The Chase Freedom credit card is one of my favorite ways to earn cash back. Each quarter they offer rotating categories that offer 5% cash back on your purchases. This cash back comes in the form of Ultimate Rewards points, which hold even more value when you pair the Freedom card with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or the Chase Ink Business cards.
The quarterly bonus categories are capped at $1,500 in spend each quarter. This means that you can earn up to 7,500 Ultimate Rewards points every three months when you max out the bonus opportunity.
Each quarter, the Chase Freedom quarterly bonus calendar is updated with the latest offers for 5% cash-back. You can activate your card up to two weeks before the quarter begins. The bonus categories are retroactive as well. Cardholders can activate the bonus categories until the 14th of the third month of each quarter – March, June, September, and December.
- + Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
- + Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
- + Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
- + Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend
$500on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
- 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of
16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
- Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
- No annual fee
- 3% foreign transaction fee
The bonus categories change every quarter based on the Chase Freedom calendar. Chase doesn’t announce the full 5% rewards calendar ahead of time, but it’s a good idea to know the categories that they have already announced for the year and how to maximize those categories.
Below is what we know about the quarterly rewards calendar so far, including how to activate your 5% bonus and tips for maximizing the bonus categories.
Chase Cashback Calendar Bonus Categories Revealed for Q1 2019: Gas Stations, Drugstores, Tolls
- January to March 2019: Gas Stations, Drugstores, Tolls
January to March 2018: Gas Stations, Internet, Cable and Phone Services, plus Chase Pay, Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay April to June 2018: Grocery Stores, PayPal and Chase Pay July to September 2018: Lyft, Walgreens and Gas Stations October to December 2018: Department Stores, Wholesale Clubs, Chase Pay
Chase has revealed the bonus categories for the first quarter of 2019. Let’s take a closer look at what we already know.
JANUARY to MARCH 2019
Gas Stations, Drugstores, Tolls
Chase has released the 2019 first quarter bonus categories. This quarter, the Chase Freedom card is targeting people going on road trips or those that have a lot of medical bills.
The categories that will earn 5% cash back are gas stations, tolls, and drugstores. Cardholders must activate this cashback offer to receive the bonus points. Activation is open right now and goes through March 14, 2019.
- Gas stations – fill up your car and save. Road trips and your daily commute are less expensive with this 5% cash back offer.
- Drugstores – drugstores offer more than prescription and over-the-counter medicine. Many offer toiletries, cosmetics, and a small section of groceries.
- Tolls – reduce the sting of toll roads with 5% cash back on your morning commute or your weekend getaway.
If you won’t spend $1,500 this quarter in gas, tolls, or prescriptions, remember that many gas stations and drugstores sell gift cards. I like to stock up on gift cards to my favorite retailers and restaurants to save 5% on my purchases. And these gift cards also make excellent last-minute gifts for people you’ve forgotten and those who are hard to shop for.
All other purchases you make will earn 1% with the Chase Freedom card. If you’ve maxed out the Chase Freedom 5% bonus or are looking for other spending categories that are more appealing, take a look at the Discover it 2019 quarterly 5% bonus calendar.
OCTOBER to DECEMBER 2018 (EXPIRED):
Department Stores, Wholesale Clubs and Chase Pay
The Chase Freedom fourth quarter categories are department stores, wholesale clubs, and payments made via Chase Pay. With all of the sales during Black Friday and leading up to the holidays, it will be easy to max out the 5% cash back opportunity. Even if you don’t get caught up in the consumerism of the holidays, Chase Pay is becoming a popular option and is gaining acceptance across many of the merchants that people use every day.
Chase Pay is now accepted at a variety of stores, including restaurants, gas stations, and online. If you haven’t used Chase Pay before, Chase will give you $5 off your first order before September 30, 2018. You can stack the 5% from your Chase Freedom with the in-app offers exclusive to Chase Pay for even greater savings.
If you still are unsure if you spend $1,500 to max out the 5% cash back benefit and earn 7,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards, remember that many department stores and wholesale clubs offer gift cards that you can use all year long. My local wholesale club offers discounts up to 20% on gift card packages that we take advantage of on a regular basis.
JULY to SEPTEMBER 2018 (EXPIRED)
Gas Stations, Lyft and Walgreens
The Chase Freedom third quarter categories are gas stations, Lyft, and Walgreens. This is perfect timing ahead of summer road trips where you’ll now be able to earn 5% cash back on gas station purchases. If driving isn’t your thing, Chase Freedom has you covered with 5% cash back when using Lyft to get from point A to point B.
And the next time you need a prescription filled or to do some light grocery shopping, consider stopping by Walgreens to earn 5x Ultimate Rewards points. If you don’t think you’ll spend a combined $1,500 on gas, ridesharing or prescriptions, remember that gas stations and Walgreens usually offer gift cards for some of your favorite stores. Stock up on gift cards to max out the 7,500 Ultimate Rewards points you can earn in the third quarter.
APRIL to JUNE 2018 (EXPIRED):
Grocery Stores, PayPal and Chase Pay
The Chase Freedom calendar was recently unveiled for the second quarter. Between April and June of 2018, you can earn 5% back at grocery stores or by making payments through PayPal and Chase Pay. The inclusion of PayPal makes it easy to earn an impressive bonus for online shopping as most retailers accept the payment method.
There are a few restrictions, though. Grocery purchases made at Walmart and Target do not qualify for the bonus. Also, the standard $1,500 cap on spending in combined purchases also applies.
