Will the Chase Freedom ever have a higher sign-up bonus again?

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Reader Andrew asked the following on the “Ask Lucky” page of the blog:

Any idea if Chase is going to return the $300/30,000 point bonus for the Freedom card? Have the Chase Sapphire, so would like the points, but 10,000 is low right now.

While I have no inside information, I’ve been putting some thought into this question, or more generally what I imagine Chase’s strategy to be the past year or so. Going back a few years American Express hands down had the most valuable consumer credit cards. However, Chase has quickly gained market share, and I’d argue on the whole now has more valuable cards for the savvy consumer (though there are cards with both issuers that are “must haves”).

I think the biggest growth we’ve seen at Chase is with non co-branded credit cards that accrue Ultimate Rewards points and not points in any of their co-branded points programs (like United MileagePlus, Hyatt Gold Passport, etc.). This essentially makes these “super-cards,” given that you can accrue points in a central currency, and later decide where you want those points transferred to. And while the cards that accrue Ultimate Rewards points have annual fees, they offer an extraordinary amount of value. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card accrues double points on dining and travel, while the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card and Ink Bold® Business Charge Card offer 5x points on the first $50,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services, and double points on the first $50,000 spent annually at gas stations and on hotels.

Both of these cards have annual fees of $95, though don’t really offer any other annual “bonus” which incentivizes customers to keep the card. But for most, the sheer number of points you can earn thanks to the bonus categories more than justify the annual fee.

Interestingly a majority of co-branded Chase cards (including Hyatt, Priority Club, etc.) offer an annual bonus just for keeping the card. It basically makes the card a keeper regardless of whether you plan on using it or not. This is unique because there aren’t many American Express cards I can think of that offer such a bonus.

So with that in mind, my perception is that Chase thinks of both the Ultimate Rewards branded and co-branded credit cards as being more in the “stable” phase than the “let’s-grow-the-heck-out-of-it” phase. And I say that simply because they’re not offering mega sign-up bonuses for the most part anymore, at least not like in the past.

This brings us to the Chase Freedom® Card, which is one of the most unique “valuable” Chase cards out there, given that it has no annual fee. Not the first year, not ever. The card is valuable because it offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories for up to $1,500 of spend. This basically translates into an easy 30,000 points per year. It’s worth noting each point can be redeemed for 1% cash back, though if you link it to an Ultimate Rewards branded card, they can also turn into Ultimate Rewards points. As a result the card has been getting more popular, because it’s not just worthwhile for people looking for 5% cash back, but it’s also worthwhile for people looking for five Ultimate Rewards points per dollar.

Over a year ago we saw sign-up bonuses on the card ranging from 20,000-30,000 points, though nowadays it’s at 10,000 points after spending $500 within three months.

Could we see that bonus again? Sure, it’s definitely possibly. Is it likely? I don’t think so. This is a no annual fee credit card and I think the reason behind the higher bonus while the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, and Ink Plus cards were being promoted, was to try and get people engaged in the Ultimate Rewards program. I think Chase is done trying to promote the Freedom Card as an every day spend card, but rather all the branding focuses around the 5x points category, which is the card’s “hook.” And that makes sense because while a 1% cash back credit card might have been competitive a few years ago, it’s not anymore. Now that people are sufficiently engaged in the Ultimate Rewards program, they really don’t have to offer a huge sign-up bonus on the card anymore.

Anyway, just my guess, though hope I’m wrong. I’m going to be picking up the Freedom in my next round of credit card applications since I’ve had so many other cards I’ve prioritized over it, but at the end of the day not having it is costing me ~24,000 Ultimate Rewards points per year.

Has anyone else been holding off in hopes of a better sign-up bonus?

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Comments

  1. Another feature that makes it a long term no brainer to keep is that it is credit report friendly for churn happy customers……this is a card you rotate the 5X spend and don’t ever have to worry about the renewal fee so the earlier you get it the longer it will make your card length……..can’t say that for many AMEX cards as they gather dust after minimum spend……….

  2. This is the best card out there if you still can score the 10% bonus per spend and 10pts per transaction. I thought that benefit was goin away but I’m still getting it.

  3. RJ Brown: on the flip side, keeping one AF free Amex card is smart, because it back dates all of your future Amex cards to it’s opening date.

  4. I was lucky enough to get my 2nd Freedom card with the short promo offering 35K points….

  5. With the crappy sign up bonus, a better strategy for obtaining the Freedom card is converting another Chase card when the annual fee comes due.

  6. I wouldn’t say the Freedom card “basically translates into an easy 30,000 points per year.” Not everyone spends $1,500 per quarter in the relevant categories. $500 per month on gas? I don’t think it’s the norm for people to purchase 3 tanks of gas every week.

