Another quarter, another chance for Chase Freedom®, Discover it® Cash Back and Chase Freedom® cardholders to rack up 5% cash back in the rotating bonus categories. Note that Chase Freedom® is no longer accepting new applications, but existing cardholders are still eligible to earn in the bonus categories.
So what are the categories for Jan. 1, 2021-March 31, 2021? Even though a vaccine against COVID-19 is now in circulation, experts say it will still be some time before life as usual can resume. Fittingly, then, the categories for the first quarter of 2021 still reflect a bit of that home-centric spirit. Here are the categories:
If you have either of these cards in your wallet, don't miss out on the opportunity to earn up to $75 cash back in the bonus categories. You'll earn 5% back on the first $1,500 in combined spending on wholesale club purchases; internet, phone and cable services; and select streaming services with Chase Freedom Flex℠ and 5% back on the first $1,500 spent on grocery store, Walgreens and CVS purchases with Discover it® Cash Back. Remember for both cards that you'll only earn that bonus if you activate each quarter – that's easy to do through your cardholder account online.
We should also note, that Flex℠ isn't just a rotating categories card. It also offers some pretty solid tiered ongoing rewards: 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% back at restaurants and drugstores and 1% back on your other purchases.
Also worth keeping in mind is that Discover releases its full calendar of quarterly categories up-front. That means you can plan ahead with this card. The Discover categories are as follows: January to March 2021 - grocery store (including Walmart grocery pickup and delivery but excluding all other Walmart purchases and all Target purchases), Walgreens and CVS purchases; April-June 2021 - gas station and wholesale club purchases and select streaming services; July-September 2021 - Restaurant and Paypal purchases; October-December 2021 - Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com purchases.
While Chase doesn't release the full calendar ahead, history shows it's rare for these two cards' quarterly categories to perfectly overlap, it's worth talking about the benefits of carrying BOTH cards in order to maximize your cash back earning opportunity. Neither card carries an annual fee, so you can certainly have them both in your wallet without worrying about offsetting that fee. But there are some other things to consider as well:
Both cards feature new cardholder bonus opportunities, but they're dramatically different.
Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers news cardholders a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months of card ownership. It's a solid bonus, but it could pale in comparison to the Discover it® Cash Back offer.
For new Discover it® Cash Back cardholders Discover will MATCH every dollar of cash back you earn during your first year as a cardholder. That means if you max out the 5% bonus categories in just two quarters you'll earn $150 that will then become $300 thanks to the match after your first year. As you can see, it wouldn't be difficult to far exceed the intro bonus offered by the Chase card, though you do have to wait until the end of your first year to see the match.
Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers the opportunity to combine rewards
Earning 5% back on your rotating categories is nice, sure, but what if you could also make those rewards have even more value when it comes time to redeem them? Turns out, that's pretty simple to do with Chase Freedom Flex℠.
That's because Chase Freedom Flex℠ rewards accumulate as Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, the same points that cardholders of Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Freedom Unlimited® and the Chase Ink family of small business cards earn as well. The key is understanding that you can combine all of your Chase Ultimate Rewards® points into a single bucket and some of those buckets mean your points are worth more when you redeem them for travel through the Ultimate Rewards® portal.
For example, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card members enjoy 25% more value when they redeem their points for travel through Ultimate Rewards®, and Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders can take advantage of 50% more value when redeemed that way.
True, both of those cards charge annual fees – $95 for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and a hefty $550 for Chase Sapphire Reserve® – but they also offer you excellent rewards, perks and features, especially if you happen to enjoy traveling. Furthermore, neither Chase Freedom Unlimited® nor Chase Freedom Flex℠ charge annual fees, so you won't be losing money if you carry those cards in addition to one of the more premium cards.
Use your cards strategically to earn the highest possible rewards for each purchase and then combine all your points under your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve® to make those rewards take you even further. For more info about making these points work for you, check out our Chase Ultimate Rewards® points guide.
OTHER CASH REWARDS CREDIT CARDS
If you like the idea of earning big cash back but don't like the unpredictability of categories that rotate based on what the credit card issuer wants to do, you might be the perfect candidate for a "cardholder choice" rewards card.
These types of cards are still fairly unusual in the consumer credit card market (they're more common among small business cards), but here are a couple of options you can consider:
Bonus: Earn a $200 online cash back bonus after you spend $1,000 on your new card within the first 90 days of account opening.
Rewards: Earn 3% cash back in a category of your choice from among the following list: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings. Earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice/grocery store/wholesale clubs purchases each quarter). You earn 1% on everything else. You can change your choice category once per calendar month or do nothing and it stays the same. Read our full Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card review.
Annual Fee: $0
U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card
(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
Bonus: Earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 90 days of opening your account.
Rewards: Earn 5% cash back on the first $2,000 in combined purchases you make across two categories that you choose. Earn 2% cash back on one "everyday" category of your choice, such as gas station or grocery store purchases. Rake in 1% on all your other purchases. Read our full review of the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card.
Annual Fee: None
Intro 0% Offer: Enjoy an introductory 0% APR on balance transfers for 12 billing cycles (then, 13.99% - 23.99%).
For even more cash-back rewards options, explore all of our picks for "Best Cash-Back Credit Cards."