Key takeaways

  • The Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Chase Freedom® offer quarterly rotating bonus categories through which cardholders can earn 5 percent cash back (on up to $1,500 in the categories after activation, then 1 percent back)
  • Categories change every three months, and cardholders have the ability to activate up until the 14th day of the third month in the quarter
  • Though Chase doesn’t release its bonus categories for the year ahead of time, you can view past years’ categories to get a good idea of what to expect.

Chase has long been a top issuer of cash back credit cards that earn cardmembers rewards on a diverse range of products and services. The no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex℠*, in particular, earns:

  • 5 percent cash back on activated bonus category purchases each quarter (on up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1 percent back)
  • 5 percent cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 5 percent cash back on Lyft rides (through March 2025)
  • 3 percent cash back on dining and drugstore purchases
  • 1 percent cash back on all other purchases

The original Chase Freedom®* credit card is no longer available to new applicants, but existing cardholders earn in the same bonus categories as Flex users.

From January 2024 through March 2024, Freedom Flex and existing Freedom cardmembers can earn 5 percent cash back at grocery stores (excluding Walmart and Target) and fitness clubs as well as on gym memberships and self-care and spa services.

Freedom Flex 2024 cash back bonus calendar

The first step to maximizing your bonus category rewards is keeping up with the Freedom Flex rewards calendar. There are new categories every quarter, and Chase announces them shortly before the quarter begins.

Here’s a look at Chase’s bonus categories for 2023 and 2024, so you can get an idea of what to expect each year:

2023 categories 2024 categories
Q1: January to March
  • Target
  • Grocery stores (excluding Walmart)
  • Fitness club and gym memberships
  • Grocery stores (excluding Target and Walmart)
  • Fitness club and gym memberships
  • Self-care and spa services
Q2: April to June
  • Lowe’s
  • Amazon
TBD
Q3: July to September
  • Gas stations
  • Electric vehicle charging
  • Select live entertainment
TBD
Q4: October to December
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Select charities
  • PayPal
TBD

How to activate your Chase bonus categories

Bonus categories must be activated each quarter to receive the full 5 percent cash back, and you can ensure they’re activated in a number of ways. For 2024 Q1, the activation window opened in mid-December 2023.

One of the easiest activation methods is to use the Chase Mobile app. You can also activate rewards through your account hub, by phone, by email or at a designated Chase location. If you need a reminder to activate, try setting one in your calendar to make sure you don’t miss out on any rewards categories.

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

Maximize this quarter’s bonus categories

The Q1 Chase Freedom Flex bonus categories for 2024 reward purchases made at grocery stores (excluding Target and Walmart), purchases at fitness clubs and on gym memberships, and purchases of self-care and spa services. Here’s how to maximize your rewards this quarter:

  • Cook meals at home. Stick to your New Year’s resolution to “eat at home more” and stock up on food for cozy home-cooked meals. You can even purchase gift cards at some grocery stores.
  • Hit the gym. “Exercise more” is the second most popular 2024 resolution (behind only “save more money”) among people who have made resolutions, according to a Statista survey. Set yourself up for resolution success by pre-paying for your fitness club or gym membership for the full year.
  • New year, new you. Commit to taking some time for yourself. Experiment with a new hairstyle, sign up for a massage subscription or prepay for some manicures.

Other Chase Freedom Flex benefits

Freedom Flex cardholders have access to the following perks, among others:

  • Cellphone protection. If you use your Freedom Flex to pay your monthly cellphone bill, you’ll be covered for damage or theft of up to $800 per claim and $1,000 per year. A maximum of two claims in a 12-month period and a $50 deductible per claim applies.
  • Travel insurance. With your Freedom Flex, you’ll receive both trip cancellation and interruption insurance, along with travel and emergency assistance services.
  • DashPass membership. Your first three months of membership to DoorDash’s delivery service are free. After that, you’re automatically enrolled in the service with a 50 percent discount for nine more months. If you frequently order in, the savings from $0 delivery fees can quickly add up. Note, this offer must be activated by Dec. 31, 2024.

For more in-depth information on card perks, read through our Chase Freedom Flex benefits guide.

Comparison: Chase Freedom Flex rotating categories vs. Discover it® Cash Back bonus categories

The Discover it® Cash Back also offers rotating bonus categories. You can earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in bonus category purchases per quarter (activation required; then 1 percent), plus 1 percent cash back on everything else.

In previous years, Discover announced its full year of bonus categories in advance, but the issuer has switched to a quarter-by-quarter cadence. Here are the Discover it® Cash Back bonus categories for Q1 2024:

  • January through March 2024 — Restaurants and drugstores

Chase and Discover both like to reward similar types of spending, with grocery stores, gas stations and drugstores as some of the most popular and repetitive categories year after year. You’ll also frequently see major retailers like Target each year.

