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The Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited cards from Chase offer some of the highest rewards on everyday spending among cash back cards available today — plus they have no annual fee and offer valuable redemption options through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.
But to really maximize your everyday purchases, especially with the Flex and its rotating rewards categories, it’s important to keep up with the many bonus categories in which you can earn cash back. Familiarize yourself with the categories, their limitations, and how often they change to ensure your budget and spending habits align with your rewards.
Chase only releases rotating 5% bonus categories for the Freedom Flex card one quarter at a time, but you can use past categories as a guide to help determine whether you’ll be able to maximize the bonus based on your regular spending.
To help you keep track, we’ve broken down rewards categories for both the Chase Freedom Unlimited and the Chase Freedom Flex, starting with the rewards bonuses the two cards share, and then the individual categories that set them apart.
Before You Start
Chase Freedom Unlimited and Freedom Flex, while offering great rewards on everyday spending, both carry variable APRs from 14.99% to 23.74%. Carrying a debt balance at those high-interest rates will swiftly eliminate any cash back bonus. Before seeking rewards on your spending, make sure you eliminate existing credit card debt, establish good credit habits, and commit to paying down your balances in full each month.
Chase Freedom Categories
- 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3% cash back on dining and at drugstores
- Chase Freedom Flex rotating categories
- Chase Freedom Unlimited flat cash back
- Chase Freedom rewards example
5% Cash Back on Travel Purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Chase recently expanded Freedom Unlimited and Freedom Flex rewards with new ongoing, tiered rewards categories, including an unlimited 5% cash back offer on travel booked using your Freedom card through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
This category includes everything from plane tickets to hotel stays, car rentals, cruises, and vacation rentals.
3% Cash Back on Dining and at Drugstores
In addition to travel, the newly-expanded Chase Freedom rewards categories include an unlimited 3% bonus on dining and drugstore purchases.
Chase’s dining category is broad; everything from fast food to fine dining counts, as well as takeout and eligible delivery services. Eligibility is determined by the category merchants classify their sales under when you swipe your card, which means your breakfast scone from the local coffee shop or halftime hot dog from your city’s stadium may count toward the bonus as well, depending on how the individual merchant categorizes purchases. Chase offers descriptions of each rewards category, but the best way to find out a merchant’s category is by looking back at the purchases on your credit card statement to see exactly how the merchant description is coded.
Chase offers Freedom cardholders access to a three-month complimentary DashPass subscription (good for $0 delivery fee on eligible orders over $12) for DoorDash and Caviar followed by a 50% discount for nine additional months. Enroll in this benefit to save even more on your food delivery orders.
Eligible drugstores can range from nationwide chains to your local drugstore. However, like the grocery category, Chase specifies that your purchases with onsite pharmacies at warehouse clubs like Costco or big box stores like Target do not count toward the bonus.
Chase Freedom Flex Rotating Categories
In addition to the above tiered rewards categories that apply for both cards, the Chase Freedom Flex earns 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories each quarter. Unlike those unlimited categories, though, the 5% rate on rotating categories is capped after you make $1,500 in purchases per quarter. That means your quarterly cash back reward limit in this category is $75 each quarter.
Here’s a rundown of 2020’s Chase Freedom categories and the 2021 categories we know so far:
|2020 Categories||2021 Categories|
|Q1: January – March||Select streaming services, internet, cable, and phone services, gas stations||Select streaming services, internet, cable, and phone services, wholesale clubs|
|Q2: April – June||Select streaming services, gym memberships and fitness clubs, grocery stores||Gas stations, home improvement stores|
|Q3: July – September||Amazon.com, Whole Foods Market||Not yet announced|
|Q4: October – December||Walmart, Paypal||Not yet announced|
Note: The Chase Freedom Flex card was released in Sept. 2020. Categories listed before that date applied to its rotating rewards predecessor, the Chase Freedom card. Current categories also apply to legacy Chase Freedom cardholders.
