The Chase Freedom card is consistently rated among the top rewards cards out there. Granted, part of its rapid rise to the top was helped by the up-to $200 sign-up bonuses Chase was offering. That being said, this card does have a lot going for it. Chase Freedom does not have an annual fee or have a high income threshold (like the more elite Chase Sapphire card). The interest rate is reasonable for rewards cards, with a variable rate between 11.99% and 22.9% APR. All transactions earn 1% cash back across the board, plus each quarter there are “bonus” categories that offer 5% cash back. From October to December of this year the bonus categories are dining, department stores, movie theaters and charitable organizations.
Even if one does not use the 5% categories, which I think most people end up using at least one of the categories, there are additional bonuses. Each dollar spent is eligible for a 10% bonus, plus each separate purchase earns 10 additional bonus points (1 dollar corresponds to 1 point). For example, if you make 20 purchases totaling $500 in one month that would correspond to: 500 points + 50 “bonus” points (10% of purchases) + 200 bonus points (10 per purchase) = 750 total points. 750/100 = $7.50 earned for your monthly spending. Once you have accrued enough points you can redeem them online for cash or a variety of other categories, including travel, gift cards, computers, movies, music and more.
I am writing about the travel rewards for this article. The Ultimate Rewards home page is very impressive in that it also acts as a travel booking engine. If you don’t already have an account you will not be able to view this page, but I can describe it for you. You simply select your flight, hotel, or rental car, and then the site will automatically deduct your rewards points. Or, if you only want to use a portion of your rewards points that is possible as well. To test the engine and compare pricing I chose to price a round-trip flight from Seattle to Phoenix in late November. The best fare came to $347 per person, which compares favorably with the best rate I could find on Expedia, $353 per person. That’s not to say that Ultimate Rewards has the best fares, but rather that in one quick and unscientific experiment Ultimate Rewards came up with similar results as a major booking site. The booking engine is also available for airport parking and car service.
On another tab is the opportunity to book “Experiences”, which can be booked using rewards points or charged to your Chase card. For Seattle there are several intriguing options, including ‘Seattle Photography Tour for One’ (9,900 points or $99) and ‘Seattle Dinner Cruise for Two’ (21,900 points or $219). If you are looking for smaller ticket items you may also choose to redeem for gift cards. Ultimate Rewards has a variety of travel gift cards including AVIS, Best Western, Carnival Cruise Lines, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Hertz, and Royal Caribbean International, among others. Many of these start from $25 increments and are easily attainable. There are even gas cards from Shell and Exxon Mobil that are available in $10 increments. Finally, if nothing else appeals to you simply redeem your points for cold hard cash.
For residents of north Seattle sign up for Chase banking services at the branch location at NW 85th St. and 15th Ave. NW. If you live or work downtown there are plenty of locations, for example 1401 5th Ave. For a complete list of branch and ATM locations, use the Chase locator tool.
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