Posted by Chuck on January 1, 2019
Credit Cards

Published on January 1st, 2019 | by Chuck

64

Q1 2019 5% Quarterly Categories: Activate, Offers & Suggestions (Freedom, Discover, Dividend, Cash+)

It’s now possible to activate/enroll your 5% credit cards for the first quarter of 2019 on Chase Freedom, Discover IT, Citi Dividend, and US Bank Cash+. In this post we’ll provide the activation link for each card and links to track your spend, along with strategies to help increase spend in these categories.

Dates: January 1st – March 31st, 2019. Store purchases can usually be done until the last minute. Online purchases should be given a buffer zone of a day or two.

Chase Freedom – Gas Stations, Drugstores, and Tolls

Activation Link / FAQ / Our original post

Earn 5% back at drugstores, gas stations, and tolls during the months of January, February, and March, up to $1,500 maximum.

  • Gas stations – “Merchants in the Gas Stations category sell automotive gasoline that can be paid for either at the pump or inside the station, and may or may not sell other goods or services at their location. Please note that some merchants that do not specialize in selling automotive gasoline are not included in this category, for example, truck stops, boat marinas, oil and propane distributors, and home heating companies.”
    • Long list of specific eligible gas stations can be found here. Includes all the big ones like Exxon, Shell, etc.
    • Check our Payments Workshop for many data points on whether gas stations attached to superstores/groceries count as gas for Freedom category or not.
    • Some people are able to buy gift cards at the convenience store attached to a gas station and get 5x on that. YMMV, do small test first.
  • Drugstores – “Merchants in the Drugstores category specialize in selling prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines, supplements and various health-related items. These merchants may also sell cosmetics, toiletries, greeting cards, and various household items such as cleaning supplies and packaged foods and drinks. Please note that some merchants that sell a wide variety of goods including these items, and which may contain an onsite pharmacy, for example, warehouse clubs, discount stores, or grocery stores, are not included in this category.”
    • Specific examples mentioned by Chase as eligible: Walgreens, CVS, Duane Read, Discount Drug Mart, Long’s Drugs, Bartell Drugs, Rite Aid. Other drugstores should work as well if coded properly. 
    • A lot of people don’t spend much organically at drugstores, but you can also buy gift cards to places like Amazon or iTunes, or you can buy a Visa/MC gift card and use it anywhere. 
  • Tolls – “Merchants in the Tolls category collect fees associated with toll roads, highways, and bridges. Note that purchases made during the quarter to replenish your electronic toll collection account will qualify.”
    • Specific examples mentioned by Chase as eligible: EZPass, Sunpass, Illinois Tollway, North TX Tollway, TCA Fastrak. Other toll providers should work as well if coded properly. 
    • Change your EZpass or other toll service payment to Freedom. You should also be able to load up your EZpass account with a prepayment. I don’t think I spend more than a few hundred a year on tolls, so this won’t be very helpful for me, but some people drive a lot and can max it out easily with tolls and gas.

Tip: Click this link (login required) to check how far you are along the $1,500.

Discover – Grocery Stores

Activation Link / Our original post

Earn 5% back at grocery stores during the months of January, February, and March, up to $1,500 maximum.

  • Grocery stores – “Grocery purchases made at convenience stores, gas stations, warehouse clubs, discount stores, and supercenters (or at grocery stores associated with supercenters or discount stores) are not eligible. Purchases made at Walmart and Target are not eligible for 5% Cashback Bonus. Certain digital wallet transactions qualify for 5%, for more information see Discover.com/digitalwallets. Purchases made using tap-and-pay, mobile or wireless card readers, virtual wallets or similar technology will not be eligible if the technology does not provide sufficient transaction details for rewards qualification.”
    • In practice, I believe mobile wallets like Apple, Samsung, and Google Pay do qualify, despite Discover’s caution on this front.
    • Grocery stores is a category almost everyone can use well. If you can’t max out organically, consider buying gift cards. Either load up on gift cards from your local grocery or buy up Amazon, Netflix, Visa/MC, etc, gift cards to max this out.
    • Keep in mind, there are other cards which earn a category bonus at grocery stores year-round. The Amex Everyday Preferred and Blue Cash Preferred are examples, though they do have yearly limits so this Discover category can give you some more category bandwidth if you need that.
Tip: Login, then click this link to see you how far along the $1,500 you are.

