2021 Chase Freedom Flex Categories: Where Can You Earn 5% Back?
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Some of the Chase Freedom Flex’s 5% cash back categories rotate quarterly. The categories for Q3 2021 are grocery stores (excluding Target and Walmart) and select streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Spotify.
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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.
For Q3 2021, which lasts from July 1 through September 30, the rotating bonus categories are grocery stores (excluding Target and Walmart) and select streaming services).
You’ll need to activate your categories in order to earn at the bonus rate, and the Q3 activation deadline is September 14.
Here, we’ll explore what the Freedom Flex card’s Q3 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 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||
|April – June||
|July – September||
|October – December||
You can activate your 2021 Q3 categories starting June 14, 2021 and ending September 14, 2021.
Chase Freedom Flex Rotating Bonus Categories: Q3 2021
As we mentioned above, the Chase Freedom Flex bonus categories for Q3 2021 are grocery stores and select streaming services.
There’s nothing complicated about using the card this quarter. Just use the Freedom Flex at grocery stores, and to pay for your streaming services.
Aside from Target and Walmart, some other stores are excluded from the grocery category, including wholesale clubs, discount stores, and smaller stores like drugstores and gas station stores.
The eligible streaming services are: Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, Netflix, YouTube TV, Sling, Vudu, Fubo TV, Apple Music, SiriusXM, Pandora, and Spotify.
See more details about the bonus categories in Chase’s Freedom Flex FAQ.
Making the Most of This Quarter’s Rotating Bonus Categories
There are a few simple strategies for putting the Freedom Flex’s Q3 2021 bonus categories to good use.
- Fill up the pantry: Use the Freedom Flex every time you visit the grocery store. Depending on how much you typically spend, you might hit the $1,500 limit with nothing but your normal shopping trips.
- Switch your streaming service payment methods: If the Freedom Flex wasn’t already your payment method for your TV and music services, set it up for July through September.
- Consider gift cards if you didn’t hit the quarterly limit: If you still have some of your $1,500 limit remaining at the end of the month but don’t have any reason to use it, consider buying gift cards at grocery stores. Retail store gift cards usually earn rewards at the same rate as other store purchases (but not always, so buy a gift card for a low amount to test if you’re unsure).
Chase Freedom Flex Reward Categories: What You Need to Know
- Chase Freedom Flex cardholders can earn 5% cash back at grocery stores and on select streaming services during Q3 2021.
- Q3 rewards are available from July 1 to September 30, 2020, and can be activated from June 14 to September 14.
- Earning at the 5% bonus rate is capped at $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter (rotating categories only). After that you’ll earn 1% back.
- 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:
- 1% cash back on all other purchases
- $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
- 5% cash back on:
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 welcome bonus with an impressive return on spend: $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months.
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.
- 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||Amazon.com, Target.com, Walmart.com|
- 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 (Review) 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|
- 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.
- 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® Customized Cash Rewards 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|
See how these cards compare:
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.
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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