How to Maximize Rotating 5X Categories on the Chase Freedom Card

AwardWallet receives compensation from advertising partners for links on the blog. The opinions expressed here are our own and have not been reviewed, provided, or approved by any bank advertiser. Here's our complete list of Advertisers.

The Chase Freedom® is one of the cornerstone rewards cards we recommend for earning valuable Ultimate Rewards points. The card charges no annual fee and features quarterly rotating 5X bonus categories, allowing you to earn up to 7,500 points every quarter from just $1,500 spent in bonus categories.

If you’re willing to do a little extra work to maximize the bonus categories, the Freedom Card is one of the only cards that can net you 30,000 points a year on only $500 per month in spending. When you factor in the signup bonus of $150 (15,000 points) after you spend $500 on the card in the first 3 months, you could end the first year with 45,000 Ultimate Rewards points, spending just $500 per month.

In the worst-case scenario, that’s $450 towards a nice domestic trip redeemed through the Chase Travel Portal. However, things start to get really interesting when you consider that Ultimate Rewards points transfer to nine airline and three hotel partners if you also hold a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, or Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card.

For example, when you pair your Freedom Card with one of the premium Ultimate Rewards earning cards above and transfer points to United MileagePlus, 45,000 Ultimate Rewards can land you a one-way economy award to Africa with 5K points left over for another day.

new-york-cape-town-40k-united

Leverage Freedom Card Rotating 5X Bonus Categories

What makes the Freedom Card such a valuable addition to your wallet? The ability to earn 5X points on rotating categories that typically fall within the realm of ‘everyday’ spending. While there are plenty of rewards cards offering 1.5–2x points on all spending, very few provide the opportunity to earn 5X transferable points.

The secret to maximizing Freedom Card bonus categories each month is to plan for future expenses. For example, the bonus categories for Q2 of 2019 included grocery stores and home improvement stores. If your monthly grocery spend doesn’t quite reach the $500 mark required to hit the spending cap, but you have some home improvement expenses coming up in the near future, you can purchase gift cards at a home improvement store for future use and earn 5X points on the purchase.

While we can’t predict what the bonus categories will be in the future, we can look at quarterly categories of the past for ideas on how to maximize bonus points earned each month with your Freedom Card, ensuring you don’t leave any rewards on the table.

Past Freedom Card Rotating Bonus Categories

One of the first things you pick up looking at the historical calendar of Freedom Card bonus categories is that many of them repeat, with grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, drug stores, and department stores often showing up once or twice each year. We’ve listed the bonus categories below, dating back as far as 2014, followed by some tips to maximize the categories we see repeating each year.

YearFirst QuarterSecond QuarterThird QuarterFourth Quarter
2019January-March
• Gas stations
• Drug stores
• Tolls
April – June
• Grocery stores
• Home improvement stores
July – September
--
October – December
--
2018January-March
• Mobile wallets
• Gas stations
• Internet, cable, and
phone service merchants
April – June
• Groceries
• PayPal
• Chase Pay
July – September
• Lyft
• Walgreens
• Gas stations
October – December
• Wholesale clubs
• Department stores
• Chase Pay
2017January-March
• Gas stations
• Local commuter transportation
April – June
• Grocery stores
• Drug stores
July – September
• Restaurants
• Movie theatres
October – December
• Walmart
• Department stores
2016January-March
• Gas stations
• Local commuter transportation
April – June
• Grocery stores
• Wholesale clubs
July – September
• Restaurants
• Wholesale clubs
October – December
• Wholesale clubs
• Drug stores
• Department stores
2015January-March
• Grocery stores
• Movie theaters
• Starbucks
April – June
• Restaurants
• Bed Bath & Beyond
• H&M
• Overstock.com
July – September
• Gas stations
• Kohl's
October – December
• Amazon.com
• Zappos.com
• Audible.com
• Diapers.com
2014January-March
• Gas stations
• Movie theatres
• Starbucks
April – June
• Restaurants
• Lowe's
July – September
• Gas stations
• Kohl's
October – December
• Amazon.com
• Zappos.com
• Department stores

Grocery Stores

This is by far the most straightforward category to maximize; not only are groceries typically one of the most significant household expenses each month, but most supermarkets sell a wide range of gift cards for stores you frequently shop. For many cardholders, everyday grocery shopping is enough to hit the $1,500 quarterly spending cap on this category. While Chase doesn’t include some larger retailers in like Target and Walmart, the list of qualifying grocery stores and supermarkets is extensive and can be found on the Chase Freedom Merchants page.

