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Activate Chase Freedom cash back categories for Q1 2021 now

Cardholders can earn 5% cash back at wholesale clubs and on eligible streaming services, internet, phone and cable purchases

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 announced the 5% cash back categories on the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the retired Freedom card for the first quarter of 2021.

From Jan. 1 through March. 31, 2021, Freedom and Freedom Flex cardholders can earn 5% cash back on select streaming services, internet, cable and phone services and wholesale club purchases (up to $1,500 in combined purchases) after activation.

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

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

Activation for first-quarter categories on both the Freedom and Freedom Flex launched on Dec. 15, 2020, and will be open until March 14, 2021.

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

  • Activation of first-quarter bonus categories begins on Dec. 15 for both the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Flex.
  • Cardholders must activate by March 14 to earn the bonus rate.
  • From Jan. 1 to March 31, Freedom and Freedom Flex cardholders can earn 5% cash back on eligible streaming services, internet, cable and phone services and wholesale club purchases.
  • The 5% cash back bonus is capped at $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter.
  • As of Jan. 12, 2020, Chase Freedom cardholders earn 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022.

Chase 5% cash back calendar 2021

WinterSpringSummerHoliday
January – March

(Activation closes on March 14)

April – June

(Activation closed)

July – September

(Activation closed)

October – December

(Activation closed)

  • Select streaming services
  • Phone, cable and internet services
  • Wholesale clubs

TBA

TBA

TBA

Chase only releases its quarterly bonus categories one quarter at a time, so we can’t yet predict what will be offered in the rest of the quarters in 2021. 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 ‘Select streaming services’ category?

In this category, you can earn 5% cash back on select streaming services, including music and video streaming.  The eligible services include Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, Netflix, Sling, Vudu, Fubo TV, Apple Music, SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify and YouTube TV.

What is included and excluded in the ‘Phone, cable and internet services’ category?

You can earn cash back on your monthly bills, such as your cable, internet and phone services. To earn 5% cash back in the category, make sure to pay these bills with your Freedom or Freedom Flex card.

Equipment purchases don’t qualify in this category. You may also not receive the bonus cash back if you pay for your phone, cable or internet service at a merchant’s store that’s not classified in the applicable services category.

What is included and excluded in the ‘Wholesale clubs’ category?

In this category, you can get 5% back when you’re shopping at wholesale clubs, including Sam’s and BJ’s. You can also use your Chase Freedom (no longer available for new applications) to earn bonus cash back at Costco. Since Costco only accepts Visa cards, the new Freedom Flex, which is a Mastercard, won’t be accepted. Mastercards are, however, accepted on Costco.com.

See related: Best credit cards for Costco purchases

Fuel and wholesale specialty service purchases such as travel, insurance, cell phone and home improvement won’t qualify in this category. Delivery services may qualify if they classify as a wholesale club merchant.

Tips for maximizing your 5% cash back

  • If you’re planning any big purchases, see if you can make those at your preferred wholesale club with your Freedom card.
  • Stock up on gift cards at wholesale clubs for purchases throughout the year, to help meet the spend cap.
  • Stock up on items from wholesale clubs that you can use throughout the year, such as cleaning supplies or canned goods.
  • Make sure you’re paying for all of your phone, internet and cable bills with your Freedom or Freedom Flex.
  • Use your Freedom or Freedom Flex as a default payment method on your eligible streaming services.

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 – JuneTBAGas stations, Uber, Lyft and wholesale clubs
July – SeptemberTBARestaurants and PayPal
October – DecemberTBAAmazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com

Which card offers the best deal?

The best card for you depends on where you plan to spend your money in the first quarter of 2021.

Discover it® Cash Back offers bonus cash back at grocery stores at the beginning of the year. Since groceries are regular expenses that can get rather high, especially if you’re grocery shopping for a family, this category can be pretty lucrative.

At the same time, if you have a wholesale club membership, it can be very easy for you to meet the spending cap in this category with your Chase card. This can make up for the other two underwhelming categories.

For the rest of 2021, we can’t predict which card will be best for you, as while Discover has announced its categories for the next year, Chase only releases bonus categories one quarter at a time.

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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