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 its owners:

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

While the original Chase Freedom®* credit card is no longer available to new applicants, the issuer recently announced its Q1 bonus categories for 2023, which still apply to existing Freedom card members.

From January 2023 through March 2023, Freedom Flex and existing Freedom cardmembers earn 5 percent cash back at Target and grocery stores (excluding Walmart) and on fitness club and gym memberships.

Freedom Flex 2023 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 2022 compared to the 2023 categories so far, so you can get an idea of what to expect:

2022 categories 2023 categories
Q1: January to March
  • Grocery stores (excluding Walmart and Target)
  • eBay
  • Target
  • Grocery stores (excluding Walmart)
  • Fitness club and gym memberships
Q2: April to June
  • Amazon.com
  • Select streaming services
  • TBA
Q3: July to September
  • Gas stations
  • Car rentals
  • Select entertainment
  • Movie theatres
  • TBA
Q4: October to December
  • Walmart and PayPal purchases
  • TBA

This cash back bonus gives you the potential to earn up to $75 in cash back at that rate until you reach the $1,500 spending cap each quarter. Purchases made outside of the bonus categories will earn an unlimited 1 percent cash back.

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.

One of the easiest activation methods is to use the Chase Mobile app. You can also activate rewards 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.

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. 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 2023 reward Target, grocery store, fitness club and gym membership purchases. Here’s how to maximize your rewards this quarter:

  • Given the variety of items sold at Target, it’s easy to get a lot of shopping done at Target. Whether you want to purchase a few blouses for work, have a child that needs new school supplies for the semester or want to lightly switch up your home decor after the holidays, you’ll likely to find some get options at Target.
  • Everyone needs to do grocery shopping, so be sure to swipe your card each time you stock up your pantry. Plus, if shopping in person isn’t really you’re thing, you can also enjoy 5 percent cash back on Instacart grocery store delivery purchases when activated through Chase Ultimate Rewards (on up to $1,500, then 1 percent).
  • Trying to get healthy after the holiday season? Don’t forget to pay your gym membership fee or fitness club costs with your Freedom Flex to score heightened rewards.
  • If you end up having trouble meeting this quarter’s $1,500 cap, consider purchasing gift cards at Target to pass along to family and friends.

Other Chase Freedom Flex benefits

The Chase Freedom Flex is a World Elite Mastercard, which is a special class of Mastercard that come with certain benefits. Through this program, 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, up to $800 per claim and $1,000 per year. A $50 deductible applies.
  • ShopRunner membership: You’ll have a complimentary membership to ShopRunner, which provides free two-day shipping from dozens of major retailers.
  • Discounts: Lyft, Boxed and Fandango are just a few of the retailers that offer discounts to Mastercard World Elite cardholders.

Benefits unique to the Chase Freedom Flex include:

  • Travel insurance: Non-refundable passenger fares purchased with your Freedom Flex are protected by insurance worth $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip.
  • 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.

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 and, like the Freedom Flex, you can earn a total of 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in bonus category purchases per quarter (then 1 percent, when activated), plus 1 percent cash back on everything else.

In previous years, Discover announced its full year of bonus categories in advance, but as switched to a quarter-by-quarter cadence. Here are the Discover it Cash Back bonus categories for Q1 of 2023:

  • January to March 2023: Grocery stores, drug stores and select streaming services

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. If you really want to maximize your cash back rewards, you could apply for both the Freedom Flex and Discover it Cash Back and use them simultaneously.

The one big difference between Discover’s program and Chase’s is that, with Discover, you earn 5 percent cash back only 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 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 during 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. Discover will match your $300 with another $300 in cash back rewards.

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 new way to earn 5 percent cash back on changing categories.

Instead of activating quarterly categories, you automatically earn 5 percent cash back on your top spending category each billing cycle (up to $500, then 1 percent back). All other purchases earn 1 percent 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 don’t need to wait for specific bonus categories or activation dates. 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 also get a wider variety of purchases that may earn 5 percent 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.

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 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 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 at once, which is especially helpful for smaller categories, like streaming services. Its categories also tend to be a bit more diverse according to the season. For instance, you’ll usually earn 5 percent back on major online retailers, like Amazon.com, each year, but the Citi Custom Cash doesn’t earn 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 costly 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 tracked as 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 to your credit card account once redeemed. When you check your statement, you’ll see bonus category rewards listed as “Bonus from Q1 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 via Chase Ultimate Rewards. Points can be redeemed through this portal for travel, gift cards, experiences, online shopping and more.

Alternatively, pairing the Freedom Flex with a more premium Chase credit card — such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve® — has the potential to boost your redemption value between 25 percent and 50 percent, if you redeem your points for travel through the 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.

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. For further information on the ideal cash back card for you, check out Bankrate’s picks for the best cash back credit cards for 2022.

Information about the Chase Freedom® has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The issuer did not provide the content, nor is it responsible for its accuracy.