Citi Dividend – Gas Stations & Home Depot

Landing Page | Our Original Post

Earn 5% back at gas stations and Home Depot stores during the months of January, February, and March.

  • Gas Stations – see discussion above in the Freedom category; should be pretty similar for Citi Dividend.
  • Home Depot – Based on prior experience, I believe online purchases at Homedepot.com will also work for this category, but no clear guidance is stated on this point.

Citi is different than the other cards in that you have a $6,000 annual cap rather than a quarterly cap. So you can get 5% back on up to $6,000 in this quarter, you can save the entire amount for a different quarter, or you can use part up each quarter. A lot of people will use their entire $6,000 during the Q2 drugstore category. Others buy lots of gas or who shop at Home Depot, may opt to use it up this quarter.

US Bank Cash+ – Select your Categories

Activation link | Our Original Post

U.S. Bank Cash+ offers 5% cash back in two categories, up to $2,000 combined total per quarter. Keep in mind that the Bookstores category has been  replaced with Home Utilities. Prepaying your gas and electric can help max this out.

Here are the current options:

  • Home utilities
  • Select clothing stores
  • Cell phone providers
  • Electronic Stores
  • Car rentals
  • Gyms/Fitness
  • Fast food
  • Ground Transportation
  • Sporting goods
  • Department Stores
  • Furniture Stores
  • Movie theaters

Tip: Login here, then scroll down and click on the red “View Your Cash+ History” button.



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potatoslayer
potatoslayer

Does plastiq code as utilities in the US Bank visa earning 5%?

Ryan Goldstein

No, it’s classified as general professional services from what I’ve seen. Arcadia Power does count, though: https://www.doctorofcredit.com/arcadia-power-pay-your-electric-bill-with-credit-card-for-no-fee-available-nationwide/

Ryan Goldstein
Bill
Bill

Yes, but sadly my utility (Con Ed in NY) implemented two-factor login and Arcadia can’t handle it (yet). However, I was able to pay my bill using Con Ed’s payment system for a flat fee of $3.35 per payment. It DOES code as a utility for the Cash+ card. I paid 2 months of bill at once to save on the fee the last time (I am on level billing so it’s always the same). I might do 3 months the next time.

JV
JV

My electric utility does the same, $3.5 flat fee and i pay 6 months at a time and just hold a credit balance most of the time

Mikey
Mikey

I’m a bit shocked CHASE didn’t “copy” DISCOVER (as we’ve seen in the past) and make “Grocery” one of their 5% categories. Clearly gives DISCOVER the potential of a great quarter competitively, as gasoline is actually a much weaker category and it’s in the summer, not winter, that people tend to travel more by automobile. CHASE will overcome a bit of that with drugstore purchases, but keep in mind many now do not allow VISA and MC gift card purchases made with a credit card.

atexit8
atexit8

Here in NJ, I was able to buy a $35 Amazon gc and a $15 McDonald gc at Walgreens using Chase Freedom Unlimited. I was trying to get 10% Chase Offer.

Brian
Brian

It works fine purchasing merchant gift cards, not the general gift cards. The problem with general gift cards is criminals like to buy them, liquidate them, then use the cash for illegal activity.

Joe
Joe

Banks don’t want you to spend in these categories, only to activate them.

Bill
Bill

I don’t think that’s true. They want you to put it in your wallet to use if for those categories but at the same time use it as your main card so you do a lot of 1% charges on it. What they don’t want is what most people here do – try to max out the 5% category and not use it for anything else.

boomX
boomX

I am seeing issue with Plastiq when trying to pay rent with Visa gift card. Anyone else having issue? Card adds successfully but fails at the final screen.

Mr. PTM

A lot of Visa cards won’t work on Plastiq because their MCC is coming across as cash advance or cash equivalents, so the processor blocks those. I’ve had issues with all Visa GCs when trying to pay rent or student loans. See Plastiq’s post here:

https://help.plastiq.com/hc/en-us/articles/360005215254

boomX
boomX

Thank you for the link. Will need to get MC gift cards next time onwards.

