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The Chase Freedom® and its successor card, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ offer 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories each quarter. But to get that great rewards rate, you have to opt in or "activate" the bonus category each quarter.
The good news is that you have plenty of time to opt in. As long as you activate by the 14th day of the third month of the quarter, you'll receive bonus rewards even on category purchases made before you activated. So these are the opt-in deadlines:
Q1 (January - March): March 14.
Q2 (April - June): June 14.
Q3 (July - September): Sept. 14.
Q4 (October - December): Dec. 14.
If you fail to activate by the due date for a quarter, you won't receive 5% rewards for purchases in the category for that three-month period. You'll just get 1% cash back for those purchases.
The Chase Freedom®, which is no longer, accepting applications, and the Chase Freedom Flex℠ earn 5% cash back up to $1,500 per quarter in spending in the bonus categories.
Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Flex℠ bonus rewards categories for 2023
Q1 (Jan. 1-March 31)
Q2 (April 1-June 30)
Q3 (July 1-Sept. 30)
Q4 (Oct. 1-Dec. 31)
Discover 5% activation is not retroactive
Several cards offered by Discover have a cash back rewards structure similar to that on the Freedom-branded cards discussed above, but activation for those cards is not retroactive. You earn bonus rewards only on purchases made after you opt into the categories.
These Discover cards earn 5% cash back in categories you activate, on up to $1,500 per quarter in category spending, and 1% on other purchases:
Terms of the 5% cash back program are spelled out on Discover's website. The fine print of the 5% program page says that the bonus rewards are available on purchases made starting from the first day of the quarter "or the date on which you activate 5%, whichever is later." Bonus category purchases made before activation earn only 1% cash back.
Discover bonus rewards categories for 2023
Q1 (Jan. 1–March 31)
Q2 (April 1–June 30)
Q3 (July 1–Sept. 30)
Q4 (Oct. 1–Dec. 31)
*The grocery stores category does not include grocery purchases at Walmart or Target or at other superstores or wholesale clubs.
Which card is better for you?
Choosing between the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and one of Discover's cards boils down to the bonus categories — which card will offer higher rewards more often in the places where you spend more money? Our Freedom vs. Discover comparison article can get you started. Also take a look at the past and present bonus categories on these cards to see which one more closely aligns with your spending.