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The Chase Freedom® card is an excellent $0-annual-fee credit card that offers rotating 5% cashback categories each quarter when you activate. The bonus categories include staples of most household budgets, such as gas, shopping and groceries. When you're not earning extra rewards on the bonus categories, you'll receive unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. The rewards can be redeemed for cash or combined with other cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points for even greater value.
Chase Freedom®: Huge value with rotating 5% cashback categories
For consumers who like to use credit cards to maximize their cash back when spending, the Chase Freedom® is the card for you. You can earn 5% cash back on specific categories on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter you activate, or 1% on anything else you buy.
Earn more through quarterly 5% cashback calendar
With the Chase Freedom®, you can plan out your year of spending based on the cashback calendar. Every three months, there is a fresh batch of retailers where you can earn $5 for every $100 you spend up to the quarterly maximum. Chase releases its calendar ahead of time and allows you to easily set up reminders so you won't miss out on an opportunity to maximize the 5% cashback bonus. Note that you need to activate the bonus categories each quarter.
In these categories, you are limited to 5% cash back on the first $1,500 you spend each quarter you activate. Maxing out this benefit would earn you $75 each quarter, or $300 a year. That's like receiving a new credit card sign-up bonus every year without an inquiry on your credit.
The 5% cashback categories for 2020 include:
- January to March (1st quarter): Gas stations, select streaming services, internet, cable and phone services
- April to June (2nd quarter): Gyem memberships, fitness clubs, grocery stores
- July to September (3rd quarter): TBA
- October to December (4th quarter): TBA
Earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
After you've maxed out the 5% bonus categories, don't worry. You'll still earn valuable cashback rewards on your purchases. The Chase Freedom® earns an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases outside of the 5% cashback categories.
You can cash out your rewards anytime — and for any amount. And rewards do not expire as long as your account remains open. Rewards can be redeemed for cash back through statement credits or direct deposit into a checking or savings account. Gift cards and certificates good for shopping, dining and entertainment are another option. You may also link your account to Amazon to pay for your purchases. Or, you can pair your Freedom card with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® to unlock even more value.
If you’re tempted to make a purchase at Amazon using your points, be aware that you’ll only receive $0.80 in value when redeeming points. Instead of shopping with points at Amazon, you’re better off using your Chase Freedom® to make the purchase to earn cash back, then applying your points as a statement credit for the charges.
Earn extra cash back shopping online
When shopping online, use Shop through Chase to earn even more cash back. Chase has an exclusive shopping portal that rewards you for the purchases that you planned to make anyway. Earn 1% to 15% bonus cash back at over 400 popular online retailers, including Macy's, Walmart, Home Depot and Best Buy.
These rewards are in addition to everything you normally earn with your Chase Freedom®. And there is no limit to how much bonus cash back you may earn in the Shop through Chase portal.
Get added protection while shopping
Life happens that causes things to go wrong with your purchases. The Chase Freedom® has you covered with valuable benefits that address those worries.
It seems like problems always happen right after manufacturer's warranties expire. If you made your purchase with the Chase Freedom®, you'll receive an extra year of coverage on eligible items. And if your new purchase is damaged or stolen within the first 120 days from purchase, you're covered up to $500 per item for a total of $50,000 per account. To recap and highlight additional features, the Chase Freedom®:
- Extends manufacturer’s warranties up to an additional year on eligible warranties of three years or less
- Protects from theft or damage up to $500 per item
- Provides zero liability for unauthorized purchases
Make travel worry-free with these benefits
When you're on vacation, you want to relax, explore the sights and leave your worries behind. With the Chase Freedom®, your travel plans and your travel companions are covered in multiple ways.
If your trip is canceled or cut short because of sickness, injury or another covered reason, you can be reimbursed up to $1,500 per person on the same reservation. This benefit covers up to $6,000 per trip for prepaid, nonrefundable reservations such as flights, hotels and vacation expenses. When renting a car, you can skip the expensive collision insurance because the Chase Freedom® provides secondary coverage to your personal insurance. Here’s a recap of some of the travel-related features, plus some additional ones:
- Trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance
- Auto rental collision damage waiver
- Travel and emergency assistance services
- Roadside dispatch
Although the Chase Freedom® is great for domestic travel, you may want to leave it home on international trips due to its 3% foreign transaction fee.
ValuePenguin's verdict: Great card if you can maximize categories
The Chase Freedom®'s rotating 5% cashback categories offer great value if you can maximize them. By spending $1,500 each quarter in those categories to meet the cap, you'll earn $300 cash back a year. Or you can take those rewards and transfer them to a Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for even more value.
If the rotating categories don't suit the way you spend, then the 1% cash back on all other purchases isn't great. There are other cashback credit cards that offer much higher rewards on everyday spending.
Before applying, think about two things. First, are you eligible to open the account based on the Chase 5/24 rule (meaning, have you opened five or more cards in the past two years)? And second, look at last year's rotating categories and the upcoming calendar to see if you shop at those types of stores. If you do, then apply for the Chase Freedom® to earn 5% cash back in bonus categories on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter you activate. If not, consider one of these alternatives.
Alternatives to the Chase Freedom®
One of the downfalls of rotating cashback categories is remembering to register. With family, work and life, some people don't want to add another task to their to-do list. That's why these cards below offer a simple structure that allows you to earn unlimited cash back without any hassle.
Unlimited 1.5% cash back on everything
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
No Annual Fee
16.49% - 25.24% Variable
The $0-annual-fee Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a sibling of the Chase Freedom® card. It offers many of the same benefits, but the rewards-earning structure is a bit simpler. Instead of rotating cashback categories, cardholders earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back everywhere they spend.
The rewards you earn can still be combined with other Ultimate Rewards-earning credit cards to redeem for travel or transfer to airline and hotel partners. And when combining points with the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, the points you earn are equivalent to 2.25% cash back toward booking flights, hotels and other travel reservations.
Earn points to pay off your credit card purchases
Citi® Double Cash Card
No Annual Fee
13.99% - 23.99% Variable
- Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
- To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
- Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
- Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
- If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
- There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
- The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% - 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer offers a combined 2% cash back on your purchases with a $0 annual fee. However, you won't get all your cash back right away because Citi breaks the rewards into two parts. You'll earn 1% cash back when you spend and another 1% cash back when you pay down your balance. This credit card actually incentivizes you to pay off your debt.
Cardholders can now convert cashback rewards into ThankYou Points. These points are a value travel currency when transferred to one of 14 partner airlines, such as JetBlue, Air France and Qantas.
Unlimited cash back and no foreign transaction fees
The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card gives you an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. There are no bonus categories to remember, and the card comes with a $0 annual fee. You can redeem your cash back anytime and for any amount.
For travelers, the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card also offers no foreign transaction fees on charges internationally. Capital One cardholders also gain access to exclusive culinary, music and sports events.