CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. We may receive a commission through The Points Guy affiliate network if you apply and are approved for a card, but our reporting is always independent and objective.
The Chase Freedom credit card — and soon, the new Chase Freedom Flex credit card as well — features a set of bonus categories that rotate every three months. You can earn 5% cash back in these rotating categories, up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter, making them a lucrative source of credit card rewards.
The bonus categories for the third quarter of 2020 are Amazon.com and Whole Foods, meaning purchases made with your Chase Freedom card at either merchant from July 1 through September 30 can earn bonus cash back.
But in order to earn bonus cash back in these categories, there’s one vital step you can’t skip. Each and every quarter, you must activate the categories. And the deadline to activate for this current quarter is September 14, 2020, now just a few days away.
The good news is that even if you forgot to activate the categories before making purchases on your Chase Freedom card, it’s not too late. Activating the categories now will still retroactively count for all the purchases you’ve made in those categories since July 1, so long as you activate by the deadline.
If you have a Chase Freedom card, there are three ways to activate the bonus categories:
- Enter your card information online at chase.com/freedom.
- Call the number on the back of your Chase Freedom card.
- Visit any Chase bank and ask to have your bonus categories activated.
Most people will activate their bonus categories online, which is an extremely simple process. All you’ll need to enter are the last four digits of your Chase Freedom credit card, your last name and your zip code.
Then click the “Activate your 5%” button and you’ll get a confirmation screen indicating that you’re all set. Just remember that if you have more than one Chase Freedom card, you’ll need to activate each one separately.
Earning 5% cash back on your credit card is a great return, but there’s a way to get even more out of these bonus categories. If, in addition to your Chase Freedom card you also have a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or a Chase Sapphire Reserve, it’s possible to convert any cash back earned with your Chase Freedom into Chase Ultimate Rewards points instead.
What’s the advantage of having Ultimate Rewards points instead of cash back? Well, when you have one of the two Sapphire cards, you can redeem those points for more than you’d get by just taking cash back.
You’ll get 1.25 cents per point in value when you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred and redeem points for travel, or through Chase’s “Pay Yourself Back” tool through September 30, which right now includes the ability to use points for purchases at grocery stores, dining establishments (including delivery and takeout) and home improvement stores.
And if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll get 1.5 cents per point in value when redeeming for travel or using the “Pay Yourself Back” tool in those categories through September 30. That’s 50% more than you’d get if you just kept your Chase Freedom rewards as cash back instead of using them as points.
Finally, with either Sapphire card, you have the ability to transfer points to Chase’s 13 transfer partners, which include airlines like United and Southwest, and hotel chains such as Hyatt. While you’re probably not traveling much at the moment, having this flexibility when travel resumes more broadly can get you some pretty sweet flights and hotel rooms for little to no cost down the line.
If you don’t already have a Chase Freedom card, the window to get one is quickly closing. Chase has informed us that after September 14, the Chase Freedom will no longer be accepting new applications. It’s being replaced by the new Chase Freedom Flex card, which will have the same rotating bonus categories feature, along with some new fixed bonus categories.
Fortunately, if you already have a Chase Freedom card, existing card holders will still have access to all the original card benefits, including the rotating categories. That means you can hang onto the card and keep scoring bonus cash back every quarter. You can even apply for a new Chase Freedom Flex card as well when that card launches, as customers will be allowed to have both cards at the same time.
So, if you haven’t already, take two minutes right now to find your Chase Freedom card, and enter the information at chase.com/freedom before the activation deadline expires on September 14. There’s no reason to wait — if you do, you could miss out on some pretty great extra rewards.