August 11, 2022

Chase Freedom Flex: A Great Cash-Back Card for Fluid Spending Habits

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is a close sibling to the popular Chase Freedom Unlimited®. They…

Chase Freedom Flex: A Great Cash-Back Card for Fluid Spending Habits

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is a close sibling to the popular Chase Freedom Unlimited®. They are both cash-back credit cards with nearly identical rewards structures — with one major difference. The Chase Freedom Unlimited has a higher flat-rate on all purchases that don’t qualify for specific rewards category rates, while the Chase Freedom Flex offers a 5% cash back quarterly rotating bonus category upon activation (on up to $1,500 in quarterly spending, then 1%).

This card is ideal if you’re looking to maximize your cash back on a wide array of spending. While the bonus rotating categories aren’t announced until shortly before the quarter starts, they typically focus on online shopping, gas stations, grocery stores and other common venues. 

If you travel domestically, you might find this card to be a worthwhile alternative to a typical travel credit card, since the 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards (Chase’s rewards portal) is lucrative compared to some other travel cards. (But with 3% foreign transaction fees, it’s not ideal for international travelers, who might consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, instead.)

Below we’ll review all the attributes of the Chase Freedom Flex as well as suggestions of similar cards to consider.

In this article

Intro OfferEarn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

APR14.99% – 23.74% Variable

Recommended Credit Excellent, Good

Reward Rates

  • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Annual Fee$0

Intro Purchase APR0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months

Intro Balance Transfer APR0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months

Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

Balance Transfer APR14.99% – 23.74% Variable

Foreign Transaction Fees 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars

Penalty APR Up to 29.99%

  • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Rewards and welcome bonus

The Chase Freedom Flex offers 5% cash back on travel purchases made through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 5% on up to $1,500 on combined purchases in quarterly bonus categories when you activate, 3% on dining at restaurants, 3% on drugstore purchases and 1% on all other purchases. Earning 3% to 5% cash back with a no-annual-fee card is excellent, and even though the top rates are reserved for only a few categories, travel and dining do take up a large portion of many budgets.

For the welcome bonus, you earn $200 after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months, which is one of the lowest spending thresholds with regards to welcome bonuses.

Rotating quarterly bonus category

The bonus categories for April through June include Amazon.com purchases and select streaming services, such as:

  • Disney+
  • Hulu
  • ESPN+
  • Netflix
  • Sling
  • Vudu
  • Fubo TV
  • Apple Music
  • SiriusXM
  • Pandora
  • Spotify
  • YouTube TV
  • HBO Max
  • Paramount+
  • Peacock
  • Showtime

Past common bonus categories include: grocery stores, select streaming services, gas stations, Walmart, Paypal, home improvement stores, internet, cable and phone services. Less common bonus categories include: Amazon.com and Whole Foods, gym and fitness memberships, department stores and wholesale clubs.

Usually Chase combines two or more of the above categories, and announces them 15 days before the start of the quarter. You need to manually activate the bonus category each quarter via your online account, email or the Chase mobile app. You can enroll anytime before the quarterly deadline (usually two weeks before the end of the quarter). If you forget to activate it until month three of the quarter, you’ll still retroactively earn the 5% rewards on eligible purchases. 

That said, the spending cap of $1,500 means you can only earn up to $75 in this higher level of rewards each quarter, before dropping you down to the lower reward tier of 1% cash back.

Cash back redemption

As a cash-back rewards credit card, the most common way you’ll redeem your points will be either direct deposit into your checking or savings account or a statement credit, effectively reducing the amount you owe on your credit card. There is no minimum to redeem for cash back, and rewards do not expire as long as your account stays open. 

Even though the Chase Freedom Flex is a cash-back card, you technically earn rewards in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which you then redeem for cash back at 1 cent each. 

Introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers

This card’s usefulness expands beyond its rewards program and welcome bonus — you can finance a purchase or initiate a balance transfer with 15 months of 0% introductory APR. After that, the APR jumps to 14.99% to 23.74% variable. While this isn’t the longest introductory APR available, it’s a pretty solid offer.

If you’re not planning on transferring a balance right away, you might be better off with a different card, however. That’s because the 3% ($5 minimum) balance transfer fee (standard across the industry) goes up to 5% ($5 minimum) after the first 60 days of account opening.

Comparable Cards

Discover it® Cash Back

The Discover it® Cash Back* is another popular cash-back card that offers a 5% cash back rotating quarterly category upon activation (on up to $1,500 in quarterly purchases, then 1%). The spread of past categories casts a wide net as does that of the Freedom Flex, but Discover allows you some more insight into what lies ahead. They advertise their rotating categories for the year ahead instead of making you wait until the last minute. But unlike with the Chase Freedom Flex, if you forget to sign up at the beginning of the quarter and remember later on, you won’t retroactively earn cash back on purchases during that time. And you’ll still have to manually activate each category when the time draws near.

You’ll get a similar intro APR offer, but the welcome bonus is by far better with the Discover it® Cash Back. See our full review of the Discover it® Cash Back card for more details.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

The closest card to the Chase Freedom Flex is the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, and it’s not just the name that’s similar. The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers almost identical rewards, with two key differences. The first difference is the Unlimited’s 1.5% rate for all purchases that fall outside of a bonus category, compared with the Flex’s 1% rate. The second difference is that the Unlimited doesn’t have the rotating 5% bonus categories.

See our full review of the Chase Freedom Unlimited for more details.

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card

The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card* has a rotating category, too — but with a little more control. This card offers 3% cash back in the category of your choice, with options like gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings. You’ll also earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases, then 1%)

You can change your custom category selection once a month. This card also offers a similar welcome bonus and intro APR to the Chase Freedom Flex.

FAQs

How do cash-back credit cards work?

Cash-back credit cards offer cardholders rewards on their spending in the form of statement credits or cash. A statement credit is a reduction in the amount due to the credit card company on your monthly bill. Note that rewards are not always available the month you earn them — they are usually applied to your balance by credit card issuers after one or two billing cycles.

The redemption process for cash-back credit cards is either automatic or otherwise very simple. Some cards automatically apply cash rewards to your statement balance each month. Others require you to log in and redeem available rewards points for statement credits. Most points don’t expire, but you will lose them if you close the account before redeeming them. 

What types of cash-back credit cards are there?

Cash-back credit cards generally fall into four primary categories: flat-rate, tiered, rotating or choose your own. 

Flat-rate cards offer the same rate for every purchase. Tiered cards offer a different rewards rate for different categories of spending. Rotating category cards offer different rewards each quarter, determined by the card issuer. Choose-your-own category cards allow you to choose your rewards category.

How do you choose a cash-back credit card?

To choose the best cash-back credit card for you, the most important thing is to have a clear idea of how you’re already spending money each month. Once you identify the categories where you have the highest, most consistent spending, use the charts in our list to determine which card will net you the highest return. Consider other features of the cards, too, such as APR, sign-on bonuses and foreign transaction fees. Make sure you get something that fits with your lifestyle and spending habits.

Your credit card choice may also be affected by your credit score. Most of the cards we recommend require a good or excellent credit score, which is typically around 670 or higher. If you don’t meet the credit criteria required, there are credit cards available that are specifically for those trying to rebuild credit, like secured credit cards. Alternatively, you can look into the best credit cards for no credit and the best credit cards for bad credit.

Our approach

We review the cards that are in the highest demand and offer the best benefits. We scour the fine print so there aren’t any surprises when you open an account. We find the key factors that make a card stand out and compare them to other top cards. That way, readers can opt for a different card with similar features if our pick isn’t right for them. Our reviews are regularly checked and updated to incorporate new recommendations, as well as to reflect changes in offers and the market. 

*All information about the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card and the Discover it® Cash Back has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.