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Credit Card Review: Chase Freedom

The Chase Freedom card puts good credit to work by returning a percentage of all spending as cash, effectively delivering a discount on every eligible purchase. Issued by Chase Bank USA, a subsidiary of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), the Chase Freedom card delivers cash back benefits and sign-up bonuses that rival the best cash back cards on the market. If you're ready to start earning cash back every time you spend, this no-annual-fee credit card is well worth a look.

The Rewards and Benefits

With the Chase Freedom card in hand, every purchase automatically earns 1% cash back with no limits or category restrictions. Additionally, careful spenders can earn cash back rewards totaling 5% on up to $1,500 of purchases in special categories that rotate each calendar quarter. Past quarterly categories have included purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants. Quarterly categories have also included purchases from specific retailers, including Amazon.com (AMZN) and Kohl's (KSS), among others.

As of 2015, new Chase Freedom cardholders enjoy a 0% introductory annual percentage rate (APR) on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months of card ownership. New cardholders who spend $500 on the Chase Freedom card in the first three months of ownership automatically get a $100 cash back bonus. Additionally, any cardholder who adds a second authorized user to a Chase Freedom account in the first three months of card ownership gets a $25 cash back bonus.

The Fine Print

To access the higher cash back rate of 5% for special purchase categories, Chase Freedom cardholders must remember to activate the new category every quarter. Failure to activate the quarterly category before the deadline means that all purchases in the category earn 1% cash back rather than the special 5% rate. While there are convenient methods available to activate the quarterly category, including by telephone, email or ATM, or by logging in online, it would be nice if the 5% reward activated automatically each quarter.

After the initial 15-month introductory APR, cardholders pay a variable APR between 13.99 and 22.99%, depending on individual creditworthiness. While the APR for balance transfers is the same as that for regular purchases, there is a transfer fee equal to the greater of $5 or 3% of the transfer amount. Like most other cash back rewards cards, cash advances are not cheap with the Chase Freedom card. Fees are the greater of $10 or 5%, while the cash advance APR is 24.99% for the life of the balance.

Main Competitors

Most of the best-known card issuers in the country offer quality cash back rewards cards to compete with the Chase Freedom card. The Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express, the Discover It card and the BankAmericard Cash Rewards card are all very good options in this area. Each offers a variety of special rewards and benefits for new cardholders on top of attractive cash back rewards programs. Additionally, none of these cards has an annual fee.

The Chase Freedom card stands out from the competition for the simplicity of its cash back program. Many competing cards have three or more cash back categories to memorize, in addition to spending limits and other rules. In contrast, Chase Freedom cardholders only need to keep track of the 5% rotating purchase category to maximize cash back benefits every quarter.

Who Should Get It

The Chase Freedom card is a good option for any household that values flexibility. While most types of rewards cards deliver specialized benefits in narrow categories, cardholders can use cash back rewards to pay for anything, including airfare, dinner at a restaurant, gas for the car or even household bills. The Chase Freedom card lets cardholders use your rewards however they see fit, which is a substantial benefit in itself.

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