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Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays! I know I say it every quarter, but I can’t believe that the year is nearly over. With the start of the new year comes time to review the 2019 rotating bonus categories for some of our favorite cash back credit cards.
For the Chase Freedom card, we’re ending the fourth quarter bonus categories of department stores, wholesale clubs, and Chase Pay. Starting in January, you’ll earn 5% on gas stations, drug stores, and tolls. The 5% bonus applies for up to $1500 of qualified spending.
The bonus category of tolls is a bit quirky, but I know it will be useful for folks with quick pass readers that accept credit card payments. In fact, you may want to load up your account with funds in order to maximize the quarterly benefit.
For gas stations, keep in mind that the bonus only applies to standalone gas stations. Fuel purchases from other stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, or Walmart do not count toward the 5% bonus. The fine print says that truck stops, boat marinas, oil and propane distributors, and home heating companies are excluded.
And finally, drug stores are a useful category, especially since they sell a lot of items including gift cards. Again, like other bonus categories, just be careful with what qualifies as a drug store. In general, standalone stores (like CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, etc.) will count, but pharmacies inside of supermarkets or wholesale clubs are usually excluded.
For the Discover It card, we’re ending the fourth quarter with the bonus categories of Amazon.com purchases and Wholesale Clubs. Starting in January, you’ll earn 5% on purchases at grocery stores, excluding purchases at Target and Walmart. Like the Chase Freedom card, the bonus is valid for up to $1500 of qualified spending.
With the grocery store bonus category, you’ll also want to be careful with the type of stores that qualify. Standalone grocery stores are generally included, but convenience stores, gas stations, warehouse clubs, discount stores, and supercenters are not eligible. Since these places are not standalone grocery stores, the charges are encoded differently, which means that they usually do not earn the bonus.
Earlier this year, Discover released their entire bonus calendar for 2019. I’m curious to see whether this will pressure the other issuers to share their calendars as well. If anything, it’s nice being able to see ahead and plan accordingly. I’m excited to see gas purchases, restaurants, ride-sharing, and Amazon.com as bonus categories in 2019.
US Bank Cash+
For the US Bank Cash+ card, we’re not seeing anything new this quarter. If you’re not familiar with the card, US Bank allows you to pick your rotating 5% categories every quarter and also has 2% categories where you can earn unlimited cashback. They even let you earn the 5% bonus on up to $2000 of spend per quarter on the combined selected bonus categories, which is even better than the Chase Freedom. I recently got this card, so I’ll likely be selecting gym and home utilities are my 5% categories for the new quarter.
Lastly, Citi Dividend users are ending the fourth quarter bonus category on purchases from Best Buy and department stores, and for the first quarter of 2019, will be receiving 5% at gas stations and Home Depot. Keep in mind that the Citi Dividend card has a yearly award bonus cap of $300 per
Reminder: Activate the bonus!
As a reminder, make sure to log-in and activate the bonus for these cards. While you can wait until March 14th to activate your Chase Freedom bonus category since Chase will award the points retroactively, you’re better off doing it now before you forget. Unfortunately, Discover, US Bank, and Citi won’t award you a bonus until you activate it, so do it now so you don’t miss out.
Keeping track of the changes
As always, we’ve put together a wallet-sized “cheat sheet” that you can download for free. I know that it takes a while before the new categories get set in my brain. If you need a little reminder, we hope that card comes in handy. We recommend keeping a copy in your wallet, car, and desk.
For those of you who prefer a more digital solution, we also have wallpaper images that you can use as your smartphone lock screen. It’s available in three different versions:
Interested in applying?
As of December 2018, the Chase Freedom and US Bank Cash+ are offering a $150 welcome bonus (after spending $500 within 90 days of opening an account) and Discover is offering a cashback match for an entire year. In case you’re wondering about the Citi Dividend card, it’s no longer available for new applicants. Though you can get it through a product change from another Citi card.
If you’re interested in applying and supporting the channel, please visit our partner’s cashback cards page for the latest offers.
What do you all think of the new quarterly bonus categories? Are you excited or disappointed by them? Let us know in the comment section below.