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For many people, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a no-brainer. The card offers 1.5x points per dollar spent, and in conjunction with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card, those points can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points (and then redeemed for 1.5 cents each, or they can be transferred to an airline or hotel partner). That’s why I consider those two cards to be the best credit card duo out there.
While I think the Freedom Unlimited has become more valuable over time, thanks to how robust Ultimate Rewards has become, I’d argue in some ways the Freedom has become less valuable, through no fault of its own.
Let me explain why, and share why I think the card is still worth it.
The Chase Freedom is great for 5x points categories
The Chase Freedom® offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories on up to $1,500 of spend per quarter. The categories change every year, so the 2017 categories were different than the 2018 categories, and you can expect the 2019 categories will be different as well.
The Chase Freedom 2018 5x points categories
This card is a great way to earn 30,000 points every year for $6,000 of spend, which is an excellent return, in particular since this is a no annual fee card.
Why the Chase Freedom is getting less valuable over time
Back in the day, being able to earn 5x points was an outstanding bonus, and worth maximizing. This card used to essentially offer an incremental 4x points compared to what you’d usually earn.
But the reality is that we’ve seen massive improvements when it comes to the bonus categories offered by many cards. So while back in the day you’d earn an incremental 4x points if maximizing these bonuses, nowadays you’re often looking at just 1-2x incremental points per dollar spent, which isn’t quite as exceptional. That’s thanks to some cards offering 2-4x points in all kinds of categories year-round.
For example, this year we’ve seen the Chase Freedom offer 5x points on gas stations, grocery stores, Lyft, internet/cable/phone services, and more:
- The American Express® Gold Card offers 4x points on the first $25,000 spent annually at U.S. supermarkets
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card offers 3x points on travel (including Lyft)
- The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, and 2% at grocery stores
- The Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card offers 5x points on the first $25,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services
- The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi and Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi offer 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter, 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases, and 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com
- The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express offers 2x points at U.S. gas stations, and a 50% points bonus when you make 30 transactions per billing cycle, for a total of up to 3x points
- The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers 1.5x points on all purchases, so that’s the minimum you should ever be earning
These are just a few examples, but my point is that for a vast majority of the purchases I make with the Chase Freedom®, I’m not actually earning an incremental 4x points per dollar.
I’m earning a maximum of 3.5x incremental points per dollar, and in many cases am earning just 1-2x incremental points.
Why the Chase Freedom is still worth it, though
I would estimate that back in the day the Chase Freedom® earned me an additional 20,000 or so points per year, that I couldn’t have earned through other cards. I’d say now the card earns me an incremental 5,000-10,000 points per year.
That might not seem like all that much, though why do I still recommend this card?
- It has no annual fee, so there’s no cost to holding onto it
- The card does still earn me incremental points, and sometimes in categories that otherwise aren’t eligible for any major bonuses on other cards, like department stores, for example
- Holding onto credit cards long term is great for your credit score, since it helps improve your average age of accounts, and it’s part of a balanced credit card strategy; there’s nothing better than holding onto a no annual fee card long term that also earns you a decent number of incremental points
The Chase Freedom® isn’t quite as lucrative as it used to be, and that’s simply because other cards have gotten so much better by comparison over the years. However, I still think this card is absolutely worth it, as just about anyone should still be able to earn quite a few bonus points with the card, and most importantly, holding onto a no annual fee card long term is a low cost way to improve your credit score.
Where do you stand on the Chase Freedom? Has the improving bonus categories on other cards shifted your impression of the card?