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If you have the Chase Freedom card, should you apply for Freedom Flex?

The Chase Freedom credit card is closed to new applicants, but existing users may consider a change or applying for the new Chase Freedom Flex. Here's how to decide.

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When Chase launched the Chase Freedom Flex℠ last month, they also closed the Chase Freedom® credit card to new applicants. While Freedom cardholders can continue to use their card with no changes, the Flex card may have caught your eye.

After all, Flex builds upon Freedom's rotating bonus category rewards structure and adds above-average rewards for travel, dining and drug store purchases. Plus new Flex cardholders can earn a lucrative two-tier welcome bonus, but more on that later.

If you have the Freedom card, but also want to have Flex, you have two options:

  1. Call Chase and request a product change to Flex.
  2. Submit a new application for Flex.

The best option for you depends on a few factors. Namely, consider the number of credit cards you have now and whether you want to take advantage of the Flex card's new card member offers.

To help you decide, CNBC Select breaks down the similarities and differences between Freedom and Flex, plus when it makes sense to request a product change or submit a new application.

Chase Freedom vs. Chase Freedom Flex

Chase Freedom Flex℠ Chase Freedom® credit card
Annual fee$0$0
Regular APR14.99% to 23.74% variable14.99% to 23.74% variable
Intro APR0% for the first 15 months on purchasesN/A since this card is closed to new applicants
Rewards5% cash back on up to $1500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate (then 1%); 5% cash back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal; 3% cash back on dining and at drug stores; 1% cash back on all other purchases5% cash back on up to $1500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate (then 1%); 1% cash back on all other purchases
Welcome bonus$200 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12000 spent in the first year.N/A since this card is closed to new applicants

The Freedom and Flex cards have similar rewards programs, but Flex offers more elevated reward categories. In addition to Freedom's rewards, Flex cardholders can earn 5% cash back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® and 3% cash back on dining and at drug stores.

Flex card members can also take advantage of a standout welcome bonus of $200 after spending $500 within your first three months from account opening. That's in addition to an elevated 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year (then 1%).

There's also a no-interest period: During your first 15 months from Flex account opening, you can benefit from no interest on purchases (after 14.99% to 23.74% variable APR).

All of these perks make the Flex card worthwhile, but the benefits you can receive depend on whether you request a product change or submit a new application.

Submitting a new application and getting approved allows you to take advantage of all Flex perks, from the rewards and welcome bonus to the intro 0% APR period. But a new application also results in an inquiry on your credit report and has the potential to temporarily lower your credit score roughly 5 points, which can affect bigger life events like applying for a mortgage.

If that sounds bad, look at the other option: When you request and get approved for a product change, your existing Freedom account will be transferred to a new Flex card. This preserves your existing credit limit and length of account history, and you'll be able to benefit from the new reward rates mentioned above. (However, you won't be able to take advantage of new card member offers like the welcome bonus or special financing period.)

If you know that you want the Flex card, review the scenarios below to learn when it makes sense to request a product change or submit a new application.

When it makes sense to request a product change to Flex

Forgo the new application and simply ask to switch from Freedom to Flex if any of these scenarios apply to you:

  • You already have a lot of credit cards: Since Freedom and Flex are so similar, you may not have a need for another credit card, especially if you already have multiple credit cards. In this case, you can be better off requesting a product change.
  • You don’t plan on taking advantage of new card member offers: Product changes don't allow you to take advantage of new card member offers like a welcome bonus and intro 0% APR. So if you don't plan on making any large purchases in the near future, a product change can be a good option.
  • You’re in the process of applying for a mortgage: During the home buying process, you should avoid new inquiries and new account openings that can appear on your credit report and potentially lower your credit score. Each time you apply for new credit, your credit score can temporarily go down roughly 5 points. And if you're approved, a new account will appear on your credit report, which can lower the average age of your accounts and hurt your credit score. Switching cards can be a better option since card issuers may not review your credit report (though you should ask to be sure) and you'll preserve the age of your old Freedom account.

When it makes sense to submit a new application for Flex

If you're looking to optimize your credit cards, applying for Flex is a better option than just switching over from your old Freedom card. Here are some scenarios that make it worthwhile:

  • You want to maximize rewards: Freedom card members who want to double up rewards in rotating bonus categories should consider applying for Flex. Since both cards offer 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate (then 1%), you can max out bonus rewards by using both cards. That works out to a combined 5% cash back on up to $3,000 in bonus category spending when you use both Freedom and Flex. (Check out the Chase Freedom cash-back calendar.)
  • You want to earn the welcome bonus: Only new applicants can earn the two-tier welcome bonus, so submitting an application is your best bet to earn $200 after spending $500 within your first three months from account opening. Plus you can benefit from 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • You want to take advantage of the 0% APR: Just like the welcome bonus, you’ll need to be a new card member to use the 15-month 0% APR period (after 14.99% to 23.74% variable APR).

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Chase Freedom Flex℠
On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate (then 1%), 5% cash back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on dining and at drug stores, 1% cash back on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $200 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 15 months on purchases

  • Regular APR

    14.99% to 23.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.