My first ever credit card was a Chase Slate that I opened in 2014. I was still building my credit at the time and I started where I was familiar with – my bank, Chase. One year after opening the Slate, I decided to upgrade to the Chase Freedom because I was interested in earning Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points.
Chase only gave me a $500 credit limit and a very high APR because I was building my credit. Plus, they would not give me a credit limit increase for over two years, so I foolishly closed my Freedom. I regret closing this card because of how valuable UR points are. But the closure gave me the opportunity to later open a new Freedom card and earn another sign-up bonus.
First introduced in 2006, the Chase Freedom is a veteran in Chase’s lineup of credit cards. Its rewards structure has stood the test of time and has even inspired a “sibling” in the Chase Freedom Unlimited in 2016.
The Chase Freedom currently has a sign-up bonus worth 15,000 Ultimate Rewards (UR) points (or $150 in cash back). It can be earned after spending just $500 in the first 3 months. This bonus is one of the easiest to hit among travel cards. But this is normal considering it has no annual fee.
The Freedom has a different rewards structure than many other cards. It earns 5x UR points per dollar spent on rotating quarterly categories. The bonus category spending limit per quarter is $1,500, which means you can earn up to 7,500 UR points per quarter. The only other cards that have a similar earning structure are the Discover It and the US Bank Cash +.
The Freedom’s potential can be maximized if you have multiple UR-earning cards. If you have a premium Chase card (either the Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred), you can transfer the points from your Freedom account to any of those accounts. This feature is arguably the most powerful that Chase has to offer as it’s the lifeblood of many people’s earning strategies.
Chase normally releases their quarterly categories two weeks before the start of a new quarter. For the last four quarters, the categories were as follows:
- 4th Quarter 2019: Department Stores, Pay Pal, and Chase Pay
- 3rd Quarter 2019: Gas Stations and Select Streaming Services
- 2nd Quarter 2019: Grocery Stores and Home Improvement Stores
- 1st Quarter 2019: Gas Stations, Pharmacies, and Tolls
One risk with rotating category cards is their usefulness. Your mileage may vary, but Freedom might be used heavily during one quarter and not used at all during another. Fortunately, the Chase Freedom has no annual fee. That means you can “sock-drawer” it for one quarter and pull it out when you need to use it.
Earning points is fantastic, but points earned are useless if you cannot redeem them for anything of value. Chase has multiple options for points redemption:
Cash Back & Gift Cards
Cash back is one of just two redemption options if you do not have a premium Chase card. If you redeem for cash back, each UR point is worth 1 cent. By comparison, American Express Membership Rewards (MR) points are worth between 0.5 and 0.8 cents per point (CPP) if you redeem for cash back or a statement credit.
The other option is to redeem for gift cards. Chase also lets cardholders redeem their points for cash back and gift cards. Each point for these options is worth 1 CPP, which is the same value as cash. Sometimes, Chase discounts some of their gift card options, enabling cardholders to redeem for more than 1 CPP. Compared to travel partners and the portal, neither cash back or gift cards are recommended.
Transfer partners are by far Chase’s most valuable option, but they are only available if you also have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Chase Ink Business Preferred. Chase has the following transfer partners:
- World of Hyatt
- Aer Lingus
- British Airways
- KLM Flying Blue / Air France
- Singapore Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
Rules & Regulations
The Chase Freedom is subject to the 5/24 Rule. This rule was enacted by Chase to prevent “churners” from scoring their sign-up bonuses too many times. The 5/24 rule states that you will not be approved for any UR-earning card if you were approved for five or more new accounts in the last 24-months. Some Chase co-branded cards also fall under this rule as well.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
Despite the similar name, this card is much simpler than its 5x rotating “sibling”. The Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5x UR points on all purchases. It also comes with the same sign-up bonus as the Chase Freedom.
For some people, the Freedom Unlimited can be a complement to the regular Freedom card. Both earn UR points and they be pooled into the same Sapphire or Ink Preferred card account. I use both cards in this way to help maximize the amount of UR points I earn each month.
American Express Everyday Card
The Amex Everyday Card has a different earning structure than most points and miles cards. It earns 2x Membership Rewards (MR) points per dollar at grocery stores and only one on everything else. You will also receive a 20% points bonus if you use your card at least 20 times per month. This means you can potentially earn 2.4x points at grocery stores and 1.2x points on non-bonus spend.
This card has no-annual fee and a public sign-up bonus worth 10,000 MR points. It can be earned after spending just $1,000 in the first 3 months.
The advantage of the Everyday Card is that it does not require a premium Amex card to transfer points to transfer partners. In fact, its the only personal credit card in the industry that can transfer points to partners. The Freedom does not have this special advantage.
Cash back lovers rejoice! The Discover It is one of my favorite cash back cards and a great alternative (or complement) to the Chase Freedom. Unlike the Chase Freedom, the Discover It earns 5% cash back for purchases within a set of rotating categories. However, the Freedom is better for travelers who want to earn Chase UR points, regardless of the categories.
Some people have both cards to maximize the 5x rewards. Both cards have different sets of rotating categories each year. Therefore, using both cards for different purchases can be easy. I have both cards for this reason and because my Discover It is my oldest active card.
This card has no annual fee (and not many other fees to boot). After all, Discover is the pioneer of having as few fees as possible.
The Chase Freedom has been on the market since 2006. Both cash back lovers and travelers will benefit from this card and all that is has to offer. For both groups, I don’t recommend it as a primary card because of the rotating categories. It’s a nice alternative to the Chase Freedom Unlimited and can be a great complement to the Chase Sapphire cards and Chase Ink Business Preferred card.
The Freedom holds a special place in my heart as it was my first credit card. It let me start my credit history when I was still in college and it introduced me to points and miles. Even though I (foolishly) closed this card in 2017, I was fortunate enough to apply for it again later on and earn another sign-up bonus.
Apply Today: Chase Freedom