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Bonus Category Overlap: When To Use Sapphire Preferred vs. Freedom vs. Premier Rewards Gold

by on August 22, 2012 · 44 comments

in American Express, Chase, Credit Cards

I always think twice (or thrice) when deciding what credit card to use for every purchase I make. While a big portion of maximizing miles and points is in the redeeming process and knowing how to get the best awards possible, it’s just as critical to maximize every single dollar you spend to bank the most miles and points for your buck.
From now until September 30, 2012, the Chase Freedom is offering 5 points per dollar spent on the first $1,500 spent at gas stations and restaurants. While I spend a lot in those two categories, this has thrown me for a loop because I normally put restaurants on my Sapphire Preferred (for 2.14 points per dollar: 2x base plus a 7% annual dividend) and gas on my American Express Premier Rewards Gold (2.5 points per dollar: 2x base plus Amex gives a 15,000 point bonus when you hit $30,000 in spend, essentially making the first $30,000 spent worth 1.5 points per dollar base earning).

My Strategy
Since the Freedom’s 5x points is far superior to the other two my main goal is to max out the $1,500 in spend, which isn’t hard to do over 3 months of spending. I also get a 10% bonus and 10 extra points per transactionbecause I have a Chase checking account, which makes Freedom card bonus categories way too lucrative to pass up.

Update: The Chase Freedom card no longer offers a bonus of 10% on all purchases plus a 10 point per transaction bonus additional 10% Cash Back. Instead, both of those benefits have been replaced with a 10% annual bonus at the end of the year on all purchases.

I value Ultimate Rewards points over American Express Membership Rewards points, so I want to put as much gas on the Freedom card as possible, so I don’t eat up that whole $1,500 with dining spend, because I want all excess dining spend on my Sapphire Preferred for the 2.14 (if I overspend on the $1,500 on the Freedom I’d be earning just 1 point per dollar on dining!). Update: The Chase Freedom card no longer offers 10% cash back when you shop online at select merchants through Chase.

Doing this takes a little bit of planning, but I basically charted out how much I plan to spend on gas until September 30 and then carved out a chunk that I should spend on dining. This doesn’t need to be 100% exact, because if I spend less than I thought at gas stations, I can always buy gift certificates right before the quarter comes to an end. An alternate strategy would be to just focus the Freedom on gas stations and buy up gift cards with whatever remainder is left, but I’m personally not a huge fan of having tons of gift cards laying around because I find them annoying to use and lug around with me since my wallet is already chock-full of plastic.

I’ve had to condition myself to not use the Premier Rewards Gold on gas this quarter, but I have still been using it for airfare (3x points per dollar) and groceries (2x points per dollar.)

Remember, if you have a Freedom card, the 5x points earned are marketed as cash back, but Chase actually allows you to combine points, so you can get the 5x bonus categories and then instantly move those points into your Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold/ Plus Ultimate Rewards account, which makes those points transferable to United, British Airways, Southwest, Korean, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Priority Club and Amtrak. I look at it that I’m earning 5 United miles per dollar spent on popular spend categories, which is a pretty incredible deal (I value United miles at 2 cents a piece, so its like getting a 10% rebate), especially since the Freedom card has no annual fee! Note: You have to activate the 5% bonus categories each quarter and you have until September 14, 2012 to activate the current gas station/restaurant categories (thankfully registration is retroactive so you will get credit for all spending that quarter).

Future Freedom Bonus Categories:
October-December 2012: Hotels, Airlines, Best Buy, Kohl’s

Having Multiple Freedom Cards
To really maximize Freedom earning, you can get both the Visa and Mastercard versions of the card. This way, you can earn up to $1,500 a quarter/$6,000 a year x 5 points x 2 cards = 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points a year from bonus category spend. 60,000 points transferred to United can get you one-way to Asia in business class – easily a $3,000 value – not bad for only spending $12,000, that’s a 25% return on your spend. Chase even confirms that you can have multiple Freedom cards and max out the bonus on each of the cards per this FAQ question:
Q. If I have multiple Chase Freedom cards, do I need to activate all accounts?
A. Yes, please activate all of your Chase Freedom cards to make sure you earn 5% cash back in bonus categories on up to $1,500 spent on each card each quarter.”

If you are given a pending decision or declined for a second card, you can always chat with the friendly folks at the reconsideration line at 1-888-245-0625 and let them know why you need two Freedom cards – like being able to use Visa or Mastercard at certain vendors that might only take one or the other or that you like to split your personal finances on two cards to help better track certain types of expenses.

Freedom Visa Application Link
Freedom Mastercard Application Link

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • Estebanos

    great post. i definitely have to condition myself not to use my regular day-to-day cards as well when these qtrly bonuses come up.

  • Spencer

    So 5x is better than 2x? Earth-shattering.

