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How to Optimize Chase Freedom, Discover it for Q3 2019

Depending on your card, you may want to focus summer spending on cutting the cord, hitting the road, dining out or shopping online.
July 3, 2019
Cash Back Credit Cards, Credit Cards
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For two of the biggest issuers in the rotating-bonus credit card game, it’s a quarter of familiar favorites, with a couple of new wrinkles thrown in.

From July 1 through Sept. 30, 2019, holders of the Chase Freedom® and select Discover cards including the Discover it® Cash Back and Discover it® Student Cash Back will earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined spending in bonus categories. (Activation is required; all other purchases earn 1% back.) The categories are as follows:

Chase Freedom®:

  • Gas stations.
  • Select streaming services.

Discover it® Cash Back and other eligible Discover cards:

  • Restaurants.
  • PayPal.

Here’s how to make the most of these categories.

Chase Freedom®

For Chase Freedom® customers, gas stations are a familiar sight on this list. This is the second time this year that the card has featured them as a bonus category (the first was in Q1 2019), and gas stations also were a bonus category for the card in Q3 2018. But this marks the first time that select streaming services have been eligible for the 5% bonus.

Unless you plan to spend the rest of the summer taking daily road trips, you might find it difficult to max out the $1,500 spending limit. Instead, view this as a chance to save on ongoing expenses you’d pay for anyway.

Cut the cord

If you’ve been thinking about kicking cable to the curb, this quarter is an ideal time to give it a try. You’ll earn 5% back on streaming services including Netflix, Hulu, Sling, Vudu, FuboTV, Apple Music, SiriusXM, Pandora and Spotify. Among all of those options, you can likely replace your cable TV subscription with a wide variety of TV, sports, movies and music.

Double up on rewards at the pump

Whether you fill up at national chains like Shell or you’re loyal to something local (looking at you, Sheetz and Wawa fans), you can earn rewards on top of rewards. Combine the Chase Freedom® with a gas station chain’s rewards program card or app to earn coupons, free food and beverage items in the convenience store, or even a few cents off per gallon.

Just remember to use the Chase Freedom® at convenience stores with attached gas stations, as some gas chains also have convenience store-only locations. Purchases at those stores may not appear as gas stations on your credit card statement, and won’t earn that coveted 5% back.

» MORE: Merchant category codes: Why they matter for credit card rewards

Don’t forget gift cards and other everyday items

This is standard advice whenever gas stations are featured as a bonus category. The 5% back may apply to more than just fuel from the pump, as long as you purchase the item inside an eligible store. Need milk, magazines or marshmallow-flavored candy bars? Buy them at your local gas station. The same goes for gift cards to other retailers, which are often sold inside gas stations.

New Chase Freedom® cardholders can earn this sign-up bonus: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

Chase Freedom® bonus rewards categories for 2019
Q1 (Jan. 1 - March 31)• Gas stations
• Tolls
• Drugstores
Q2 (April 1 - June 30)• Home improvement stores
• Grocery stores
Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30)• Gas stations
• Select streaming services
Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)"Holiday" — TBD
(In 2018: Department stores, wholesale clubs, Chase Pay)

Discover it® Cash Back and other eligible Discover cards

For its part, Discover is repeating the restaurants category from the same quarter last year — not to mention Q3 2017, for that matter. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all.

According to the USDA, more than half of the food budget of U.S. households goes toward meals bought outside of the home. That makes the restaurants bonus category as much of a treat as going out to dinner is.

But potentially the real shining star of this quarter is the addition of PayPal, given the number of merchants that accept that payment method. Add your Discover card as a PayPal payment method, then use PayPal to:

  • Shop online through retailers like eBay, Etsy and the jewelry store Blue Nile.
  • Book flights on JetBlue, American Airlines and United.
  • Skip the drive with Uber and Lyft.
  • Shop in brick-and-mortar stores by pairing PayPal with Google Pay or Samsung Pay.
  • Make it the default payment option for purchases via Apple Music, iBooks and iCloud storage.
  • Subscribe to Netflix so you won’t be the last of your friends to watch “Always Be My Maybe.”

PayPal isn’t just for, well, paying your pals. With so many ways to use it with your Discover card, you have a lot of flexibility in how you can earn 5% cash back this quarter.

New Discover it® Cash Back can earn a rich sign-up bonus, which Discover describes this way: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.

Discover bonus rewards categories for 2019
Q1 (Jan. 1 – March 31)Grocery stores
Q2 (April 1 – June 30)• Gas stations
• Uber and Lyft
Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30)• Restaurants
• PayPal
Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)• Amazon.com
• Target (in store and online)
• Walmart.com

» MORE: See historical bonus categories for these cards

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