Chase Freedom® Rewards: 5% Bonus Categories for 2021

Please Note: The Chase Freedom® partner offer is currently expired.

Cash back credit cards are great tools to help you earn money as you spend. But not all cards are created equal — some come with lucrative cash back sign up bonuses, while others focus on earning cash back in specific categories. The Chase Freedom® puts a unique spin on the typical cash back formula with reward categories that change every three months, letting you earn 5% cash back on specific purchases up to $1,500 quarterly.

As 2020 gets underway, it’s worth taking a closer look at the bonus categories for the first quarter of this year and how you can make the most out of your Chase Freedom® card.

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    Chase Freedom® Rewards Bonus Categories for 2021

    Chase has released the first set of 5% cash back categories for the year which include gas stations, internet, cable, phone and select streaming services.

    In order to access your 5% cash back, you’ll have to “activate” these categories each quarter. For the first quarter of 2020, you have until March 14 to activate these categories. However, it’s worth noting that categories for the second quarter are accessible starting March 15. While you do get credit for all category purchases made during the first quarter even if you activate on the last available day, it’s better to activate as soon as possible to maximize your earning potential.

    The last day to activate spring bonus categories is June 14, and the summer bonus categories start on June 15. On Sept.15, you can activate the last set of categories of the year. While Chase hasn’t announced the bonus categories for the rest of the year, the Chase categories in 2019 saw a focus on home improvement, department stores and PayPal. Additionally, there were two quarters in 2019 that included bonuses for gas station purchases.

    Here are five ways to activate your Chase Freedom® bonus categories:

    • Online — Go to or to activate your cash back
    • Email — Update Chase with your email information and you’ll receive a one-click message when categories can be activated
    • Phone — Call the customer service number on your Chase credit card and speak with a representative to activate your 5% cash back
    • Any Chase location — Visit any Chase branch and see a personal banker to activate your 5% cash back
    • ATMs — When withdrawing cash from a Chase ATM, cardholders can activate their 5% cash back with a single button

    How to maximize your Chase Freedom® Rewards

    The key to making the most of your Chase Freedom® bonus categories is twofold. First, it’s important to make sure you’ve activated your bonus categories for the quarter and then check the Chase merchant list to ensure you’re spending at the right places.

    While the list of participating retailers is substantial, there are exceptions — such as airline fuel companies, car repair shops, convenience stores and warehouse stores that have their own gas stations. When it comes to internet, cable and phone services, equipment purchases are excluded from the 5% cash back bonus. Chase also makes it clear that only select streaming services qualify for extra cash back. Here’s a list of streaming services that qualify:

    • Disney+
    • Netflix
    • Hulu
    • Sling
    • Vudu
    • Fubo TV
    • Apple Music
    • Sirius XM
    • Pandora
    • Spotify
    • YouTube TV
    • ESPN+

    Once you know what’s covered and what isn’t with the Chase categories for the first quarter, take time to plan your spending. Since the 5% cash back tops out at $1,500 across all categories for the quarter, it’s worth hitting the limit whenever possible. If you’re considering an internet or cable package upgrade, pay for it with the Chase Freedom® for a few months to maximize your cash back. If it’s not what you hoped for or you change your mind, cancel or alter your service when new bonus categories arrive.

    Should you get the Chase Freedom® card?

    The Chase Freedom® card requires extra attention from cardholders to ensure they’ve always activated their cash back categories and that they’re spending at participating retailers, although you’ll still get 1% cash back on all purchases after reaching the $1,500 bonus limit.

    Beyond the unique cash back structure, this card offers other benefits including a sign up bonus of $200 cash back when you spend more than $500 in purchases during the first three months after activation, along with no interest on purchases during the first 15 months (after that 14.99%–23.74% variable). This card has no annual fee and your cash back rewards never expire — redeem them whenever you want and in any amount.

    This card is an excellent choice if you’re looking to maximize your cash back and don’t mind taking the extra time to activate bonus categories and spend at the right places. With fairly minimal management, you can enjoy more cash back than comparable cards and earn lucrative rewards.

    Editorial Note: Compensation does not influence our recommendations. However, we may earn a commission on sales from the companies featured in this post. To view our disclosures, click here. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers. Reasonable efforts are made to present accurate info, however all information is presented without warranty. Consult our advertiser’s page for terms & conditions.

    Holly Johnson

    Contributing Writer

    Holly Johnson is a frugality expert and award-winning writer who is obsessed with personal finance and getting the most out of life. A lifelong resident of Indiana, she enjoys gardening, reading, and traveling the world with her husband and two children. In addition to The Simple Dollar, Holly writes for well-known publications such as U.S. News & World Report Travel, PolicyGenius, Travel Pulse, and Frugal Travel Guy. Holly also owns Club Thrifty.