Credit Cards Featuring Rotating Quarterly Bonus Categories

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If you’re looking for the highest possible return on credit card spend, you’ll need to include rewards cards with rotating bonus categories in your points and miles strategy. These cash back cards are not the best option for everyday spending, typically earning just 1% back on non-bonus expenditure. But, if a purchase falls under the listed bonus categories, you can receive as much as 10% back on every dollar just by swiping the right card!

Increased Returns on Bonus Category Spending

The cards listed below don’t all offer rotating bonus categories in the traditional sense, but each card features a unique rewards structure that can yield supersized value:

Chase Freedom®Current Quarter Bonus

 

Chase Freedom Q3 2018 Calendar

When used as a stand-alone rewards card, the Freedom Card earns 5% cash back on quarterly revolving bonus categories, on up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter. Any purchase outside of bonus categories or in excess of the $1,500 quarterly cap earns a flat rate of just 1%. What makes the card so unique?

The Freedom Card accrues rewards worth 1¢ per piece called Cash Back Rewards, spend $1 in a bonus category, and you earn 5x Cash Back Rewards points. If you’re using the Freedom Card as a self-contained rewards card, you can redeem those 5x points as 5¢ cash back. If, on the other hand, you hold either the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, or the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, you can redeem points for a much better value. Cardholders can combine the Cash Back Rewards earned on the Freedom Card, with Ultimate Rewards points from the three UR cards above, and redeem for a higher fixed-value through the Chase Travel Portal or transfer to travel partners for potentially much higher returns.

For example, if you max out the bonus categories each quarter, you’d net 30,000 points per year. If you were to redeem those points as cash back, you would receive just $300. If you transferred them to your Sapphire Reserve, you could redeem those points for a minimum 1.5¢ per point through the Chase Travel Portal for at least $450 in value. And that’s without factoring in that you can transfer those points to travel partners for substantially higher returns.

Discover it® Card – Current Quarter Bonus

The rewards structure for the Discover it® Card is very similar to that of the Freedom Card, but with a first-year feature offering monster value. You’ll earn 5% cash back on quarterly rotating bonus categories on up to $1,500 per quarter, with all non-bonus purchases making just 1%. The killer feature of the Discover it is called Cashback Match. Discover will match all the cash back you earn in the first year, whether it comes from the 1% or 5% categories! If you max out the $1,500 spend each quarter you’ll receive $75 cash back or $300 per year. With Cashback Match, Discover doubles that amount to $600, or 10% of your bonus category spending.

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa® Card

US Bank Cash Plus Categories

The U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa operates differently from the two cards above, allowing you to choose two 5% categories and one 2% category, on up to $2,000 per quarter. All other purchases outside of bonus categories earn just 1%. The ability to choose your bonus categories provides a ton of flexibility. If you're already making 5% back on Freedom Card for grocery stores, you can select another category such as cell phones or car rentals to ensure you receive the highest possible return on the maximum number of categories. Why earn just 2% cash back when you could be making 5%?

Something else to note with this card is the previously listed Bookstores category has been replaced in the 5% options in early April 2018 with a much more useful category, Home Utilities. This includes purchases such as payments to electric, gas, and waste management companies, a handy group not covered by many other cards.

Huntington Voice® Credit Card

Huntington-5-percent-categories

The Huntington Voice Card is almost a hybrid mix of the three cards above. The card allows you to earn 3x points per dollar spent, on the first $2,000 each quarter, and you can choose from 10x different categories. The twist is that you can change the nominated category each quarter if you need to optimize your spending. While 3x points (each point is worth 1¢) isn’t as lucrative a return as the 5% offered on the cards above, you’re still receiving a 3% minimum return on spending which may not otherwise fall within a bonus category.

Register to Ensure Bonus Points are Awarded

One of the only catches to revolving bonus categories featured on these cards is that you’ll need to register for each one for the bonus points to be awarded. If you fail to register your bonus categories on any of these cards, the purchases will only code as 1%. You’ll also need to keep an eye on how much you spend each quarter on each card, recording every dollar in and out to ensure you don’t exceed the $1,500 and $2,000 spending limits.

