Why I'm swapping my beloved Nordstrom Visa for the Chase Freedom card for holiday shopping
Store credit cards aren't always the best deal, but I love the Nordstrom card for benefits like early access to Nordstrom's Anniversary Sale and 3x points on purchases at the store.
I plan to do some holiday shopping at Nordstrom this year, and while I'd usually put this spending on the Nordstrom card to earn bonus points, I'm planning to use another card: the Chase Freedom.
The Chase Freedom offers 5% cash back (or 5x points) on up to $1,500 in purchases on rotating bonus categories that you have to activate each quarter of the year. This quarter, one of the categories is department stores, including Nordstrom.
This means I can earn 5x points on Nordstrom purchases — up to 7,500 points that I could use toward travel like a United flight or a Hyatt hotel stay.
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I usually steer clear of store credit cards. They don't offer great purchase protections and generally only offer solid rewards when you shop at the store in question, and they're the worst-possible choice if you need to carry a balance, with some of the highest interest rates around. When friends or family ask me what card they should open, I direct them to rewards credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Blue Cash Preferred® Credit Card from American Express instead.
However, there's a special place in my heart for the Nordstrom credit card. Not only does it earn you points toward $20 Nordstrom Notes, but it also gives you early access to the store's Anniversary Sale. Plus, it has no annual fee, so I never have to worry about whether I'm using the perks enough to justify keeping it open as long as I pay off my balance in full to avoid interest.
I only use my Nordstrom card for Nordstrom purchases, since it only earns the bonus of 3x points on purchases with this retailer. With the holiday season approaching, I will no doubt be making a purchase (or four) at this department store, but for the time being I'm actually putting away my Nordstrom card in favor of the Chase Freedom card. Here's why.
Keep in mind that we're focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which can far outweigh the value of any rewards.
When you're working to earn credit card rewards, it's important to practice financial discipline, like paying your balances off in full each month, making payments on time, and not spending more than you can afford to pay back. Basically, treat your credit card like a debit card.
Chase Freedom, my current go-to card for Nordstrom purchases
The Chase Freedom is a cash-back card with no annual fee and a rewards structure that you'll either love or hate depending on your tolerance for keeping track of changing categories. It offers 5% back on the first $1,500 you spend in combined purchases each quarter you activate on select bonus categories. The bonus categories change every quarter, and they tend to include things like grocery stores, gas stations, and drugstores.
As someone who enjoys maximizing every dollar I spend (read: a huge nerd), I love this bonus format. Some quarters, I can't make much use of the Freedom's bonus categories, but other times, like this quarter, I can easily utilize them to earn lots of bonus points.
Read more: Chase Freedom card review
5% back at Nordstrom
From October through November, the Chase Freedom will earn 5% back at department stores, and on Apple Pay and Chase Pay purchases. Cardholders can earn 5% back on the first $1,500 in combined purchases made in these bonus categories, provided they activate the bonus (you'll be prompted to do so by email).
I'm not much of a mobile wallet user, but I do love me a good department store. More than two dozen department stores are eligible for the Chase Freedom bonus, including Bloomingdales, Kohls, Neiman Marcus, Saks, and my favorite: Nordstrom.
This is perfect timing, too, since I usually do at least part of my holiday shopping, not to mention turn-of-the-season clothing shopping, at this store.
Read more: Chase Freedom quarterly bonus calendar
The Freedom can earn points toward travel
The 5% cash back is great, but if you, like me, want to earn travel points, it gets even better. If the Freedom is your only Chase card, your rewards will be in the form of cash back. But if you also have a Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can move your Freedom rewards over to your Ultimate Rewards account to redeem them in the form of points. That's how 5% back can become 5x points with the Freedom's bonus categories.
The Points Guy values Chase points at 2 cents apiece, so combining your rewards doubles the return on your spending from 5% back to 10%.
Read more: How to turn cash back into Ultimate Rewards points with Chase cards
What to shop at Nordstrom
There are already plenty of Nordstrom items on my personal shopping list right now.
The retailer is running an Everlane popup through November 17 and I'm eyeing several items already like its classic Day Boot ($225) or the new ReKnit Day Glove Boot ($155), a stretchy knitted version of the original. You can read our reviews of the Day Boot and the ReKnit boots here.
There are also Nordstrom exclusives like this $90 La Mer skin-care set normally valued at $122, and a trio of best-selling Orgasm products from NARS valued at $61 but costs $35. Both are great deals and worth buying two — one for myself and another as a holiday gift.
Click here to learn more about the Chase Freedom.
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