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Note from Ben: This is a quick reminder that the increased 20,000 point sign-up bonus on the Chase Freedom® ends tomorrow. So if you haven’t yet applied for this card, you really should consider doing so, as the sign-up bonus will likely go down to 10,000 points again. Why is this card awesome?
- You earn 5x points in rotating quarterly categories, for up to $1,500 of spend per quarter
- The card has no annual fee
- Having a card long term is great for your credit score since it helps keep up your average account age
- If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Plus® Business Credit Card, you can convert the points from the Chase Freedom® into “premium” Ultimate Rewards points
I always assume most people already have this card, though when I meet fellow frequent flyers I’m surprised by how many don’t. This isn’t a card you get because there’s a huge sign-up bonus, but rather because it’s actually valuable long term. It earns you tons of points and is a no annual fee card you can keep long term, and that makes it a keeper.
As I was talking with my friend Tiffany (whom you’ve heard from before) about the card this afternoon, I was quite surprised by how strong her feelings are towards it (and in particular towards CapitalOne), so she agreed to share her thoughts on the card below as well.
And maybe this is because all I do in life nowadays is tell people not to get CapitalOne cards, but the Chase Freedom® is really the much better option if you’re looking for a no-annual fee card that you can actually use on travel you want to take.
A bit of background and a personal vendetta
I don’t know how y’all spend the holiday season, but if you visit family like I do, you may also be watching a lot of football. Which is great.
I love football.
What I don’t love is Samuel L. Jackson coming on TV every seven minutes and asking my aunts, uncles, and grandparents what’s in their wallet.
I mean, Samuel L. Jackson is fine and all, but the problem (as you may have experienced yourself), is that when your family knows you travel using miles and points that you primarily earn from credit cards, they turn and look at you to see if whatever card that was just advertised is worthwhile.
Every. Seven. Minutes.
“Is that more than a 2% return? Then it’s a bad deal.”
“What about — ?”
“Seriously. He just said 1.5%. Is that more or less than 2%?”
“Well, less, but…”
And I don’t have anything against the CapitalOne portfolio necessarily. But I do spend a lot of time telling potential clients that unfortunately, their million plus CapitalOne points aren’t going to get them two business class seats to Asia, so I have a bit of “history” with the program. We won’t even get into how they pull your credit from all three bureaus, which just adds insult to injury, as far as I’m concerned.
Full disclosure, my in-laws have a CapitalOne something or other and couldn’t be happier. But an aspirational redemption for them is to fly economy to Ontario, California, so keep that in mind.
The main thing is that even if you want to redeem for domestic economy travel, until you’re crossing that 2% threshold, you’re potentially better off with a cash-back card, and there are lots of options that will give you 2%.
5x points is even better than 2x points
To me, this is a no-brainer. You get 5x points on whatever the bonus category is for the quarter. And the categories actually make sense.
If the 4th quarter bonus category included things like Home Improvement, Swimming Lessons, and School Supplies, I can see how people would think it’s not worth their time.
But conveniently, the Chase Freedom® offers bonuses at department stores and online retailers in the last three months of the year. And guess where I’m doing the bulk of my December spending?
So yes, you have to remember to register every quarter, and yes, you have to pay attention to the categories. But I happen to know someone who will remind you approximately 47 times during the quarter, so that shouldn’t be too much of a hardship. 😉
You can still redeem points for nearly any flight
The big selling point of certain other “rewards” cards seems to be that you can redeem your points for travel on any airline, with no blackout dates, and no hassle, etc.
And you can do that with the Chase Freedom as well. Redeeming through the Ultimate Rewards mall is very straightforward, and offers more options for revenue travel than similar portals. The Citi ThankYou network, for example, will often only show two or three flights. Some bank rewards programs require you to hit certain “tiers” of pricing, so it can be a struggle to ensure you’re staying within those rather arbitrary limits.
Whereas the Ultimate Rewards portal will generally show similar results to what I’ll see on Google Flights, and the ratios make sense.
Of course, the better value for those with travel know-how is to pool your points with a “premium” Ultimate Rewards card, but y’all likely know that already.
Is this the best-est card ever?
No. Of course not.
But it doesn’t cost you anything to keep, which is great for your credit score.
It gives you the opportunity to earn 5x points in categories that otherwise often take a serious amount of finagling to get any value out of.
Because you’re earning points at a faster rate, the redemption values make more sense. Even if you just choose to earn cash back or statement credits you’re likely going to come out ahead.
And the commercials aren’t nearly as annoying.