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It’s crazy that we’re already in the second quarter of 2019. This year seems to be moving quickly! With the change in seasons comes time to review the second quarter rotating bonus categories for some of our favorite cash back cards. This includes the new bonus categories for the Chase Freedom, Discover It, US Bank Cash+, and Citi Dividend card. Also, we’ve created free card tools to help you remember the new bonus categories.
The Chase Freedom is one of my favorite cards. I’ve had this card since 2012 and I consider it a workhorse in my wallet. It might look like any other 5% rotating bonus card, but if you value Chase Ultimate Reward points at more than one cent, you’ll be earning a lot of value with this card. In fact, I would argue that I earn an adjusted rate of 7.5% with this card since I value Chase UR points at 1.5 cents per point.
For the Chase Freedom card, we’re ending the first quarter bonus categories of gas stations, drug stores, and tolls. Starting in April, you’ll earn 5% on grocery stores and home improvement stores. The 5% bonus applies for up to $1,500 of qualified spending.
Keep in mind that the grocery store bonus category does NOT include Walmart and Target purchases. These stores typically do not code as grocery stores. This also applies to places like Costco and Sam’s Club, which code as wholesale clubs. This is tricky and confusing, especially if you primarily buy your groceries at superstores and wholesale clubs.
The rule of thumb is that if the store primarily sells groceries, then it likely codes as a “grocery store”. In my experience, this includes most large supermarket chains and smaller independent markets.
Home improvement stores
For the home improvement category, the same rules apply. Charges at a home improvement store, like Home Depot, Lowes, or Ace Hardware, should charge correctly. However, if you’re buying landscaping supplies at Costco or Walmart, it unlikely that the charge will code properly. Chase specifies in their fine print that “merchants that specialize in home furnishings, garden, and landscaping supplies are not included.”
Why I’m excited about this quarter’s bonus categories
The grocery category is one that I’ll likely be able to maximize. The first quarter Freedom bonus category of gas stations was useful, but I didn’t maximize it. This is mostly due to the fact that I don’t drive as much as before and I have a hybrid car. Though since I’ve been working from home more often, my grocery bills have gone up. Plus, grocery stores often sell gift cards which is handy. Maximizing this bonus category should be easy!
I’ve had my Discover It card since 2009. It’s a solid card. Though to be honest, it’s secondary to my Chase Freedom. This is due to the fact that I prefer to earn points over cash back. With points, I’m able to redeem them for even more value. Though depending on your card set-up and strategy, you might find more value and convenience in earning cash back.
For the Discover It card, we’re ending the first quarter bonus category of grocery stores. Starting in April, you’ll earn 5% on purchases at gas stations and on Uber and Lyft. Like the Chase Freedom card, the bonus is valid for up to $1,500 of qualified spending.
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.
Uber and Lyft
For the Uber and Lyft bonus category, be aware that food delivery services such as Uber Eats do not qualify for the bonus.
US Bank Cash+
For the US Bank Cash+ card, there is a slight change in the bonus categories. The car rentals category has been replaced by a new category — TV, Internet, and Streaming Services.
If you’re not familiar with the card, US Bank allows you to pick your rotating 5% categories every quarter and 2% categories where you can earn unlimited cashback. They even let you earn the 5% bonus on up to $2,000 of spend per quarter on the combined selected categories. This is a higher limit than the Chase Freedom and Discover it.
I got this card late last year, and I used the 5% category this past quarter at my gym and Ikea since we needed to buy some new furniture. It’s a useful card that helps me to earn a bonus on my daily spend where I normally wouldn’t earn a bonus.
I recently got the Citi Dividend card through a product change. When I did my “What Credit Cards are in my Wallet” post/video in December 2018, I mentioned that I wasn’t using my Citi Double Cash. I decided to convert it to a Citi Dividend Card. A 5% rotating bonus card seemed like a better fit than the 2% flat rate I was earning from the Citi Double Cash.
This is the case since I primarily use my Chase Freedom Unlimited and Ink Business Unlimited for my non-bonus spend. Both earn 1.5%, which is technically less than the Citi Double Cash. Though since I value Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 1.5 cents per point, I’m getting an adjusted earning rate of 2.25%.
Citi Dividend users are ending the first quarter bonus category on purchases from gas stations and The Home Depot. For the second quarter of 2019, they’ll earn 5% at drug stores and fitness club. Keep in mind that the Citi Dividend card has a yearly award bonus cap of $300 per calendar year, which means that you’re not as restricted by a specific quarter’s bonus. You just need to track how much bonus you earn over the entire calendar year.
Free reminder tools
I know that it takes me a while before the new categories are set in my brain. We’ve put together some free tools that you can download to help remember these categories. We have our popular wallet-sized cheat sheet and our smartphone lock screens that I started creating last quarter. We’ve created a few variations of the lock screen too in case you only want information for only one of the cards (and not the others).
I’d love to invest in some sort of web app in the future that allows you to customize your background. Though for now, I’ll be rotating the backgrounds based on the season.
Activate your bonus categories
Make sure you log-in and activate the bonus for these cards. While you can wait until June 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 to avoid missing out!
As of March 2019, here are the current offers for these popular cash back cards:
Chase Freedom & US Bank Cash+
The Chase Freedom and US Bank Cash+ have a $150 welcome bonus for new applicants who spend $500 on purchases within three months of account opening.
Discover is offering a cash back match for an entire year. This can be extremely useful, especially if you spend a lot on your card.
The Citi Dividend card is no longer available for new applicants. Though you can get it through a product change from another Citi card, as I did from my Citi Double Cash.
What do you think of the new quarterly bonus categories? Are you excited or disappointed by them?
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