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- The Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers 5% cash back (5x points) in different spending categories each quarter of the year. You can earn 5% back or 5x on the first $1,500 you spend in combined purchases in these categories each quarter you activate (then 1% or 1x).
- The categories for Q1 of 2021 are cable, internet, and phone services, wholesale clubs, and streaming services. These categories also apply to the Chase Freedom®, which is no longer available to new applicants.
- You have to activate the bonus categories each quarter, so don't forget to take this step.
- Q1 runs from January through March. You can activate these upcoming bonus categories from December 15 through March 14, 2021.
- See Business Insider's guide to the best rewards credit cards.
The start of the new year also brings a change to the rotating quarterly bonus categories on one of our favorite cash-back credit cards: The Chase Freedom Flex℠. These categories also apply to the Chase Freedom®, which isn't available to new applicants. If you have the Chase Freedom® already, you can either keep that card or request a switch to the Chase Freedom Flex℠.
Chase's Q1 2021 bonus categories for the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Chase Freedom® were clearly chosen to help cardholders who are spending more time at home due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic
Q1 2021 Chase Freedom categories
Here are the bonus categories for January 1, 2021, through March 31, 2021:
- Internet, cable, and phone services
- Wholesale clubs
- Streaming services
Many of us have substantial monthly internet, cable, phone, and streaming expenses, so it should be easy to earn a nice chunk of rewards with the Chase Freedom Flex℠ or Chase Freedom® this quarter.
You need to activate the bonus categories each quarter to be eligible for up to 5% cash back on participating categories. You can activate for Q1 from December 15 until March 14, 2021 through your Chase account.
Even if you activate before the start of the quarter, you won't lose out on the current Q4 2020 categories (Walmart and PayPal) as long as you've already activated them. Once you activate, the bonus will retroactively apply to purchases, up to spending limits, from the start of the current quarter.
How Chase Freedom Flex quarterly bonus categories work
Each quarter of the year, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Chase Freedom® cards earn 5% back (or 5x points) on a different set of bonus categories. Activation is required, and once you hit the quarterly max of $1,500 spent in the bonus categories, your rate reverts to 1% back.
While these are marketed as cash-back cards, if you also have a card that earns transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards points, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can combine rewards between the two cards and transfer them to Chase's airline and hotel partners. That's why you can think of the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Chase Freedom® bonus categories as earning you either 5% back or 5x points.
You'll earn 5% back or 5x points on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter, so if you max this out, you'll earn $75 back, or 7,500 Chase points. Each quarter, you need to activate the quarterly bonus categories in order to be eligible for cash back or bonus Ultimate Rewards points. You'll receive an email prompting you to activate them through your online account.
Previous Chase Freedom quarterly bonus categories
In 2020, the previous quarterly bonus categories were as follows:
- Q1: Gas stations, internet, cable, and phone services, select streaming services
- Q2: Grocery stores, fitness club and gym memberships, select streaming services
- Q3: Amazon and Whole Foods purchases
- Q4: Walmart and PayPal
Here are the previous quarterly bonus categories from 2019:
- Q1: Gas stations, tolls, drugstores
- Q2: Grocery stores and home improvement stores
- Q3: Select streaming services and gas stations
- Q4: Department stores, PayPal, and Chase Pay
Chase Freedom Flex card details
In addition to earning 5% back (5x points) on quarterly bonus categories, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ earns 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back on dining and drugstores, and 1% back on everything else.
It's a no-annual-fee card, but it does charge a foreign transaction fee, so you won't want to use it abroad.
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is currently offering a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening, plus 5% cash back on up to $12,000 spent on grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) in your first year. This makes the Chase Freedom Flex℠ one of the best cards for grocery purchases if you're a new cardholder.
If you also have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, you can transfer your bonus to travel partners like United Airlines, Hyatt, and British Airways.
Other credit card options
If you want to explore other options before committing to the Chase Freedom Flex℠, there's one very similar card to check out, as well as other cash-back credit cards with different bonus category structures.
Also with quarterly bonus categories: Discover it® Cash Back
This card doesn't offer the ability to convert cash back into points for travel, but it does offer different 5% bonus categories each quarter of the year.
The Discover it® Cash Back earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter when you activate the bonus categories (then 1%), just like the Chase Freedom Flex℠, so you max out at $75 back each quarter, or up to $300 back each year.
The card has no annual fee (See Terms), and earns 1% back on all other purchases. New cardholders will get all their cash back matched at the end of their first year, so if you earned $500 back total, Discover would match that for a total of $1,000 back.
Unlike Chase, which announces quarterly cash-back categories every three months, Discover reveals its calendar for the year at once.
Here's the 2021 Discover it 5% cash-back calendar:
- Q1: Grocery stores, Walgreens, and CVS
- Q2: Gas stations, wholesale clubs, and select streaming services
- Q3: Restaurants and PayPal
- Q4: Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and Target.com
A strong alternative: Chase Freedom Unlimited
If you don't want to keep track of quarterly bonus categories, you may want to consider Chase's other cash-back Freedom card instead.
The no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Unlimited® earns 5% cash back on travel purchased through the Chase portal, 3% cash back on dining and at drugstores, and 1.5% back on everything else with no limit. If you're a new cardholder you can currently earn $200 after spending $500 in the first three months from account opening and 5% cash back on up to $12,000 spent on grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) in your first year.
The trick of turning cash back into Ultimate Rewards points when you have another eligible Chase card works with the Chase Freedom Unlimited® too, so you could be earning at least 1.5x points on all your purchases — a very solid return on spending.
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