If you enjoyed 2015’s 5 percent cash back calendar, here’s some good news: you’ll be seeing many of those categories again, just in a different order.
Here’s the Chase Freedom card’s cash back calendar for 2016:
- Q1 (January 1 – March 31, 2016): Gas stations and local commuter transportation (not including parking, tolls and AMTRAK purchases)
- Q2 (April 1 – June 30, 2016): Grocery stores (not including Wal-Mart and Target) and more
- Q3 (July 1 – September 30, 2016): Restaurants and wholesale clubs (such as Costco, BJ’s and Sam’s Club)
- Q4 (October 1 – December 31, 2016): Holiday shopping (TBD) and wholesale clubs
As was the case in previous years, up to $1,500 in category spending per quarter will qualify for the 5 percent cash back (after that, it’s still 1 percent).
It’s important to remember that you need to activate/enroll each quarter to earn the 5 percent. Here’s when you can do that during 2016:
If you aren’t a fan of the enrollment requirement, keep in mind that other cards offering rotating bonus categories, including the Discover it, do the same thing. It can be a hassle. On the flip side, you can sign up for reminders, and 5 percent cash back could be wort the the extra effort.
A closer look at the categories
Like any credit cards rewards scheme, this one comes with fine print. For example, if you fill up your tank at a the gas station affiliated with a grocery store, you’re not getting 5 percent back. Go shopping at Target or Wal-Mart, hoping to cash in on the grocery category? You’re out of luck.
You have to visit one of the businesses approved by Chase to get the 5 percent back. Fortunately, their lists of approved businesses are pretty robust.
Merchants in this category sell gasoline and may sell other goods or services, according the Chase’s terms.
- Airline Fuel Companies
- Car repair shops
- Convenience stores where gas is NOT sold
- Grocery stores
- Dairies/farm stores
- Home heating companies
- Oil and propane distributors
- Marinas superstores
- Warehouse stores
- Discount stores
- Truck stops
- Any other places not categorized by Visa/MasterCard as gas stations
For a complete list of participating theaters (subject to change), go here.
Plenty of mass-transit providers in large metro areas are represented, as are cabs, ferries and rideshare services (Lyft, Uber and Sidecar). However, exclusions include bike-sharing services, tolls, tour buses and more. Go here for a complete list.
And don’t forget about this secret…
The Chase Freedom categories can be even more valuable, if you also have a Sapphire Preferred card.
Why? Because with the Sapphire Preferred, you get a special feature in Ultimate Rewards: the ability to transfer points to airline frequent flier miles and hotel loyalty programs on a 1-for -1 basis.
You can’t do that with the Freedom card, but Chase does allow you to transfer points among your Ultimate Rewards accounts. So what you can do is transfer the points you earn on Freedom to your Sapphire Preferred, and then convert them to airline miles.
The outcome? The extra points you earn in the Freedom rewards categories have the potential to be worth even more than 5 percent. This is because airline miles (the real kind, directly through the airlines) can be worth more than 1 cent each if you redeem them wisely. And Chase’s selection of partners is nothing to sneeze at. It keeps growing the list bigger and bigger. Here are the 1-for-1 transfer partners:
- United Airlines Mileage Plus
- British Airways Avios
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- Korean Air Skypass
- Singapore Airlines
- Marriott Rewards
- Hyatt Gold Passport
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards
- IHG Rewards Club
To convert Freedom points to miles, you will need the Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee). If you don’t already have the Preferred, there’s currently a really great sign-up promotion. I’d recommend getting this offer while it’s still available.