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One of my favorite features of the Chase Freedom card is the ability to earn 5 points per $1 you spend up to $1,500 each quarter on certain categories of merchants that also change quarterly. Quarter 3 of 2012 is coming to an end on September 30 and Quarter 4 will be starting October 1. That means two things for Freedom cardholders:
1. Make sure you activate your card for the Q3 spending bonuses on gas stations and restaurants by tomorrow, September 14. Chase will retroactively credit you with the bonus points on your Q3 category spending and you’ll still have two weeks to max it out, like buying gift cards at gas stations and using them to pay for your future gas purchases. I wrote about the spending bonuses in this previous post if you want more information.
2. Starting September 15, you can register your card for the Q4 category spend bonuses including hotels, airlines, Best Buy and Kohl’s.
The great thing about activating your card is that, per this FAQ section on the Freedom card’s site, even if you don’t activate till the last day of the activation period (ie today!), you will still earn 5 points per $1 you’ve spent all quarter up to $1,500. You just have to be sure to activate before the deadline. That’s also why you should get ahead on Q4 by just activating your card tomorrow.
To avoid having to catch up on spending in the future, you can have reminder text messages or emails sent to you so you remember to activate your card for the bonus earnings each quarter.
Which Card to Use?
I’d recommend planning your spend ahead of time. Personally, I’m going to try and maximize the 5x spend at Best Buy and Kohl’s since the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card already gives 2.14x points per dollar spent on hotels and airlines. I plan to double dip and shop at Best Buy and Kohl’s through the Ultimate Rewards Earning Mall so I get the 5x, plus 10% Exclusives bonus, plus 10 point transaction plus the Earning Mall bonus, which right now is 10 points per dollar at Kohl’s and 1 point per dollar at Best Buy, but these bonuses generally increase drastically around Cyber Monday at the end of November. Even so, if Kohl’s stays at 10x, I’d earn roughly 23,250 points for $1,500 in Kohl’s expenditures by maximizing the Freedom card. I value Ultimate Rewards at least at 2 cents a piece, so that’s like getting $465 back in value for spending $1,500. Looks like my family and friends are getting a boatload of things from Kohl’s this holiday season
Freedom, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Ink Bold Combo
If you just have the Freedom card, those points are just good toward cash back, but remember, if you also have a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or either the Ink Bold with Ultimate Reward or Ink Plus cards, the Ultimate Reward points you earn with your Freedom card can be transferred to United, British Airways, Southwest, Korean, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Priority Club and Amtrak. I personally find United miles to be the most valuable transfer partner since their award thresholds are pretty low, they have generous routing rules and fees are dirt cheap. Earning 5 United miles for every dollar spent is a pretty amazing deal for a card that has no annual fee.
Plus, you can also maximize Freedom if you have a Chase checking account because they give a 10% bonus and 10 point per transaction bonus. That makes earning on most purchases more lucrative when using the Freedom over any other card. For more info on the Chase Exclusives/Checking program, check out this post.
Update: The Chase Freedom card no longer offers a bonus of 10% on all purchases plus a 10 point per transaction bonus. Instead, both of those benefits have been replaced with a 10% annual bonus at the end of the year on all purchases.