Chase Freedom 2013 5x Bonus Categories Announced

by on November 28, 2012 · 37 comments

in Chase, Credit Cards, Shopping

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One of the best ways out there to rack up bonus points on specific spending categories is with the Chase Freedom Visa and Freedom Mastercard’s quarterly rotating categories of merchants and retailers where cardholders earn 5 points per $1 up to a $1,500 quarterly cap. If you maximize the $6,000 in yearly spend, you are looking at 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points, which may not seem like a ton, but it’s pretty awesome for a card that has no annual fee. Normally 30,000 Freedom Ultimate Rewards points equal $300 in cash-back, but I value them at about $600, since I can transfer them to my Sapphire Preferred and Ink Ultimate Rewards accounts and then transfer on to partners like United, Southwest and Hyatt.

The current categories for Quarter 4 of 2012 are airline tickets, hotels, Best Buy and Kohl’s. If you haven’t activated your card for the bonuses yet, you have until December 14, 2012 to do so. Per the FAQ, Chase will retroactively credit you with the bonus points on your Q4 category spending so far and you still have two weeks to max it out while getting ahead on your holiday travel plans or gift shopping.

You can now find the 2013 Freedom bonus categories on the activation page.

Plus, the 2013 bonus spending categories for all four quarters have been announced and are:

Quarter 1: January – March
Gas Stations
Activate starting December 15, 2012

Quarter 2: April – June
Movie Theaters
Activate starting March 15, 2013

Quarter 3: July-September
Gas Stations
Theme Parks
Activate starting June 15, 2013

Quarter 4: October – December 
Select Department Stores
Activate starting September 15, 2013

Remember to activate your card for the 2013 Q1 bonuses starting December 15 – if you don’t want to forget, you can have Chase send you a reminder by email or text.

Which Card to Use? 
I always recommend planning your spend ahead of time to spend where you aren’t already getting bonus points so in Q1, I already get 2.14 points per dollar at Starbucks using my Sapphire Preferred (or for purchases under $10 I use my Freedom with Exclusives and get a 10 point per transaction bonus and 10% bonus on points). I also already get 2x points on gas by using either my Ink Bold / Plus or Amex Premier Rewards Gold cards so I’ll probably aim to spend mostly at drug stores and either get reimbursed through my Flexible Savings Account or try to purchase Vanilla Reloads to load into my Bluebird account.

If you don’t have a Bluebird card, or can’t use your Freedom to purchase them, you can use it to buy other gift or prepaid/reloadable cards at drugstores as well, then use those cards to make your everyday purchases since it’s better to earn 5x points on the gift card purchase than just the 1 point per $1 you’d earn by just using your Freedom card at non-bonus merchants.

Freedom, Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold/Plus Combo
If you just have the Freedom card, those points are just good toward cash back, but remember, if you also have a Sapphire Preferred 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. 

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Mileage Update

    At a max bonus of 7,500 pts a quarter this seems like a snoozer to me. I guess its nice if you have the card but not a lot of bonus.

  • Mike

    Dismal categories this year. No hotels or airfare. Q1 and Q3 are worthless for people without cars.

  • SgFm

    Any Best Buys left that sell Mastercard or Visa gift cards, that any readers know of?

  • Charlotte

    I see lots of Vanilla Reloads in Q1 at CVS on the Freedom card.

  • John K

    BINGO! =D

  • John K

    I think there are some gas stations that sell GCs….

  • Patricka5

    I don’t have the Freedom card (yet). The signup bonus is $100 cash back. Is there an offer out there that gives you UR points for a bonus (instead of cash back)? I have the Ink Plus and wife has the Sapphire Preferred, so it would be nice to get some UR bonus points to transfer over.

  • thepointsguy

    It’s actually 10,000 UR points and if you have a sapphire pref/ink you can transfer it into those accounts and then on to transfer partners. Not an amazing bonus (it’s been as high as 30k), but not bad especially considering 5x earning

  • stef

    thanks for the heads up on the Chase Freedom … it makes it a lot easier to plan additional spending!