Gas Stations

Unless you live in a rural or remote area (or drive vast distances for work), it’s unlikely you’ll hit the $1,500 cap on gas purchases alone. But, gas stations often sell a lot more than gas, including vehicle repair and servicing supplies, groceries, and a range of gift cards you can use at other retailers. It’s essential to check which gas stations are included as Chase routinely excludes retailers like truck stops, marinas, and gas distributors.

Restaurants

Chase defines the restaurant category as “merchants whose primary business is sit-down or eat-in dining, including fast food Restaurants as well as fine dining establishments.” So whether you’re a McDonald’s fan or you frequent fine dining establishments, the Freedom Card should be at the front of your wallet when this category is live. Just keep in mind that “some merchants that sell food and drinks located within larger merchants such as sports stadiums, hotels and casinos, theme parks, grocery, and department stores will not be included in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in a restaurant category.”

Drugstores

Find a big enough drug store, and you will have access to a huge variety of options: over-the-counter medications, books and magazines, baby and toddler supplies, makeup, and household essentials like toothpaste, toilet paper, and deodorant. You’ll also find a wide array of gift cards stocked in most major chains.

Department Stores

When featured, the department store category includes retailers like JC Penney, Nordstrom & Nordstrom Rack Macys, Kohls, Dillards, Saks Fifth Ave & Off Fifth Sears, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, and Bloomingdales, plus many more. A great bonus category if you like to be organized for the holiday season. Both online and in-store purchases are included, and you can typically find some incredible sales leading up to the holiday season.

Wholesale Clubs

Again, both online and in-store purchases qualify for wholesale clubs, meaning you’ll get 5X points on purchases from the likes of Sam’s Club, Costco, and BJ’s. Gas purchases are excluded from this category, but you can collect bonus points on a variety of bulk goods and big-ticket items like household appliances.

How to Activate Freedom Card Quarterly Bonus Categories

To qualify for 5X bonus categories on your Freedom Card, you must activate the bonus categories every three months. Activation is easy, simply head to the Chase Bonus Activation page and enter:

  • Your last name
  • Your billing zip code
  • The last four digits of your card number

Then click ‘Activate Now’ to register your card. If you hold more than one Freedom Card, you’ll need to register each card individually.

Final Thoughts

Maximizing the bonus categories on cards like the Freedom Card is an easy way of building a substantial balance of rewards points from a modest monthly spend. Remember, you only need to spend an average of $500 per month within the bonus categories to hit the spending cap each quarter, which is excellent for folks that keep a small budget. This card is subject to the Chase 5/24 policy, so if you have opened five or more personal cards in the last two years, you won't be eligible to open a new account.

How to Maximize Rotating 5X Categories on the Chase Freedom Card
5 (100%) 5 votes
AwardWallet Tip of The Day
Did you know that we display your elite status progress within the list of accounts? Each block in this progress bar represents an elite level. If you mouse over any of the blocks, it'll tell you the name of that elite level. Clicking it will open the account details on the 'Elite Levels' tab which tells you exactly where you are regarding your elite status and what you need to do to reach the next level.
Show me how

The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  • good list of rotating categories

  • Great tips!! I did not realize how profitable the point system is with the Freedom card.

  • Rob Bentley says:

    If you can afford to pay your bills every month, you should always get something extra for it with miles and rewards on your credit cards.

    • That’s the key, zeroing out balances monthly. Essentially using credit cards like one would use their debit card. That’s the way to maximize the value of the reward you’re earning.

    • Totally agree, it takes the sting out of paying a bill (ever so slightly)

    • The first rule in the credit card game is to pay your balance in full every month. Missing just a single month can negate a year’s worth of rewards if not worse.

  • I use the rotating Chase Freedom bonus categories each quarter. I also move my Chase Freedom points to my Sapphire Reserve account which makes my Ultimate Reward points more valuable.

  • Bundle this card with Sapphire Reserve card will increase the value by .5 per point.

  • Yes we trend to use are card more on the rotation 3 month category.

  • Big thumbs up to “no annual fee”!

  • Always transfer to the CSR for 1.5 cpp.

