When you consider the myriad of rewards credit card out there, it’s no wonder Chase introduced the Chase Freedom card. With over 15 bonus reward categories and the ability to switch from cashback to point-based reward system, the Chase card is aptly named for its versatility (if not a bit cheesy and designed a bit fugly).

If you’ve had the unfortunate experience to have been subscribed to this blog for over a year, you may remember that I wrote a “preview” to the Chase Freedom card back in 2007. As promised, here’s a full detailed review for those that may be interested in a decent cashback rewards card.

Quick Facts: Chase Freedom Credit Card

  • Comes in Visa Signature or regular Platinum if you don’t qualify for Signature card.
  • No annual fee for either version of the credit card.
  • Good to Excellent credit needed to apply, 680 to 720+ in FICO score.
  • Chase will pull any of the three credit reporting agency to get your credit info.
  • Variable APR with the a current APR of 14.99% (like many rewards card, a bit high)
  • If you apply with FICO scores below 650, some delinquency on your credit history, and was declined, you may be able to ask for reconsideration by calling the number on the rejection letter.
  • Save time and trouble by converting one of your old Chase credit cards into the Freedom rewards card.

Chase Freedom Rewards Card

Applying for the Credit Card

A quick scan of the credit pulls database shows that those receiving an approval without issue have 700+ in FICO score, with no blemishes on their credit history. These people generally received instant approval or approvals within a few days.

Those with some minor blemishes on their credit history and lower FICO score will most likely get the “notification within 30 day” notice, but unless you have major delinquency on your account, you should be able to get approval without issue (and especially on reconsideration).

If you have any doubts to your credit standing, you should NOT apply for this rewards card, as it is a prime card that requires good to excellent credit.

Most Chase credit cards (non co-branded ones) can be converted to the Freedom card without issue, so if you want to enjoy cashback, you can easily call customer service and ask them to convert your old Chase card into the Freedom Rewards card (my card was converted from a plain vanilla, 7.99% fixed APR, Chase Visa card into the current Chase Freedom card).

If you already have a Chase card, converting to the Chase Freedom is my recommended method to get the rewards card, as it’ll save you the hassle of applying for new credit and avoids the opening of yet another revolving account on your credit report.

Rewards Structure: Bonus Categories and Cashbacks

We’ll mostly look at the cashback aspect of the rewards card, as cold-hard cash is always better than points. With cashback, you can buy the crap you really want instead of being limited to the selections in Chase’s rewards catalog.

You earn 1% or 1 point for each $1 in purchases. You’ll earn an additional 2% or 2 point for purchases made in the top three bonus categories where you spend the most.

Bonus cashback: When you accumulate $200 in cashback, you can claim a $250 check, in essence making this card into a 3.75% / 1.25% cashback rewards card.

Merchants that fall into the bonus categories are:

  • Grocery store (no warehouse clubs or discount stores, or departments of superstores)
  • Gas and convenience stores
  • Quick service payment/fast food restaurants
  • Telecommunications
  • Cable/satellite and TV/Internet service providers
  • Video rentals
  • Department stores
  • Dry cleaners
  • Drugstores
  • Movie theatres
  • Pet supply stores and veterinary services
  • Beauty salons and spans, or gym/recreation membership
  • Local and suburban commuter passenger transportations (ferries, bridges, tolls, parking garages, taxis/limos)

The trick in receiving the extra two percent in cashback (or points if you’re into that), is for the merchants to classify their merchant location as one of the following categories above.

Generally, if you’re buying groceries at a supermarket, or gas at a gas station, you’ll receive the bonus cashback without issues. However, if you buy groceries at a Walmart Supercenter, or gas at Costco, you won’t receive the bonus cashback.

Caveats: Although there are no cashback limits to regular purchases, there is a monthly $600 limit to the bonus categories; so in short, you can only earn about $18 in bonus cashback per month. If this limit is a concern, you can always supplement your cashback earnings with the Discover More Cashback Card. You should also note that the cashbacks and points on the Freedom card also expire in 36 months or 60 months, respectively.

Tracking and Requesting Cashback

Thanks to Chase’s new online account website, you can easily see your monthly cashback earnings once you’ve logged into your online account.

Accumulating cashback on the Chase Freedom Rewards card

As you can see above, there is about $178 accumulated in my Freedom Visa card. In addition to the previous $250 check already requested, this puts my total cashback since owning the rewards card to $428. Not too shabby for a year of frivolous spending.

Cashbacks can be requested within this page whenever you reach $50 in cashback. You can also request a check at the $100 or $150 level. But you mightas well save up to the $200 level so you can request the bonus cashback of $250.

As the screenshot shows, you can also switch your rewards system from cashback to points in this online account page. This way, instead of cold hard cash to pay off the hitman, you can now save yourself some trouble and just give your in-laws Macy’s gift cards.

Visa Signature and Additional Card Benefits

The rewards card comes in a Visa Signature or regular Platinum (if you don’t qualify for Signature). Visa Signature benefits includes: concierge service, no pre-set spending limit, emergency cash disbursement and card replacement, warranty manager service, purchase security and other common credit card benefits such as lost luggage reimbursement and auto rental collision damage waiver.

The Visa Signature concierge service is provided as a complementary service by a third party, Mondial Assistance. Although I’ve initially read good things about the Visa Signature concierge service, after a few trial runs via phone and email request, I’ve found the concierge service to be nothing extraordinary.

Generally, for fast prompt response to inquiries, your best bet is to phone the Visa Signature concierge service. You can expect decent service for restaurant recommendations and reservations in major cities or travel arrangements.