    Are we sure the main intent of this post wasn’t to shove as many referral links as possible into the text?

  • Privateuly

    Is there a problem if I just use the Freedom card exclusively to hit the 5x bonus categories and use Sapphire Preferred for everything else? Would Chase consider this an abuse? I don’t want to get blacklisted.

  • ckey

    Great post, though I do think you mean retroactive instead of proactive…if it were proactive we wouldn’t have to register at all!

  • Lr

    Completely agree. I was thinking the exact same thing.

  • Cathleenn

    I’ve had two Chase Freedom cards for years – I was paranoid about online purchases when that first came possible, and I keep one around just for online buying. It helps keep me organized.

  • http://twitter.com/experienceTed Fat Ted

    I already have the Freedom Visa and Sapphire Preferred Visa and really like the Chase service already, I didn’t know the Freedom was available as a mastercard. I might have to get that for the bonus 10,000 points (so glad you can combine everything easily). I think you have finally motivated to keep track of my spending in the bonus categories and try my best to maximize each of them.

  • Spencer

    12 referral links in the post. TWELVE!!

  • C75K

    Makes me want to get a Freedom card. I will certainly NOT use any of these links.

  • PJ

    NOT AT ALL ; I got my Master card and Visa before they converted my cards into freedom cards. Either card then had 300 capped bonus annually and I used them virtually exclusively for the only two categories they rebated 5 % ALL YEAR around GAS and Groceries. They even confirmed to me I could buy grocery gift cards to max out $1500 quarterly cap and also AMazon cap in 1st quarter
    Now I also have Sapphire Preferred, Southwest, Hyatt, Mileage Plus and waiting to see if they are giving me the 7th card Fairmont

  • April

    “focus the Freedom on gas stations and buy up gift cards with whatever remainder is left…”, so purchase of gift cards in the gas station store also qualify 5% just like purchasing gas at the pump? I thought only at the pump qualifies 5%.

  • thepointsguy

    Nope- any purchase at the gas station counts as 5x- not just gas

  • thepointsguy

    Hah very good point- will change to retroactive

  • thepointsguy

    I wouldn’t worry about that. They limit the 5x to $1,500 quarterly so I don’t think maxing it out will raise any red flags

  • OS

    How do you organize all of this? I would like to track things like this but:

    1) I don’t have any of those cards – I have Cap One Venture (2x everything), AmEx Blue Sky, and then I have all airline or hotel cards, other than my one long term mainstay Navy Federal CU Card, which doesn’t offer much on purchases, but no balance xfer fees is certainly a winner if I ever HAD to keep a balance (which I try intently not to).

    2) It seems to be ever changing – how do you keep up with what is the right card to use that week? I can feel my head spinning already. I use evreward for online purchases, but it’s the in-store stuff that I really need help with.

    It seems like there’s an opening for an app developer to create something that ties in the benefits of each card, so after you enter your card portfolio and check in at a store, it tells you which card to use for certain items there.

  • thepointsguy

    The point was to discuss how I maximize my points using different credit cards. It’s a common theme that won’t stop as long as credit cards remain the number 1 way to earn miles and points

  • uwp

    Thanks TPG, the usage breakdowns are always useful. I don’t understand why people get upset about links, but whatever…

    To be more on topic: does anyone have experience with how wineries are classified with Chase? I’m trying to meet a spend req with my AMEX Premier Gold, but I will direct the spend to my Freedom if a winery counts as a restaurant. 5% is too good to pass up on a large purchase.

  • thepointsguy

    I highly doubt it but I emailed my chase contacts and I’ll let you know what they say

  • April

    Thanks TPG. Then how about purchases at 7-elevens? For 7-elevens with pumps and without pumps? And how about at Wawa (in rural PA)?

  • Guest

    If you guys don’t trust his motives, don’t read his blog. I hope you didn’t think he was the tooth fairy seeking no kind of recompense.

  • GUGU

    Wow, that’s a lot of cards from Chase…

    Quick question,….I got one Freedom-6 years ago, one sapphire preferred-4 months ago, and one bold ink-1 month ago, and I’ve applied for the Fairmont and it’s pending… What are my chances of getting accepted? My fico is 760 and I pay off all my balances monthly

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=22008828 Kurt Gonska

    When applying for the Freedom MasterCard, I got the “Thank you for applying. Your application requires further review before making a decision.” message because I already have a Freedom Visa. I called the reconsideration phone number and the rep told me, “It is not possible to have more than one Chase Freedom card.” She put me on hold, came back and said the same. I pointed her to the URL of the FAQ you posted above. She put me on hold again, came back and again insisted that it’s not possible to have more than one Freedom card. I asked to talk to a supervisor, and the rep hung up on me.

