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 2018||January–March||April–June||July–September||October–December|
|Primary 5% category||Gas stations||Grocery stores — Walmart and Target not included||Gas stations||Department stores|
|5% sub category||Internet, cable and phone services; Apple Pay, Google Pay, Chase Pay and Samsung Pay||PayPal and Chase Pay||Lyft and Walgreens||Wholesale clubs and Chase Pay|
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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.
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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%.
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The Discover it® Cash Back has the following 5% cashback categories in 2018:
- January to March.
Gas stations and wholesale clubs.
- April to June.
- July to September.
- 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.
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.