3x dining & drugstores on new Chase Freedom Flex & Freedom Unlimited (and 5x travel booked through Ultimate Rewards)

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Chase has shaken things up this morning with an unexpected move: on September 15th, they are introducing a brand new card called the Chase Freedom Flex and they are also seriously enhancing benefits on the Chase Freedom Unlimited. Given the enhancements on these cards – both will offer 3x dining and 3x drugstores – I speculate that we’ll also see some type of enhancements on the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred in the coming weeks to keep those cards relevant.

That old Freedom card will soon be replaced in the Ultimate Rewards lineup with the Freedom Flex.

New Chase Freedom Flex

Chase announced today that beginning on September 15th, they will be offering a new card called the Chase Freedom Flex. Here will be key details:

  • Welcome bonus: $200 back (20K Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Fixed bonus categories: 5x travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards ⚬ 3x dining ⚬ 3x drugstores
  • Rotating bonus categories: 5x on up to $1500 per quarter in rotating categories
  • First year grocery bonus: 5x at grocery stores (excluding Target and Walmart) on up to $12K in purchases in the first year
  • No annual fee

Note: According to CNN Underscored, it isn’t yet confirmed that points from the Chase Freedom Flex will be combinable with points from other Chase Ultimate Rewards card, but we expect they will be. Chase confirmed to CNN Underscored that points will be combinable with other Ultimate Rewards cards.

Like the current Chase Freedom card, the Chase Freedom Flex will offer rotating 5x categories on up to $1500 in spend each quarter. However, the card will additionally offer 3x dining & 3x drugstores and 1x everywhere else.

Interestingly, this card will be a World Mastercard, making it one of the very few Mastercards offered by Chase. With that come some nice benefits:

  • Cell phone protection: Up to $800 per claim and $1K per year against theft or damage with a $50 deductible when you pay your monthly bill with the card (max of 2 claims per year)
  • Lyft credits: Get a $10 credit for every 5 Lyft rides you take in a calendar month
  • Boxed Rewards: 5% back in Boxed rewards for future purchases
  • Free Shoprunner Shipping
  • Fandango points: Double VIP+ points for movie tickets purchased via the Fandango app or at Fandango.com

All of that adds up to a pretty compelling package in my opinion. It’s kind of surprising to see this announcement come on the heels of an increased welcome bonus on the current Freedom (Visa) card. Folks who have recently opened that card for the 5x first year grocery bonus come out losers here since they missed the chance to also earn 3x dining and drugstores long-term. It’s kind of surprising that Chase would increase the bonus on that card only to replace the card so fast. Note that while I didn’t see this in the announcement, I have heard that Chase will stop accepting applications on the current Freedom card on September 15th. CNN Underscored says that this is not true. We’ll see.

While Chase has historically been good about allowing product changes within the same product family, we don’t yet know if that will also be the case when wishing to change from a Visa card (all of the other current Ultimate Rewards cards are Visas) to this new Mastercard. I expect we’ll still be able to product change — so those who recently opened a Freedom card will likely be able to change to a Freedom Flex down the road — but we won’t know for sure for a couple more weeks at least. Update: Chase has confirmed that current Freedom cardholders (and therefore presumably those with other consumer Ultimate Rewards cards) will be able to call in and convert to the new Freedom Flex after the card launches in a couple of weeks.

Enhancements to the Chase Freedom Unlimited

The new Freedom Flex isn’t the only news of the morning: Chase is also adding 5x travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x dining and 3x drugstores to the Chase Freedom Unlimited. That change also begins on September 15th, including for current cardholders. That’s an awesome deal for those with a Freedom Unlimited. The card already earns a respectable 1.5x everywhere and now adds two really nice 3x categories and 5x travel booked through Ultimate Rewards.

The Freedom Unlimited will continue to be a Visa, so no Mastercard benefits like cell phone protection and Lyft credits will apply.

Enhancements coming to the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve?

When I saw this announcement, my first thoughts went to the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve: do the Freedom cards make them almost totally irrelevant now?

Giving that the Freedom Unlimited and Freedom Flex will both offer 3x dining and 5x on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards with no annual fee, it would look to be pretty hard to justify the Sapphire Reserve’s $550 annual fee. Paradoxically, the Sapphire Preferred is almost harder to justify at $95 for bonus categories that won’t add up to much comparatively.

Sure, the Sapphire Reserve will maintain the ability to use points at a value of 1.5c toward travel booked through Chase and likely toward other types of purchases with the Pay Yourself Back feature. And the Sapphire Preferred and Reserve offer bonuses on all travel, not just travel booked through Chase. The fact that each of those Sapphire cards carry no foreign transaction fees will make a difference for those who spend a lot of money abroad. Further, you will still need a premium Chase card to transfer to travel partners, so having one Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Chase Ink Business Preferred in your household will still be a necessity for those looking to transfer.

