How to Optimize Chase Freedom Flex, Discover it Cash Back for Q1 2021

Even if most of your shopping is still happening from home, these cards can be valuable this quarter.
Erin HurdJan 8, 2021

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

As we ring in the new year (good riddance, 2020), it’s time for new 5% rotating bonus categories for the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and select Discover cards including the Discover it® Cash Back.

From Jan. 1 through March 31, 2021, you’ll earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined quarterly spending in the following categories once you activate them (and 1% back on everything else):

Chase Freedom Flex
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More

Chase Freedom Flex℠

  • Wholesale clubs (Costco, BJ’s, Sam’s Club, Texas Jasmine).

  • Cable, internet and phone services.

  • Eligible streaming services (Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, Netflix, Sling, Vudu, FuboTV, Apple Music, SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify and YouTube TV).

Discover it® Cash Back
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More

Discover it® Cash Back and other eligible Discover cards

  • Grocery stores.

  • Walgreens.

  •  CVS.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, spending money and time indoors looks to remain the norm in 2021, and these cards can help with that kind of budget this quarter. Here's how.

Nerdy tip: The original Chase Freedom® is no longer accepting applications, but existing cardholders still enjoy the same 5% bonus calendar that the new Flex product offers.

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Load up on discounted wholesale club wares

Want to stock up on paper towels, snow tires, or enough cheese to feed the neighborhood when you’re ready for social soirees? Your local wholesale club has got you covered, and the Chase Freedom Flex℠ is the ideal card to use there this quarter.

And even if you’re not a member or don’t have a location nearby, there are still ways to earn bonus rewards in this category. That's because, perhaps surprisingly, membership isn't required to shop online with these clubs.

BJ’s offers a one-day online pass to nonmembers ($10 per year after that). Sam’s Club and Costco also both offer nonmembers the ability to shop online, though you may incur fees of 10% and 5% of your order when you do so.

Nerdy tip: The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is a Mastercard and therefore not accepted in-store at Costco, which accepts Visa only. However, the card is accepted at Costco.com. And if you hold the original Chase Freedom®, you're good either way: It's a Visa.

Here are some tips to maximize your warehouse savings:

  • Find a special offer on membership: If you’re not yet a member, consider trying a club for a special deal. As of this writing, Sam’s Club was offering a $45 gift card to new members who pay $45 to join by March 7, 2021. Discount sites like Groupon often offer discounted joining rates, as do coupon flyers that arrive in your snail mail. Check the wholesale club’s website for new member deals.

  • Triple-stack your savings: You’re already saving cash when you stock up on essentials at wholesale club prices, and the Chase Freedom Flex℠ earns bonus rewards this quarter on top of that — but there’s a way to get even more value from your purchase if you’re skipping the store and shopping online. If you click through an online shopping portal to get to the wholesale club’s site, you can earn airline miles, credit card points or extra cash back on your purchase. For optimizers, that's rock-star status.

  • Stock up on discounted gift cards: Wholesale clubs discount virtually everything they sell, including gift cards. You can save up to 25% on gift cards from your favorite restaurants and retailers when you buy them at a wholesale club. If you can afford to buy discounted gift cards now for shops you’re sure to frequent later, you can ramp up your 5% credit card rewards while saving some cash.

Autopay 'boring' charges for added value

Let’s be honest: Not many of us get too jazzed about paying our monthly bills. Still, most consumers pony up for cable, internet service (hello, virtual work and school) and/or a phone bill each month. Why not earn bonus cash back while doing it?

Take a few minutes to switch your payment method on these monthly bills to your Chase Freedom Flex℠.

Note, however, that using a credit card to pay these bills may not always make sense. Some providers offer cheaper rates if you pay by debit card or check, rather than credit. Check your provider’s policy beforehand.

Snuggle up for at-home family movie night or date night

Staying in is the new going out. Most of us now have a subscription (or three) to a streaming service, and this quarter the Chase Freedom Flex℠ can earn elevated rewards on those expenses. (Or, maybe this bonus category finally compells you to try Disney+ ... you know, for the kids.)

Alternately, if your new year’s resolution is to cut back on screen time, keep in mind that music subscription services like Spotify, Pandora or SiriusXM also count toward the bonus.

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ currently offers this bonus: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. And earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Flex℠* bonus rewards categories for 2021

Q1 (Jan. 1 - March 31)

• Wholesale clubs. • Select streaming services. • Internet, cable and phone services.

Q2 (April 1 - June 30)

• Gas stations. • Home improvement stores.

Q3 (July 1 - Sept. 30)

• Grocery stores. • Select streaming services.

Q4 (Oct. 1 - Dec. 31)

• TBD

Discover

Fill your grocery cart in-person or online

For many households, groceries are always a big expense, and it may only have gotten bigger amid the pandemic. So when grocery stores are a rotating bonus category for the Discover it® Cash Back, it’s time to stock the fridge and pantry.

Even if you’d rather grocery-shop from your couch than head to the store, you can still earn 5% cash back this quarter when you charge it to your eligible Discover card. Many grocery stores offer curbside pickup or local delivery when you order online.

Grocery delivery services like Instacart, Shipt and Amazon Fresh are not eligible for the bonus, but Walmart grocery pickup and delivery is (other Walmart purchases are not eligible).

Take stock of your health and wellness essentials

It’s a bad time to realize that you’re out of bandages when you cut your finger while cooking dinner. If you're looking to load up on household health essentials, use the Discover it® Cash Back as you replenish your supply.

Head to your local Walgreens or CVS to restock your medicine cabinet and toiletries drawer. If you’d rather shop from home, both stores offer the ability to order online for delivery or store pickup.

Nerdy tip: Both CVS and Walgreens — as well as many grocery stores, for that matter — sell gift cards to various other retailers, and the purchase of those gift cards also qualifies for Discover's bonus rewards this quarter.

If you have an FSA or HSA account, you could charge qualifying drugstore expenses on your Discover it® Cash Back and then reimburse yourself. Just make sure you’re clear on what expenses are eligible and keep good records of your receipts.

Not only will new cardholders earn extra cash back on the categories above, new cardholders are eligible for this sign-up bonus: INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.

Discover bonus rewards categories for 2021

Q1 (Jan. 1 – March 31)

• Grocery stores*. • CVS. • Walgreens.

*The grocery stores category includes Walmart Grocery Pickup & Delivery, but not grocery purchases inside Walmart or at other superstores such as Target or wholesale clubs.

Q2 (April 1 – June 30)

• Gas stations. • Wholesale clubs. • Select streaming services.

Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30)

• Restaurants. • PayPal.

Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)

• Amazon.com. • Target.com. • Walmart.com.

Information related to the Chase Freedom® has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been provided or reviewed by the issuer of this card.

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.