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Some of the Chase Freedom Flex’s 5% cash back categories rotate quarterly. The categories for Q1 2021 are wholesale clubs, select streaming services, and internet, phone, and cable services.
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The Chase Freedom Flex℠ (Review) has replaced the Chase Freedom® (Review). The Freedom Flex adds a host of new rewards, and it uses the Mastercard network, rather than Visa. Current Freedom cardholders who’d prefer the Freedom Flex can contact Chase to request a product change, or may apply for the Freedom Flex separately in order to get the introductory bonus.
And while some of its 5% 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 5% categories until a few weeks before the quarter begins, so you never know exactly what the future brings.
For Q1 2021, which lasts from January 1 to March 31, the bonus categories are wholesale clubs, select streaming services, and internet, phone, and cable services.
You’ll need to activate your categories in order to earn at the bonus rate, and the Q1 activation deadline is March 14.
Here, we’ll explore what the Freedom Flex card’s Q1 2021 bonus categories cover, what types of categories you might see in the future, and how to make the most of your Chase Freedom Flex 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 Flex 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 2020, 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 Flex once the quarter comes to a close.
|Quarter||2021 Categories||2020 Categories|
|January – March||
|April – June||
|July – September||
|October – December||
You can activate your 2021 Q1 categories starting December 15, 2020 and ending March 14, 2021.
As we mentioned above, the Chase Freedom Flex bonus categories for Q1 2021 are wholesale clubs, select streaming services, and internet, phone, and cable services.
These categories are a bit trickier to use than things like gas and groceries.
You’ll benefit most from the wholesale clubs category (which includes stores like Sam’s Club and Costco) if you already have a club membership. Just swipe your Freedom Flex whenever you visit.
Bear in mind that the Freedom Flex is a Mastercard, so you won’t be able to use it in-store at Costco. You should be able to use it on the Costco website, however.
If you’re not a wholesale club member, you’ll have to think about whether you’ll spend enough to make a membership worth it. No need to charge into a membership just to earn 5% back if you’re perfectly happy shopping elsewhere. The bright side? Membership prices are fairly reasonable. A standard Sam’s Club household subscription, for example, costs $45. So if you can reach the Freedom Flex card’s full quarterly $1,500 spending limit at Sam’s Club you could offset the subscription price in full and then some. Not a bad deal if you’ve contemplated joining a club, but have held off to avoid the membership fee.
The streaming services category is pretty simple. There’s a decent chance you’re already charging your streaming services to a debit or credit card, so changing your payment method over shouldn’t be much of a hassle. If you don’t want to use your Freedom Flex for a recurring payment, certain streaming services may let you prepay for a longer period of membership — six months or a year, perhaps — and then switch back to another payment method. You might be able to earn at the 5% rate by purchasing gift cards directly from streaming service providers, too.
The situation is somewhat similar with the internet, phone, and cable services category, except that you may be paying for these utilities via direct transfer from your bank account. Switching away from that just to earn cash back for a few months might sound like a hassle, but it could be worthwhile if the company’s credit card processing fee (an important factor to consider) is low enough that your 5% reward rate still allows you to come out on top.
There are a few simple strategies for putting the Freedom Flex’s Q1 2021 bonus categories to good use.
The Chase Freedom Flex is mainly known for its rotating 5% bonus categories, but there are a few other features worth noting.
Topping the list? Its other rewards. Beyond its rotating categories, the Freedom Flex offers an impressive 5% cash back (with no spending limit!) on Lyft rides (through March 2022) and travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards. As if that weren’t enough, you get 3% cash back at restaurants and drugstores, too, completing what’s easily one of the most valuable credit card offers available for no annual fee.
Chase Freedom Flex cardholders are currently offered a signup bonus of $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months, with an impressive return on spend.
There’s also a strong introductory APR offer, providing 0% APR for 15 months on purchases (then 14.99% - 23.74% Variable).
The Freedom Flex card comes with a few solid benefits, too.
You get a free DoorDash membership for three months, and then a 50% discount on the membership for the following nine months. The membership, called DashPass, gives you free delivery and reduced service fees on orders over $12.
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 Flex card, including purchase protection, an auto rental collision damage waiver, and cell phone protection, thanks to its World Elite Mastercard benefits.
The Chase Freedom Flex is a contactless card, making quick payments a breeze.
Making the most of the Freedom Flex 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 Flex is a solid credit card, but the 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 Freedom Flex, making it easier to maximize your rewards across the board.
Conversations around the Freedom Flex card nearly always include mention of its closest competitor, the Discover it® Cash Back (Review). Like the Freedom Flex, 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 Flex 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 Flex card’s intro bonus. That’s one of the more attractive introductory credit card offers, especially when it comes to cards without annual fees.
The downside? The Discover card offers none of the additional rewards — beyond the rotating categories — that have given the Flex an edge on the competition.
While it’s often considered a one-or-the-other situation, the quarterly bonus categories offered by the Chase Freedom Flex 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||2021 5% Cash Back Categories|
|January – March||Grocery Stores, Walgreens, and CVS|
|April – June||Gas Stations, Wholesale Clubs, Select Streaming Services|
|July – September||Restaurants, PayPal|
|October – December||Amazon.com, Target.com, 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 Flex.
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 Flex 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|
|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, with a 0% intro APR offer for 18 months on Balance Transfers (then 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)).
Using the Double Cash with the Chase Freedom Flex is simple. Pick the Freedom Flex card when spending in its 3% and 5% bonus categories, 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 Flex Card’s rewards 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.
Got any Chase Freedom Flex tips or tricks that we missed? We’re all ears — let us know in the comments.
Sean Messier works to empower individuals with the knowledge required to use credit cards responsibly and to their advantage. His writing- and research-based background has granted him experience in an array of topics, from finance to business and beyond. Sean distills the knowledge accumulated over years of experience in the credit space into consistent, actionable articles, guides, and reviews.
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