Julie
Julie

I’m curious to know if anyone has consistently gotten the bonus cashback on groceries. I know some of the grocery stores in my area (not just Walmart and Target) code as Supermarket rather than Grocery, and therefore don’t qualify.

atexit8
atexit8

That’s odd. Isn’t grocery = supermarkets?

Which supermarket chain are you having problems?

Gadget
Gadget

Grocery works fine consistently, but I only shop a few stores. Exceptions: Walmart neighborhood market Amex OK, Discover Not, I believe. Walmart superstore: Wells Fargo Ok, but nobody else. Discount stores that sell grocery items like Aldi, Lidl, Dollar General.. or any convenience store, probably not going to work. I am not an avid shopper… So can’t say I tried everything. Never tried trader Joe’s or whole foods, for example. I can’t recall if there is a DoC DP list on these.

anthonyjh21
anthonyjh21

Amex BC/BCP codes Walmart neighborhood market as grocery?

Gadget
Gadget

Yes, I had the BCP & recently did downgrade to BCE. I get 3% now. I don’t MS so the $95 AF is a loser for me, and only seeing it on incidentals as I do most of my grocery shopping elsewhere.

DP: BCE Rewards statement entry from Sept 2018: “WAL-MART NEIGHBORHOOD MARKET xxxx $8.70 Earned $0.26”

Cinnabar
Cinnabar

It codes as a grocery store and gets 4X MR on my Amex Gold.

Josie
Josie

Trader Joe’s works as grocery for Chase. Will try it on Discover this quarter.

Mike T
Mike T

Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods both worked for me last year. However, you can get 10 percent using cash app debit card at whole foods.

Ben
Ben

So what is a cash app debit card?

Julie
Julie

It’s been a while since I tried to use this bonus on my Discover card, I just remember being annoyed that my charges didn’t count. Scrolling through my card activity, I see that Instacart, Food Lion, Giant, Wegman’s, Trader Joe’s, Harris Teeter, Lidl, Food City, and Target all code the same way (Supermarket). It’s possible I hit the cap without realizing it — we had a car repair that coded as Gasoline, then the following month we got less than 1% cash back. Huh.

Avi
Avi

For my Discover card, grocery store purchases (Safeway, Giant and Aldi) are all labeled as “Supermarket” on my statement and I get the 5% back.

Andy B
Andy B

On this subject, there’s a card that may interest you. PenFed (Pentagon Federal Credit Union) has a card that gives 5% back on gas, and 3% at grocery stores. First, two caveats – gas purchases must be made at the pump, and the cash back is not actually 1 to 1. In fact, I think it uses a point system, rather than percentage. The last I checked, you get roughly 1 to.85 with this setup. This translates to about 2.55% on grocery, and 4.25% on gas (again, it must be purchased at the pump). Even so, you may find it worthwhile, as they code Walmart as a grocer. When you consider the variety of purchases that can be made there…….
Not an easy card to get, but no annual fee.

K
K

Does this not work with Chase Freedom Unlimited? I always try to activate and it never seems to work.

William Charles

No, CFU is 1.5% back on all purchases. Chase Freedom is 1% back on all purchases, apart from the 5% rotating categories.

Radster
Radster

You’re correct. This does NOT work with the Freedom Unlimited.

Bill
Bill

If it worked with Freedom Unlimited, no one would have the regular Freedom card!

Lil Ol' Me
Lil Ol' Me

Do any Best Buy stores still sell Visa GCs? I haven’t seen them in at least several months and possibly a year…

atexit8
atexit8

Went to to 3 in central NJ. None had them.
They had Amazon gift cards.
Not as good selection as at Lowe’s or Walgreens or CVS.

Jacob

Despite the insistence that they are available, I’ve checked several stores in different parts of the country and none have carried $200 VGC in 2018. YMMV, but at this point, all data points to them being phased out.

DT
DT

+1 for Metro ATL.

Steve
Steve

I also haven’t seen them in months.

Andy
Andy

I’m confused with the title of Citi Dividend is Best Buy and Department Stores when their Q1 categories is Gas Stations and Home Depot which you have listed properly. Mistake?

