The Chase Freedom credit card is a great way to quickly rack up a bunch of cash back or points that can be used for travel because you can get up to five Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent in select categories. While that earning rate is capped at $1,500 in spending per quarter, that works out to 7,500 points every four months if you max out your bonus category spending.
Chase Freedom® Card
- % 5% cash back each quarter on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in that quarter's bonus categories
- % 1% on all other purchases
- $150 bonus after you spend $500 in the first 3 months
$25bonus after you add your first authorized user and make your first purchase within this same 3-month period
- 3% foreign transaction fee
The bonus categories change every quarter based on the Chase Freedom calendar. Chase doesn’t announce the full 5 percent 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 percent bonus and tips for maximizing the bonus categories.
Chase Cashback Calendar Bonus Categories Revealed for Q1 and Q2
- 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
Chase has revealed the bonus categories for the first and second quarter of 2018, but Q3 and Q4 categories aren’t likely to be announced until later in the year. Let’s take a closer look at what we already know.
January to March 2018:
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 percent 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.
April to June 2018:
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 percent 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.
Vote for the Next Chase Freedom Rewards Calendar Category
We don’t know for sure what the bonus categories are going to be for Q3 and Q4 of 2018 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 Percent 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.
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, January through March activation must take place by March 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 can activate your 5 percent bonus categories as early as two weeks before the next quarter starts. For example, activation for Q2 2018 began on March 15, 2018.
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 Percent Cash Back
In order to maximize the cash back from the 5 percent 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 Reserve.
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 percent.
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 percent return on your initial $1,500 in spending!
Comparing Chase and Discover Bonus Categories
The Discover it card also offers 5 percent cashback bonus categories that change each quarter. Unlike Chase, the entire Discover cashback calendar for 2018 has already announced. Let’s see how it compares to the Chase Freedom calendar.
- January to March 2018: Gas Stations and Wholesale Clubs
- April to June 2018: Grocery Stores
- July to September 2018: Restaurants
- October to December 2018: Amazon and Wholesale Clubs
Discover it® - Cashback Match™
- % 5% in rotating categories each quarter like Gas, Dining, Amazon.com, Wholesale Clubs and more
- % 1% on Travel
- % 1% on Groceries
- % 1% on All Other Purchases
- Up to 5% cash back
- Discover automatically matches all the cash back you earn dollar for dollar at the end of your first year
- No Foreign Transaction Fee
- % 3% balance transfer fee
In Q1, both Discover and Chase are bonusing spending at gas stations, but the other half of the category is different. Discover features wholesale clubs, like Costco and Sam’s Club, but Chase is offering a bonus for payments toward internet, cable and phone services and when you use Chase Pay, Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.
Which one is best for you will depend on your personal spending habits, but the mobile payment systems have the potential to be more flexible since they’re accepted by more retailers.
There is overlap between the two cards in the second quarter, too. Both offer a bonus at grocery stores, but Chase also includes Chase Pay and PayPal, which gives it a bit of an edge.
Luckily, the bonus categories tend to be pretty broad and in areas that people are likely to spend money. So even if you have both cards, there’s a good chance that you can make use of both bonus categories, especially if you spend strategically.