  • The Dude

    Hotels and Airfare was a BS category since you had to buy it from the Airline or Hotel. That meant potential foreign transaction fees. Q1 is covered with three VR purchases – easily – and, as John K said, Q3 can be covered with the same. I actually think the current quarter is the worst, as I do most of my travel abroad.

  • Patricka5

    Thanks for the clarification. Since I just got the Ink Plus card, I think I’m going to limit myself to just one more Chase application. I had got the SW Visa in 2010, got the bonus, and cancelled the card in late 2010. Since it has been 2 years later, do you think I can get the bonus again?

  • Tana

    I don’t think so. But Best Buy does sell Amazon gift cards so if you need to just max out the Q4 Freedom bonus with that. I know I can easily spend $1500 at Amazon.

  • Sarah C

    “If you don’t have a Bluebird card, or can’t use your Freedom to purchase them, you can use it to buy other gift or prepaid/reloadable cards at drugstores as well, then use those cards to make your everyday purchases since it’s better to earn 5x points on the gift card purchase than just the 1 point per $1 you’d earn by just using your Freedom card at non-bonus merchants.”

    Why wouldn’t someone be able to use Freedom to purchase Bluebird?? New to all of this and couldn’t find answer on other posts. Thank you in advance!

  • Iterfacio12

    TPG, will purchases at count towards the first quarter category of drugstores? If so, by going through Ultimate Rewards you can increase the points earned per dollar.

  • Paul

    Terrible categories.

  • PJ

    Goodbye to 5 % grocery store rebate Hello 5% US banks choose your 5 % categories Credit cards.. also the AMex BLue Cash Preferred

  • RP

    When he says “them” he means Vanilla Reloads (see his previous sentence). VRs are needed to fund Bluebird. This is the funding method that earns the most points with Bluebird. Some drugstores will sell you these with a credit card (like Freedom), others only take cash. If you can’t buy VR with Freedom at a drugstore, buying other gift/prepaid/reloadable cards that you can use for everyday purchases elsewhere can get you also get you a lot of points.

  • RP

    The conventional wisdom is that you can get a bonus again when reapplying for a specific Chase card if the original card has been cancelled for 2 years.

  • gg

    Why do you “already get 2.14 points per dollar at Starbucks using my Sapphire Preferred”?

  • Sarah C

    RP – Thanks! Understand it now. Hadn’t gotten into using Bluebird/VR since I only have CSP and Freedom cards but now maybe I can get into using Bluebird with the Q1 drugstores category. Thanks again!

  • thepointsguy

    2x points on dining and 7% annual dividend equates to 2.14 when all is said and done

  • gg

    Never thought Starbucks was considered dining…

  • Ericmargel

    No grocery stores? Looks like I’ll be getting an Amex Blue Preferred.

  • Guesty McGuesterson

    but if you buy something inside those gas station convenience stores, 99 times out of 100, those charges are not credited as gas, so you won’t get the 5% back on them. if you pay for gas inside the convenience store at the gas station, they always use a different cash register than the one they use to ring up the overpriced and 500 year old twinkies and 50 year old beef jerky that’s been sitting on their shelves. and i think there is a $75 transaction limit on “gas” purchases anyhow.

  • Guesty McGuesterson

    2 points per dollar at dining locations. then you get a 7% annual bonus on all points earned in the year, even if you’ve spent the points by year’s end. that translates to 2.14 points per dollar spent on dining. also on travel, same deal.

  • Guesty McGuesterson

    only $1,500 of spend per QUARTER will qualify. that’s only three $500 cards total for the entire period of january through march. hardly the jackpot. but still, $75 back on $1,500 spend. i’ll take it.

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  • Mon

    For 2012 Q4 can you purchase airline gift cards and get 5x? I’m considering AA GC , as I just got the card recently and might not use $1500 in the next weeks in the bonus categories.

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  • klsparrow

    No 5% at grocery stores this year. that is where people spend the most money. I guess they did not like having to give the 5% on food. I have the American Express Preferred card with 6% at grocery stores. I was looking at getting a second card that would give 5% at grocery stores. Thy had this option in 2012 but not 2013. No chase freedom card for me

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  • chasenomore

    I’m going to switch to another one of my other cards. These catagories are worthless. I’ll only use this when I have to.

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