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 the Chase Freedom 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 2019 Chase Freedom bonus categories?
It’s important to be aware of the current Chase Freedom 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 card.
Here are the current bonus categories:
|Chase Freedom bonus categories for 2019|
|Gas stations, tolls, drugstores|
(activate now through June 14, 2019)
|Grocery stores (excluding Walmart and Target), home improvement stores|
(activate starting June 15, 2019)
|Gas stations, streaming services (includes Netflix, Hulu, Sling, Vudu, FuboTV, Apple Music, SiriusXM, Pandora, and Spotify)|
(activate starting September 15, 2019)
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:
|Previous Chase Freedom bonus categories|
|October-December 2018||Department stores, wholesale clubs, Chase Pay|
|July-September 2018||Gas stations, Walgreens, Lyft|
|April-June 2018||PayPal, Chase Pay, grocery stores|
|January-March 2018||Gas stations, internet/cable/phone service providers, mobile wallets|
How to activate the bonus categories
There are a few ways to activate your Chase Freedom bonus categories each quarter.
- Online: Visit Chase.com/freedom 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 card right for you?
Not sure if the Chase Freedom’s benefits are worth it? First, consider whether you’ll use the card to spend strategically. If you won’t remember to activate the bonus categories and mindfully use your card for spending in those categories each quarter, there are other cash back credit cards with more robust rewards on everyday purchases, such as the Chase Freedom Unlimited.
If you already have a premium Chase card 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 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 card offers a number of other perks and a generous sign-up bonus. You’ll get a $150 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months of account opening. There’s also an introductory APR of 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, 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 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.