The Chase Freedom® credit card is one of the best cash back cards available for those who prefer to earn rewards on a diverse range of products and services.
With the Freedom’s rotating bonus categories, you’ll earn new cash back rewards each quarter on the items you shop for most. For July through September 2020, you’ll earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market, then 1 percent (activation required).
This no annual fee card also offers a zero percent introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months — you’ll pay a variable APR of 14.99 percent to 23.74 percent if you carry a balance. There’s even a welcome bonus of $150 if you spend $500 in the first three months of opening your card.
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 rewards 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 2020 bonus categories already announced compared to 2019 categories so that you can get an idea of what to expect:
|2019 Categories||2020 Categories|
|Q1: January – March||
|Q2: April – June||
|Q3: July – September||
|Q4: October – December||
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 Chase bonus categories
Bonus categories must be activated each quarter to receive the full 5 percent cash back, and you can activate these categories in a number of ways.
One of the easiest methods is to activate your rewards from the Chase mobile app. Rewards can also be activated online through your account hub, by phone, 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.
Here are the dates by which to activate your bonus categories:
- July – September: Activation period begins June 15, 2020, and closes after September 14, 2020
- October – December: Activation period begins September 15, 2020, closing date TBD
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 — for up to the $1,500 quarterly maximum. If you have multiple Chase accounts, be sure you activate categories for each of your accounts.
Maximize this quarter’s bonus categories
The Q3 Chase Freedom bonus categories reward spending at Amazon.com and Whole Foods. Here’s how you can make the most of them:
- Fill your fridge: It’s likely the past few months in quarantine meant more grocery store purchases and less eating out for your family. Take advantage of this quarter’s bonus categories by ordering groceries through Amazon Fresh or shopping at Whole Foods for your supermarket needs. Some families can probably hit the $1,500 on this spending, alone.
- Stock up on school supplies: These categories run through mid-September, meaning you can get a chunk of your family’s school shopping done by purchasing supplies on Amazon.com.
- Buy gift cards: Toss a couple of gift cards in your Amazon cart and either redeem them later or send them to someone in need. You might even use one as a teacher’s gift.
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 Freedom, 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 everything else.
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 2020: Grocery stores (not including Target and Walmart), Walgreens and CVS
- April – June 2020: Gas stations, Uber and Lyft (not including Uber Eats) and wholesale clubs
- July – September 2020: Restaurants and PayPal
- October – December 2020: Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com
Chase and Discover both like to reward similar types of spending, with grocery, gas station and drugstore spending as some of the most popular and repetitive categories. If you really want to maximize your cash back rewards, you could apply for both the Chase Freedom and the Discover it® Cash Back cards and use them tangentially.
The one big difference between Discover’s program and Chase’s is that, 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 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 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 Freedom 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.
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.
For further information on the ideal cash back card for you, check out Bankrate’s picks for the best cash back credit cards.