Category Archives: Credit Card Reviews

Chase Freedom Credit Card Review

chase freedom

The Chase Freedom credit card is one of the best rewards credit cards, offering 5% cash back on bonus categories that change every 3 months and 1% on all other purchases. You also get all their benefits for free because there’s no annual fee!

Chase Freedom is pretty friendly to people who are just starting off with credit cards, or those who have a short credit history. Although you may start with a lower credit limit, it is a great card to begin building your credit.

 

Chase Freedom at a Glance

Rewards Program
  • 5% cash back on bonus categories that change throughout the year, up to the quarterly maximum of $1,500.
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
Annual Fees None
APR 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers; After Intro period, variable APR is 13.99% – 22.99%.
Foreign Transaction Fee 3%
Signup Bonus Earn a $100 bonus after spending $500 within 3 months after account opening

Verdict:

Good if you:
  • Spend a lot on gas (5% cash back for 6 months as of 2014)
  • Can align your spending with Chase Freedom’s rotating bonus categories to take advantage of the 5% cash back
  • Want to use the credit card in conjunction with another card in order to maximize your cash back (will discuss more below)
  • Have a short credit history
Bad if you:
  • Don’t spend on Chase Freedom’s bonus categories
  • Dislike the changing of bonus categories every quarter

Let’s first take a more in-depth look at the advantages of the Chase Freedom Credit Card.

10 Chase Freedom Credit Card Benefits

1)      5% Cash Back on Bonus Categories  – Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter. This means you can earn 5% on up to $6,000 of your spending every year, or $300! Categories change every 3 months and it is free and easy to activate. For 2014, Chase gives 5% cash back rewards on:

Q1 (January 1 – March 31): Gas stations, movie theaters and Starbucks stores
Q2 (April 1 – June 30): Restaurants (including Applebee’s, Chipotle, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, etc.) and Lowe’s home improvement stores
Q3 (July 1 – September 30): Gas stations and Kohl’s
Q4 (October 1 – December 31): Amazon.com, Zappos.com and select department stores (including Macy’s, Kohl’s, JcPenney, Sears, Bloomingdale’s)

Freedom is a great credit card to use in conjunction with other cards if you want to maximize your cash back. For example, if you spend heavily on gas throughout the year, use Freedom during the 6 months when they offer 5% cash back on gas. During the other 6 months, gas will qualify as the regular 1% cash back, so you may want to consider using another credit card that is offering 3% cash back on gas, such as the The BankAmericard Cash Rewards.

To learn more about the Chase 5% cash back, click here

2)      1% Cash Back on All Purchases – Some credit cards may give you great rewards for only a few categories but below-average rewards on everything else. However, with Chase Freedom, not only do you earn 5% on purchases in bonus categories, but you are also guaranteed unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases! You can easily make the Freedom card your default credit card or use it in conjunction with another card.

3)      Free $100 Bonus Sign Up – You receive a free $100 signup bonus after you spend $500 on your credit card within the first 3 months of account opening.

4)      10% Annual Bonus – When you have both Chase Freedom credit card and a Chase checking account, you get an extra 10% annually on the cash back earned on new purchases from the previous year.

5)      No Annual Fee and No Inactivity Fee

6)      0% Intro APR for 15 Months on Purchases and Balance Transfers – After the intro period, variable APR of 13.99% – 22.99%.

7)      Earn More Rewards While Doing Your Everyday Shopping – On top of the 1% cash back you earn on everyday purchases, earn even more when you shop online at over 400 popular stores through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall. Merchants include Best Buy, Macy’s, Target, Walmart, Bloomingdale’s, Groupon, Livingsocial, Home Depot, and more! For example, you get 3 extra points, or 3%, per $1 spent at Macy’s, 5 extra points spent at JcPenney, and 10 extra points spent at Snapfish.

You can also earn 2% cash back when you book flights and hotels through Chase Ultimate Rewards. It’s simple – just log on and pay with your Chase Freedom card. The extra cash back will appear automatically on your statement.

8)      Rewards, or Points, Never Expire – Rewards are earned as points, which can be redeemed for cash back. One point equals 1% cash back, or $0.01. For example, 2,500 points can be redeemed for a $25 statement credit or direct deposit.

