If you think of yourself as a cashback rewards hound and are pretty good at planning a schedule, you need to consider the Chase Freedom card. With no annual fee and 5 percent cashback on selected rewards categories, it offers one of the biggest rewards bang for your buck.
The cash back rewards are limited to $1,500 per category per quarter, which seems restraining. But because the Chase Freedom categories rotate each quarter, there is ample opportunity to earn rewards throughout the year. And when you’re not earning 5 percent cashback on category spending, you earn 1 percent cashback on all other spending.
Chase First Bonus Category for 2018
Chase recently announced its 2018 first quarter schedule, which offers an interesting blend of spending opportunities in three different categories:
- Gas stations
- Internet, cable, and phone services
- Mobile wallet purchases – Chase Pay, Android Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay
The mobile wallet category is new and expands your spending opportunities to any purchases you make using your Chase Freedom card through mobile wallets. That could include groceries, restaurants, membership clubs, you name it.
The Chase Bonus Category Calendar
The key to maximizing your cashback rewards on the Chase Freedom card is knowing what the spending categories are and when they are scheduled. For that, you can turn to the Chase Freedom bonus category calendar.
The Chase Freedom bonus categories for each quarter are published well in advance, so you can plan your shopping for the year. In 2017, the bonus categories were scheduled as follows:
|Q1: Jan. 1 – March 31||Gas stations and local commuter transportation (not including parking, tolls, or Amtrak)|
|Q2: April 1 – June 30||Grocery stores and drug stores (not including Walmart and Target)|
|Q3: July 1 – Sept. 30||Restaurants and movie theaters|
|Q4: Oct. 1 – Dec.31||Walmart and department stores|
As you can see, Chase tries to be timely with its categories, offering up spending opportunities for dining and entertainment during the summer months and holiday shopping during the final quarter of the year. If you can’t max out your spending categories during any one of the quarters, you can always purchase gift cards or certificates that can be used throughout the year.
For instance, you can purchase dining certificates at your favorite restaurants or movie theater gift cards for future movie dates. The same can be done when shopping at Walmart or department stores. You can add to your spending by purchasing gifts cards that can be used for gifts throughout the year or for future needs.
It is important to know that you are not automatically eligible to earn 5 percent cashback. You have to register for each spending category, which can be done online or by phone. Most quarters you are able to activate the spending category a couple of weeks before the start of the quarter. You may want to add a reminder to your calendar for each quarter so you don’t forget to register.
What to Expect for the Remainder of the Year
Chase has yet to announce its bonus categories for the rest of the year. It typically waits until about a few weeks before the end of the winter quarter to announce the Chase Freedom categories for spring and summer, and it waits until September to announce the fall quarter (October – December).
You can expect to see most of the same spending categories, but not necessarily in the same order. The gas station category is the same as it was for 2017 – winter quarter, but you can’t count on the other quarters repeating. You can also expect Chase to come up with a new spending category, just as it did with mobile wallets in the first quarter of 2018.
What Makes Chase Freedom a Valuable Rewards Card?
It’s worth repeating that you pay no annual fee for the Chase Freedom card, which makes its cashback rewards all the more valuable. Plus, when you open an account, you can earn a $150 bonus when you spend $500 in the first three months.
You can earn additional cashback bonuses by purchasing through Chase’s online shopping mall, which pays up to 3 percent cashback on purchases made through selected merchants. Finally, you can take as long as you want to redeem your cashback rewards because there is no deadline.
Author: Jeff Gitlen
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