  7. @RJ Brown — Huh? If you convert you Sapphire to Freedom, you aren’t leaving anything on the table (except some 2x categories, which you can get via other cards anyway).

  8. Yes this quarter is 5X for restaurants=7,500 points…….then next quarter is 5X for gas =7,500 points and yes my family almost spends 500 a month on gas now that I commute on the bus….CA prices……..and then last quarter at Christmas season will be 5X on Nordstrom’s and Neiman’s and all other dept stores………and I still have 10 months of free Sapphire as I am late to the game and if you were to give up Sapphire for freedom then where would you be without first Friday on restaurants in July……at one point…….so yes you are leaving points on the table to give up Sapphire……….

  9. @RJ Brown — You get all of the 5x bonuses you list by having a Freedom card. Anyway, the whole point of converting a card is to save a hard pull. If you aren’t a heavy churner, then my point is irrelevant.

  10. Lucky: Technically, not having the Freedom card is not costing you 24,000 points per year. Assuming you already earn 2 points on gas and restaurants, the figure is probably closer to 15,000. Still, those extra 15,000 points make this card a keeper in my book.

  11. @Gene the 5X rotate so on July 1 it’s important you still have a Sapphire to get your 3X on first Friday restaurants and their gift cards……..If the Freedom doesn’t have a rotating 5X then it’s only value is to improve your credit score……..unless you are happy with 1X on everything?

  12. I am also still getting the 10/10 bonus on every transaction. I love my Freedom Card and it is actually my go to card for most purchases, especially small ones.

  13. I to have prioritized other cards over this but always want it… A higher signup bonus would push it over the edge.

    @Gene, I have tried to get chase to convert my cards to Freedom and they say they can’t. I tried converting my Sapphire, United and Hyatt cards (with multiple agents on different days) and they said they can’t. I tried converting my wife’s United and they said no as well. I have read of others doing it, but I have had zero luck.

  14. For sure you can convert Sapphire to Freedom. Many successful reports of people doing this.

  15. As a serious churner I place a high value on my Freedom card. With my history of cancelling cards it’s important for me to have a bunch of no annual fee cards I don’t have to cancel. I use them for promos then put them away.

  16. @hikert I have tried with several agents and say they can’t. They say that Freedom is a “lesser” product and they are not allowed to convert. I then pleasantly disagree and suggest I know of others who have done this. They continue to say no. Any suggestions?

  17. @hikerT and Sam — I am surprised by your experience. About 2 weeks ago, I converted (on 2 separate calls) Sapphire cards for me and my partner to Freedom cards with no problems. I think they might have asked why, and I told them I didn’t want to continue paying the Sapphire annual fee and that I wanted the Freedom 5x rotating bonuses.

  18. @Gene and HikerT. Very strange indeed. I told them exactly that… I don’t want to continue paying fee, but want Freedom for rotating bonuses. Tried several agents and even a supervisor and was told I could cancel and apply for a new card, but not convert. Also tried United and Hyatt cards on separate occasions. All of my cards appear to be locked and ineligible for conversion. Maybe I am special 🙂

  19. Chase Freedom is my card of choice due to the fact when using its UR Mall combined with a Chase Checking Account you get a 10% yearly bonus which is even better than CSP’s 7%. And if you are good at using the UR Mall, that extra 3% does add up quick.

    Combined with the no annual fee, 5x categories, and transferability to a premium card that allows to move points to Hyatt or United…its one of my go to cards.

  20. @Sam From my experience you can only downgrade other Chase UR products to a Freedom, aka a Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire. They don’t seem to allow you to move a co-branded card like Hyatt or United to the Freedom.

    It is strange that they didn’t let you downgrade a CSP to a Freedom…I paired my Freedom Visa with a Freedom MC that way.

  21. I skipped it at 30k, holding out for a better bonus, and too many better offers at the time. Ended up taking it at 10k.. disappointing but it is a great card. Was even better before they killed Exclusives.

  22. sadly this card competes with discover’s basic card..if discover ups their sign up bonus or gains market share then i’m sure the freedom will

  23. I also recently tried to convert a Chase Sapphire Preferred to Chase Freedom but was told they could not do it. Perhaps you can only convert Chase Sapphire (no fee) and not Sapphire Preferred.

  24. Ditto – no go on converting a CSP to Freedom. We were told we could downgrade to a plain Sapphire, which we did to preserve AAOC and credit limit.

  25. If you convert your Sapphire Preferred to Freedom, then you lose the ability to transfer your Ultimate Rewards Points into miles. That perk only comes with the annual fee cards…

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