But I have to think that Chase will need to do something to enhance the Sapphire Preferred and Reserve to maintain interest in those cards among the masses. Greg thinks that at the minimum those cards are likely to match the 5x on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. I don’t disagree and further wouldn’t be surprised to see 5x added to the travel bonus category on those cards to make for 7x or 8x on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards — but note that this is total speculation on my part. I definitely think those cards will need to add something and I think that if Chase is feeling generous enough to add 3x dining and 3x drugstores on the no-fee cards, we might be in for a good surprise on the premium / ultra-premium front. I certainly hope so.

Bottom line

I am surprised to see a new card launched, though I think that it makes sense from the standpoint of branding and clarity for consumers: we frequently get questions from readers wondering if they are eligible to have or get a welcome bonus on both the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited cards at least in part because of the almost-identical names. Having two different card names — the Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited should help obviate some of that confusion and make it clearer to consumers that these are separate products. (Update: CNN Underscored tells us that Chase does not intend to end applications for the Freedom card after all, so this may not help eliminate confusion at all but rather add to it. Weird.)

I further think it is exciting to see 3x dining and 3x drugstores added on cards with no annual fee. Both are generous return that will no doubt draw the interest of many points enthusiasts. Given the generosity here, I think it is reasonable to expect something to be added to the premium Chase cards in the coming weeks or months, though we have no news on that yet.

Overall, I see all positives here and look forward to seeing what else Chase has in store.

H/T: Award Wallet

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[…] that Chase is serving up awesome 3X and 5X categories for their fee-free Freedom cards, the Sapphire Preferred card is looking old and tired with its 2X travel and dining.  Even the […]

[…] Chase recently announced an overhaul of their fee-free consumer Ultimate Rewards cards. The Chase Freedom Visa card is being replaced with the new Freedom Flex Mastercard, but with the same 5X quarterly rotating categories as before.  And both the Freedom Flex and the Freedom Unlimited card gain 3X rewards for drugstore and dining purchases and 5X rewards for travel booked through Chase.  Since both cards earn Ultimate Rewards points, these changes make the Ultimate Rewards program more compelling than ever before. […]

[…] week ago, Chase knocked my socks off with the news that they were revamping their Freedom cards.  The Freedom Visa card (with its 5% rotating categories) will be replaced with the new Freedom […]

[…] Chase’s new Freedom Flex card is coming very soon (September 14th or 15th).  This new fee-free card will offer the same Ultimate Rewards points and rotating 5X categories as the current Freedom card, but with additional uncapped bonus categories: 3X dining and drugstores, and 5X travel booked through Chase.  In almost every way, this new Mastercard is superior to what I’ll now call the “Freedom Visa.”  That said, we’ve been told that after September 14th, the Freedom Visa will no longer be available to new applicants.  Current cardholders, though, will be able to keep their cards longer indefinitely.  Should you get one now before it’s too late? […]

Wojtek

If freedom card holder does the product change to Freedom Flex, does one qualify for first year grocery bonus (5x on 12kk) or this is only available for new applicants.

NK3

For several years now the Freedom card has had groceries as the Q2 bonus category. Do you think that will change in 2021, given that people who have signed up recently will already be getting 5x on groceries? Would they get an extra $1500 of 5x earnings? Or would that quarter be useless for them?

Jags

It’s nice, but still not going to convince me to switch back to Chase. The biggest problem Chase has vs. AMEX is that AMEX has so many opportunities for you to earn big bonus points without having to sign up for a new card. Once you blow your UR load and are over 5/24, you need to generate serious spend or MS to build up a sizable UR nest egg.

Chase transfer partners, with the exception of Hyatt, do nothing for me. And the two Hyatt redemptions I really like costs me 175,000 points each. Even with all the spend at 5x office stores thats $35,000 spend which is hard to generate if you don’t have an MS outlet where you live.

Meanwhile, AMEX continues to drop 100,000+ MRs into my wife and my’s laps every year with minimal effort, no MS required.

Spenny

Two questions: first – how does this effect 5/24 specifically for the product change part? Does a product change in this case restart your 5/24 clock? Second- if it’s still available to apply for now and someone doesn’t have it would you recommend people go apply for the card since it’s being sun set, so get it while you still can?

Jesse

Hmmm. If the flex is a different product I wonder if the rotating categories will be the same as the Freddom.

