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The Chase Freedom Flex is a cash back credit card with no annual fee and a unique feature. Every three months, the card switches its bonus categories, offering new opportunities to earn extra cash back. Once you activate the categories, you’ll earn 5% cash back anytime you make a purchase during the quarter in any of the selected categories, up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter.
On Wednesday, Sept. 15, Chase revealed the latest set of Chase Freedom Flex bonus categories. The new categories, which launch on Oct. 1 and run through Dec. 31, 2021, are:
Many Chase Freedom Flex card holders will find these categories easy to maximize, since many people shop regularly at Walmart, and you can check out at thousands of stores online using PayPal.
Remember that in order to earn 5% bonus cash back on the Chase Freedom Flex, you need to activate the categories each quarter by phone or online at chase.com/freedomflex. You can activate these fourth-quarter categories starting on Sept. 15, but you don’t have to activate them before you’ve made a purchase — you can do it afterward and still get bonus cash back retroactively. However, the last day to activate these categories is Dec. 14, 2021.
Also, keep in mind that you’ll earn only 5% cash back in these categories on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter. For any purchases beyond that cap, you’ll earn 1% cash back, which is the same rate you’ll get on any purchases made outside the bonus categories. And these same categories are also available on the original Chase Freedom credit card, which is no longer open to new applicants but still used by many Chase customers.
A new limited-time ‘Pay Yourself Back’ category
Last year, Chase launched a new “Pay Yourself Back” tool that lets you redeem your credit card rewards for statement credits on purchases in specific categories, and at better rates than when you simply get cash back.
Up until now, Chase Freedom credit cards could only use the Pay Yourself Back tool to redeem rewards for donations to charities. However, for a limited time from July 2 through Sept. 30, 2021, you can use the tool to redeem your Chase Freedom Flex or Chase Freedom Unlimited rewards for dining purchases up to a total of $250 during the limited-time period.
Even better, when you use your rewards this way, they’re worth 10% more than if you redeem them for cash back. So if you use your Chase Freedom Flex card to pay $55 at a restaurant, you’ll only need to redeem $50 worth of rewards using the Pay Yourself Back tool to offset the cost.
Make your Chase Freedom Flex cash back go even further
In addition to earning 5% cash back on the rotating categories, the Chase Freedom Flex also comes with a trio of fixed bonus categories. You’ll earn 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back on dining (including eligible delivery services) and 3% cash back at drugstores. All other purchases earn 1% cash back.
Plus, there’s a way to further increase the value of your Chase Freedom Flex rewards. When you also have one of Chase’s premium travel credit cards — the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card — you have the option to convert your Chase Freedom Flex cash back into Ultimate Rewards points at a rate of 1 cent per point.
You can then redeem those points at a higher value for travel purchases — either at 1.5 cents apiece on the Chase Sapphire Reserve or 1.25 cents each on the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred. Plus, you can use the Pay Yourself Back tool on those cards as well, and the redemption values are even better than they are on the Freedom cards.
The current Pay Yourself Back categories for the Sapphire cards are grocery stores, dining establishments (including delivery and takeout) and home improvement stores, and from now through Sept. 30, 2021, you’ll get the same redemption rates in these categories — 1.5 cents for the Sapphire Reserve, and 1.25 cents for the Sapphire Preferred — as you do for travel redemptions.
Finally, you can potentially increase the value of your Ultimate Rewards points even further by transferring them to any of Chase’s 14 airline and hotel partners. This option requires some time and research in order to understand how these partner loyalty programs work, but as airlines return to the skies, it’s possible to use these points to travel to exotic destinations in first class for very little money.
Of course, if you prefer cash to travel rewards, you can just redeem the cash back you earn on the Chase Freedom Flex for a statement credit, or a direct deposit into most US checking and savings accounts. Other options for redeeming include gift cards and Amazon’s “Shop With Points” program, though you may not get as much value for your points when using those methods.
Pair the Chase Freedom Flex and take advantage of its bonus categories
Regardless of whether you’re interested in cash back or travel rewards, the Chase Freedom Flex is a useful credit card to have in your purse or wallet. You’ll just want to make sure you have another credit card to pair it with, since that’s when it’s most valuable.
If you’re interested in travel, get a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve to go with the Chase Freedom Flex, and convert your Freedom Flex cash back to travel points, increasing their value and opening up multiple additional redemption options.
If you prefer cash back, pair the Chase Freedom Flex with another credit card that earns a higher rate on purchases outside the bonus categories. CNN Underscored’s benchmark credit card, the Citi® Double Cash Card, is one such option, as it earns 2% cash back on everything you buy — 1% when you make a purchase, and another 1% when you pay it off. Then use the Freedom Flex when you make a purchase in the bonus categories, and the Citi Double Cash on everything else.
And if you don’t already have a Chase Freedom Flex credit card, you might want to consider getting one and using it to earn extra cash back. The card even currently comes with a sign-up bonus of $200 in cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months after you open the account, plus 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) during the first 12 months you have the card, up to $12,000 in total purchases.
Thinking about getting a new credit card? Read CNN Underscored’s guide to the best credit cards of 2021.