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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 stores, PayPal, 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.
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:
You can activate your 2020 Q1 categories starting on December 15, 2019.
As we mentioned above, the Chase Freedom bonus categories for Q4 2019 are department stores, PayPal, 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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|
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|
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.
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|
|Travel||Drugstores||Home Improvement/Furnishings Stores|
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.
Got any Chase Freedom tips or tricks that we missed? We’re all ears — let us know in the comments.
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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