Final Thoughts

Cards that feature rotating bonus categories can supercharge your ability to earn points and miles, and form an essential part of any rewards strategy that aims to maximize the return on everyday spending. Both the Freedom Card and the Discover it cards offer king-sized value, providing returns as high as 10% on every dollar spent in bonus categories. If we were pushed to name a ‘best in class’ card, we’d have to give first prize to the Freedom Card card. Why? The ability to combine points earned on the Freedom Card with Ultimate Rewards points from cards like the Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred, and redeem them through the Chase Travel Portal or transfer to travel partners provides unrivaled flexibility and the potential for monster returns.

Credit Cards Featuring Rotating Quarterly Bonus Categories
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Comments

  • Using the Chase Freedom this quarter at a store that you can also access through the Chase shopping portal lets you stack UR points. Although the discover card sounds great, I don’t spend enough that I could max out the bonus categories for multiple cards so I have to focus on one or two types of points.

  • Thanks for the summary. I wasn’t aware of US Bank and Huntington Voice. Looks like I have to jump on that US Bank card.

  • I’ve always found this model somewhat confusing, tbh.

  • Meredith S. says:

    Thanks for the synopsis on the quarterly bonuses! I have two of the above mentioned cards.

  • 5% cash back is better than miles

  • Wow I didn’t know there were other cards with rotating bonuses other than the Freedom card.
    Great post!

  • deerseason says:

    If this works (use the portal and then pay with paypal), that’d be pretty brilliant. Any good merchant combos?

  • Freedom! Freedom! Freedom! I plan on filling up my freezer this quarter!

  • I have friends who insist they just don’t want “to fool with” operating within a points or miles collecting world. While I respect their choices, I continue to shake my head because from my point of view it can’t be that hard to know when to move your Freedom credit card to the front of your wallet and to remember the reasons for doing that.

  • Love maxing out the quartely bonus on Discover. Adds up nicely.

  • Thank you for reminding me about the Freedom quarterly changes.

  • Does Meijer count as a grocery store for Discover card?

  • 2x freedoms, 1 FU, and 1 CSR. I’m quite content with my system!

  • Have Chase Freedom and have to agree, that when the category is right (like gas, phone, groceries) its well worth it.
    I am hoping they will bring the 5% for hotel stays and airlines purchases back!

  • Thank you for the reminders!

  • Thanks for picking up Huntington card, been wondering about it.

  • Great info, thanks.

  • @Crawford says: “I have friends who insist they just don’t want “to fool with” operating within a points or miles collecting world. While I respect their choices, I continue to shake my head because from my point of view it can’t be that hard to know when to move your Freedom credit card to the front of your wallet and to remember the reasons for doing that.”

    I value simplicity, which is what they’re opting for here. But, I also value the rewards from work, which is what you’re opting for here.

  • deerseason says:

    Alright I gotta remember to actually activate these.

  • I just recently got the Freedom card, I didn’t even know 2 of these cards you mentioned in the article existed! New cc goals!!!! I like these kind of cards a lot! Thank you for such a concise explanation.

  • My husband also likes the just pay cash for everything and not worry about points and miles. I just can’t. I use coupons when I shop and therefore, why not use “coupons” when I shop for flights, etc? I have the time to worry about it all so we can get more for less and have those trips we want with our kids.

  • They draw you in with the 5% with the expectation that most people are way too lazy to max these out. Now, on the hand, if you spend just a little time – you get a lot out of it

  • @Howie Yes, Meijer is a grocery store for Freedom and Discover and it is listed as a grocery on the Visa Supplier locator but one could argue it’s also a mass merchant like a Target or Walmart. Fred Meyer is like a Meijer, but it’s NOT listed as a grocery store here:

    https://creditcards.chase.com/freedom/merchants

    Another tip, don’t wait until the last moment to max out your category spend. Example, I tried to buy Costco GC’s a week before the quarter end, only to be told two days later they were out of stock due to demand (everyone waited until the last minute too) and it would ship 2 weeks later.

  • I miss the Discover Card 5% cash back quarter on online purchases that they had for a couple of years.

  • I have freedom and Discover cards. So I can make good use of these categories.

  • FrancesFlyer says:

    I find it frustrating when multiple cards have the same categories during the same quarter (e.g., Chase Freedom and DiscoverIt are both 5% on groceries this quarter)? Is there some advantage on their end?

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