Review: Chase Freedom MasterCard
By Peter Andrew
People like their computers for different reasons. Me? It's because mine brings a smidgen of order into a life that would otherwise be unrelentingly chaotic. Calendar alerts, reminder emails, electronic post-it notes -- these are the only reason I deliver work on time and turn up to social events. They're also the only things that stand between me and a constant stream through my front door of debt collectors, repo people and writ servers.
All those e-reminders should mean that I would be able to make the most of a Chase Freedom MasterCard. True, it's a perfectly good rewards credit card without your actively managing it. But, to maximize your cash back, you must take full advantage of the card's 5-percent bonus rate.
Great rewards -- if you work for them
To get the most from that 5-percent cash-back offer, you have to remember to re-register each quarter, when the categories of spending (for example, drug store, gas station and restaurant purchases, among many others) that attract the bonus rate change. It's also advisable to schedule your purchases through the year so that you buy things in the appropriate quarter, and to not bust through the spending cap -- $1,500 at the time of writing -- that limits your ability to earn bonus rewards during those three months.
No amount of electronic prompting would persuade me to jump through those hoops. But, luckily, my sort of boneheaded idleness isn't all that common, and many will find occasionally investing a few minutes to earn the $300 a year that the Chase Freedom MasterCard could potentially deliver in bonus cash back worthwhile. If you're one of them, I envy your common sense.
Reasonable rewards if you don't
Whether you're smart or like me, you stand to earn a flat 1 percent cash back on all your purchases, except those on which you earn 5 percent. That's better than some similar, competing products. Some cash-back cards offer a standard earning rate below 1 percent on your spending below a certain threshold each year, and 1 percent on those above that. Also, with the Chase Freedom, any purchases you make in bonus categories that earn you 5 percent don't count toward that $3,000 threshold.
So the Chase Freedom MasterCard holds its own as a rewards card, even if you manage it with a light touch. But in addition it's offering -- at the time of writing -- an introductory deal that gives you 15 months at 0 percent on balance transfers and new purchases, though that's subject to a one-off, 3-percent balance transfer fee. When that deal expires, the interest rate you pay will depend on your credit score.
You can also currently get a $100 sign-up bonus, providing you spend at least $500 during the first three months after you open your account, and earn up to 10 percent cash back when you shop online from selected retailers using Chase's web portal. Lastly, it has no annual fee.
Add up the value of that lot, and the Chase Freedom MasterCard looks to be a pretty good deal -- even if your life is too chaotic to take full advantage of that bonus cash-back rate.
Peter Andrew has over 25 years of experience writing about marketing, advertising and management. He regularly covers consumer credit card topics for IndexCreditCards.com and other personal finance publications including Fox Business, TheStreet and MSN Money. He also writes frequently about mortgages and auto loans. Peter has spent extended periods living overseas, in the UK, France and Africa. He lives with his partner of 20+ years, and wastes too much of his time on cryptic crosswords.