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The Chase Freedom card was my first ever true rewards card and I have been earning five times the points on special categories ever since. I love the Chase Freedom card because it has no annual fee and allows you to rack up a serious amount of points each quarter in popular categories like groceries, gas, drug stores, and department stores.
In this article, I will show you the most recent 2020 Chase Freedom Calendar and also show you the calendars from the past few years including: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. I’ll then give you some insight into each of the different popular categories and show you some tips on how to maximize your earnings with those categories. Click here to see the latest categories!
How does the 5% cashback work?
Each quarter (every three months), you will have the opportunity to activate your 5% back earnings for a special category (or multiple categories) that allow you to earn 5% cashback on $1,500 worth of spend. This allows you to earn up to $75 cash back or 7,500 Ultimate Rewards.
For all of your spending beyond $1,500 on a given category each quarter you will receive a flat 1% cashback on all of those purchases. If you would like to earn more than 1% cashback on all of your purchases then you might want to look into some other cards that have better earning rates.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred will earn you two times the points on dining and travel purchases and it also comes with one of the best sign-up bonuses of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months after account opening. That many points is worth more than $700 toward travel and so it is a great deal.
If you are okay with paying a higher annual fee of $550, you can also look into getting the Chase Sapphire Reserve which earns three times the points for dining and travel
And finally, there is the Chase Freedom Unlimited which will allows you to earn 1.5% back on all purchases. However, there is currently a new offer that allows you to earn 3% back on all purchases up to $20,000 in your first-year.
Tip: I am a big fan of combining several different Chase cards so that you can maximize rewards in a lot of different categories. This is known as the Chase Quadfecta and you can read more about that here.
What are the bonus categories?
To give you a bit of a historical perspective, I have listed the Chase Freedom bonus categories over the past few years below. Notice the trends that come up again and again, such as grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations.
2014 Chase Freedom Calendar
- Quarter One (Q1): Grocery stores, Movie theaters, Starbucks
- Quarter Two (Q2): Restaurants, Lowe’s
- Quarter Three (Q3): Gas stations, Kohl’s
- Quarter Four (Q4): Amazon.com, Zappos.com, Department stores
2015 Chase Freedom Calendar
- Quarter One (Q1): Grocery stores, Movie theaters, Starbucks
- Quarter Two (Q2): Restaurants, Bed Bath and beyond, H&M, Overstock.com
- Quarter Three (Q3): Gas stations, Kohl’s
- Quarter Four (Q4): Amazon.com, Zappos.com, Audible.com, Diapers.com
The final quarter with Amazon.com was special this year because it allowed you to earn 10% back on Amazon which was fantastic.
2016 Chase Freedom Calendar
- Quarter One (Q1): Gas stations, Local commuter transportation
- Quarter Two (Q2): Grocery stores, Wholesale clubs
- Quarter Three (Q3): Restaurants, Wholesale clubs
- Quarter Four (Q4): Department stores, Drug stores, Wholesale clubs
2017 Chase Freedom Calendar
- Quarter One (Q1): Gas, Local commuter transportation
- Quarter Two (Q2): Grocery stores, Drug stores
- Quarter Three (Q3): Restaurants, Movie theaters
- Quarter Four (Q4): Walmart, Department stores
2018 Chase Freedom Calendar
- Quarter One (Q1): Gas, Telecommunications, Mobile payments (Chase pay, Apple pay, Samsung pay, etc.)
- Quarter Two (Q2): Grocery stores, PayPal, Chase Pay
- Quarter Three (Q3): Gas stations, Lyft, Walgreens
- Quarter Four (Q4): Department stores, Wholesale clubs, Chase Pay
2019 Chase Freedom Calendar
- Quarter One (Q1): Gas stations, Tolls, Drugstores
- Quarter Two (Q2): Grocery stores, Home Improvement Stores
- Quarter Three (Q3): Gas stations, Streaming services
- Quarter Four (Q4): Department stores, PayPal, Chase Pay
2020 Chase Freedom Calendar
- Quarter One (Q1): Gas stations, Streaming services, and Internet, cable and phone services
- Quarter Two (Q2): Grocery stores, Gym membership, and Fitness clubs
- Quarter Three (Q3): ?
