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Chase Freedom: rewards like carnivals

The Chase Freedom® is hands down one of the best personal rewards credit cards out there.

Link: Chase Freedom®

Our readers are bargain hounds, often wondering which rewards program is the very tastiest. Here, the Chase Freedom credit card poses an interesting conundrum: sure, 5% cash back is just about the highest rewards rate out there, but it’s only offered on a couple categories that change every quarter, with all other purchases receiving 1%. By the way, the Discover it® card also offers 5% cash back on rotating categories.

Some argue that this means the card can be looked at as having a 2% cash back rate on those categories and 1% on everything else, since that’s what it averages out to over the course of the year. So, for the person looking for travel rewards, they might opt for the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®, which earns 2 points per dollar on every purchase.

But there’s two problems with that logic. First, the categories are usually appropriate to the season — for example, a past category is theme parks. This bumps up the value, since it’s stuff you’re going to be paying for anyway at that time of year. Second, the fact that this card has no annual fee means you don’t have to worry about meeting a minimum spend to make up for it. In other words, you can enjoy cashing out at a chunky 5% on bonus categories only when they’re up, and allocating your spending the rest of the year on more generous rewards programs. Music to the ears? Here’s the nitty-gritty.


The Basics

Not only is there no annual fee for this credit card, but the Chase Freedom® card also offers an introductory 0% APR on all purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months. That’s over a year that you don’t have to worry about interest. (Balance transfers do still get charged a 3% fee, which is fairly standard.) Plus, this card is relatively easy to qualify for, compared to the rewards it offers. Jump on it!

Or, maybe you won’t stop worrying about interest, because you are a credit control freak, like most of us at CWD. Well, this card comes with a shiny toy just for you. The Blueprint tool is a handy way to manage your purchases on the card. You can design plans to pay off big purchases — it shows you the monthly amount for your desired time frame, then sets it apart on your statements. Or you can designate certain categories to be paid off in full each month — also set apart. The spending trends feature shows you your monthly spending, split up into easy-to-understand categories. And if you don’t like what you see, you can set a monthly budget for those categories that you’ve got a weakness for. Your color-coded highlighters can finally take a break.


The Rewards Program

Again, the Chase Freedom credit card offers 5% cash back on rotating categories and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Up for the rest of 2013: theme parks, Kohl’s,, some department stores, and gas stations. Refreshingly, it looks like the card doesn’t put the usual limitations on gas stations such as excluding warehouse clubs: a vendor just needs to sell automotive gasoline. You do have to activate your rewards before the end of the quarter in order for the 5% bonus to take effect, but luckily if you wait until the end everything still gets applied retroactively. The activation process is a breeze, you can simply reply to their text or click a link in their email, whatever you choose. Though, why they make you activate at all is beyond us — who is going to say no to this? “I hate getting free money. It sucks.”

Get even more cash back when you shop through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards site, which links to online retailers with increased points bonuses sometimes reaching 8x! (Not to mention occasionally scoring perks such as free shipping.) As far as redeeming, rest assured there are no limits and no expiration dates on your points. If you want cash (in at least $20 increments), you can opt for a statement credit, direct deposit, or paper check. Other redemption options include gift cards, travel, merchandise, or exclusive cool experiences. Oh, and don’t forget you can always transfer Ultimate Rewards points to your Chase Sapphire Preferred card for amazing flexibility and value in travel options.


Final Verdict

With no annual fee, there is no reason not to get this card. 5% cash back is tough to beat — well, unless you’re getting even more through the Ultimate Rewards mall. Talk about a win-win. Don’t let the rotating categories spook you. Carnivals come and go too, but we still enjoy them.

Apply Now: Chase Freedom®