Unless you’re a very frequent flyer, a cashback card is probably a better bet than a travel rewards card that earns miles in an airline program or points in a hotel program. With the cash you earn, you can buy a ticket or an accommodation without worrying about blackouts or award limits. Or you can buy something else entirely if you aren’t traveling. And with careful timing of big purchases, you can maximize the returns you earn at the 5% level.
The Chase Freedom card is a great entry-level cashback card: You get five cents back for every dollar you spend in one of four categories that change every quarter, one cent per dollar on all other charges. The current list of rotating categories includes grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants and movies. There’s no limit on the amount of cashback you can earn and your bonus cash never expires as long as your card is active.
The Chase Freedom card includes several travel features. It provides no-charge secondary coverage for collision damage to, or loss of, a car rented with the card, so you can avoid the usual usurious rates the rental companies charge for collision damage waiver. The coverage applies in the U.S. and most foreign countries for rentals up to 31 consecutive days.
In addition, the Chase Freedom card provides for membership in a worldwide assistance program if you run into trouble outside the U.S., but all you get free is assistance; if there’s a cost, you pay. Cardholders can enjoy roadside assistance on a per-call basis rather than on an annual fee basis, as with AAA.
As an introductory incentive, the annual fee for the Chase Freedom card is zero, so you aren’t risking anything by giving the card a shot. In addition, Chase waives the interest on balances carried for the first 15 months, and after that, the variable APR is about 1% below standard. You also get an enrollment bonus of $150 credit after charging $500 within first three months.
The Chase Freedom card also provides a suite of general consumer protections: Zero Liability means you won’t be charged for unauthorized use, Purchase Protection covers new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account, Extended Warranty Protection extends a manufacturer’s s warranty by an additional year, Return Protection provides refunding for an unacceptable purchase if the supplier refuses to do so, Price Protection credits you with the difference if you find an identical purchase available for less than you paid by the card, and cardholders enjoy Chase’s usual anti-fraud protections.
Editor's Note: This content is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the aforementioned entities.