Your guide to Chase Freedom bonus categories

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Chase rewards just got even better for many credit card customers — including Freedom cardholders. Apart from the Chase bonus categories already announced, you can get 5% cash back on Lyft purchases from January 12, 2020, through March 2022.

Already delivering excellent value for a $0 annual fee, Chase Freedom boasts a $200 welcome bonus if you spend $500 within the first three months, 0% APR for 15 months and secondary benefits like purchase protection and extended warranty. Of course, the broad Chase bonus categories that change quarterly is another favorite feature, as you can earn 5% rewards up to a quarterly maximum of $1,500. Let’s take a closer look at what these categories are and how you can maximize your Chase rewards.

The first quarter at a glance

The first quarter Chase bonus categories should match the spending patterns of many cardholders, as they cover spending at gas stations, internet and phone bills and select streaming services. These are consistent with the offerings from the 2019 cash back calendar, with the internet, cable and phone services category being the only new addition.

To be awarded 5% cash back on these purchases (1% standard + 4% bonus), you’ll need to activate categories by March 14, 2020. There’s a cap of $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter, and spending beyond the quarterly maximum, plus all other purchases, will attract the standard 1% cash back rate.

A great thing about Chase Freedom is that your bonus cash back can be awarded retroactively. That means as long as you register for the first quarter categories by the March 14 deadline, you’ll get your bonus rewards for the entire quarter.

Category zoom: Gas stations

  • 5% cash back rate offered on your spending at gas stations.
  • To be awarded the 5% rewards rate, your transaction must be carried out at a merchant whose merchant code indicates that it’s a gas station.
  • Gas stations include those that specialize in selling automotive gasoline, where shoppers can pay at the pump or inside the station. Some examples include 7 Eleven, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell. A full merchant list can be found on the Chase website.
  • Gas stations may sell other things like snacks, magazines and groceries as well, though their main business is gas.
  • Excludes car repair shops, grocery stores, farm stores, truck stops, boat marinas, oil and propane distributors and home heating companies.

Category zoom: Select streaming

  • Streaming means music or video content delivered over the internet. So that includes songs, TV shows and movies.
  • As the name of the category implies, not all streaming services are included. The current list of services eligible for the 5% bonus include Apple Music, Disney+, ESPN+, FuboTV, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, SiriusXM, Sling, Spotify, Vudu and YouTube TV.
  • Bonus applies to individual purchases, like when you buy a single song from Apple Music, or a monthly subscription.
  • Great for colder months when you’re likely to spend more time indoors.

Activating your bonus

As mentioned, you’ll need to activate the Chase bonus categories every three months in order to earn the maximum 5% rewards rate. But, don’t worry. Activation is free and easy, and Chase will even send out email reminders so you don’t forget. Remember, if you have multiple Chase Freedom cards, you’ll need to activate bonus categories on all of them to maximize your Chase rewards.

There are five easy ways to activate bonuses:

  • Online: Go to the Chase Freedom homepage. Click on the green “Activate your 5%” button. Enter your last name, the last four digits of your card and your ZIP code, then click the green “Activate your 5%” button again. You’re all done.
  • Email: If you have provided your email, Chase will remind you when it’s time to activate, which you can do with just one click.
  • Phone: Call the number on the back of your card and speak to a customer service representative.
  • Branch: Visit the personal banker of your local Chase branch.
  • ATM: When making a cash withdrawal, you can also register for bonus categories.

Maximizing your bonus

There are several things you can do to maximize your Chase rewards from the bonus categories this quarter. For example, try to take note of the wide range of products on offer at local gas stations — these might include things like fast food items, snacks, groceries, drinks, newspapers, magazines, gift cards and more. Since you’ll be awarded the bonus cash back as long as the transaction takes place at a merchant with a gas station merchant category code, you can start buying more than just gas to earn extra rewards.

For the same reason, any kind of car maintenance that can be done at a gas station will also qualify for the top Chase rewards rate.

In terms of the phone, cable and internet services category, only the amounts you spend on buying services — rather than any equipment — are included in the offer. You’ll also need to ensure you pay your bills with your Chase Freedom card.

A final note before you earn

If you’re a new cardholder, remember that with Chase Freedom, cash back rewards are tracked as Chase Ultimate Rewards points, so $1 in cash back is the same as 100 points. Being a part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program gives you a variety of ways to redeem points beyond traditional cash back options like direct deposits and statement credits. Think gift cards, paying with points at select retailers and using points to book travel.

Better still, if you’ve got another Chase credit card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can pool points together to magnify your redemption power. For example, combining the points you’ve earned on Chase Freedom and Chase Sapphire Reserve means they’re worth 1.5 times more when you redeem them for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. So if you’ve earned $75 from spending on Chase bonus categories this quarter, they’ll be worth $112.50 for travel bookings.

Overall, the Freedom card is great for maximizing Chase rewards. Just make sure you activate categories, then you’ll be all set.

Kristie Kwok

Kristie Kwok is a finance content writer with in-depth knowledge of the banking industry from her previous work experience in banks such as UBS, Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland. She is a qualified accountant with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, specializing in Accounting and Finance.