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Time to activate your Chase Freedom card for the first quarter category spending bonuses where you can earn 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar you spend at select merchants.
This time around, the Q1 2013 bonus categories: Gas stations, drugstores and Starbucks. You have until March 14, 2013 to activate (though you might as well do so now), and then all your expenditures at those types of merchants up to a cap of $1,500 for the quarter will earn 5 points per dollar.
Even if you don’t have the card yet, but were planning on getting it, Chase will retroactively credit you with the bonus points on your category spending from the whole quarter.
About Bonus Spending Categories
Freedom’s 5x spending bonuses are one of the best ways to rack up bonus Ultimate Rewards points using your Chase Freedom Visa or Freedom Mastercard. The only downside is the $1,500 quarterly cap ($6,000 annually). That’s still a potential total of 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points annually, which is pretty lucrative for a card with no annual fee. Those 30,000 points are equivalent to $300 in cash back if you just have the Freedom, or they can be transferred to Ultimate Rewards’ travel partners if you have one of the premium cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, or Ink Bold or Ink Plus (read about some of those cards’ lesser-known benefits here).
If you have one of those premium Ultimate Rewards cards, travel partners include: United, British Airways, Southwest, Korean Air, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Priority Club and Amtrak. I personally think United miles are most valuable transfer option since the airline’s award thresholds and fees are pretty low and it has pretty generous award/routing rules. Earning 5 United miles for every dollar spent is a pretty amazing deal for a card that has no annual fee.
My Q1 Spending Strategy
In terms of how this will affect my own spending this quarter, I plan on maxing out the $1,500 cap at drugstores by buying (hopefully) Vanilla Reloads and PayPal/Green Dot cards. I always try to juice the category that I’m not already earning bonus points on and I already earn 2x points on my Amex Premier Rewards and Ink Plus / Ink Bold cards and 2.14x at Starbucks since that spend is classified as dining on my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (and there is no limit to the bonus points).
As for drugstores, if you have one of the Hilton American Express cards, like the Hilton Amex or the Surpass card, you could consider using those at drugstores since they each earn 6 points per $1, though I’d take 5 Ultimate Rewards points (which I value at 2 cents each) over 6 HHonors points (I value them closer to 0.7 cents each) any day, so if I had one of the Hilton cards, I’d contemplate using it instead.