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2019 Chase Freedom Categories: Here’s Where You Can Earn 5% Back

8 min read
Sean Messier By Sean Messier May 30, 2019 | Updated Dec 13, 2019

The Chase Freedom® (Review) offers a distinctive cash back system with high reward rates in helpful bonus categories.

And while those bonus categories change quarterly, they nearly always cover purchases that many cardholders make every day.

There’s a tiny catch, though: Chase doesn’t usually reveal the card’s quarterly categories until a few weeks before the quarter begins, so you never know exactly what the future brings.

For Q4 2019, which lasts from October 1 to December 31, the bonus categories are fairly interesting thanks to their flexibility: department storesPayPal, and Chase Pay.

You’ll need to activate each category in order to earn at the bonus rate, and the Q4 activation deadline is December 14.

Here, we’ll explore what the Freedom card’s Q4 2019 bonus categories cover, what types of categories you might see in the future, and how to make the most of your Chase Freedom credit card.

Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom®

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR16.49% - 25.24% Variable

Chase Freedom 2019 Bonus Category Calendar

Because Chase doesn’t announce the next quarter’s bonus categories until the current quarter nears its end, planning your spending with the Freedom card can be a little tricky.

But as you can see by the cash back calendar below, categories usually include common credit card rewards options, plus a unique addition here and there. We’ve included the full calendar from 2018 so you can get a basic taste for what Chase’s bonus categories might look like. There’s no guarantee that any of the categories listed below will appear again, though, so check back to discover how to get cash back from the Chase Freedom once the quarter comes to a close.

Quarter 5% Cash Back Category
2019: October – December Department Stores, PayPal, Chase Pay
2019: July – September Gas Stations, Streaming Services
2019: April – June Grocery Stores, Home Improvement Stores
2019: January – March Gas Stations, Tolls, Drugstores
2018: October – December Department Stores, Wholesale Clubs, Chase Pay
2018: July – September  Gas Stations, Lyft, Walgreens
2018: April – June Grocery Stores, PayPal, Chase Pay
2018: January – March Gas Stations, Internet/Cable/Phone Services, Various Digital Wallets (including Chase Pay, Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay)

Chase has released the categories for Q1 of 2020 as well:

  • Gas stations
  • Select streaming services
  • Internet, cable, and phone services

You can activate your 2020 Q1 categories starting on December 15, 2019.

Chase Freedom Bonus Categories: Q4 2019

As we mentioned above, the Chase Freedom bonus categories for Q4 2019 are department storesPayPal, and Chase Pay.

It’s a particularly interesting batch because there are tons of ways to use these categories. So you’ll probably have no trouble maxing out your spending limits.

Department stores are always nice, because they tend to offer all sorts of products.

But when you factor in PayPal and Chase Pay, your horizons broaden considerably. PayPal is accepted by online merchants far and wide, and Chase Pay can be used with a fairly large list of high-caliber retailers, ranging from Applebee’s to Walgreens and beyond.

Just make sure to connect your Chase Freedom card to your PayPal and Chase Pay accounts before making any purchases!

Making the Most of This Quarter’s Bonus Categories

If you’re not keen on putting in a lot of legwork to maximize your credit card rewards, then the Chase Freedom’s Q4 2019 bonus categories should be a dream come true. Here are a few simple tips.

  • Use PayPal when you shop online: This one’s kind of a no-brainer. Like we mentioned above, you’ll have to connect your Freedom card to your account first. But after that, you can score 5% cash back at a seemingly endless number of online merchants that accept PayPal.
  • Use Chase Pay wherever it’s accepted: You can use Chase Pay at a wide variety of stores, whether you’re scooping up groceries at Price Rite or chowing down at Panera. There are also several merchants that accept Chase Pay online, but not in-store, including (but not limited to) United Airlines and Walmart.
  • Shop at department stores when you need to try it on: The odds are pretty good that you can find whatever you need online through a retailer that accepts PayPal. But if you’re looking to buy clothes or shoes, you may want to try them on in person. And that’s where the department store category comes in handy.
  • Buy gift cards: Many department stores and online retailers sell gift cards — not only their own, but often for a variety of other merchants, too. This could be a good way to earn 5% back on purchases you think you’ll need in the future, which may not already fall under this quarter’s bonus categories.