Johnny

So would it make sense for me to PC from CSR to Freedom then apply for FFlex and CSR again in the future? If they eliminate Freedom would I be out a card because apparently they won’t let me have two FFlex.

Dan

Nick, I actually googled this yesterday and Visa/Chase initially signed a 10-year deal in 2013. Chase had issued Visa Freedoms before that but all UR cards from then on were exclusively Visas (I didn’t have CSP then but I think that was always a Visa). Obviously, all the co-branded cards other than IHG (for whatever reason) became or were later launched as Visas too.

I thought I remembered reading Gary Leff reported last year that Visa announced an extension with Chase (during an earnings call?) but couldn’t find any article confirming it.

I did see an article from this February that Visa was a party to the multi-year (Washington Post said 10-year) extension between Chase and United. A Visa executive was quoted in the press release.

But maybe Chase is going to phase out their UR cards being Visa after 2023 (or sooner) if they have the right to do so and MasterCard is offering them an even better long-term deal on network access/swipe fees.

For many people, it may only matter if you really want to buy Olympics or FIFA World Cup tickets since Visa currently has exclusive global sponsorship of both events.

Rosie

If you product change to the flex, I know you don’t get the welcome bonus. But do you get the first year grocery bonus? Thanks!

Christian

Why the MasterCard? Doesn’t Chase have some super sweet deal on processing fees with Visa?

Miles

I’d be curious to hear what the best strategy is (if there is one) for people with 2+ Freedom cards already.

Traveler Mike

I was debating about keeping the CFU, as it gets almost no use – this just caused it to gain a spot in my everyday wallet. I do question what is in store for the CSR? I saw somewhere a question about possible limitations on point transfers … any thoughts?

the other Sam

Curious about the community’s thoughts (and yours, Nick) re: MS’ing on CFU at drugstores. $500 Vanillas have a $5.95 charge.

GMoney

yeah but how do you liquidate vanillas? at least at grocery store can get metabank visas which are super easy at walmart

the other Sam

Yeah, can’t liquidate at WM, but I thought grocery store MO’s were an option.

Tom

so can i apply for the freedom now to get the SUB and then in a few months apply for the freedom flex to get a SUB for that card too?

PeterSFO

Looking forward to you and Greg’s discussion on your weekly Podcast on this topic!

Definitely agree that a refresh on the Sapphire family is coming. They make their money on merchant fees and they just removed a big reason to swipe the CSR.

Also, Freedom Flex is basically in every way better than Freedom but is considered a separate product in terms of application eligibility and SUB? I already have an Unlimited and 2 Freedom, I’m at 4/24 until next May. Does it make more sense to sign up for a Flex or product change?

Matt

Maybe worth holding out on that 5th slot to see if the sapphires get some enhanced perks. I picked up a CSP a week before they added all the convid perks to the CSR and regret that move

Kim

P1 is either 3 or 4 in 24 months and P2 is either 2 or 3 in 24 months; we both have organic Freedoms, and P1 recently reverted back to a Sapphire Preferred from a CFU. We (or rather P1 who is the gamer) were considering cross-referring each other for a CFU. Alternatively, P2’s United no-fee card was canceled recently, and P1 could refer P2 to a United Card. (We like United because of the simplicity, and P2 only commits to one way to/from Europe.) (1) Cross refer and apply now for CFUs; (2) P1 refers P2 to United Explorer and takes referral to CFU; or (3) wait and P1 applies for Card Talk volunteers with annual fee cards of Citi Premier, Chase Sapphire Preferred, and Chase United Business Card (NEW)?

V S

My Chase contact confirmed that they will offer a product change mid September. So if you have Freedom or unlimited and want to switch to Flex..no welcome bonus, but keep the same credit limit.

V S

Can’t wait to add my Freedom Unlimited card to all the dining programs I belong to, Marriott, Hilton and American Airlines. Always to like double or triple dips.

FreeFreeFree

The value of the CSR/CSP is in the ability to transfer points to travel partners. CUF getting dining doesn’t change that.

And for the near future, the pay yourself back feature at 1.25/1.5x is a decent perk when travel is on hold. Using UR points at the chase travel portal is only great for airplane tickets IMO. Hotels lose their elite benifits and points earning or the ability to apply 10-15% off coupons often floaring around orbits/hotels.com for non chain entities.

patrick

The $550 for the CSR Is offset somewhat by the $300 travel credit so that brings it down to a bit more of a manageable amount. Though there is not much traveling going on, “travel” is still counted when you buy airline GC like the ones I buy from SWA WEB site. Or now that the airlines aren’t going to ding you for cancellations, book a flight, get your credit, cancel your flight. 😉

FreeFreeFree

Can we hope for 4x dining on the CSR to match the Amex Plat, and 3x dining on the CSP to march the free CUF?

