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Chase Freedom® cashback rewards calendar 2018

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Find out the 5% Chase Freedom® cashback categories.

Chase Freedom® is a great credit card for earning accelerated rewards with your purchases. With quarterly rotating categories, you earn cash or points to use at Amazon.com or on travel. But the catch is you need to activate the 5% cashback categories every three months, and you’re capped at $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter. For all other purchases you’ll still earn unlimited 1% cash back, though.

Here’s a layout of what you can expect:

Quarters in 2018January–MarchApril–JuneJuly–SeptemberOctober–December
Primary 5% categoryGas stationsGrocery stores — Walmart and Target not includedGas stationsDepartment stores
5% sub categoryInternet, cable and phone services; Apple Pay, Google Pay, Chase Pay and Samsung PayPayPal and Chase PayLyft and WalgreensWholesale clubs and Chase Pay

Chase Freedom®

  • 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.99 to 25.74%
  • Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 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
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee
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Steps to activate your Chase Freedom® cashback categories

Getting 5% cash back on your purchases is a great deal. But you have to activate each category to get your rewards.

When to activate?

You can activate your Chase Freedom® cashback categories two weeks before the quarter starts until the 14th day of the final month of the quarter. This means that for the October through December quarter you can activate the 5% category by December 14 and still get the cash back retroactively on all qualifying purchases.

How to activate?

There are a few ways to help you activate your categories that include:

  • Visit the Chase Freedom® or Chase Ultimate Rewards website. Provide your email and get notifications when it’s time to activate.
  • Call the number on the back of your card.
  • Visit a Chase bank branch.
  • Use an ATM while making a cash withdrawal if you’re a Chase checking customer.

What counts as a 5% cashback category purchase?

Up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter purchased in the accelerated categories earn 5% cash back. After that and for everything else you buy you’ll earn 1% cash back. If you maximize your categories, you can earn $300 annually on these categories alone.

With the Chase Freedom® you actually earn points

Unlike other cashback credit cards where you earn cash as a statement credit or a deposit, with the Chase Freedom® you earn points. This gives you redemption flexibility to get cash, gift cards, to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program or to pay for your Amazon.com purchases.

Compare cashback credit cards

Name Product Filter values Annual Fee APR for Purchases (Purchase Rate) Intro APR for Balance Transfer
$95
14.99% to 25.99% variable
0% for the first 12 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
Earn $200 bonus cash back after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
$0
14.99% to 25.99% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
Earn a $150 bonus statement credit after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
$0
14.99% to 25.99% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
Earn up to $250 back. Earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 or more in purchases with your new card within the first 3 months of card membership. Plus, earn an additional $100 back after you spend an additional $6,500 in purchases within your first 12 months. Rates & Fees
$0
16.99% to 25.74% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.99% to 25.74% variable)
0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers.
$0
16.99% to 25.74% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.99% to 25.74% variable)
0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers.

Compare up to 4 providers

Tips to maximize your Chase rewards

  • Clear the signup bonus.
    Spend $500 on purchases within your first 3 months of card membership and earn $150 bonus cash back.
  • Add an authorized user.
    This way you can quickly clear the signup bonus and reach the 5% cap on the quarterly categories.
  • Pair your card.
    The Chase Freedom® is an excellent credit card by itself. But pair it with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and you can get a solid, points-earning combo.
  • Transfer your points.
    If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, transfer your points to that card and redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards for 25% higher value. Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® also let you transfer your points at a 1:1 ratio with Chase hotel and airline partners.
  • Link your card to PayPal.
    This can help you quickly reach the cap when PayPal is listed in the 5% categories.
  • Use a digital wallet.
    When Chase Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or a similar service is listed in the quarterly categories use them to pay for purchases that otherwise don’t fall into the category and get 5% back instead of the base 1%.

Compare bonus rewards categories

The Discover it® Cash Back has the following 5% cashback categories in 2018:

  • January to March.
    Gas stations and wholesale clubs.
  • April to June.
    Grocery stores.
  • July to September.
    Restaurants.
  • October to December.
    Amazon.com and wholesale clubs.

Both the Chase Freedom® and the Discover it® Cash Back cards offer gas stations in the first quarter, grocery stores in the second and wholesale clubs in the fourth quarter. The two categories lacking in the Chase card are restaurants and Amazon.com purchases.

However, for three quarters you can use Chase Pay for purchases and earn 5% back on categories that aren’t listed, including restaurants that accept this payment method. Also, Chase offers two quarters of accelerated cash back on gas instead of one, while the Discover card has two quarters of wholesale clubs.

Which card is better?

It’s hard to give a universal answer, given your spending needs are unique to your lifestyle. But if you’re looking to maximize your cash back, using both cards for the 5% cashback categories could prove worthwhile.

Bottom line

The Chase Freedom® can be a solid choice if you’re looking to get the highest cash back on multiple categories that rotate throughout the year. It can be an even better choice if you pair it with either the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve® to maximize your rewards.

If you use a digital wallet — especially Chase Pay — you can earn 5% cash back on categories that aren’t listed in the quarters. Similar cashback cards don’t have this option.

But if you’re not sure whether this card is right for you, consider other cashback credit cards and compare your options.
The 3 types of cashback credit cards, explained

Frequently asked questions

Kliment Dukovski

Kliment Dukovski is a writer who specializes in global financial markets and personal finance, with a focus on credit cards. His main goal is to deliver honest and accurate information to help you make the right financial decision. When he's not writing about finance-related subjects, he writes sci-fi stories.

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