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Activate Chase Freedom bonus categories for Q4

Cardholders can earn 5% cash back at Walmart and PayPal, as well as an extra 4% back in their eligible top spend category

Summary

See the latest bonus categories from the Chase Freedom card and get tips on how to maximize your cash back.

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Chase has launched the 5% cash back categories on the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the retired Freedom card for the fourth quarter of 2021.

From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, Freedom and Freedom Flex cardholders will be able to get 5% cash back for making purchases at Walmart or through PayPal (up to $1,500 in combined purchases) after activation. Activation for fourth-quarter categories on both the Freedom and Freedom Flex launched on Sept. 15 and will be open until Dec. 14, 2021.

Additionally, Chase cardholders who activate their Q4 bonus categories will earn 5% total cash back (4% in addition to their unlimited 1% cash back) on up to $1,500 in the eligible rewards category where they spend the most through the end of the year.

Besides that, the Flex card offers 5% cash back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and 3% on dining and drugstore purchases. All other purchases earn 1% cash back.

See related: Chase launches new Freedom Flex card, add new categories to Freedom Unlimited

At a glance

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Activation for fourth-quarter categories opened on Sept. 15 and closes on Dec. 14, 2021.
  • Cardholders who activate fourth-quarter categories can earn 5% cash back at Walmart and PayPal.
  • The 5% cash back bonus is capped at $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter.
  • Chase Freedom Flex cardholders earn 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022.
  • Flex cardholders who activate the 5% back categories can also earn an extra 4% back in their top eligible spend category through Dec. 31, 2021.

Chase 5% cash back calendar 2021

WinterSpringSummerHoliday
January – March

(Activation closed)

April – June

(Activation closed)

July – September

(Activation closed)

October – December

(Activation closes Dec. 14)

  • Select streaming services
  • Phone, cable and internet services
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Home improvement stores
  • Gas stations
  • Grocery stores (excluding Walmart and Target)
  • Select streaming services
  • Walmart
  • PayPal

Chase only releases its quarterly bonus categories one quarter at a time, so we can’t yet predict what will be offered in 2022. Here’s a quick look at some of the categories Chase has offered in the last year.

Chase 5% cash back calendar 2020

WinterSpringSummerHoliday
January – MarchApril – JuneJuly – SeptemberOctober – December
  • Select streaming services
  • Gas stations
  • Phone, cable and internet services
  • Gym memberships
  • Fitness clubs
  • Grocery stores
  • Select streaming services
  • Amazon
  • Whole Foods Market
  • Walmart
  • PayPal

What is included and excluded in the Walmart category?

This category includes Walmart in-store purchases, including purchases made at Walmart Discount Stores, Walmart Neighborhood Markets, Walmart SuperCenters, Walmart branded gas stations and any other Walmart-branded and operated stores. You can also earn 5% back on online purchases at www.walmart.com and purchases made with Walmart Pay.

The category doesn’t apply to purchases you make at third-party merchants that operate within Walmart stores – for example, fast food restaurants, gas stations or beauty services. Walmart affiliates, such as Shipt and Sam’s Club, are also excluded.

What is included and excluded in the PayPal category?

In this category, you can earn 5% cash back on purchases you make using your Chase Freedom card with PayPal. Person-to-person transfers and payments made through the Xoom transfer service don’t qualify.

Note that if you use your Chase Freedom card with PayPal when paying for a Walmart purchase, you’ll still earn 5% cash back, meaning your rewards won’t double.

There is an interesting “hack” for this category, however, that can make almost all online purchases eligible for this bonus category: PayPal Key. It’s a 16-digit virtual card number issued by PayPal that can be used anywhere Mastercard is accepted. So even if you don’t see PayPal as a payment method at checkout, you can use your PayPal Key number like a credit card number and still earn that 5% cash back (if your Chase card is connected to your PayPal account). The only catch to this new feature is that it’s still only available to some PayPal customers at this point. Check your PayPal account to see if you qualify.

Which categories are eligible for 4% extra cash back?

Eligible top spend categories for Flex cardholders include dining, travel (including transit), home improvement stores, eligible streaming services, grocery stores (excluding Target and Walmart purchases), select live entertainment, gas stations, drugstores and fitness clubs.

Note that these rewards can stack on rewards you’re already earning in certain categories. For example, purchases made in your top spend category through PayPal will earn a total of 9% cash back, as well as travel purchases made through the Ultimate Rewards portal. Dining and drugstore purchases can earn 7% cash back with this offer.

Tips for maximizing your 5% cash back in Q4

  • Make sure to do as much of your shopping as you can at Walmart, using your Freedom or Freedom Flex card.
  • Buy gift cards at Walmart for purchases throughout the year – this will help you meet the spend cap.
  • Stock up on items from Walmart that you can use throughout the year, such as non-perishables or cleaning supplies.
  • If you’re shopping online, see if you can pay through PayPal and use your Freedom or Freedom Flex card (make sure it’s connected to your PayPal account).
  • With merchants that don’t give the option to pay with PayPal, use PayPal Key.
  • Consider making PayPal your top spend category since it’s easy to maximize with many kinds of online purchases, so you can earn the generous 9% cash back.
  • Alternatively, if you have travel plans, consider making travel your top spend category and book through the Ultimate Rewards portal to earn 9% back.

Comparing Chase and Discover bonus categories

Chase isn’t the only card issuer that offers a 5% cash back bonus. Discover also allows cardholders to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined spending in rotating categories each quarter, upon enrollment, then 1%.

Chase vs. Discover cash back categories 2021

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Discover it® Cash Back

January – MarchSelect streaming services, phone, cable and internet services, wholesale clubsGrocery stores, Walgreens and CVS
April – JuneGas stations, home improvement storesGas stations, select streaming services and wholesale clubs
July – SeptemberGrocery stores and select streaming servicesRestaurants and PayPal
October – DecemberWalmart and PayPalAmazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com

Which card offers the better deal?

In this quarter, Chase has a better offer – if you have the Freedom Flex.

Discover it® Cash Back offers bonus cash back at Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com in the fourth quarter of the year. This is an excellent offer, especially considering it falls on the holiday season – cardmembers will be able to shop for almost any kind of gifts online, earning bonus cash back.

The Chase Freedom and Freedom Flex cards, on the other hand, offers 5% back at Walmart and PayPal. Many shopping websites offer the option to pay through PayPal at checkout, which makes the PayPal category on the Freedom cards great news for online shoppers, while the Walmart category covers those who’d rather shop in person.

If you have the Freedom Flex, the top-spend category bonus can make a huge difference this quarter. It effectively adds an extra bonus category – or you can use it to earn a whopping 9% back when stacking rewards. This adds flexibility to your reward-earning strategy and makes it easier to rack up cash back, especially considering some of the eligible categories are quite lucrative, including dining, travel and grocery stores.

On the other hand, if you haven’t applied for either of the cards yet, remember about Discover’s Cashback Match. The issuer doubles all the cash back you earn in your first year with the card. In this scenario, the Discover it Cash Back offers a better return on your spending, even considering the limited-time offer on the Freedom Flex.

See related: Which is the best card to use on Amazon.com purchases?

We can’t predict which card will be best for you for the next year. Discover hasn’t announced its categories for 2022 yet and Chase only releases bonus categories one quarter at a time. Visit our page for more information on Chase credit cards.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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