Chase unveils its cash back category for Q4 2018

Earn 5 percent back on wholesale club, department store and Chase Pay purchases

Chase Freedom cash back categories

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Chase has announced the 5 percent cash back category for the fourth quarter of 2018. From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2018, Chase Freedom cardholders can earn 5 percent back at wholesale clubs, departments stores and Chase Pay purchases on up to $1,500 in combined purchases upon enrollment.

You can activate the fourth quarter bonus starting Sept. 15, 2018, here

In the meantime, you can continue to earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 per quarter on gas station, Lyft and Walgreens purchases through Sept. 30, 2018. 

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

  • You must activate the third quarter bonus category by Sept. 14, 2018, to receive 5 percent back for that quarter.
  • The third quarter category is active from July 1 through Sept. 30, 2018.
  • You can activate the fourth quarter bonus, which is effective from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2018, starting Sept. 15, 2018.
  • The 5 percent cash back bonus is capped at $1,500 per quarter.
  • All other purchases earn 1 percent cash back.

Chase 5 percent cash back calendar 2018

Winter Spring Summer Holiday
January – March
April – June
July – September
(Activate by Sept.14, 2018)
October – December
(Activate starting Sept. 15, 2018)
  • Gas stations
  • Internet, cable and phone services
  • Chase Pay, Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay
  • Groceries
  • PayPal
  • Chase Pay
  • Gas stations
  • Lyft
  • Walgreens
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Department stores
  • Chase Pay

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” 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. The “groceries” category includes purchases made at supermarkets and smaller grocery stores. It excludes items purchased at Walmart or Target, as well as items purchased at discount or warehouse stores.

What is included/excluded in the “Lyft” category?

The “Lyft” category includes transactions made using your Chase Freedom card for rides with Lyft. Gift cards purchased outside of Lyft do not qualify for the bonus.

What is included/excluded in the “Walgreens” category?

If you pay for items using your Chase Freedom card at Walgreens, and Walgreens owned drugstores operating under the Duane Reade brand, the purchase (including gift cards) will qualify for this category. Purchases made at Rite Aid drugstores and delivery service merchants will not receive the bonus.

1. Stack Lyft partner points

First of all, remember to link your Chase Freedom card to your Lyft account and make it your default payment method. That way, when you order a car, you’ll get the points. 

But the real secret to squeezing the most rewards value from this category comes from recognizing that Lyft also has corporate partners, including JetBlue and Delta Airlines, which also award rewards from their programs when you use the car service.

So, don’t forget to link those accounts, too, says Hud Callaway, director of user success for RewardStock.

That way, you’re earning 5x the points from Chase, along with extra miles from Delta or JetBlue – all for the same ride.

See related: Chase Pay: How to use it and rack up cash back rewards

2. Leverage merchant gift cards

Ah, the old gift card hack. But this one has a twist. Forget the general, multiuse cards that come with a purchase fee. You want cards for specific retailers only, like your favorite restaurant, retailer or online store.

The secret is to buy cards for the places you’d be shopping anyway in the amounts you plan to spend. These retailer gift cards come with absolutely no fees, so all your money goes into the gift card. And you can buy them at Walgreens or a host of gas stations.

Then, just use the cards when you eat or shop. In essence, Chase is giving you 5x the points to spend your money exactly where you always do.

However, some merchants won’t let you use a credit card to buy gift cards. Others will. So, that’s something you want to check first, says Julian Mark Kheel, senior editor with The Points Guy.


Tip: Sometimes the stores attached to gas stations don’t list themselves as gas stations with card networks, says Callaway. That means you might not get bonus points for shopping there this quarter. To find out, charge something small, like a pack of gum, he says. Then you can go online to your account and see how the store is categorized and if you get bonus points for your buy.

3. Save without switching brands – just stores

Getting extra rewards doesn’t have to mean switching brands or paying more.

Instead, price a few of the brand-name products you use regularly at the stores on your list for this quarter. And “look at what you can transition,” Callaway recommends.

He discovered that the probiotic he normally buys at the grocery store was the same price at Walgreens, so that’s where he’s getting it until the end of the quarter.

See related: Chase Freedom vs. Discover it: Which is best?

4. Shop Walgreens – beyond Walgreens

If you’re trying to rack up Chase Freedom bonus points, it pays to know that the Walgreens category isn’t solely Walgreens. It also includes and Duane Reade, says Lauren Ryan, a representative for JPMorgan Chase.

Prices permitting that distinction expands your bonus category shopping to include groceries, sundries, prescriptions and office supplies. It also means you can shop in person or online.


Tip: Whether you’re picking up items at the gas station or a specific store, keep an eye on the prices, says Kheel. Because, if you want to get the most for your money, shop prices first, then points, he says. “You’re better off saving the cash than earning extra points.”

Comparing Chase and Discover bonus categories

Chase isn’t the only card issuer that offers a 5 percent cash back bonus. Upon enrollment, Discover also allows cardholders to earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in combined spending in categories that rotate quarterly. 

Chase vs. Discover cash back categories 2018

  Chase Freedom
Chase Freedom
Discover it Balance Transfer
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 Groceries, PayPal and Chase Pay Grocery stores
July – September Gas stations, Lyft and Walgreens Restaurants
October – December Wholesale clubs, department stores and Chase Pay and wholesale clubs

Which card offers the best deal?

For the third quarter of 2018, we think the Chase Freedom card offers the better deal. In addition to earning 5 percent cash back on gas and Lyft, Freedom cardholders can earn the bonus rate on gift cards at Walgreens. Meaning, you can max out your bonus by purchasing gift cards to shopping malls, hardware stores, restaurants, movie theaters, streaming services and more, that you can then use throughout the year.

Whichever card you choose, the ability to earn 5 percent cash back is a great opportunity.   

See related: Discover cash back calendar 2018 - Activate the Q4 bonus category, Chase Pay: How to use it and rack up cash back rewardsChase Ultimate Rewards guide: The best ways to earn and use Ultimate Rewards points


Tip: Chase Freedom, Freedom Unlimited cardholders can save more at Shell
Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited cardholders can save at least 5 cents a gallon through all of 2018 by enrolling in Shell's Fuel Rewards program. Freedom and Freedom Unlimited cardholders automatically get gold status in Fuel Rewards.

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Updated: 09-21-2018