  • Joel Hart says:

    Love this card and am delaying apps so I can get past the 5/24 rule and apply.

  • Fernanda says:

    Maximizing rewards is a great way to make us use our points day-by-day.

  • KAREN BOXER says:

    I had not considered the gift card option which makes the categories much more user friendly.

  • Good introductory article that highlights the benefit of holding a Chase Freedom card!

    • Yes, indeed. I feel like it was a good article similar to this, way back when, that introduced me to the card and its quality benefits.

  • I have the Chase Freedom and appreciate it when the categories are categories that I use regularly (e.g., groceries, gas, etc) but sometimes they aren’t very helpful. For example, three months of 5% back on home improvement stores isn’t entirely exciting…

  • Stacy Broussard says:

    I wish they still published their list of the 5x categories for the year like they used to!

  • I’ve been killing the points game since I’ve downloaded award waller

  • I have the Freedom Unlimited, is there anyway I can get these bonus categories?

  • Great tips! I never realize can earn 45K easily

  • I combine the Freedom 5x categories with the Ink Preferred bonuses in travel to earn oodles of points!

  • Didn’t realize how valuable this card really is. Thank you for posting.

  • We use the Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, and Sapphire Reserve in order to maximize our Ultimate Reward Points. And most of the time there are ways to maximize the quarterly categories even if you don’t spend that much buy buying gift cards at participating merchants.

  • need to keep in mind

  • Harvey Monsrat says:

    I wish I could get this but 5/24 caught me.

  • Love buying Costco Cashcards at start of the “wholesale” quarter. Get the 5x points quickly, spend the Cashcards off anytime.

  • Chase Freedom card is not only a starter card but also a keeper card. Great!!

  • As a new Awards Wallet user, I appreciate finding the directions over here to read this informative blog post!

  • Bostonbali says:

    Very helpful tips, thanks!

  • Our grocery store is Kroger and we get fuel points for shopping there and purchasing gift cards to other merchants including airlines. If we know we are paying cash for a flight we buy an airline card like Southwest for most of the price of the ticket, earn fuel points to save on gas and charge the balance of the ticket on a credit card that give bonus points for travel.

  • Michaelj1 says:

    If you do not reach the $1,500 each quarter, I have successfully topped up at the end of each quarter by purchasing gift cards to the entities within each of the categories listed for use during the next quarter. Even many smaller grocery stores have paper gift certificates that work for this purpose.

  • Steven William Van Meter says:

    I like that the card charges no annual fee and features quarterly rotating 5X bonus categories, allowing you to earn up to 7,500 points every quarter from just $1,500 spent in bonus categories. That ads up quickly.

  • Jason Daubenspeck says:

    Awesome credit card, have had it and used it for a long time now.

  • I like that there is no annual fee for the Chase Freedom Card. The rotating 2X reward categories make the Freedom Card even more appealing.

  • Salina Chen says:

    definitely worth the work rotating the categories and cards.

  • If the category is drugstores for a given quarter, does it make sense to buy toiletries if the drugstores price is 5% (or more) on these items? Making sure you are not overspending for an item should come before getting the 5% bonus. Just because it’s there doesnt mean its a good deal.

  • charles j says:

    If you’ll use them, you can buy some gift cards from some 5% category retailers to use later.

  • Ronald V. Gonzaga says:

    Thank you for the information! I will now consider applying for a Chase Freedom Card.

  • If you transfer the points to the Chase Sapphire Reserve you’ll effectively be getting 7.5% back

  • The limit does not work well for families and they resort to workarounds of having cards for other family members.
    Chase & Discover should increase the limit to at least $10K per quarter.

  • I love the bonuses! I am already almost to the max on groceries this time. I cannot wait to see the next bonus.
    I’m really focusing on maxing each quarter since I a trip in mind that will need as many points as I can get.

  • if you don’t want to bother with specific categories, the citi 2% double cash or barclay’s 2% card are good ones to consider

  • This card is on my list once I get through my business cards apps and get a handle on my 5/24 status. Great information!

  • Jennifer says:

    This is valuable information and helpful for me to justify using the Freedom card over other cards. Just pay off the card each month.

  • Great post! Thank you!

  • When Chase had price protection and return protection on the Chase Freedom, that was a really great card. it’s still a good card, except that I sometimes use Citi when I anticipate needing a price protection benefit.

  • Definitely one of my favorite cards, always in my wallet!

