Chase Freedom Rewards Credit Card Review – Chase’s Flagship Rewards Card?

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The Chase Freedom Rewards Credit Card, offered by Chase Bank, offers a variety of card benefits to users, and is the lowest on its tier of reward credit card offerings. Chase Bank has long relied on its perceived reputation as a customer service oriented banking institution, and its three major reward credit cards; Chase Freedom, Slate, and Sapphire Preferred, are among the most popular for their perks and benefits.

When it comes to comparing credit cards, products and services, it pays to read the fine print. Most credit card offers look good at first glance, but only through research can consumers make informed and knowable choices. Credit card companies are notorious for advertising and pushing bonuses, promises, and perks to get you to apply. Most consumers don’t read through the sometimes pages-long fine print regarding fees, APR, interest rates, and rules regarding how such rates are applied, nor situations where exclusions may apply. We’ll cut to the chase (no pun intended) and provide a brief overview of the main points when it comes to the Chase Freedom Rewards Credit Card.

Benefits of the Chase Freedom Rewards Credit Card

Like many credit card issuers, Chase offers a variety of reward card benefits to new accounts. The Chase Freedom Rewards Credit Card does not impose an annual membership fee, and offers consumers 5% cashback for up to $1,500 spent in bonus categories for each yearly quarter. First-timers are also attracted by the $200 bonus that can be earned after spending $500 within the first three months of opening the account.

However, it pays to read that fine print regarding bonus categories, which change throughout the year. For example, the bonus categories for October through December 2013 include Amazon and certain department stores. The January through March 2014 bonus categories list gas stations, Starbucks, and movie theaters. Make sure you check the 2014 cashback calendar when seeking your 5% cashback bonuses. The Chase Freedom card also offers 1% unlimited cashback on all other purchases, and those cashback rewards don’t expire.

Rates and Fees

A new Chase Freedom Rewards Credit Card account holder is offered a 15-month 0% introductory rate APR on purchases and balance transfers. This sounds good, and appeals to and attracts many consumers to fill out the credit card application form. However, do your homework when it comes to determining interest rates, charges, and fees after the introductory period has expired.

After the 15-month introductory rate has expired, variable APR rates of 13.99%, 18.99% or 22.99% will apply, depending on your credit rating. After the introductory rate has expired, a 3% balance transfer fee will also be applied to all transfers.

The 1% cashback points are accrued for every one dollar of purchase. When you book hotel or airfare accommodations through their website, you earn additional points.

Keep in mind that if you default, have a late payment, or if you have in any way violated the terms of the Card member Agreement and Rewards Program Rules and Regulations, your quarterly bonuses may be at risk. Also be aware that Chase requires quarterly activation of the 5% cash back bonus program in order to qualify for those bonuses.

Interest Rates, Interest Charges, and Penalties

Interest rates attached to your Chase Freedom Rewards Credit Card depend on your credit worthiness. After the first 15 billing cycles, where you enjoyed a 0% introductory APR, interest rates ranging from 13.99% to 22.99% may be attached to your account, depending on your credit rating. The same goes for balance transfer APRs (some accounts may not be eligible for balance transfers). When it comes to cash advance and overdraft advances, the APR rises to 23.99%.  If you make a late payment, a penalty APR may be applied and rise to 29.99%.

How does Chase define a late payment? Per Chase webiste, a penalty APR can be applied to your account if:

  •  A  payment is returned unpaid; or
  • You fail to remit the minimum payment by the due date, which is considered a late payment;
  • You exceed your credit limit (this may or not be applicable to your account);  or
  • Any of  these stipulations applying to the Chase Freedom Rewards Credit Card account or any other account or loan at Chase or affiliated Chase banking institutions.

Consumers should also be aware that if the minimum payment has not been paid within 60 days, the introductory APR rate will cease and the penalty APR will be applied to the account.

Chase does not specify how long the penalty APR will apply other than using the term “indefinitely.” So yes, one late payment can see your interest rate shoot up from 13.99% to 29.99% – “indefinitely” – no excuses.

While the Chase Freedom Rewards Credit Card does not stipulate annual membership fees, there are transaction fees that apply to balance transfers, foreign transactions, and cash advances.  Balance transfer fees amount to $5 dollars or 3% of the amount of the transfer, whichever is larger, of course. Cash advance fees amount to $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction. When it comes to foreign transactions, you can expect to pay 3% of each transaction in US dollars.

Penalty fees are also applied for late payments, returned payments, and returned checks.  Expect to pay $15 in late payment fees if the balance is less than $100, but can go up to $35 if your balance is $250 or more. There is no fee for over the credit limits, although returned payments and returned checks accrue $35 penalty fees.

Bottom Line – While the Chase Freedom Rewards Credit Card does offer a variety of perks and benefits to new users, those benefits come with certain stipulations. Make sure you read the fine print, especially when it comes to the 5% cashback bonuses based on categories, as this is the reason why many consumers opt to choose this card over another.

Also keep in mind that one late payment can effectively negate some of your card benefits, so read the fine print. Take the time to find out what interest rates are after the introductory period and think long term when it comes to your choice for a rewards credit card. The Chase Freedom Rewards Credit Card is one of the better ones out there – just make sure you manually activate your 5% cash back program every quarter or you’ll lose out.

 

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