The Chase Freedom card is one of the best cash back cards to have if you spend on a variety of things. The card offers new bonus rewards categories every three months and has no annual fee. That means you only pay for what you spend (with a bit of added interest, of course). The card has a variable APR of 16.49%-25.24%, but has a 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months. And there’s even a welcome bonus of $150 if you spend $500 in the first three months of opening your card. Aside from the welcome bonus, the Chase Freedom card offers 1% cash back for every dollar spent on all purchases. You’ll also get a bonus 4% cash back on quarterly categories for up to $1,500 in combined purchases (activation required). That gives you the possibility of a combined 5% cash back on bonus category purchases.

To learn more about the Chase Freedom card, check out Bankrate’s detailed review.

Chase’s 2019 Cash Back Bonus Calendar

The first step to maximizing your bonus category rewards is knowing your calendar. There are new categories every quarter. The categories for 2019 are:

January – March: gas stations, tolls, drugstores

April – June: grocery stores (excluding Target and Walmart), home improvement stores

July – September: gas stations, select streaming services

October – December: Chase Pay®, PayPal, department stores

Cash back bonus categories earn the everyday 1% cash back plus a bonus 4% which totals to 5% back on purchases up to $1,500 each quarter. That gives you the potential to earn $75 cash back each quarter if you reach the spending cap. Purchases made outside of the bonus category will earn the normal 1% cash back per dollar spent.

How to activate your bonus categories

Bonus categories must be activated to receive the extra 4% cash back. You can activate bonus categories in a number of ways. One of the easiest ways is to go online and activate through your account hub, and soon you will be able to activate using the Chase Mobile app. However, you can also activate by phone, through email, at a Chase location, or at a designated ATM. And if you need a reminder to activate, you can set one in your calendar to make sure you don’t miss out on any rewards categories.

Here are the dates to activate your bonus categories:

January–March: December 15 (until March 14)

April–June: March 15 (until June 14)

July–September: June 15 (until September 14)

October–December: September 15 (until December 14)

Once you’ve activated a category, you will earn 5% cash back on all category purchases for the quarter, even those made before activation. If you have multiple Chase accounts, make sure you activate categories for each of your accounts.

How to redeem rewards

In order to redeem rewards, your account must be open and in good standing. Rewards are tracked as points. Each $1 earned in cash back is equal to 100 points. You can begin redeeming points once you’ve reached 2,000 points, i.e. $20 cash back. Cash back can be redeemed as statement credit or a direct deposit into an eligible checking or savings account at a U.S. bank. You can also redeem your points to the Chase Ultimate Rewards hub. Points can be redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards for gift cards, purchases on Amazon or with the Apple store. You can also redeem points for travel.

Your cash back rewards should show up immediately to your account. When you check your statement you will see bonus category rewards listed in the form “Bonus from 4Q 5% category.” As long as your account is open and in good standing, your points won’t expire.

Get extra perks with Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program

While the Chase Freedom card offers great cash back rewards on its own, it can offer even more when paired with another Chase card in the Ultimate Rewards program. Adding a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve could boost your redemption possibilities between 25% and 50%. The one thing to note is that both of these cards come with an annual fee, so make sure your return in cash back will be worth the annual investment before you apply.

The bottom line

The Chase Freedom card is a great cash back option for you if you have good to excellent credit and use your card to do shopping in a variety of places. If you feel like you won’t be able to take advantage of all of the bonus categories, another cash back rewards option is the Chase Freedom Unlimited which offers a fixed cash back rate for all purchases.

If you want to learn more about what cash back card may be best for you, check out our reviews of the best cash back credit cards.

The information about the Chase Sapphire Reserve card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.