Chase unveils its cash back category for Q1 2018

Earn 5 percent back on gas, telecommunication services and mobile wallet purchases

Chase Freedom cash back categories

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Chase has released its 5 percent cash back category for the first quarter of 2018. From January through March 2018, Chase Freedom cardholders can earn 5 percent back on gas station purchases, mobile wallet purchases and internet, cable and phone services.

Chase offered a 5 percent bonus at gas stations in the first quarter of 2017 as well. However, the mobile wallet category is something new. Since the category includes any purchase you make using Chase Pay, Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, there is virtually no limit to what you can earn the bonus on. Additionally, being able to earn 5 percent back on your internet, cable and phone bill is a great added perk, since most people incur these charges on a monthly basis.

To activate the first quarter bonus category for 2018, click here.

Here’s what you need to know at a glance:

  • The Chase bonus category for the first quarter of 2018 can be activated as of Dec. 15, 2018.
  • You must activate the bonus category prior to March 14, 2018 to receive 5 percent back.
  • The category is active from Jan. 1, 2018 through March 31, 2018.
  • The 5 percent cash back bonus is capped at $1,500 per quarter.
  • All other purchases earn 1 percent cash back.
  • Chase Freedom cardholders will continue to earn 5 percent back at Walmart and department stores through Dec. 31, 2017.

Chase 5 percent cash back calendar 2018

Winter Spring Summer Holiday
January – March
(Activate by March 14, 2018)
April – June
(Activate starting March 15, 2018)
July – September
(Activate starting June 15, 2018)
October – December
(Activate starting Sept. 15, 2018)
  • Gas stations
  • Internet, cable and phone services
  • Chase Pay, Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay
Coming soon Coming soon Coming soon

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we do receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy

What is included/excluded in the “gas stations” category?

According to Chase’s website, the “gas stations” category includes merchants who sell automotive gasoline that can either be paid for at the pump or inside of a gas station. Merchants that do not specialize in selling automotive gasoline, such as truck stops, boat marinas, oil and propane distributors and home heating companies, are not included in this category. 

What is included/excluded in the “internet/cable/phone services” category?

Purchases for internet, cable, satellite television, radio, cellular, wireless data and landline services qualify for this category, while equipment purchases are excluded. Additionally, if you pay for any of these services in a merchant’s store that falls under the wrong category, the purchase or payment will not qualify for the bonus. For example, a store that sells telephone equipment rather than services will not qualify.

What is included/excluded in the “Chase Pay/Android Pay/Apple Pay/Samsung Pay” category?

If you pay for items using your Chase Freedom card through your Chase Pay, Android Pay, Apple Pay or Samsung Pay mobile wallet during check out, the purchase will qualify for the mobile wallet category. Purchases already earning 5 percent in a current category will not receive an additional bonus.

Tips for maximizing your 5 percent cash back

  • Use your Chase Freedom card to purchase gas for each car in your household.
  • Pay your cell phone, internet, cable and landline telephone bills using your Chase Freedom card.
  • Pay your cell phone bills directly through your service provider to avoid making a payment at an ineligible merchant.
  • Download Chase Pay, Android Pay, Apple Pay or Samsung Pay, and add your Chase Freedom card to your mobile wallet. Then, pay for everyday purchases, such as groceries, apparel and dining, using your mobile wallet.
  • Earn up to 11 percent cash back when you stack your digital wallet bonus with bonus cash back from a variety of retailers through Chase’s shopping portal, including:
    • 6 percent extra cash back at Neiman Marcus
    • 4 percent extra cash back at Barnes & Noble
    • 4 percent extra cash back at Petco
    • 3 percent extra cash back at FedEx Office
    • 2 percent extra cash back at Walmart.com
    • 2 percent extra cash back at CVS.com
    • Earn up to 8 percent cash back at the following wholesale clubs when you stack your 5 percent digital wallet bonus with bonus cash back through Chase’s shopping portal:
      • 3 percent extra cash back at Sam’s Club
      • 1 percent extra cash back at BJ’s Wholesale Club

Comparing Chase and Discover bonus categories

Chase isn’t the only card issuer that offers a 5 percent cash back bonus. Discover also allows cardholders to earn 5 percent cash back in categories that rotate quarterly.

Like Chase, Discover includes gas stations as part of its bonus category for the first quarter of 2018. However, unlike Chase, Discover has already announced their full 2018 calendar in advance, instead of on a quarter-by-quarter basis.  

Discover it and Discover More cardholders will continue to earn 5 percent back at Amazon.com and Target through Dec. 31, 2017.

Chase versus Discover cash back categories 2018

  Chase Freedom
Chase Freedom
Discover
Discover
January – March Gas stations; internet, cable and phone services;
Chase Pay, Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay
Gas stations and wholesale clubs
April – June Spring – coming soon Grocery stores
July – September Summer – coming soon Restaurants
October – December Holiday – coming soon Amazon.com and wholesale clubs

Which card offers the best deal?

For the first quarter of 2018, we think the Chase Freedom card offers the better deal. While getting 5 percent back at gas stations and wholesale clubs is a great offer – especially if you like to buy items in bulk – the Freedom card basically offers the same deal, but with more flexibility and options. In addition to getting 5 percent back at gas stations, Freedom cardholders can earn the bonus rate anywhere mobile wallets are accepted. You can potentially earn the bonus rate at department stores, grocery stores, restaurants and more.

Additionally, cardholders can stack their rewards to earn more back at eligible retailers with Shop through Chase. For example, Chase cardholders can earn 3 percent extra cash back when they shop at Sam’s Club through Chase’s shopping portal. If they also pay for those items using their mobile wallet, they have the potential to earn 8 percent cash back on their purchases. Discover, on the other hand, only allows cardholders to earn 5 percent cash back at Sam’s Club.

Beyond the first quarter, though, we can’t tell you which card offers the better deal. Based on past years, we can guess that Chase may offer the bonus rate at restaurants, department stores and grocery stores some time during 2018. But because they don’t release their full calendar in advance, it’s impossible to tell which card will best suit your spending habits throughout the year. 

A look at Chase's 2017 cash back calendar may give some insight into what we can expect for 2018.

Chase 5 percent cash back calendar 2017

Winter Spring Summer Holiday
January – March April – June July – September October – December
  • Gas stations
  • Local commuter transportation (not including parking, tolls and Amtrak purchases)
  • Grocery stores
  • Drug stores (not including Walmart and Target purchases
  • Restaurants
  • Movie theaters
  • Walmart
  • Department stores

Whichever card you choose, the ability to earn 5 percent cash back – especially after completing all your 2017 holiday shopping – is a great opportunity.   

See related: Discover releases entire 2018 cash back calendar, Earn up to $500 each year when you refer a friend to these cards, Credit card special offers and limited-time promotions


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Updated: 01-21-2018