Today is the first day of a new quarter and a new set of 5 percent categories for the Chase Freedom card (one of my favorite credit cards). Although the Chase Freedom is technically a cash back card, if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Ink Business Preferred or Ink Plus card you can transfer points from your Freedom account into one of those accounts and then can transfer those points to various Chase travel partners.

This quarter (October 1, 2018 – December 31, 2018), the Chase Freedom 5% categories are department stores, wholesale clubs and Chase Pay.

chase freedom q4 2018 4th quarter 4 2018 5% cash back categories

Chase provides some clarification on what is included or excluded in each category.
•   Department Stores: Click here for the list of merchants included and merchants not included in the Department Store category. Purchases made on a merchants website are included. The Department Store category does not include supercenters, discount stores, or specialty stores (i.e. stores that sell primarily one line of products such as shoe stores, pet stores, electronics stores, clothing stores) except for purchases made with these merchants using Chase Pay (a 5% category). If a merchant is not on the list, you will not earn bonus rewards. Department Store gift card purchases outside of the specific Department Store are excluded and will not earn bonus rewards.
•  Wholesale Clubs: These merchants operate warehouse-style retail stores, sell in bulk, and concentrate on price appeal. Merchants sell a full range of household goods and merchandise, groceries, furniture, electronics, appliances, and auto supplies. These merchants may or may not have membership requirements. Specialty wholesale merchants and distributors like National Wholesale Liquidators or Wood Floors Plus are not included. Additionally gas, fuel, wholesale specialty service purchase such as travel, insurance, cell phone and home improvement are not included except for purchases made with these merchants using Chase Pay (a 5% category).
•  Chase Pay: Includes purchases made using your Freedom card with your Chase Pay mobile wallet during check out. Eligible purchases only qualify for a total of 5% Cash Back rewards; purchases using Chase Pay at other current 5% quarterly categories will be awarded a total of 5% Cash Back rewards on up to $1,500 in combined purchases.

The 5% only applies to the first $1,500 spent on combined purchases each quarter. This means if you spend $1,500 on a combination of department stores, wholesale clubs and Chase Pay this quarter you will receive a total of 7,500 points (1,500 plus a bonus of 6,000 points).

Don’t Forget to Activate

Please note, that in order to earn the 5% you must activate the offer each quarter (by text, email or other methods). If you have a Chase Freedom and have signed up for email reminders you should have already received an email asking you to activate this quarter’s categories. If you have not yet activated the 5% for this quarter, you can register now or any time during the registration period and earn the full 5% for the entire quarter retroactively. Registration for this current quarter ends on December 14, 2018.

How to Maximize the 5% Bonus

For most people, this is an easy quarter to meet the $1,500 spending since you can do your holiday shopping at department stores. The easiest way to maximize would be to use Chase Pay to earn 5% on everything.

Overview of the Chase Freedom Credit Card

For anyone not familiar with this card, the Chase Freedom credit card is a great no annual fee card that earns you points that can be indirectly transferred to frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs. Chase Freedom is technically a cash back card only and points earned using the Chase Freedom cannot be directly transferred to airlines and hotel programs. However, if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Ink Business Preferred or Ink Plus card you can transfer or combine your points from your Chase Freedom account to one of those cards and then from there to the various Ultimate Rewards travel partners. See related post How To Combine or Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Between Accounts.

While the Chase Freedom® normally offers 1% cash back on all purchases, every quarter there are certain bonus categories for which you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in bonus categories each quarter. This means if you spend the full $1,500 each quarter in those 5 percent categories you can earn a total of 30,000 points a year (6,000 points + extra 24,000 bonus points).

The 5 cash back categories vary each year. You have to register each quarter for the bonus and then you can earn the 5% on up to $1,500 on purchases for that quarter.

The Chase Freedom® card is currently offering a higher than usual signup bonus of 15,000 bonus points (which can be redeemed for $150 cash back) after you spend $500 in your first 3 months from account opening and 2,500 bonus points (which can be redeemed for $25 cash back) when you add your first authorized user and make your first purchase within this same 3-month period.

If you already have the Chase Freedom you are currently able to earn $100 for referring the Chase Freedom to friends/family using Chase refer-a-friend.

If you do not have the Chase Freedom, this would be a great time to apply since the sign up bonus is higher than normal. The only downside is that the bonus has been higher in the past (I have seen the sign up bonus at 20,000 bonus points a couple of times in the last few years so you might want to wait for a higher sign up bonus if you do not plan to spend a lot in these categories in the next quarter). If you spend a lot on these categories it might be best not to wait for a higher bonus in order to maximize the 5%. (Warning: If you are thinking of applying for the Chase Freedom, please note Chase will deny applicants for the Chase Freedom if they are subject to the Chase 5/24 rule for credit card approvals. See this post for more information about the 5/24 rule.)

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