Chase Freedom Reward Categories: What You Need to Know

  • Chase Freedom cardholders can earn 5% cash back on purchases at department stores, plus any purchases made with PayPal and Chase Pay
  • Q4 rewards are available from October 1 to December 31, 2019
  • Earning at the 5% bonus rate is capped at $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter
  • Bonus categories must be activated before you’ll earn at the bonus rate; no matter when you activate, all eligible purchases in that quarter will receive 5% back (even those made before activating)
  • Chase Freedom bonus categories for the fourth quarter of 2019 can be activated starting September 15, and the deadline is December 14
  • All purchases outside bonus categories, as well as those in bonus categories after $1,500 in spending, earn 1% cash back

A Quick Overview of the Chase Freedom Card

The Chase Freedom is mainly known for its rotating 5% bonus categories, but there are a few other features worth noting.

New Chase Freedom cardholders are currently offered a signup bonus of $150 cash back for spending $500 in 3 months, with an impressive 30% return on spend.

There’s also a strong introductory APR offer, providing 0% APR for 15 months on both purchases and balance transfers (then 16.49% - 25.24% Variable).

The Freedom card comes with a few solid benefits, too.

Shop through Chase is an online shopping portal where you can earn a higher reward rate when you shop at select retailers. At the time of publication, your options include (but aren’t limited to) Macy’s (3% extra), Walmart (2% extra), Home Depot (1% extra), and Best Buy (1% extra).

Plus, cardholders can take advantage of Chase Offers, a similar benefit that provides temporary deals, like discounts or cash back, on certain products or with select retailers once activated.

Several complimentary protections are also included with the Freedom card, including purchase protection, auto rental collision damage waiver, and more, depending on whether your card was issued at the Visa Platinum or Visa Signature tier.

The Chase Freedom is a contactless card, making quick payments a breeze.

How to Make the Most of Your Chase Freedom Rewards

Making the most of the Freedom card’s unique rotating cash back rewards program requires a bit of strategy. Fortunately, there are several simple steps you can take to maximize the value of your cash back.

  • Buy gift cards: Even if you don’t currently need anything from the active bonus categories, consider buying gift cards to use on future purchases at those stores. If the current bonus categories include places like gas stations, grocery stores, or drugstores, you may even be able to buy gift cards for use at other stores that you find more convenient.
  • Buy items you think you’ll need in the future: Depending on the current bonus categories, you could buy things that might serve you in the future, even if there’s no imminent need. Nonperishable goods from grocery stores are a good example, as are cleaning supplies and tools you might find at a home improvement store. Tailor your shopping accordingly when categories change.
  • Shop through Chase/Chase Offers: Use Shop through Chase and Chase Offers, and you can combine the 1% or 5% rate (depending on the merchant) with additional savings.
  • Transfer your rewards to a Chase Ultimate Rewards points card: Earn a better return on your spending by transferring rewards to an Ultimate Rewards card that allows point transfers and provides bonus points on travel redemptions. Options are:

Cards to Use with the Chase Freedom

The Chase Freedom is a solid credit card, but the limited, ever-changing nature of its rewards system makes it one that’s easy to use in conjunction with other cards.

We’ve compiled a few cash back cards with rewards programs that complement that of the Chase Freedom, making it easier to maximize your rewards across the board.

 

Discover it® Cash Back Credit Card

Discover it® Cash Back Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR13.74%–24.74% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Key Features

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Rewards: 5% cash back in rotating categories (up to $1,500 in spending per quarter, then 1%), 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Cashback Match: Get double cash back for the first year, provided at the year’s end

Conversations around the Freedom card nearly always include mention of its closest competitor, the Discover it® Cash Back Credit Card (Review). Like the Chase Freedom, it provides rotating bonus categories (see the calendar below) where you earn at a 5% rate until you reach $1,500 in quarterly spending.

One difference, however, is that Discover provides the full year’s bonus category calendar ahead of time, rather than making you wait like Chase. And with the Discover it, you’ll only earn 5% back on purchases made after you activate, unlike the Freedom which provides retroactive rewards for the whole quarter.