If you’re emailing for information or request, make sure to clearly state what you need and the timeframe of the request as that may help speed up the response time (2 out of 4 of my email request went unanswered).

There are two benefits that are actually fairly hot: Purchase Security can potentially reimburse you up to a maximum of $500 per claim in the event of theft, damage due to fire, vandalism, etc. within the first 90 days of date of purchase. Warranty Manager Service allows for you to register a product and extend a manufacturer’s warranty for an additional year, for products with manufacturer’s warranty of less than three years.

With these two benefits, you wouldn’t have to worry about your brand new laptop being stolen within 90 days of purchase, or the battery bursting into flames six days after the warranty expires!

Online Account Usage and Features

Chase’s online account usage is actually decent and there are a few handy features you may be interested in. You can setup personalized alerts to get notification to various email accounts, text messages to cell phones on different type of scenario and conditions (account overdrawn, balance above XX amount, activity on account of more than XX amount, etc.)

Along with personalized alerts, you can also setup automatic monthly bill payment with the online account. The type of bills you can setup to pay varies from your auto insurance to your telecommunication bills. If you don’t already have automatic bill payment setup at your respective services, this will be a good place to have everything centralized, into one account — plus, it’ll help you accumulate cashback faster.

Account statement page for Chase Freedom rewards card
click to enlarge

Like many other online accounts, you can view your past recent statements, check your balance, pending charges, available credit, payment status and due dates. In addition to recent statements, if you sign-up for Chase’s paper-less statement system, Chase will store your statements up to six-years. During the end of each year, you will also see a year-end summary, detailing your crazy spending.

Chase Freedom rewards card account detail page.
click to enlarge

Chase Customer Service

There are a few different methods to contact Chase if you have questions regarding your Chase card account. You can use the secure message center in the online account page, or if the matter is more pressing, you can contact Chase at the number on the back of your Chase Freedom card or the number on the credit card statement.

Depending on the time of the day, your call may be routed to the call center abroad, or you may reach a stateside representative. Issues that require more care will generally need a specific department from Chase, which are usually only available stateside and at normal business hours (for example, if you have an issue with a bill payment, you may not be able to reach help during the middle of the night).

I’ve had a situation where I accidentally made a significantly large payment to the wrong Chase Freedom card (I have two), and needed them to make the credit payment adjustment. To Chase’s credit (crappy pun not intended), the problem was resolved after two quick calls, with a prompt fix to my accounts within 24 hours.

Your results with customer service will of course vary, but as with any calls to a nation-wide financial institution, you’ll get better results during non-peak hours, which is usually prior to 9 AM or after 6 PM.

Overall Impression and Recommendation

If the Chase Freedom rewards card was a complete crap, it certainly wouldn’t be in my wallet for over a year. As a cashback card, it is fairly decent in its percentages, and generous in its bonus categories.

The $600 bonus spending limit in the bonus categories can certainly be a drag, but for many people, spending $600 in some of these specific categories can also be difficult, so the spending limit will only be a negative factor if your spending exceeds the limit. For those people, they tend to use the Freedom rewards card as a secondary cashback card, mainly to charge for specific monthly expenses such as telecommunications, utilities, or veterinary services.

If your monthly spending limit in those categories doesn’t exceed the $600 cap, then the Chase Freedom can be a good primary cashback card, if you don’t already have a better cashback credit card.

Generally, if you’re already grandfathered in a 5% cashback card, or have a card that suits your spending pattern, then you should definitely stick with that particular card, and only consider the Chase Freedom as a secondary choice.

If you already have a plain-vanilla Chase Visa card, you can easily call customer service to have them do a product swap to the Freedom rewards card. This method is recommended, as you avoid opening another revolving credit line to your credit profile.

For those that are still using credit cards that offer little in terms of rewards and cashback and pay their bills in full monthly, you should consider getting a rewards card like the Chase Freedom, or a similar rewards card that suits your spending pattern.

There is of course one major point you should take note of before getting the Chase Freedom card or any other rewards credit card. As a financial tool, credit cards can easily be a double edge sword. Along with their benefits, rewards, and convenience — they can become a real financial burden with irresponsible use.

Like many rewards credit card, the Chase Freedom has a higher interest rate than normal prime credit card with lower fixed rates. Any cashback you earned will be a moot point if you don’t pay your bills in full and accumulate interest.

Having said that, if you can manage your credit and spend wisely and you already pay your bills in full each month without issue, there’s little reason why you shouldn’t utilize the cashback from the Chase Freedom rewards card. In the long run, $428 in cashback isn’t something life changing — but man, sprining for those extra-soft toilet paper with the cashback money sure is sweet.

Update: Because Chase has changed the rewards structure of the Chase Freedom Rewards card, the ratings below have been updated to reflect the new changes. Please check Chase’s official website for finalized terms and benefits of the current Chase Freedom rewards card.

Chase Freedom Review Rating:

Cash Back: 4 out of 5

Card Benefits: 3 out of 5

Interest Rate: 3 out of 5

Customer Service: 4 out of 5

Pros:

  • Good online account interface with many useful features.
  • Base cashback is unlimited and bonus cashback categories are numerous.
  • Claiming cashback is straight forward — redeem at every $50 level, or save up to $200 for the bonus $250 check.
  • Visa Signature benefit of Purchase Security and Warranty Manager is a plus.
  • With good credit, you will often be presented with prime balance transfer offer within the online account page.
  • It’s a Visa card, which means it’s accepted almost everywhere.

Cons:

  • Bonus cashback is limited to $600 in spending per month.
  • Cashback expires in 36 months and points expire in 60 months.
  • High interest rate, not recommended as a balance carrying card.
  • 3% International transaction fee = don’t bother taking this card with you abroad.

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