- Quarter Four (Q4): ?
You will need to activate your quarterly categories each quarter. You can easily do this online (visit ultimaterewards.com or chase.com/freedom) and you can receive an email reminding you to activate your categories. It only takes a couple of seconds to do so that you should always jump on it as quickly as possible.
You can also call the number on the back of your Chase Freedom card or even do this at a Chase ATM machine or branch office.
The deadline to activate your quarterly categories is usually a couple of weeks before the end of the quarter. So for example if the quarter was going to end at the end of June then you would have until mid June to activate your 5% cashback for that quarter.
Chase is pretty generous when it comes to earning your 5% back if you forget to activate your quarter. As long as you remember to activate it before the deadline you will receive 5% cashback on any purchases made for the whole quarter.
Note that if you have multiple Chase Freedom cards you will need to activate each of them individually.
Sometimes a merchant will not trigger the 5% back like you would think it would and this is due to the way that the merchant is classified.
Merchants and their processors work in accordance with Visa/MasterCard procedures to determine the type of merchant code that should apply to the merchant. Chase then groups together similar merchant codes into categories to allow you to earn 5% on those.
Sometimes a merchant will not be coded in a merchant code that is grouped in the 5% category and that is why you may not earn 5% with that merchant.
Maximizing the categories
One of the most efficient ways to maximize your earnings with the Chase Freedom card is to purchase gift cards whenever possible. There are many different types of opportunities to purchase gift cards with these categories offered by the Chase Freedom.
For example, you could purchase gift cards at drugstores, Amazon, grocery stores, department stores, with Chase pay, gas stations, the list can go on and on. So always be mindful of options to purchase gift cards so that you can multiply your earnings.
Chase freedom grocery store category
Merchants in the Chase Freedom Grocery stores category (that does not include Walmart and Target purchases), include supermarkets as well as smaller grocery stores.
Some merchants that sell grocery items are not included in this category, such as:
- Discount stores
- Warehouse clubs
- and some smaller merchants such as drugstores and merchants that specialize in only a few grocery items.
- Purchases made at gas stations operated by merchants who also operate grocery stores are not included in this category.
The grocery store category is very easy for many people to maximize because a lot of people spend more than $1,500 on groceries in the span of three months. Grocery stores are also fantastic places to purchase gift cards at so you can also maximize your earnings with gift cards.
Here’s a list of potential grocery stores via Chase:
|ADAMS FAIRACRE FARMS|
|ANGELO CAPUTO’S FRESH MARKETS|
|APNA BAZAR CASH & CARRY®|
|ASIAN FOOD MARKET|
|BERKELEY BOWL MARKET|
|BEST YET MARKET®|
|COPPS FOOD CENTER|
|The Food Emporium®|
|FRESH & EASYTM|
|FRESH FARMS INTERNATIONAL|
|GIANT FOOD INC|
|GOOD FORTUNE SUPERMARKET®|
|GREAT WALL SUPERMARKET®|
|Grocery Outlet Bargain Market®|
|HONG KONG SUPERMARKET®|
|JAY C FOODS|
|JETRO CASH & CARRY®|
|KAM MAN FOOD®|
|KING’S FOOD MARKETS|
|Mariano’s Fresh Market®|
|NET COST MARKET|
|NEW SEASONS MARKET®|
|NOB HILL FOODS®|
|PICK ‘N SAVE®|
|Price Chopper Limited®|
|QFC® (Quality Food Centers)|
|SAVE A LOT®|
|SCHWANS HOME SERVICE|
|Shaw’s Market Fresh®|
|SHOP ‘N SAVE®|
|Shoppers Food Warehouse®|
|SPROUTS FARMERS MARKET®|
|STOP & SHOP®|
|STRACK & VAN TIL|
|SUPER 1 FOODS®|
|SUPER KING MARKET®|
|SUPER ONE FOODS®|
|SUPER STOP & SHOP®|
|THE FRESH MARKET®|
|TOM THUMB STORE|
|TONY’S FINER FOODS|
|99 CENTS ONLY STORES|
Chase Freedom gas station category
Merchants in the Gas Stations category sell automotive gasoline that can be paid for either at the pump or inside the station, and may or may not sell other goods or services at their location.