The one big difference between Discover’s program and Chase’s program is that, with the Discover it® Cash Back, you’ll only earn 5 percent cash back on rotating bonus category purchases after you activate (on up to $1,500 in bonus category purchases per quarter, then 1 percent). With Chase, you’ll 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 deadline, which is usually pretty forgiving. No matter which cash back card you choose, make sure you activate those categories to avoid losing out on rewards.

There’s one more thing you need to know about the Discover it® Cash Back: Discover’s Cashback Match™ program will match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year as a cardholder. Say you max out your bonus category spending and earn $75 cash back per quarter for the entire year for a total of $300 earned on those purchases throughout the year. Discover will match your $300 in annual earnings with another $300 in cash back rewards at the end of your first year.

Comparison: Chase Freedom Flex rotating categories vs. Citi Custom Cash® Card bonus categories

The Citi Custom Cash Card doesn’t have rotating categories like the Freedom Flex, but it does deliver a unique way to earn 5 percent cash back on changing categories. Instead of activating quarterly categories, you automatically earn 5 percent cash back in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (on up to $500, then 1 percent back). All other purchases earn 1 percent cash back.

At the end of the billing cycle, you’ll earn 5 percent cash back on purchases within one of these 10 categories — whichever you spent the most in that billing cycle:

  • Restaurants
  • Gas stations
  • Grocery stores
  • Select travel
  • Select transit
  • Select streaming services
  • Drugstores
  • Home improvement stores
  • Fitness clubs
  • Live entertainment

Where the Citi Custom Cash wins

The Citi Custom Cash is a lower-maintenance card since you won’t need to wait for specific bonus categories or activation dates — there isn’t anything to keep up with for you as a cardholder; rather, Citi will determine your top spending category automatically. The same roster of 5 percent bonus categories is set in stone year-round.

Granted, you can’t formally select which bonus category you want each billing cycle, but you can track your spending to make the most of a category in a given billing cycle (and save larger expenses for another rewards card that carries no spending cap).

Speaking of available categories, you’ll also get a wider variety of purchases that may be eligible to earn 5 percent cash back with the Citi Custom Cash. The Freedom Flex and other 5 percent rotating bonus category cards typically have around seven or eight bonus categories throughout the year instead of the Custom Cash card’s 10. Though, it’s worth noting that many rotating category cards are now offering nine to 11 categories each year.

Where the Chase Freedom Flex wins

The Freedom Flex’s 5 percent rotating category structure does have a few advantages over the Custom Cash card’s rewards style. Most apparent is that the Freedom Flex bonus categories don’t have a spending cap for each billing cycle. Instead of a $500 spending cap each billing cycle, you’ll get a $1,500 spending cap each quarter. While each card’s total quarterly spending cap is equal, the Freedom Flex’s approach makes it easier to maximize cash back if you have a bigger purchase one month or a billing cycle with lots of expenses.

Further, the Freedom Flex typically has two or three 5 percent bonus categories each quarter, which is especially helpful for smaller categories, like streaming services. The card’s categories also tend to be a bit more diverse according to the season. For instance, you’ll usually earn heightened rewards on major online retailers, like Amazon.com, each year, but the Citi Custom Cash doesn’t earn bonus rewards on online shopping at all.

Although the Custom Cash’s categories are geared more toward everyday spending and have rare offerings like rewards on live entertainment, you’ll probably only earn boosted cash back on grocery store purchases or other high-spend categories (like dining) each billing cycle, especially if it’s your primary credit card.

How to redeem rewards with Freedom Flex

In order to redeem rewards, your account must be open and in good standing. Rewards are technically tracked as Chase Ultimate Rewards points, and each dollar earned in cash back is equal to 100 points. Cash back can be redeemed as a 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 in your credit card account once redeemed. When you check your statement, you’ll see bonus category rewards listed as something like “Bonus from Q4 5 percent category.” As long as your account is open and in good standing, your points won’t expire.

Note that you can also redeem your points for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards, for gift cards and shopping with points at Amazon.com.

Pairing the Freedom Flex with a premium Chase credit card — such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve® — can boost your redemption value by 25 percent to 50 percent, respectively, if you redeem your points for travel through the Chase portal. Both of these premium cards charge an annual fee, however, so be sure your return in cash back will be worth the annual investment before you apply.

In fact, if you want to truly maximize your Freedom Flex rewards, you should combine them under a premium card and then transfer your points to one of Chase’s travel partners. Doing so can make your points worth an average of 2.0 cents each, according to Bankrate’s latest valuations.

The bottom line

The Chase Freedom Flex is a stellar cash back option if you have good to excellent credit and plan to use your card to make a variety of purchases. Still, check out Bankrate’s picks for the best cash back credit cards 2024 to see whether there’s another cash back card that would be a better fit for you.

*Issuer-required disclosure statement
Information about Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Chase Freedom® has been collected independently by Bankrate. The issuer did not provide the content, nor is it responsible for its accuracy.