Chase Freedom Card Bonus Categories for 2020

5 min read

The Chase Freedom® credit card is one of the best cash back cards if you use your credit card to purchase a diverse range of products and services. With Chase Freedom’s rotating bonus categories, you’ll earn new cash back rewards every quarter on the items you shop for most.

The card offers different bonus rewards categories every three months and has no annual fee.

You’ll pay a variable APR of 16.49 – 25.24 percent if you carry a balance, but this card has a zero percent introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months. There’s even a welcome bonus of $150 if you spend $500 in the first three months of opening your card.

You’ll earn 5 percent cash back on quarterly categories for up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter (activation required), plus 1 percent cash back on everything else.

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

Chase Freedom 2020 cash back bonus calendar

The first step to maximizing your bonus category rewards is keeping up with the Chase Freedom calendar — which means knowing which Chase categories are eligible to earn the bonus cash back. There are new categories every quarter, and Chase announces these categories shortly before the quarter begins.

Here are the 2019 Chase bonus categories, so you can get an idea of what to expect, as well as what has already been announced for 2020:

 

2019 Categories 2020 Categories
Q1: January – March
  • Gas stations
  • Tolls
  • Drug stores
  • Gas stations
  • Internet, cable and phone services
  • Select streaming services
Q2: April – June
  • Grocery stores (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases)
  • Home improvement stores
  • Grocery stores (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases)
  • Fitness club and gym memberships
Q3: July – September
  • Gas stations
  • Streaming services
  • To be announced
Q4: October – December
  • Chase Pay
  • PayPal
  • Department stores
  • To be announced

Cash back categories earn the everyday 1 percent cash back plus a bonus 4 percent, which totals to 5 percent back on up to $1,500 in combined bonus category purchases each quarter (activation required). This cash back bonus gives you the potential to earn $75 cash back each quarter if you reach the $1,500 spending cap. Purchases that are made outside of the bonus categories will earn the regular unlimited 1 percent cash back per dollar spent.

How to activate your bonus categories

Bonus categories must be activated quarterly to receive the full 5 percent cash back. You can activate Chase Freedom categories in a number of ways.

One of the easiest ways is to activate your rewards from your Chase mobile app. Rewards can also be activated online through your account hub — or by phone, email or at a designated Chase location. If you need a reminder to activate, set one in your calendar to make sure you don’t miss out on any rewards categories.

Here are the dates by which to activate your bonus categories:

  • January – March: Activate by March 14, 2020
  • April – June: Activation period begins on March 15, 2020 and closes June 14, 2020
  • July – September: Activation period begins June 15, 2020, closing date TBD
  • October – December: Activation period begins September 15, 2020, closing date TBD

Once you’ve activated a category, you will earn 5 percent cash back on all category purchases during the quarter — even those made before activation — for up to the $1,500 quarterly maximum. If you have multiple Chase accounts, make sure you activate categories for each of your accounts.

Maximize this quarter’s bonus categories

The Q2 Chase Freedom bonus categories reward spending on food and fitness. Here’s how to make the most of them:

  • Stock up on groceries: Now is the time to fill your freezers, pack in the non-perishables, enjoy fresh produce and splurge on the fancy cheese. Some families can probably hit the $1,500 spending maximum on groceries alone.
  • Buy gift cards: Grocery stores don’t just sell food. They also sell gift cards for all kinds of retailers — so toss a couple gift cards in your cart now and redeem them later.
  • Start hitting the gym: If you don’t already have a gym or fitness club membership, now’s the time to get one. Or consider paying for a current membership with your Chase Freedom to earn cash back.

Comparison: Chase Freedom’s rotating categories vs. Discover it® Cash Back card’s bonus categories

The Discover it® Cash Back card also offers rotating bonus categories. And, like the Chase Freedom card, you can earn a total of 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in bonus category purchases per quarter (when activated), plus 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.

Unlike Chase, Discover announces its full year of bonus categories in advance. Here are the Discover it® Cash Back bonus categories for 2020:

  • January – March: Grocery stores (not including Target and Walmart), Walgreens and CVS
  • April – June: Gas stations, Uber and Lyft (not including Uber Eats) and wholesale clubs
  • July – September: Restaurants and PayPal
  • October – December: Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com

As you can see, Chase and Discover both like to reward similar types of spending. Grocery, gas station and drugstore spending are popular bonus categories — and if you really wanted to maximize your cash back rewards, you could apply for both the Chase Freedom and the Discover it® Cash Back cards and use them both.

However, there’s a big difference between the Discover bonus category program and the Chase bonus category program: with Discover, you only earn 5 percent cash back on bonus category purchases after you activate. With Chase, you earn 5 percent cash back on all bonus category purchases made within the designated quarter, even if you don’t activate your bonus categories until the last possible date. No matter which rotating category credit card you choose, make sure you activate those categories.

There’s one more thing you need to know about the Discover it® Cash Back card: Discover’s Cashback Match program will match all of the cash back you earn during your first year as a cardholder. If you max out your bonus category spending and earn $75 cash back per quarter for the entire year, Discover will match your $300 with another $300 in cash back rewards.

How to redeem rewards with Chase Freedom

In order to redeem rewards, your account must be open and in good standing. Rewards are tracked as points, and each dollar earned in cash back is equal to 100 points. You can begin redeeming points once you’ve reached 2,000 points or $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.

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

You can also redeem your points using the Chase Ultimate Rewards® hub when paired with other Chase cards in the Ultimate Rewards program. Points can be redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards for travel, gift cards, experiences, online shopping and more.

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 Chase Ultimate Rewards program. Adding a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve® to your wallet could boost your redemption possibilities between 25 percent and 50 percent if you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. 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.

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 which cash back card might be best for you, check out Bankrate’s picks for the best cash back credit cards.