Chase Freedom Review (2018 Edition)

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The Chase Freedom has been a mainstay of the Chase Ultimate Rewards Program for years now and it's one of our favorite cards. In this post, we'll give an overview of what this card offers, why it matters for family and Disney travel, and our thoughts on whether it deserves a space in your wallet.

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The Basics

The Chase Freedom is a Visa card without an annual fee that earns points in the Chase Ultimate Rewards Program. You might see it occasionally advertised as or referenced as (alongside its sibling the Chase Freedom Unlimited) a "cash back card." The reason for this is that to use the Ultimate Rewards points for anything other than 1 cent per point cash back, you need to hold one of the following cards: Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Chase Ink Business Preferred. The real power of the Chase Ultimate Rewards cards is unlocked by using the right combination of them. We cover this in more detail in our guide to the Chase Ultimate Rewards Program.

Earning and Using Points with the Chase Freedom

Our guide to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program goes in depth about getting the maximum value of the points you earn with the Chase Freedom. Here's the rundown on the card, though.

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Chase Freedom Signup Bonus

The currently publicly available signup bonus is $150 (or 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points) for spending $500 in three months. It's not a stellar bonus, but this isn't a card you really get for the signup bonus anyways. Here's our referral link for this card:

Chase Freedom Highlight: Rotating 5% Categories

The argument for the Chase Freedom is quite compelling and boils down to this simple feature. For every quarter of the calendar year, Chase picks a category of spending (for example, gas stations) and when you charge expenses in that category to your Chase Freedom, you get 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent (up to $1,500 spent). On all other categories, you get 1 point per dollar spent.

 Chase Freedom 2017 5X bonus Calendar

Chase Freedom 2017 5X bonus Calendar

Example: Earning 5X Points with the Chase Freedom

For example, the actual category of spending for January through March 2018 is gas stations. Let's say you spent the following over those three months:

  • $1,700 at your local gas stations

  • $1,000 at local restaurants

  • $2,000 on travel

If you put all of those expenses on your Chase Freedom, here's a breakdown of how many points you'd earn:

CategorySpendingPoints Earned
Gas StationFirst $1,5007,500
Gas StationOther $200200
Restaurant$1,0001,000
Travel$2,0002,000
Total$4,70010,700

As you can see, that 5X category is incredibly powerful. If you just put that spending on a card that earned 1 point on everything, you'd only get 4,700 points. Even on a 2% cash back card, you'd only get $94 back. Those 10,700 points, by contrast, are worth a minimum of $107. Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be incredibly valuable, though, and you could easily get $134 to $160 of value from those points.

How Family Travelers Can Maximize 5X Points Back

Even if they don't look up your alley, the 5X rotating categories are really easy to squeeze value out of. In 2017, the categories were (roughly): Gas Stations, Grocery Stores, Restaurants, Walmart. Here are some ways you could have gotten a full 5% back on those categories:

  • Buy gift cards in categories for spending you're going to make anyways. If you're a regular shopper at Whole Foods, buy $1,500 of Whole Foods gift cards at Whole Foods in Quarter 2. You don't have to spend the gift cards all in the same quarter, and you'll get the 5X points back for the purchase.

  • Buy discount Disney gift cards. This works best if you can find cards that already sell at a discount in one of the categories, but if you've got an upcoming trip planned, buy $500 of Disney gift cards from the gas station for your four days of dining and spending and get those 2,500 points.

  • Buy gift cards outside the categories. Walmart sells a variety of gift cards, as do many grocery stores and gas stations. If you're going to be spending money at Toys R Us anyways, then buy the gift card at the grocery store to get 5X points instead of the 1X you'd get putting Toys R Us right on your card.

 Use 5% back at merchants who sell gift cards!

Use 5% back at merchants who sell gift cards!

Get 7.5% Back With The Chase Freedom and Chase Sapphire Reserve

Our favorite credit card is our Chase Sapphire Reserve. Using that card, you can get 1.5 cents per point when you book travel through the Chase travel portal. This includes booking Disney hotels through the Chase travel portal. Since you can transfer points between Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, you can take the 5X points you earn on your Freedom, send them to your Sapphire Reserve, and redeem them for 1.5 cents each. This means on $1,500 spent at gas stations in January through March 2018, you'd get 7,500 points worth a total of $112.5 towards travel. That's 7.5% back and enough for a night at some Disney hotels! Four quarters of using your Chase Freedom wisely could get you four nights at some Disney hotels!

Get This Card If...

Get this card if you already have a Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred. The rotating categories are too good to pass up. If you don't have either of those cards, we think the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a better starter card than the Freedom, but we get why you might want to start with the Freedom and go from there. Either way, mind Chase's 5/24 rule when picking your cards.

Skip This Card If...

We'd only suggest skipping this card if you're close to Chase's 5/24 limit and there are better options for your situation. And as we said above, we'd consider starting with the Sapphire Preferred. One option, especially if there are multiple adults in your household, is to plan to "downgrade" a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve to the Freedom down the road. It might make sense for two adults to get the Chase Sapphire Reserve today for the signup bonus, but it will make less sense for them both to keep it down the road.

Do you have the Chase Freedom? What do you think?