Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chase Freedom 30,000 Bonus Points

To be frank, the Chase Freedom card isn't the greatest card in world, or even close to it for that matter. But strangely enough, I've found myself carrying this card for more than 5 years now, and it is probably the card I've kept the longest in my wallet - ever. It's gone through several incarnations, and the rewards scheme has had multiple "enhancements" over the years, but I still find it to be one of the best rewards cards out there that doesn't charge an annual fee.

Chase Freedom participates in the Ultimate Rewards program, but be aware that even though it shares a name, there are significant differences between the UR points earned with the Freedom card and those earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Freedom UR points are not worth 25% more when redeeming for travel through the UR travel booking tool, and most importantly, they cannot be transferred to airline or hotel partners such as United/Continental, British Airways, Korean Air, Hyatt, Marriott, and Priority Club. The good news is that if you have a Sapphire Preferred card, you can transfer UR points earned from your Freedom card over, and then all the benefits of your Sapphire Preferred UR account will apply.

Despite these limitations, the Chase Freedom card is still very lucrative for earning rewards points. Every purchase earns a base rate of 1% back per dollar spent. In addition, there are rotating categories that earns 5% back (1% base + 4% bonus) per dollar spent. These categories change every quarter, and you must remember to sign up every quarter, although there are plenty of reminders when the time comes. Also note that the extra 4% bonus is limited to the first $1500 in purchases within the bonus categories, which caps your total quarterly bonus earned on special categories at $60. Here are the categories from 2011: 

January 1, 2011 March 31, 2011  
      - Grocery Stores 
      - Drugstores
April 1, 2011 June 30, 2011 
      - Home Improvement 
      - Lawn and Garden 
      - Home Furnishings
July 1, 2011 September 30, 2011 
      - Gas 
      - Hotels 
      - Airlines
October 1, 2011 – December 31, 2011 
      - Dining 
      - Department Stores 
      - Movies 
      - Charity
While this does seem a bit cumbersome, I have to say that Chase has always done a pretty good job of accurately rewarding the 5% bonus. And even when specific purchases aren't reported into the correct category, a call will usually get the adjustments done immediately.

Right now, Chase Freedom is running its largest sign-up promotion ever, giving out 30,000 bonus UR points (worth $300 cash back) after spending just $500 within the first 3 months of cardmembership. If you've ever thought of signing up for the Freedom card, or just need a no annual fee rewards card for everyday use, I'd say take advantage of this offer now!

One final note: if you also have a Chase checking account, you earn even more points back on the Chase Freedom card - 10% extra points per dollar spent (meaning you are effectively getting 1.1% back instead of just 1%), plus 10 extra points per transaction. While minor, this can certainly add up fast.

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