9)      Redeem Rewards in Many Ways – The rewards program is not just cash back. You can redeem your points for:

  • Travel – Redeem your points for flights, hotels, and car rentals.
  • Merchandise – Use your points to buy electronics, movies, computers, and more
  • Experiences – Reward yourself with adventure and experiences, including live entertainment, sports games, concerts, and more
  • Gift Cards – Sometimes, you can even get more value out of your points when you redeem for discounted gift cards. For example, instead of redeeming 2,500 points for $25 cash back, you can get a $25 gift card using only 2,250 points! That’s an additional 10% off when you purchase discounted gift cards. Make sure you check “Sale Items” under gift cards to see what the current offers are.

10)      Low Threshold for Cash Back Redemption – Some cards only allow you to redeem rewards once you reach a certain threshold, often a high one. With Freedom, you can start redeeming your rewards once you reach $20. You can get your cash back in 3 different ways: a deposit to your Chase bank account, statement credit to your card, or a check by mail.

chase cash back

How Chase Freedom Compares to Other Credit Cards

Chase Freedom Disadvantages

Rotating bonus categories:
You may not like the idea of 5% rotating bonus categories and remembering the changing categories may be a hassle to you. You also have to activate your card each quarter in order to get the 5% cash back. However, the activation process is simple and can be completed through multiple ways in a matter of seconds. You also have 3 months to activate your card. As long as you activate before the end of the quarter’s deadline, you will receive the full 5% cash back on all bonus category purchases made throughout that quarter.

Limits to earning cash back:
One drawback of this credit card is that there is a limit on the 5% cash back on bonus categories of up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter. Even though you will still be eligible for 1% cash back after the $1,500 limit, this is a factor to consider in the card selection process. If you are a big spender on certain categories, you may want to look at alternatives so that you can earn more cash back rewards beyond the 1% cash back after you reach the $1,500 limit.  For example, if you a big spender on gas and you have reached your $1,500 limit during the 3Q, start using Discover It credit card for gas. Discover It also offers 5% cash back on gas stations from July 1 – September 30.

If you don’t even spend money on Freedom’s bonus categories, you won’t get much value out of that 5% cash back. If that’s the case, you may want to consider the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, which offers a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases. It also offers a one-time $100 bonus if you spend $500 within the first 3 months of account opening and has no annual fee. Unlike Chase which has a 3% foreign transaction fee, Capital One has no transaction fee.

The 5% cash back on bonus categories is only limited to a maximum of $1,500 each quarter. If you are a big spender on certain categories, you may want to look at alternatives or use the card together with another one to align each card’s bonus categories.

Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card Review

bank of america

The Bank of America cash rewards credit card, known as BankAmericard, has one of the best cash-back rewards, especially if you spend a lot of money on gas and groceries. It offers 3% cash back on gas purchases and 2% cash back on groceries, limited to a combined $1,500 per quarter.

 

BankAmericard at a Glance

Rewards Program
  • 3% cash back on gas and 2% cash back at grocery stores for the first $1,500 in combined grocery store and gas purchases each quarter
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
Annual Fees None
APR 0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles (applies to purchases and balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening);
After Intro period, variable APR is 12.99% – 22.99%.
Foreign Transaction Fee 3%
Signup Bonus Online-exclusive $100 bonus after spending $500 within 90 days months after account opening

Verdict:

Good if you:
  • Spend a lot on gas and at grocery stores
  • Like that there are no changing categories to remember
  • Want to use the credit card in conjunction with another card in order to maximize your cash back (will discuss more below)
Bad if you:
  • Don’t spend much on gas or at grocery stores
  • If you do not have good credit

Let’s first take a more in-depth look at the advantages of the BankAmericard.

BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card Benefits

1)      3% Cash Back on Gas and 2% Cash Back on Groceries – This applies to the first $1,500 in combined grocery store and gas purchases each quarter. This means you can earn 2-3% on up to $6,000 of your spending on groceries and gas each year! Once $1,500 is reached, all subsequent grocery store and gas purchases will earn 1% cash back.