  • Grant Thomas

    Call up and ask them if they can approve you on the phone. If you mention you want to close one of your existing chase card, they will put you on a hold for a few minutes and then 99% of the time approval you for the card you want without closing the other card.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=22008828 Kurt Gonska

    Called the reconsideration line back and a second rep told me “it is not possible to have more than one Chase Freedom card, even if one is a Visa and one is a MasterCard.”

  • Jgray

    Hmm… I have a similar set of cards. I just max out the $1500 with gas and dining… When I hit the max, future dining goes to sapphire and future gas goes to ink bold at 2x. I value 2 ultimate rewards points similar to 2.5 membership rewards points…do why stress about all the calculations?

    Anyway I don’t get to $30k on the prg anyway so it is an even easier decision for me. I am probably canceling the prg this year for that reason before my first fee…would need to spend $17.5k a year on airlines and groceries to break even on the fee and I don’t come close. Now that my ink bold gives me the gas bonus I see even less of a reason to keep the prg. Only makes sense for really big spenders

  • thepointsguy

    Sounds like you got a cranky rep- id try again

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=22008828 Kurt Gonska

    I just talked to two different supervisors in two different departments. They say it’s impossible to have more than one Freedom card (even if one’s a Visa and one is a MasterCard). They said that some people may have had old cards that were discontinued and automatically converted into a Freedom card (even thought they already had one Freedom card), but that’s the only way.

  • Carol

    Can my husband transfer his Freedom points to my Sapphire Preferred account, for free?

  • Asdfasdfa

    i like to get 50% more cash back… only a baby wouldn’t want 50% more cash…

    favorite ad evah

  • Asdfasdsa

    you are definition of troll

  • Rob P

    Yes!

  • Rob P

    All purchases at 7-11 stores with pumps are 5x. I don’t know about non-pump stores since the 5x is for gas stations.

  • Privateuly

    I am thinking of applying for the freedom card. Any thought as to if / when Chase will increase the signup bonus? I understand that it was as high as $300 in the past? Will that come back?

  • ART S.

    I used my card inside a 7-11 (needed the slurpee fix). I just did an “audit” and noticed it did not count.

    Tip: Download the transactions into a CSV file for your statement and can find which ones counted and which didn’t. I know Costco and Sam’s Club is on the “Not” list, but noticed BJ’s Gas did not count (even though it was listed on another Chase card in Gas Category in my Year-end statement.

  • Rob P

    Update: 7-11 with pumps get 5x, according to Chase’s list. No pumps, no 5x. https://creditcards.chase.com/freedom/merchants.aspx

  • Fanfoot

    I agree here. I took a look at Mint.com for example and got scared off by the fact that they’d have access to all my account info (bank account number, login, password, all my credit card numbers etc). But an app that had such access and was written correctly, and audited, could store these passwords IN YOUR PHONE AND NOT ON THE INTERNET ANYWHERE. Use a nice password to encrypt/lock up this data (again audited by somebody reliable) and you’d have a useful solution without too much compromise in your security…

    Hmmm… Sell the app for a reasonable price so people know you’ll stay in business and…

    Big problem with this idea probably is the number of people who might take advantage of something like this. How many people would really pay say $5 for an app like this? How many people play these sorts of games?

  • JenSLO

    The reps are always super nice if you make a charge, then call a few days later to see how the merchant classification ended up. For instance, I was worried because the gas stations on the military base used to just show up as “Exchange,” but today the rep told me a specific one showed up as “gas.”

  • EC Coffman

    Can I purchase a Vanilla Reload Card at 7/11 on my Freedom and get 5 points? Or is 7/11 classified as a gas station by Chase?

  • EC Coffman

    7 Eleven is on Chase’s list of Gas Stations!!
    https://creditcards.chase.com/freedom/merchants.aspx

  • Jessy

    I have had issues with chase calculating my bonus categories and my chase exclusives. For example, if I made 700 purchases I should get 70×10=700 points but many times that number is off. There are other formulas with chase exclusives and benefits which I have been short changed. Ive called chase and the first few times they were nice enough to credit me the points. However, over the last 2 months, chase has been denying the points adjustment saying that they have already given me additional points in the past and that their systems are accurate. I have spoken to supervisors and they denied the adjustment request too. I have sent secure messages and those requests were also denied. I have grown a little disgruntled with Chase. Has anyone else experienced this?

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  • Blake Baxter

    I had the same experience as Kurt. I have called several times and explained why I require a visa and Mastercard. They all have told me that I would have to close out my Visa Freedom in order to get the Mastercard Freedom. Brian, have you had luck with getting both cards recently?

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  • http://twitter.com/palmerlaw Mark C. Palmer

    Thanks TPG!
    The Freedom 10%+10 bonus can add up fast, esp. if you’re daily user of small transactions, e.g. vending machines, parking meters, even small “dining” (>$11) over Sapphire x2.14. A classic is the $0.25 parking meter = 12 points (~$0.228 value)!

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