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By Jason Steele
September 2, 2020
Courtesy of Chase

Credit card issuers never announce how many people have a particular card. But I have no doubt that the Chase Freedom is one of the most popular reward credit cards in the U.S., if not the most popular. That’s because it offers 5% cash back on quarterly bonus categories, on up to $1,500 spent each quarter — easily making it one of the best cash back cards on the market.

Chase also offers the Freedom Unlimited card, which features 1.5% cash back on all purchases, as well as 5% back on groceries for the first year. Beyond great rewards, one of the reasons both “Freedom” Chase cards are so popular is that they no annual fees, while some other reward cards from Chase have annual fees of $95 or more.

In September, Chase is making sweeping changes to both versions of the Freedom, and the big takeaway is that it’s almost all good news for cardholders.

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Chase Freedom Becomes Freedom Flex

The original Freedom card has always offered 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent each quarter at featured merchants and merchant categories, such as supermarkets, gas stations, drugstores, and home improvement stores. Chase says it isn’t changing that popular feature. But it is adding 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 3% on dining purchases, including take out or eligible delivery services. You’ll also receive 3% cash back at drugstores and 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases.

But with these changes comes a move from the Visa payment network to Mastercard. Cardholders will automatically get the benefits of the World Elite Mastercard program, including:

  • Cell Phone Insurance. You’ll enjoy up to $800 per claim and $1,000 per year in cell phone protection against theft or damage for phones listed on cardmembers’ monthly bill.
  • Lyft. Receive $10 in credit for every five rides taken in a calendar month, automatically applied to the next ride and capped at once per month.
  • Boxed. Earn 5% cash rewards on Boxed purchases for use on future purchases.
  • ShopRunner. Free membership to receive two-day shipping and free return shipping at over a hundred online retailers.
  • Fandango. You’ll earn double VIP+ points for movie tickets purchased via the Fandango app or Fandango.com, which can be used towards purchasing movie tickets on Fandango or towards streaming movies and TV shows on FandangoNOW.

Chase Freedom Unlimited: Rewards Upgrade

Not to be left behind, Chase’s Freedom Unlimited card also receives upgrades in the form of 3% back on dining and at drugstores, while retaining its unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases. The Freedom Unlimited stays part of the Visa payment network.

One Downside

These changes, which take effect for both cards on Tuesday, September 15, are almost all positive, with one possible exception to the new Freedom Flex card. When you receive the Freedom Flex card, it will be part of the Mastercard payment network, which normally isn’t a big deal. However, Costco has an exclusive arrangement with Visa, so you won’t be able to use the Freedom Flex there.

Otherwise, you’ll enjoy numerous new benefits of the Mastercard World Elite program, so it’s probably a net positive for most people.

Chase Freedom vs. Freedom Unlimited? Or Both?

If you have the standard Freedom Visa card, you can continue using it for the foreseeable future, but at some point it will probably be replaced with the Freedom Flex Mastercard. Alternately, you will be able to contact Chase and request a product change to the Freedom Flex once it’s released on September 15.

Upgrading to the Freedom Flex Mastercard will make a lot of sense for most people, but what if you’re a regular Costco shopper? Then you may want to apply for the new Freedom Unlimited Visa card for use at Costco, which does not accept Mastercard for payment. The Freedom Unlimited card can also come in handy because it gives 1.5% cash back on all purchases — meaning you’d get 50% more cash back compared to the 1% available on many purchases with Freedom Flex.

Bottom Line: Chase Reward Card Changes

The best thing about the credit card industry is how competitive it is. That’s why one of the most popular credit cards in the U.S. is getting a major upgrade. By taking a look at the new Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited, you can be sure to earn the most possible cash back every time you make a purchase.

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