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2021 Chase Freedom Flex Categories: Where Can You Earn 5% Back?

Updated Jan 15, 2021 | Published May 30, 20199 min read

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At a glance

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.

Credit Card Insider receives compensation from advertisers whose products may be mentioned on this page. Advertiser relationships do not affect card evaluations. Advertising partners do not edit or endorse our editorial content. Content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when it's published. Learn more in our Editorial Guidelines.

The information related to Discover it® Cash Back has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

Insider tip

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.

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

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.

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Min. credit levelGood
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR14.99% - 23.74% Variable

Chase Freedom Flex 2021 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 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
  • Wholesale Clubs
  • Streaming Services
  • Internet, Cable, Phone Services
  • Gas Stations
  • Streaming Services
  • Internet, Cable, Phone Services
April – June
  • TBA
  • Grocery stores
  • Fitness club and gym memberships
  • Streaming services
July – September
  • TBA
  • Whole Foods Markets
October – December
  • TBA
  • Walmart
  • PayPal

You can activate your 2021 Q1 categories starting December 15, 2020 and ending March 14, 2021.

Chase Freedom Flex Rotating Bonus Categories: Q1 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.

Making the Most of This Quarter’s Rotating Bonus Categories

There are a few simple strategies for putting the Freedom Flex’s Q1 2021 bonus categories to good use.

  • Shop at a wholesale club: Like big box stores, wholesale clubs sell lots of different products, from groceries to electronics and beyond. It shouldn’t be hard to meet your spending threshold just through everyday purchases at your club of choice.
  • Pay for streaming: Changing your streaming service payment method should only take you minutes at most. Doing so could be a worthy investment of your time.
  • Pay for telecom services, if it makes sense: Internet, phone, and cable services typically charge a processing fee for card payments. If it’s considerably lower than 5%, consider covering these bills with your Freedom Flex for the next few months. Just make sure to set a reminder to readjust your payment method once Q1 2021 has come to a close, if necessary.

Chase Freedom Flex Reward Categories: What You Need to Know

  • Chase Freedom Flex cardholders can earn 5% cash back on wholesale club purchases, select streaming services, and internet, cable, and phone services during Q1 2021
  • Q1 rewards are available from January 1 to March 31, 2020, and can be activated from December 15 to March 14
  • Earning at the 5% bonus rate is capped at $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter (rotating categories only)
  • Rotating 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)
  • Freedom Flex cardholders also earn:
    • 5% cash back on:
      • Travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
      • Lyft rides (through March 2022)
    • 3% cash back at:
      • Restaurants
      • Drugstores
  • All purchases outside the bonus categories, as well as those in the rotating bonus categories after $1,500 in spending, earn 1% cash back

A Quick Overview of the Chase Freedom Flex Card

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.

How to Make the Most of Your Chase Freedom Flex Rewards

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.

  • Make purchases in non-rotating categories: The Freedom Flex card provides high rewards rates on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, as well as purchases made at both restaurants and drugstores. And, with these categories, there are no spending limits to worry over, so you should use them as often as you can.
  • 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 typical 1%, 3%, or 5% rate (depending on the merchant) with additional cash back or 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 Flex

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.


Discover it® Cash Back

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Annual Fee$0
Regular APRSee Terms

The information related to Discover it® Cash Back has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

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 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,,


U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
(Rates & Fees)
Annual Fee$0*
Regular APR13.99% - 23.99%* Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Earn up to $550 cash back in the first year.
  • $150 bonus after spending $500 in eligible net purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.
  • 5% cash back on your first $2,000 in combined eligible net purchases ($100 per quarter) on two categories you choose. That adds up to $400 cash back!
  • 2% cash back on your choice of one everyday category, like gas stations or grocery stores.
  • 1% cash back on all other eligible net purchases.
  • No limit on total cash back earned.
  • 0% Intro APR* on balance transfers for 12 billing cycles. After that, a variable APR currently 13.99% – 23.99%
  • No annual fee*
  • Great Offer from U.S. Bank, a 2020 World’s Most Ethical Company® – Ethisphere Institute, February 2020
  • 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 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


Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% – 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% – 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi’s discretion.

Citi is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Rewards: 2% cash back for all purchases: 1% when purchases are made, and 1% when they’re paid for (must pay at least the minimum due on time)

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.


Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR13.99%–23.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • No annual fee
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • NEW OFFER: Maximize your cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement /furnishings
  • Now earn 3% cash back in your choice category and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases), and unlimited 1% on all other purchases
  • You can update your choice category for future purchases once each calendar month using the Mobile Banking app or Online Banking, or do nothing and it stays the same
  • No expiration on rewards
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 16.24% – 26.24% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to balance transfers
  • If you’re a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% – 75% more cash back on every purchase
  • 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 rewards bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days

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 Flex

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.

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Min. credit levelGood
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR14.99% - 23.74% Variable

Got any Chase Freedom Flex 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 Flex card.
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Written by

Sean Messier

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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