William Charles

Think it was a copy paste mistake, fixed now

DHKYT
DHKYT

IMO Amex Gold is the best grocery card… BYE Discover

Cinnabar
Cinnabar

It’s hard to beat a guaranteed 5% CB, or even 10% in the first year. But…why not both?

Yoni
Yoni

Tolls? That’s a real head scratcher for a bonus category, Tolls for most people I believe are viewed negatively and a necessary evil, granted I’ve never commuted on a toll route so maybe its different for those who do.

I know that it’s more common fix on the East/Atlantic coast, I used to hate the gouging when I lived in Stonybrook and would drive off LI.

But it seems like a really odd category choice.

Pat
Pat

Yeah, that category does not help put the Freedom in my wallet. It’s not like I can whip out a card at the toll plaza.

Jay
Jay

I think the banks idea is to get people to set up the Freedom to pay their tolls online, then forget to update it to something earning better than the 1% Freedom when the 5% category bonus ends in March.

Amy
Amy

When I first saw that line in the post, for a second I read it as “Trolls” instead of “Tolls.” 😛

Yoni
Yoni

Amy lol I think people feel the same way about both. Portland actually has a ‘Troll bridge’ and the Politicians are pushing to toll roads here in the metro while only spending little to increase traffic capacity the past 20+ years.

I confess I also misread the post title as trolls @1st glance

GPO
GPO

What about BofA new approach with monthly categories for the cash rewards?

Terri Clark
Terri Clark

I’m thinking the online shopping category could be useful but think it will be 3%? Could be nice paired with shopping portal.

mauipeter
mauipeter

No 5x with Chase Freedom at Costco gas stations ? Just asking because regularly I get 2x with my Chase United mileage Plus.

Brian
Brian

I got 5x for Costco gas, at least at my warehouse it worked. I think Chase says they exclude warehouse gas purchase mainly to avoid complaints for if it doesn’t code as gas at one warehouse. Anyways, you can do a small test charge, and with Chase, figure out immediately after the transaction posts if it works or not.

Jack
Jack

You don’t have the Citi Costco card? I have that just for the 4x gas (and the price protection and 2 year extended warranty).

Brian
Brian

For Chase Freedom, Costco gas and Kroger gas do trigger the 5% back for gas stations. Glad Discover chose its 5% back categories for mainly things where benefits like purchase protection and extended warranty don’t really matter.

Alan Welsh

WRONG —- Costco did NOT pick up a COSTCO Gas charge!! (This was for gas in Q4 2018) VERY irritating. Clicking on the link of WHICH Gas stations are included, did not include COSTCO, either.

Bill
Bill

Are you talking about the Citi Costco Visa card? If so, did you contact Citi? This is from their website:

4% cash back on eligible gas worldwide, including gas at Costco, for the first $7,000 per year in gas purchases and then 1% thereafter.
Certain Non-Qualifying Purchases. You will only earn 1% cash back, not 4%, for gas purchased at superstores, supermarkets, convenience stores and warehouse clubs other than Costco or for fuel used for non-automobile purposes.

Or did you mean to say Chase instead of Costco in that first sentence? I use my Bank of America Cash Rewards card for Costco gas and got my 5.25% (3% base).

Matt B
Matt B

Will using chase pay at Shell still give me 5%?

Cinnabar
Cinnabar

It should as long as you’re using your Freedom.

Andy B
Andy B

Assuming you’re using your Chase Freedom card via the Chase Pay app, yes. The great thing about that for me is since Chase and Samsung have partnered, allowing one to link the two apps and use Samsung Pay to pay within Chase Pay, it allows me to earn Samsung Rewards, AND get the 5% back at ANY gas station I choose, not just Shell…..and that’s a great thing, considering just how lame Chase Pay has become in my area. The number of Shell stations that Chase Pay at the pump actually works, have dwindled to dann near zero.

Steve
Steve

I really appreciate how easy Chase makes it to see if your purchase got the bonus points or not. You can basically tell right after the charge posts. I find nearly every other bank makes it hard or it takes a long time to find out, and Discover was one of the least informative, at least last time I bothered to try to check.

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