The fourth quarter should be another good one for Chase Freedom Flex cardholders
From October 1 through December 31, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ will offer 5% cash back on PayPal and Walmart purchases (in-store and online). Activation is required, the 5% rate is capped at $1,500 in quarterly purchases, and cardholders will earn 1% cash back thereafter. This will end my favorite year for this card’s rotating categories since I signed up for its predecessor, the original Chase Freedom card (now closed to new entrants), nearly a decade ago.
This year, I exceeded the $1,500 limit in Q1 (groceries) and Q3 (gas stations, car rentals, movie theaters, and some live entertainment). I got closer in Q2 (Amazon.com and some streaming services). Chances are I’ll hit the limit again in Q4, mostly using PayPal for holiday shopping. It’s a shame PayPal Key was discontinued; this was my favorite way to optimize this category.
Still, I think there’s a good chance I’ll be using PayPal frequently over the next three months because it’s so widely accepted. I don’t buy a lot at Walmart, but a lot of other people do. Freedom Flex’s Q4 categories should be a winner for most of us.
Additional Benefits of Freedom Flex
I have been a loyal user of this card for many years. For starters, I love the 5% rotating quarterly categories. I also get a lot of value from the 3% restaurant category, the Shop Through Chase portal, and Chase offers. And I’m still thrilled with how its purchase protection benefit saved me $299 a few years ago.
There are other perks too, ranging from extended warranty coverage to 5% cash back on trips booked through the Chase portal, 5% cash back on Lyft trips (until March 2025), 3 % cash back at pharmacies and 1% cash back on everything else. There’s also a 15-month interest-free period on balance transfers and new purchases (with a regular variable APR of 17.24-25.99% thereafter).
I like all bonus categories 2022
Most years, my buying habits dovetail very well with two of the four quarterly bonus categories and fairly well with a third. One of them usually seems like a clunker to me. For example, last year I didn’t get much from the neighborhood gas and DIY stores. This year, however, I was satisfied with all four quarters.
Honestly, I could work out the credit card equivalent of a perfect game if I had preloaded my Amazon account to complete the Q2 Amazon.com bonus category. I chose not to, but prepaying for various expenses to reach the quarterly bonus category maximum spend is a common strategy. Other examples include buying gift cards at a grocery store or gas station.
My Family’s Credit Card Strategy
The Freedom Flex is one of only two credit cards I currently use. The other is the Blue Cash Preferred® card from American Express. My wife and I have decided to focus our spending on just two cards for convenience, and these two cards allow us to optimize several key categories.
Blue Cash Preferred is our go-to for groceries as it gives 6% cash back at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 in annual spend, then 1% cash back thereafter). It’s also a solid option for streaming services (6% cash back on several popular services) and gas (3% cash back). Similar to the Freedom Flex, purchases from the No Bonus category earn 1% cash back.
What I would like to see improved
One bone I would pick with both cards is that I want the quarterly and annual spending thresholds raised to compensate for inflation. For example, our family of four spends about $14,000 a year on groceries. Even if you add Blue Cash Preferred’s $6,000 annual limit and Freedom Flex’s $1,500 quarterly limit, we’re only optimizing about half of our grocery spending.
One solution might be to open separate accounts in my wife’s name (since she is currently an authorized user on my accounts). If she had her own accounts, our combined spending limits for bonus categories would double. But that would probably add more complexity than we want. Given that both cards have had the same spending limits for about a decade and inflation is at an all-time high, I think it’s reasonable to suggest these limits should be higher.
Another consumer-friendly change I would suggest would be to allow carryover between quarters. In other words, even if Chase wants to keep Freedom Flex’s 5% rate at the same annual threshold, cardholders would benefit if it were distributed as a $6,000 annual limit, as opposed to four quarterly segments of $1,500. Alas, the rules were probably written that way for valid business reasons, but a cash back lover can dream.
The bottom line
Although I would change a few things if I had the chance, I’m a big fan of the Freedom Flex board. I’m likely to earn $275 out of a possible $300 cash back in the 5% cash back categories this year, and I’ve gotten plenty of other benefits. It is without a doubt one of the best cards with no annual fee and one that I have used regularly for many years.
Have a question about credit cards? Email me at [email protected] and I’d be happy to help.