JANUARY to MARCH 2018 (EXPIRED):
Gas Stations, Internet, Cable and Phone Services, plus Chase Pay, Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay
According to the Chase rewards calendar, cardholders can earn 5% back on purchases made at gas stations and on internet, cable and phone services. That also includes payments made with Chase Pay, Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.
Some stores that do not specialize in selling automotive gasoline may not be included in the gas station category, including truck stops, boat marinas and some heating companies. In the internet, cable and phone services category, purchases of equipment do not qualify for the bonus.
Overall, the Q1 bonus categories should make it easy to rack up a bunch of bonus points because many people need to buy gas, at least on occasion, and there are many stores that allow you to pay with mobile payment systems like Apple Pay.
Up to $1,500 in spending during the quarter in these combined categories is eligible to earn five Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent.
After $1,500, you will still earn one point per dollar spent, just like on all other purchases.
Vote for the Next Chase Freedom Rewards Calendar Category
We don’t know for sure what the bonus categories are going to be for Q2 of 2019 just yet, but we want to give you the chance to vote on what you would like to see next. After you make your selection, you’ll be able to see how other readers have voted, too.
How to Activate the 5% Rewards Categories
You have to keep track of the Chase Freedom calendar because you have to activate the bonus rewards categories. Thankfully, it’s easy to do. You need the primary cardholder’s last name, the last four digits of the Freedom card and the billing zip code in order to activate your Freedom 5X categories online.
You can activate your 5% bonus categories as early as two weeks before the next quarter starts. For example, activation for Q2 2019 began on March 15, 2019.
It’s also possible to activate your Chase Freedom bonus categories over the phone, by email, at a Chase ATM or at any Chase location.
Activation is required by the middle of the last month of each quarter in order to be eligible for the bonus points. For example, July through September activation must take place by September 14.
Even if you wait until the last minute to activate, you will still earn bonus points from all of your purchases during the entire quarter, but don’t wait too long to activate. It won’t be possible, and you will not earn any bonus points for that quarter.
You’ll usually see your bonus points on the statement in which the purchase was made, but you may not see it until the next billing statement. Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for travel or converted to cash back at a rate of one cent per Ultimate Rewards point.
Tips for Maximizing Your 5% Cash Back
In order to maximize the cash back from the 5% bonus categories with the Chase Freedom, you should spend $1,500 in those categories each quarter. This will net you 7,500 Ultimate Rewards points, which can be redeemed for $75 in cash back.
In Q1 2018, the bonus categories are gas stations and internet, cable and phone services including Chase Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay. These categories make the bonus pretty easy to maximize in Q1 because many stores will allow you to pay with a mobile payment system and gas stations often sell more things than just gas. For example, many gas stations sell a small amount of groceries and even gift cards to restaurants, movie theaters, Amazon and more.
Along the same lines, you can buy a lot more than just groceries in most grocery stores, one of the categories featured in Q2. Even better, PayPal is accepted by nearly all online retailers. So you could just order everything you need online, get it delivered to your house and rake in a lot of extra cash back.
Get a Chase Sapphire Card and Get Even More for Your Points
Perhaps the easiest way to maximize your return is by combining the Freedom card with either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve card. If you do, then you can combine the points you earn and take full advantage of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.
With the Sapphire cards, you’ll be able to transfer the points you earn to any of the Ultimate Rewards program’s seven airline partners and get free flights. By doing that, you can get a lot more value out of your points.
How to Get 6.25% Back
Perhaps the best option you’ll have after transferring your Freedom points to your Sapphire card account is redeeming for travel through the Ultimate Rewards online travel portal. Not only can you book flights, hotel stays and more with nearly any travel provider, but you’ll be able to do it at a discount. That’s because you’ll get 1.25 cents per point with the Preferred card and 1.5 cents per point with the Chase Reserve credit card.
Think about it.
If you max out your spending at $1,500 in a quarterly bonus category with your Freedom card, you’ll get 7,500 points. Those points are worth $75 in cash back. But if you transfer the points to your Sapphire Preferred card, you can redeem them for $93.75 in travel through the UR travel portal. That’s a return of 6.25%!
It can get even better, though, if you have the Sapphire Reserve. Those same 7,500 points would be worth $112.50 through the travel portal. That’s a whopping 7.5% return on your initial $1,500 in spending!
Comparing Chase and Discover Bonus Categories
I like having both the Chase Freedom and the Discover it credit cards because each card offers the opportunity to earn 5% cash back on my spending each quarter. The bonus categories rotate each quarter for both credit cards. Sometimes there is an overlap, but most quarters each credit card focuses on different areas of my budget.
Let’s compare the 5% cash back bonus categories between the Chase Freedom and the Discover it credit cards.
|2019 Q1||2019 Q2||2019 Q3||2019 Q4|
Discover it® Cash Back
- + cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
- + Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
- + Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
- + Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
- INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
- Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
- Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
- No annual fee.
Follow this link for a complete review of the Discover it cashback categories.
I like it when the Chase Freedom and Discover it credit cards offer different categories. For many people, meeting the $1,500 in one category each quarter is achievable. But when the categories overlap, spending $3,000 in one category requires some creative spending.
If you are unable to max out the 5% cash back for both credit cards this quarter, remember that gas stations, drugstores, and grocery stores all offer gift cards. Buying gift cards to your favorite retailers and restaurants are a great way to save money and those gift cards make easy gifts for friends and family that are difficult to shop for.