I can’t believe that we’re about to enter the final quarter of the year. In the retail world, the fourth quarter is all about holiday shopping. In October, November and December, the Chase Freedom Flex℠* credit card tends to lean its rotating rewards categories into the holiday spirit, and this year is no exception.

From October 1 through December 31, 2023, the Freedom Flex will offer 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in combined spending at wholesale clubs, via PayPal and on select charitable contributions. Activation is required, and cardholders will earn 1 percent cash back beyond the $1,500 threshold.

One notable omission from the list is Walmart. The mega-retailer was one of the Freedom Flex’s Q4 bonus categories (along with PayPal) from 2020 through 2022.

Wholesale clubs haven’t been among the Freedom Flex’s 5 percent rewards categories since the first quarter of 2021. I’m not a member of Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s or any other wholesale club, but Chase notes the potential holiday tie-ins. “Whether you are stocking up on holiday party items, gifts for family and friends, or preparing for a holiday dinner, cardmembers can earn 5 percent on all the essentials at their favorite wholesale club,” a Chase representative shared via email.

One important bit of fine print: Costco only accepts Visa credit cards in its U.S. stores and at its U.S. gas stations, and the Freedom Flex is a Mastercard. A workaround could be to use the Freedom Flex at Costco.com (or a different warehouse club, of course). Alternatively, if you still carry the Freedom Flex’s predecessor, the original Chase Freedom®*, that card is a Visa and can benefit from this category bonus.

Charities have never been a quarterly bonus category on the Freedom Flex or the Chase Freedom. The timing is smart, since charitable donations peak around year’s end. The following organizations are eligible:

  • American Red Cross
  • Equal Justice Initiatives
  • Feeding America
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • International Medical Corps
  • International Rescue Committee
  • Leadership Conference Education Fund
  • NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
  • National Urban League
  • Thurgood Marshall College Fund
  • United Negro College Fund
  • United Way
  • World Central Kitchen
  • Out and Equal
  • Sage

Personally, I think I’ll get the most out of the PayPal category. It used to be incredibly easy to maximize this promotion thanks to PayPal Key, a program which was discontinued in early 2022. PayPal Key used to provide users with a virtual card number that could extend PayPal’s reach to just about every online transaction.

Still, more than 80 percent of the 1,000 largest online retailers accept PayPal, according to Digital Commerce 360, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to do some of your holiday shopping via PayPal. Even some brick-and-mortar stores accept PayPal, including Walmart and Best Buy.

However you choose to use PayPal, be sure to link your Freedom Flex as the underlying source of funds to take advantage of the fourth-quarter promotion.

My year-to-date Freedom Flex recap

I easily maxed out the Freedom Flex’s $1,500 rotating quarterly category spending threshold in the first quarter of this year (the categories were grocery stores, Target, gym memberships and fitness clubs; my family’s grocery spending was more than enough to reach the limit).

I only got about half of the way there in Q2 (Amazon and Lowe’s), but the third quarter has been unexpectedly lucrative. I have spent more than I expected on live entertainment and gas. With a little over a week remaining in the quarter, I’m only about $200 shy of the limit.

And it’s important to remember that the Freedom Flex delivers plenty of value beyond the rotating 5 percent categories. This is my go-to card for dining and at drugstores (3 percent cash back on each category). Cardholders also get 5 percent cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.

Plus, don’t forget about the card’s additional benefits. The Freedom Flex’s purchase protection benefit once saved me about $300 on an electronics replacement. Extended warranty coverage is a nice perk, too. As is trip cancellation and interruption insurance. I like the Shop Through Chase portal as well. The Freedom Flex has a lot to offer, especially considering it doesn’t charge an annual fee.

The bottom line

It may feel like early fall or maybe even late summer, depending on where you live, but the holidays are right around the corner. We recently found that half of holiday shoppers will begin making purchases before the end of October. Major retailers such as Amazon, Target and Walmart are expected to roll out Black Friday-type deals in early October.

Due to inflation and high interest rates, we’re likely to see a very price-conscious consumer this holiday season. In fact, almost nine out of every 10 holiday shoppers told us they’re looking for ways to save money this holiday season. That includes 41 percent who will seek more coupons, discounts and sales than in previous years.

One of my favorite tips is to stack discounts. As in, combine multiple ways to save on the same purchase, such as a store promotion, a rewards credit card and an online shopping portal. When used this way, the Chase Freedom Flex can be a helpful tool in your holiday savings strategy.

Have a question about credit cards? E-mail me at ted.rossman@bankrate.com and I’d be happy to help.

*The information about the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Chase Freedom® has been collected independently by Bankrate. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.