You must manually activate the bonus category each quarter to earn the 5% rate. You can begin activating next quarter’s categories when they’re announced and you’ll have until the deadline later in the quarter to do so. But if you forget to activate early, don’t worry. As long as you activate the bonus by the deadline, any eligible purchases made throughout the quarter will still earn the bonus rate.
And for any additional purchases that don’t fit into the above categories, you’ll still get 1% cash back on everything else you buy with the Chase Freedom Flex.
Q2 2021: Gas Stations and Home Improvement Stores
In a break from common categories over the past year, the Chase Freedom Flex 5% bonus categories for Q2 2021 can help you save on your next road trip or home project. From April through June, earn 5% cash back on purchases at gas stations and home improvement stores with your Freedom Flex.
Qualifying gas stations may vary depending on merchant codes, but include most merchants that sell auto gasoline, whether at the pump or inside at a register. Chase does specify that truck stops, boat marinas, home heating companies, and other merchants that don’t specialize in automobile gasoline are not included.
The home improvement category is broad, and may include big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot as well as local hardware stores. But merchants that sell home improvement alongside a broad range of other items (warehouse clubs like Costco, or discount stores) and home furnishing or landscaping merchants are not included.
Activation is open now and applies to your spending between April 1 and June 30, 2021.
Chase Freedom Unlimited 1.5% Flat Cash Back
While it doesn’t have the benefit of rotating rewards categories, the Chase Freedom Unlimited makes a potentially even more lucrative proposition: on top of the above tiered bonus categories, you’ll earn a flat 1.5% cash back on every other purchase.
Chase Freedom Rewards Example
Let’s say you use your Chase Freedom Flex or Chase Freedom Unlimited card for the majority of your family’s everyday purchases, and spend an average of $20,000 with the card annually. By rewards categories, we can break that spending down to $10,000 each year on groceries, $3,000 on dining out, $2,000 at drugstores, and an additional $5,000 on everything else. On average, you estimate your eligible spending in rotating Freedom Flex bonus categories to total about $500 per quarter.
Here’s how that spending would translate to rewards using the Chase Freedom Flex versus the Chase Freedom Unlimited your first year of ownership:
|Category||Rewards Rate||Chase Freedom Flex||Chase Freedom Unlimited|
|Groceries||1% for Freedom Flex, 1.5% for Freedom Unlimited||$100||$150|
|Rotating Categories (Freedom Flex only)||5% (up to $1,500 each quarter, then 1%)||$100||N/A|
|Everything Else||1% for Freedom Flex, 1.5% for Freedom Unlimited||$30||$75|
Frequently Asked Questions
How do rotating categories work?
Every quarter over the course of a calendar year, Chase Freedom Flex cardholders can earn 5% cash back on certain spending categories. Before the start of every quarter, Chase will announce which categories and qualifying spending the bonus will apply to. You’ll need to activate the bonus to earn the cash back every quarter.
How much cash back can I earn each quarter?
You’ll earn 5% cash back on the eligible bonus spending categories up to $1,500 per quarter. Once you hit that maximum spend, your rate will revert to 1% cash back.
How do I activate my 5% categories each quarter?
Before the bonus categories rotate each quarter, you’ll receive an email that will instruct you on how to activate them. The process is very simple, and only requires you to click the “Activate” button in the e-mail — it shouldn’t take more than a minute or so.
Can I have both the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Flex to double my earning potential?
Both the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Flex cards offer 5% cash back on up to $1,500 each quarter — however, the Chase Freedom card is currently closed to new applicants. If you had the card before it was closed to new applicants, though, you can also apply for the Chase Freedom Flex to maximize your earnings. By doing so, you can receive 5% cash back on up to $3,000 in purchases each quarter between the two credit cards.
If you currently do not have the Chase Freedom, though, you will be unable to apply for it, and can only apply for the Chase Freedom Flex card. As we’ve noted, you can receive 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter.
What are common bonus categories for the Freedom and Freedom Flex?
While the bonus categories rotate every three months, there are some common themes you can expect. Gas stations, drugstores and large retailers like Walmart and Amazon are common spending categories. Cardholders can also expect to see lifestyle categories such as Internet, streaming services, fitness clubs and even grocery stores.