  • Intro APR offer: If you’re planning a big purchase or want to transfer a balance from another card, you can take advantage of the card’s introductory APR, which offers a 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers.
  • 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 purchase protection, extended warranty protection, fraud protection, and more.
  • 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.

Earn & Redeeming

Best ways to earn

With the Chase Freedom Card, you’ll earn 5% cash back on the first $1,500 spent per quarter in rotating bonus categories. For all other purchases, you earn 1% cash back.

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

Here’s a look at last year’s bonus category schedule:

Chase Freedom 2019 Bonus Categories Schedule 5% Cash Back
January 1 - March 31 (Q1) Gas stations, tolls, drugstores
April 1 - June 30 (Q2) Grocery stores (not including Walmart or Target purchases) and home improvement stores
July 1 - September 30 (Q3) Gas stations, streaming services (includes Netflix, Hulu, Sling, Vudu, FuboTV, Apple Music, SiriusXM, Pandora, and Spotify)
October 1 - December 31 (Q4) Department stores, Paypal, Chase Pay

Because Lyft rides also earn 5% back, adding this card as your default payment method in the rideshare app could also be lucrative for those who frequently need to hail a car. 

Maximizing your redemptions

With the Chase Freedom Card, there are several options for redeeming rewards.

  • 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 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.

To get the absolute most value, consider redeeming your rewards as statement credits or transfer them to a premium Chase card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Common Questions

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, learn how to 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 you have recently applied for a Chase Freedom card, learn how to check on your Chase credit card application status.) 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% cash back 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.

Other Cards to Consider

The Chase Freedom Card does offer significant rewards, but it requires you to activate bonus categories to earn 5% cash back. If you miss the deadline to opt in, you’ll lose out on those rewards for the quarter. If you prefer a simpler credit card with flat-rate cashback rewards, consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited or Capital One® Venture® Rewards Card.

Eye-popping Cash Back

Special Offer

$150 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months

See how these cards compare:

Chase Freedom Unlimited
Chase Freedom Unlimited
  • $150 sign-up bonus
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • 5% cash back on Lyft rides
  • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
  • 50,000 bonus mile welcome offer
  • 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit
  • No foreign transaction fees