Preacher

But no Costco on the Flex…

V S

Costco does not accept Master card, only Visa.As stated Flex card is master card.

NK3

Yeah, since gas is often cheapest at Costco, and gas is a rotating quarterly bonus category 1-2x per year, I will not convert my card over anytime soon. I already have the CFU for the drugstore 3x, and a Citi Premier for the MC World Elite benefits.

Rosie

I thought that buying gas at Costco codes as warehouse, not gas. When I used my Freedom card last year to buy gas at Costco when gas was the bonus category, I didn’t get the bonus.

NK3

For Chase, they have always coded as gas for me. Car washes at Costco have also always coded as gas.

The last time they had a Warehouse quarterly bonus, I tested one gas purchase, and did not get the bonus. But I just bought a gift card in the store, and used that for gas purchases.

Barry

If you really want, you could use the Flex card to buy a Costco cash card on Costco.com. Then use the cash card in store. One extra step, but it doesn’t cost you anything.

NK3

If gas was the quarterly bonus category, you would lose out on the 5x earnings. And in 2018 & 2019, gas was a bonus category twice each year.

Barry

You’re correct. If you buy your gas at Costco, it would be in your best interest to keep your Freedom card for the category bonuses. If warehouse clubs are the current bonus category, you could use the Flex card on Costco.com to buy cash cards.

Larry K

I got Reserve a year later than most people so my 48 months isn’t up until next year but I think this gives me a great landing spot for a product change if they will allow it. I think I’ll pay the annual fee in September, use the $300 travel credit over the next few months, and then product change after using my $60 door dash in January. Hopefully keeping the card for those extra couple of months will be ok in Chase’s book and I’ll get some of the annual fee prorated if I can product change to this card. That should set me up for a new bonus next October or so if I can keep a 5/24 spot open.

Brutus

Why is Chase so reluctant to add groceries and gas as bonus categories?

Miles

Atleast one of the Ink cards actually has gas a bonus category.

Gene

I truly believe Chase is hesitant to add permanent gas and grocery categories because those are the places people go to MS. When they offer them they’re capped. And if they do add them permanently you better believe they’re going to crack down on gift card purchases. Right now they don’t seem to care much. Pick your poison.

escot

About that first year 5x on “grocery” up to $12k, that’s a major wow indeed, yet does it apply for those who product change into Flex? (if not, not sure what the advantage is to product switching — rather than first applying for a new flex?)

escot

Ooops, sorry, I see you answered this question (as in “no”) below in your other (generous) replies…. (as always, much to be learned not just from your posts, but in the lively and helpful q&a.)

Kay

Will my current Freedom card be discontinued along with my credit history on my current card?

Mike

Nick,

Forgive the ignorant question but if you do product change, do you lose your credit history from the Freedom and start over with Flex? My Freedom is my longest running credit card and I don’t want to have my score plummet if I product change.

Also, is it an inquiry on your credit report to product change?

Mike

A different Mike – I know most of us don’t do much, if anything, with Wells Fargo, but they are the one issuer I am aware of that treats product changes as new accounts. I PCed a Propel World to a regular Propel in early 2019 and WF reported it as a new account. Normally I wouldn’t care, but with Covid and no travel I decided 2020 was the year to get back under 5/24 and found that Wells “new” account is adding 2 months to my wait. When I discovered this, I strongly objected and WF executive office eventually sent me $275 as compensation. Not great, but better than nothing, for 2 months. WF still pushing the opening of “new accounts” as of early 2019 despite their many past issues along those lines.

Rajadat

Did you object via CFPB?

Mike

I didn’t think of that, but my experience with CFPB is they have been seriously weakened by the current admin, take months to review and often don’t resolve anything. $275 guaranteed and not having to spend my time on a complaint versus maybe saving 2 months of waiting? Seems to me the $275 was the way to go. Just really wanted to give readers a heads-up that Wells does not handle product changes the way the other issuers do.

Rajadat

Would you be willing to outline your process? I had the same experience with PCing.

mojo

Psst, hey, Chase: 3x Gas. Do. It.

Jim F.

So, if a current Chase Freedom card holder who has had her/his card for more than 2 years cancels her/his card now, will s/he be able to get the signup bonus for the Chase Freedom Flex card in September?

G S

From my understanding they will be separate products. Even current Freedom cardholders are able to apply for the Freedom Flex if one wished, without cancelling. The new offer terms clearly state that one may hold both a Freedom card and a Freedom Flex card at the same time.