  • The Arts Traveler says:

    This Chase card is one of the essentials, along with the Chase Freedom Unlimited and the CSP or CSR. The sweet spot for using this is Hyatt and United. Essential for points people.

  • You can stock on gift card from each month’s targeted shops and then use whenever you want.

  • I wonder why they don’t publish the 5x catagories more ahead of time to create a family budget?

  • RoseMarie says:

    The Chase Freedom is a long term keeper for anyone collecting Ultimate Reward points. It can be a place to store points without an annual fee.

  • I always forget to consider this card when I make purchases. But not that I have the Sapphire Preferred, and can transfer point from the Freedom, it will be a thing to consider.

  • My problem is remembering which are the bonus cate, which makes me default to the the freedom unlimited.

  • This is one of my favorite cards. Just wish they’d state what categories will be available in each quarter in advance so I could plan accordingly.

  • Thanks for the great detailed info!!! Really helps pull things together for good deals all around.

  • Matt Seiler says:

    This is a must have card considering the no AF and the transferability in the UR portal. This is a keystone card in my Chase collection.

  • I use the Fidelity for 2% cashback as my default and Chase & Discover for rotating categories. Sometimes Google Pay helps too if I don’t always physically carry every card.

  • Sudipto Basu says:

    I like any no fee cards, freedom gives me the freedom to earn some UR points!!

  • Hope the wholesale club category comes in the last quarter!

  • I use this card only for the 5x cash back and all recurring bills that can take a credit card. The best bill of course is my car insurance. Also a good one is when they give extra points for paypal purchases which many online retailers accept.

  • Question about ” … pair your Freedom Card with one of the premium Ultimate Rewards earning cards above and transfer points .. ”

    If I transfer my points to another Ultimate Rewards holder, can that transferee leverage the points in this way? Or am I, the original card holder, the only one who can do this? I do not have a premium Ultimate Rewards card.

    • Hi, there are two possible ways to approach this. First, you can transfer points to a premium card held by a spouse or partner, but not to just any Ultimate Rewards member. If you already have enough upcoming spending to earn a 60,000 point bonus on the Sapphire Preferred (after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months), that could be a better place to start.

      But lots of folks (especially those with modest spend) start out with the Freedom card and accumulate points. You can save them up, and when you’re ready to redeem you can consider getting one of the premium cards at that point. It’s also worth considering that the Sapphire Preferred requires a more established, slightly stronger credit history, so the strategy of starting with the Freedom can make a lot of sense for folks just beginning their points and miles journey.

      You might find our post on building an Ultimate Rewards card combo helpful: https://awardwallet.com/blog/create-ultimate-travel-rewards-credit-card-combo/
      And here’s our review of the Sapphire Preferred: https://awardwallet.com/blog/chase-sapphire-preferred-review/

      • That’s what I did! Accumulated points from Freedom for a number of years, then later got a premium card (Sapphire Preferred).

  • The bonus categories add up when you stay on top of them, there has seldom been a month that I don’t fulfill the max spending on the category and get 5x the normal point allocation.

  • I was really looking forward to the Wallaby card to automatically maximize rewards. Keeping track myself gets tedious!

  • Giftcards is nice to get the 5%, the downside is that you will lose the credit card protection on the transactions when using the purchased gift cards later.

  • Just FYI, Chase Freedom may be hardcoding against credit card purchases for some grocery stores. Datapoint: HEB June 1st $500 gift cards

  • Data point: forgot to activate my wife’s chase freedom and we had spent lots on grocery stores. Activated and sent a message and got full 5% credit for purchased prior to activation. Great card!

  • Paul Botros says:

    Pro-tip I’ve found useful: the 5% calendar works with Apple Pay and Google Pay, so if you’re like me and always forget to bring this one card for particular in-store purchases, register the Chase card ahead of time and you’re good to go!

  • I’m expecting the Q3 categories to be announced any day now.

  • Wow, so happy I saw your post, Adam! Same story here, forgot to activate 🙁 Sending message now!

  • Shloime Zionce says:

    This is awesome!

  • Rotating categories help so much in maximizing bonuses.

  • Thanks for sharing the historical list of rotating categories! It would be nice to see restaurants again.

  • Thanks for the long history on the categories and details.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

**You may receive 5 bonus AAdvantage miles for leaving a comment (Details/FAQ)