Some merchants that do not specialize in selling automotive gasoline are not included in this category, such as:
- Truck stops
- Boat marinas
- Oil and propane distributors
- Home heating companies.
The gas station category can also be easily maximized with the purchase of gift cards in many cases. The drawback to this category is that sometimes you cannot get your bonus points with gas stations located at stores like Sam’s Club. Many people do have success with Costco coding as gas when you use the pumps outside.
Chase Freedom tolls category
Merchants in the Tolls category collect fees associated with toll roads, highways, and bridges. Purchases made during the quarter to replenish your electronic toll collection account will qualify.
Chase Freedom drugstores category
Merchants in the Drugstores category specialize in selling prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines, supplements and various health-related items. These merchants may also sell cosmetics, toiletries, greeting cards, and various household items such as cleaning supplies and packaged foods and drinks.
Please note that some merchants that sell a wide variety of goods including these items, and which may contain an onsite pharmacy, for example, warehouse clubs, discount stores, or grocery stores, are not included in this category.
A great way to maximize this category is to seek out the gift cards. Many drug stores, such as CVS or Walgreens sell a nice selection of gift cards to all sorts of different places. This is a great opportunity to get 5X on categories such as dining or department stores.
Tip: Some people will purchase Amazon gift cards but you need to be careful about that because you will lose out on the purchase protections that you may have gotten with other credit cards.
Chase Freedom home improvement store category
Merchants in the home improvement stores category specialize in selling a variety of home improvement supplies, from larger home improvement stores to smaller hardware stores.
Some larger merchants are not included that sell a wide variety of general goods which may include:
- Home improvement supplies
- Warehouse clubs
- Discount stores
- Grocery stores
- Also, merchants that specialize in home furnishings, garden and landscaping supplies are not included.
Here’s a list of home improvement stores via Chase:
|HARBOR FREIGHT TOOLS|
|PC RICHARD & SON|
|RURAL KING SUPPLY|
|ORCHARD SUPPLY HARDWARE|
|PRO SOURCE WHOLESALE|
NORTHERN TOOL EQUIP
Local Commuter Transportation category
Merchants in the Local Commuter Transportation category include regional operators of local commuter passenger trains, subways, metro, buses, taxis, and ferries.
Please note that some merchants that provide transportation and related services are not included in this category, such as:
- national and international trains (such as Amtrak),
- airport shuttles/limousines,
- parking lots/garages,
- car rental agencies,
- cruise lines,
- travel agencies,
- discount travel sites,
- vacation clubs,
- tour operators,
- and some municipal/government owned entities.
Chase Freedom Chase Pay
Chase Pay is a mobile wallet payment system that is accepted at a lot of popular retailers and restaurants. You can find a list of merchants to use Chase Pay at here.
Some merchants that you will probably recognize include:
- Best Buy
- Banana Republic
- Five Guys
- Old navy
- Panera bread
Chase Freedom department stores
- Beall’s of Florida
- Bergdorf Goodman
- Boscov’s Department Store
- Boston Store
- JC Penney
- Lord & Taylor
- Neiman Marcus
- Nordstrom & Nordstrom Rack
- Peebles Dept Store
- Saks Fifth Ave & Off Fifth
- Stage Stores
- Stein Mart
- The Bon Ton
- Von Maur
These don’t count as department stores
- Discount stores such as TJ Maxx
- Electronics Stores
- General merchandise and Variety stores
- Gift cards purchased at any locations other than department stores on the inclusion list
The Chase Freedom card should be a contender for anyone interested in maximizing cashback each quarter. It always offers a solid lineup of categories each year and if you know how to maximize earnings with a gift card purchases you can easily rack up tons of points.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.