Get 5% Cash Back on These Categories with Your Chase Freedom or Freedom Flex

Activate your bonus categories each quarter to earn some serious dough.
Last updated Mar 18, 2021 | By Lindsay Frankel
Woman shopping in the produce department at the grocery store

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While premium credit cards may rack up plenty of points per dollar, it’s rare to find a credit card with no annual fee that earns more than 3% cash back in any category. But with both the Chase Freedom and the Chase Freedom Flex Card, you have the opportunity to earn 5% cash back in select bonus categories.

Chase offers new categories every three months, often in popular spending sectors, like gas stations and grocery stores. You’re required to activate the bonus categories to earn your 5% cash back rewards, but you’ll be able to rack up points faster with your purchases in select categories.

How do Chase Freedom’s rotating categories work?

Prior to each quarter, Chase releases one or more bonus categories that will earn 5% cash back for those three months. You’ll need to activate the bonus categories in your account by the indicated deadline.

Once activated, you’ll earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases made within the bonus categories. That means you could potentially earn $75 in rewards per quarter, after which you’ll continue to earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

What are the 2021 Chase Freedom bonus categories?

It’s important to be aware of the current Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Flex bonus categories, especially if you use other credit cards as well. If the 5% cash back offer beats the rewards you’ll get with other cards, you’ll want to put purchases in the bonus categories on your Chase Freedom or Freedom Flex card.

Here are the current bonus categories:

Chase bonus categories for 2021
January-March Select streaming services; internet, cable and phone services; and wholesale clubs
(activate by June 14, 2021)
Gas stations, home improvement stores
July-September TBA
October-December TBA

While we can’t predict the future bonus categories, it’s likely a safe bet that they’ll include retailers and services many shoppers use frequently. Here’s a look at some of the past categories:

2019-2020 Chase bonus categories
October-December 2020
Walmart, PayPal
July-September 2020, Whole Foods
April-June 2020 Grocery stores, gym and fitness club memberships
January-March 2020 Gas stations; internet, cable and phone services; select streaming services (includes Netflix, Sling, Vudu, FuboTV, Apple Music, SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify, Hulu and ESPN+)
October-December 2019 Department stores, Paypal, Chase Pay
July-September 2019 Gas stations, streaming services (includes Netflix, Hulu, Sling, Vudu, FuboTV, Apple Music, SiriusXM, Pandora, and Spotify)
April-June 2019 Grocery stores (excluding Walmart and Target), home improvement stores
January-March 2019 Gas stations, tolls, drugstores

How to activate the bonus categories

There are a few ways to activate your Chase Freedom and Freedom Flex bonus categories each quarter.

  • Online: Visit and click “Activate your 5%.” From there, you’ll be prompted to enter your last name, the last four digits of your card number, and your billing zip code. Then click “Activate Now.”
  • Email: Chase allows you to provide your email address to receive an email reminder when it’s time to activate your bonus categories. From there, you’ll just need to click the link in the email.
  • Phone: You can get assistance activating your bonus categories from a human if you call the number on the back of your card.
  • Visit a Chase location: If you want to talk to someone in person, a personal banker at any Chase location can assist you.
  • ATM: While making a cash withdrawal, you can activate your Chase Freedom bonus categories with just one click.

Remember, you can only earn those sweet rewards points if you activate the bonus categories before the deadline. Chase will even help you set a calendar reminder to make sure you don’t forget.

However, it doesn’t really matter when you activate the categories, so long as you do so before the deadline. Even if you activate your rewards the day before the deadline, all your eligible purchases dating back to the beginning of the quarter will be counted.

It’s often a good idea to track your spending in the bonus categories. That way, you can switch to a card that gives you more points per dollar once you reach the $1,500 spending cap for the 5% cash back rewards.

Your credit card statement should show you the rewards you’ve earned each month. A budgeting app like Mint can also help you keep track of your spending within certain categories.

Is the Chase Freedom Flex card right for you?

The Chase Freedom card is no longer open to applications, but Chase has released the brand-new Freedom Flex card to replace it. But should you apply for the Freedom Flex?

If you won’t remember to activate the bonus categories and mindfully use your card for spending in those categories each quarter, this may not be the card for you. Instead, compare the best cashback credit cards with more robust rewards on everyday purchases, such as the Chase Freedom Unlimited, for other options.

If you already have one of the premium Chase credit cards that earns Ultimate Rewards, pairing that card with the Chase Freedom could help you maximize your rewards. That’s because you may be able to transfer your Chase Freedom Flex points to your premium card, which could offer a better value for your points. If you choose this strategy, consider using your premium card for non-bonus spending if it will earn you more points.

In addition to the 5% cash back you can earn in bonus categories, the Chase Freedom Flex card offers a number of other perks and a generous sign-up bonus. You’ll earn $200 cash back after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months. There’s also an introductory APR of 0% for 15 months on purchases, which can help you finance a large purchase. Plus, you’ll get standard protections along with free access to your credit score.

While the Chase Freedom Flex Card may not be your first choice if travel rewards or other perks are your main priority, the extra cash back on bonus categories can make this card a great addition to a strategic spender’s wallet.

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