Another key difference is that the Discover card’s signup bonus doubles all cash back earned in the first year, which offers more potential value than the Freedom card’s intro bonus. That’s one of the more attractive introductory credit card offers, especially when it comes to cards without annual fees.

While it’s often considered a one-or-the-other situation, the quarterly bonus categories offered by the Chase Freedom and Discover it are often different enough that you can benefit from using them together. Simply use them on whichever bonus categories are in effect for that quarter, and then use the Discover it for other purchases during the first year in order to capitalize on its signup bonus.

Quarter 2019 5% Cash Back Category
January – March Grocery Stores
April – June Gas Stations, Uber, Lyft
July – September Restaurants, PayPal
October – December Amazon.com, Target, Walmart.com

 

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
(Rates & Fees)
Annual Fee$0*
Regular APR15.49% - 24.99%* Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Annual fee: $0*
  • Rewards: 5% cash back on your first $2,000 in combined net purchases each quarter on two categories you choose, 2% cash back on your choice of one everyday category, 1% cash back on everything else
  • Introductory bonus: $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days after account opening

The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card also offers 5% cash back (up to $2,000) in select quarterly categories. However, rather than earning 5% in categories of your issuer’s choice, you get to pick two categories from a list that’s subject to change every quarter.

Like the Discover it, you’ll only earn 5% cash back on purchases made after you activate. So it’s a bit less forgiving than the Freedom.

You also get to choose one “everyday” category (think gas stations or grocery stores), where you’ll earn 2% cash back. For best value, wait until the Freedom card’s bonus categories are revealed, and then activate this card’s bonus categories to avoid overlap.

U.S. Bank Cash+ 5% Cash Back Categories (Q2 2019)
TV, Internet & Streaming Services Fast Food Cell Phone Providers
Department Stores Home Utilities Select Clothing Stores
Electronics Stores Sporting Goods Stores Movie Theaters
Gyms/Fitness Centers Furniture Stores Ground Transportation

 

Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR15.49% – 25.49% (Variable)
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Rewards: 2% cash back for all purchases: 1% when purchases are made, and 1% when they’re paid for

The Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer (Review) has earned a reputation as one of the best credit cards for all-around spending. There’s no annual fee, and you get 2% cash back on every purchase — 1% back when a purchase is made, and then another 1% when you pay it off.

The Double Cash is a solid choice for balance transfers, too, with a 0% intro APR offer for 18 months on Balance Transfers (then 15.49% – 25.49% (Variable)).

Using the Double Cash with the Chase Freedom is simple. Pick the Freedom card when spending on its 5% bonus categories up to the $1,500 spending cap, and use the Double Cash for everything else.

 

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR16.24%–26.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Rewards: 3% cash back in one category of your choice, 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Introductory bonus: $200 cash bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days after account opening

As with the U.S. Bank Cash+, the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card (Review) lets you call the shots. Cardholders get 3% cash back in one category that they choose from a preset list (found below), and your category choice can be updated once per calendar month. The 2% bonus categories don’t provide a ton of extra value, but wholesale clubs is a rare category to find.

The BofA card’s quarterly spending cap for earning at the 3% and 2% reward rates is $2,500.

If you’re a BofA bank account holder, this card could be a particularly valuable choice, as you may be eligible for a hefty reward bonus (25–75%).

Bank of America Cash Rewards 3% Bonus Categories
Gas Online Shopping Dining
Travel Drugstores Home Improvement/Furnishings Stores

Learn More About the Chase Freedom

The Freedom’s reward program is strong enough that the card isn’t likely to disappear from the Chase roster anytime soon. And since there’s no annual fee, there’s really no harm in having it on hand, even if you seldom use it. Just make sure you activate the bonus categories each quarter.

For more information on how the card’s rewards and benefits work, check out our full review of the Chase Freedom.

Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom®

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR16.49% - 25.24% Variable

Got any Chase Freedom tips or tricks that we missed? We’re all ears — let us know in the comments.

Like many prominent credit card issuers, there are Chase credit cards for personal and business use alike. One option is the Chase Freedom Unlimited® (Review), a flat-rate card that works well alongside the Freedom card.
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AT A GLANCE

The Chase Freedom’s 5% cash back categories rotate quarterly. The categories for Q4 2019 are department stores, PayPal, and Chase Pay.

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