2)      1% Cash Back on All Purchases – Some credit cards may give you great rewards for only a few categories but below-average rewards on everything else. However, with BankAmericard, not only can you earn 2% and 3% on grocery and gas respectively, but you are also guaranteed unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases! You can easily make the BankAmericard card your default credit card or use it in conjunction with another card.

3)      Free $100 Bonus Sign Up – You receive a free $100 signup bonus after you spend $500 on your credit card within the first 90 days of account opening.

4)      10% Ongoing Bonus – Bank of America customers get an ongoing 10% customer bonus each time you redeem cash back into a Bank of America checking or savings account.

5)      No Annual Fee

6)      0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles – The 0% introductory rate also applies to purchases and balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After the introductory period, variable APR is 12.99% – 22.99%.

7)      Low Threshold for Cash Back Redemption – Some cards only allow you to redeem rewards once you reach a certain threshold, often a high one. With BankAmericard, cash rewards are redeemable starting at $25.

8)      Rewards Do Not Expire – Redeem your rewards anytime you want after you reach the $25 minimum threshold. Automatic redemptions can be set up to make it even easier for you to save money.

You can redeem your rewards for cash back through several different methods, including a deposit directly into a savings or checking account, a credit to your statement, or a check. You can also redeem your rewards to help pay off a Bank of America mortgage.

9)      No Changing Categories – Unlike the Chase Freedom credit card, which has changing bonus categories each quarter, BankAmericard does not have any changing categories. Thus, you avoid any hassle of having to remember the current bonus categories.

10)      Tap and Pay – BankAmericard has a feature available with select Visa and MasterCard credit cards that allows you to purchase items at participating retailers by tapping your credit card on the device reader. Although this is not a critical feature for choosing a credit card, having the option to utilize tap and pay is just a bonus convenience for some people.

How BankAmericard Compares to Other Credit Cards

BankAmericard Disadvantages

Limits to earning cash back:
One disadvantage of this Bank of America cash rewards card is that although, it offers a competitive 3% cash back on gas and 2% cash back on groceries, the rewards are limited to $1,500 of combined purchases per quarter. Although you will still be eligible for 1% cash back on gas and groceries after the $1,500 limit, this is a factor to consider in the card selection process.

If you spend well over $1,500 on gas and groceries each quarter, you may want to look at other cards or use the BankAmericard cash rewards card in conjunction with another card. For example, to maximize your cash back on gas, consider using the Chase Freedom credit card during the 6 months when they are offering 5% cash back on gas.

High credit:
BankAmericard Cash Rewards is generally for people with relatively high credit. If you do not have a good credit score, you may not be approved right away or you may start off with a low credit limit.

Discover It Credit Card Review

The Discover It credit card has one of the best introductory rates on purchases and balance transfers. They are currently offering a free FICO credit score on your monthly statement. Your credit score is one of the most frequently used piece of information lenders review when they are making a credit decision about you. It is helpful to see your score for free each month so that you can stay on top of your score and avoid any surprises.

 

Discover It at a Glance

Rewards Program
  • 5% cash back in categories that change throughout the year, up to the quarterly maximum of $1,500.
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
Annual Fees None
APR 0% Intro APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers;
After Intro period, variable APR is 10.99% – 22.99%.
Foreign Transaction Fee None
Signup Bonus None

Verdict:

Good if you:
  • Can align your spending with Discover It’s rotating bonus categories to take advantage of the 5% cash back
  • Want to use the credit card in conjunction with another card in order to maximize your cash back (will discuss more below)
  • Forget to pay your credit card bill until the last minute (Pay off your credit card bill up to midnight ET on due date without a fee. Paying late also won’t raise your APR)
Bad if you:
  • Don’t spend on Discover It’s bonus categories
  • Dislike the changing of bonus categories every quarter

Let’s first take a more in-depth look at the advantages of the Discover It Credit Card.

