Quarterly 5% Bonus Categories: Chase Freedom & Discover It

Sep 12, 2014

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In my ongoing quest for award travel, I tend to be pretty mindful of which credit card I use for various purchases. A card that offers a good return on groceries might offer only a pittance for hotel spending, so to maximize points and miles earnings, I’m keenly aware of which cards have the best bonuses in each category.

For most cards, category bonuses are fixed, so keeping track isn’t difficult. However, some cards (like Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) and Discover it) have bonus categories that change each quarter. While staying on top of those categories takes more effort, these cards offer a much greater return on spending, which has earned them a place in my wallet, and the wallets of many other points and miles enthusiasts. Read on to learn more about the benefits and current offers for these cards with rotating quarterly bonuses.

Chase Freedom
Earn 5% cash back each quarter with the Chase Freedom

Chase Freedom Card
Current Bonus: 10,000 points ($100) after spending $500 in 3 months. 
Other Benefits: Rotating quarterly bonuses that allow you to earn 5 points per dollar in certain categories, up to $1,500 per quarter. Earn 1 point per dollar on other spending. Points can be transferred into the Ultimate Rewards account for your Chase Sapphire PreferredInk Plus or Ink Bold cards.
Current 5x categories: gas stations and Kohl’s through September 30, and Q4 (October 1 – December 31) categories will be Amazon.com, Zappos.com and select department stores.

You have to activate your 5% categories every three months in one of the following ways:

  • Online: visit chase.com/freedom.
  • Text message: Sign up for Chase Freedom 5% Text Reminders at chase.com/freedom and you’ll get a text reminding you when it’s time to activate.
  • Email: provide your email address at chase.com/freedom and they will send you an email when it’s time to activate.
  • Phone: call the number on the back of your card and let an advisor activate your 5% cash back.
  • Facebook: ‘Like’ Chase Freedom at facebook.com/chasefreedom.
  • Chase location: visit any Chase branch and see a personal banker.

The current activation deadline for this quarter is September 14, 2014. Even if you don’t have the card yet, but were planning on getting it, Chase will retroactively credit you with the bonus points on your category spending from the whole quarter if you sign up before the deadline. On your statement, the bonus cash back earned prior to your activation date will be listed separately based on the categories you earned it in. If you have multiple Chase Freedom accounts, be sure to activate them all.

Freedom’s 5x spending bonuses are one of the best ways to rack up bonus Ultimate Rewards points. The only downside is the $1,500 quarterly cap ($6,000 annually). That’s still a potential total of 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points annually, which is pretty lucrative for a card with no annual fee.

Earn 5% cash back with the Discover It card.
Earn 5% cash back with the Discover It card.

Discover It Card
Current Bonus: None
Card Benefits: 5% cash back in rotating quarterly categories; 1% cash back on all other purchases. 5-25% back on purchases through the ShopDiscover online mall. Free Fico score on your monthly statement.  No foreign transaction fees.
Current 5x categories: gas stations through September 30, and Q4 (October 1 – December 31) categories will be online shopping and department stores.

Earn 5% back with the Discover It card each month.
Earn 5% back with the Discover It card each month.

You can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter for a total of up to $6,000 in purchases per year with this card (not including Shop Discover bonuses or the regular 1% back). Like Chase Freedom, the 5% cash back for this card is not automatic, so be sure to register.

Once you’ve earned your cash back, you can redeem it in the following ways:

  • Direct deposit Straight into your bank account
  • Statement credit to your Discover card account
  • Pay with cash back bonus: to shop with Discover partners like Amazon.com, Facebook and iTunes.

So if you’re looking for a solid cash back card that you can maximize with 5% cash back categories each quarter, consider both the Chase Freedom and the Discover It cards.

Do you have either of these cards? If so, how have you leveraged the 5% cash back? Please share your tips in the comments below.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.