Chase vs. Schwab Credit Card

Update June 22 — The Schwab card is no longer available.

Chase vs. Schwab

Chase Freedom Plus or Schwab Invest First

Chase Freedom Plus vs. Schwab Invest First

For the last year my wife and I have been using the Chase Freedom Plus. It gives you 3% cash back in the top 6 categories for each billing cycle and 1% everywhere else. Save up to $200 in rewards and you get an extra $50 bonus! Not bad right? When Charles Schwab came out with the Schwab Invest First (flat 2% cash back at the end of every billing cycle) card I wondered which would fare better. Finally ran the numbers of my actual spending on the Chase card against the flat 2% I would have gotten back with Schwab:

Month Chase Freedom Plus % back Schwab Invest First % back
Jan. 1.52% 2%
Feb. 1.83% 2%
Mar. 1.68% 2%
Apr. 0.69% 2%
May. 1.60% 2%
Jun. 1.97% 2%
Jul. 1.70% 2%
Aug. 1.57% 2%
Sep. 1.69% 2%
Tot. 1.32%1 2%

Ouch! 1.32%?! I figured I would at least be getting 2%. What happened? Well, it turns out that I should be getting closer to 2% but Chase doesn’t classify the categories correctly for many stores. For example: One of our biggest expenses is groceries but Chase doesn’t include Trader Joe’s or Stater Brothers in the “grocery” category. They’re in the “other” category which always pays 1% cash back. We made several large home improvement purchases on the Chase card in April when we bought the house but none of it went towards a category!
I suppose your results will vary depending on where you spend your money. It may not be the best for everyone, but with our spending habits we’ll get an extra %0.68 by switching to Schwab.
Schwab also has the advantage of paying you back each billing cycle meaning you have immediate access to the cash rebate and instantly start earning interest on it.
A few other differences:

Feature Chase Freedom Plus Schwab Invest First
Rebate Availability Wait until $200 accrued At end of billing cycle
Quicken Transactions available as they clear Transactions available at end of billing cycle
Foreign Transactions 3% Fee No fees
Annual Fee $30 None
Spending Limit No limit No limit
Rewards Cap None None

1 The total includes $50 bonus (adjusted as if I had spent a perfect $200 to get the maximum benefit) and the $30 annual Chase credit card fee as if it were amortized over 12 months (because I only put up 8 months of data). Obviously how much and how you spend your money will cause the total percentage to vary.

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