10 Discover It Credit Card Benefits

1)      5% Cash Back on Bonus Categories  – Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter. This means you can earn 5% on up to $6,000 of your spending, or a $300 cash back every year! Categories change every 3 months and it is free and easy to activate. For 2014, Discover gives 5% cash back rewards on:

Q1 (January 1 – March 31): Restaurants & Movies
Q2 (April 1 – June 30): Spring Style – Includes Home Improvement Stores, Furniture Stores and Bed Bath & Beyond
Q3 (July 1 – September 30): Gas Stations
Q4 (October 1 – December 31): Holiday Shopping (includes online purchases)

Discover It is a great credit card to use, especially if you use it in conjunction with another credit card and align your spending with the current bonus categories. For example, if you are spending on restaurants, use Discover It credit card during the first quarter of the year and use Chase Freedom during the second quarter to get 5% cash back (Chase also has 5% bonus categories that change every quarter).

To learn more about the Discover It 5% cash back, click here

2)      1% Cash Back on All Purchases – Some credit cards may give you great rewards for only a few categories but below-average rewards on everything else. However, with Discover It, not only can you earn 5% on different categories, but you are also guaranteed unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases! You can easily make the Discover It card your default credit card or use it in conjunction with another card.

3)      Free FICO Credit Score Every Month – Get your free FICO credit score on your monthly statement to help you stay on top of your credit.

4)      No Late Fee on Your First Late Payment – Forgot to pay your credit card bill on time? Many credit card companies charge about a $35 late fee but Discover will waive your first late payment. You can also pay your bill up to midnight (ET) the day it’s due by phone or online without having to pay a fee.

5)      Paying Late Won’t Raise Your APR – Most credit card companies have terms that allow them to increase the APR if certain conditions are not met. For example, if you are late with a payment, your credit card company may increase the APR on your card or charge a late fee. With Discover, paying late won’t increase your APR and there is no late fee on your first late payment.

6)      No Annual Fee

7)      No Foreign Transaction Fee – Many card companies charge a foreign transaction fee of about 3%. With Discover, you can conveniently use your credit card without incurring any foreign transaction fee.

8)      Redeem Rewards in Many Ways – Your rewards are redeemable online through Discover’s online shopping mall, which offers anywhere from 5% – 20% off department store prices. You can redeem them in many ways, such as for statement credit, merchandise, and charity. If you redeem your cash back rewards as gift cards, you can double your return. Points also never expire.

9)      Superior Customer Service – Unlike other card companies, Discover offers 100% U.S. based customer service available any time.

10)  Price Protection – If you made a purchase within 90 days and now it’s discounted, Discover will refund you the difference.

How Discover It Compares to Other Credit Cards

Discover It Disadvantages

No bonus incentives:
Unlike one of its main competitors, the Chase Freedom card, Discover It credit card does not currently offer any bonus incentives for signing up. However, since the bonus signup is only a one-time occurrence, this isn’t a big disadvantage for many people. Discover does offer many other benefits and services to make up for this, such as minimal fees (no annual, overlimit, or foreign transaction fees).

Not universally accepted:
Although Discover is accepted at 9 million merchants nationwide, as of now, it is not accepted universally as its competitors, Visa and MasterCard. This is because Discover charges higher premiums to merchants, which is why some do not accept Discover.

Limits to earning cash back:
One drawback of this credit card is there is a limit on the 5% cash back on bonus categories of up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter. Although you will still be eligible for 1% after the $1,500 limit, this is a factor to consider in the card selection process. If you are a big spender on certain categories, you may want to look at alternatives so that you can earn more cash back rewards beyond the 1% cash back after you reach the $1,500 limit. For example, if you a big spender on gas and you have reached your $1,500 limit during the 3Q, start using Chase Freedom for gas. Chase Freedom also offers 5% cash back on gas stations from July 1 – September 30.

On the other hand, if you don’t even spend money on any of Discover’s bonus categories, you won’t get much value out of the 5% cash back, and thus this credit card may not be the best rewards card for you. If that’s the case, consider the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, which offers a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases. It also offers a one-time $100 bonus if you spend $500 within the first 3 months after you open your account and has no annual fee.

Rotating bonus categories:
Although you get 5% cash back on different categories each quarter, some people may find it a hassle to remember the changing categories. You also have to activate your card every quarter in order to get the 5% cash back. However, the activation process is simple and can be completed through multiple ways in a matter of seconds.