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If you have the Chase Freedom card and you haven’t done so already, you have until Thursday, March 14, 2013, to activate your card to earn 5x points per $1 on the bonus spending categories for the first quarter of 2013: gas stations, drugstores and Starbucks, and the best part is, if you haven’t activated yet Chase will retroactively credit you with the bonus points on your Q1 category spending so far and you still have two weeks to max it out.
Although with gas prices as high as they’ve been lately, if you’ve been using your card to pay for gas, you’ve probably maxed out the $1,500 cap already, but if you still have a ways to go, you have a couple options. You can max out the drugstore category by purchasing prepaid cards and Vanilla Reloads (if you have an Amex Bluebird to load) at CVS and Walgreens.
If you’re a coffee drinker and Starbucks devotee, you could also use your Freedom card to double dip by using your Freedom to buy Starbucks gift cards at a drugstore then load them onto your My Starbucks Rewards card so that you’re earning the 5x on your spend as well as your free Starbucks food and drink when you use your My Starbucks Rewards in-store.
Put it in your calendar to activate your Freedom card the next day, March 15, 2013, for the Q2 2013 bonus categories, which originally included restaurants and movie theaters, but which now also includes Lowe’s, which can be really lucrative if you have some home repair coming up.
Quarter 4: October – December
Select Department Stores
Activate starting September 15, 2013
If you don’t want to forget to activate your card in the future, you can have Chase send you a reminder by email or text.
I always recommend planning your spend ahead of time to spend where you aren’t already getting bonus points, or where the 5x Ultimate Rewards points beats your other bonuses. So in Q2, I’m thinking about using my Freedom card to buy some Lowe’s gift cards in-store because as a homeowner, up-keep is always on my mind and I’m sure repairs and little fixes will come up in the future. The other category I’ll probably concentrate my spending in this quarter is in restaurants.
With my Sapphire Preferred, I already get 2.14 points per $1 I spend at restaurants (including the 7% annual points dividend), but with the Freedom this quarter, I’ll be earning 5.5 points per $1 thanks to the 5x category bonus plus the 10% annual points dividend on Freedom, which now includes category spending bonus points (which it did not previously).
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). Still, that’s a potential total of 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points annually, which is pretty lucrative for a card with no annual fee. That might not seem like a ton, but it’s equivalent to $300 in cash back if you just have the Freedom, or it can be transferred to Ultimate Rewards’ travel partners if you have one of the premium cards like the Sapphire Preferred, 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. It's a stellar Cash Back card on its own, but when paired with the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Freedom's 5x Category Bonuses let you rack up Chase Ultimate Rewards Points, transferrable to partners or redeemable via the portal.
It's a stellar Cash Back card on its own, but when paired with the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Freedom's 5x Category Bonuses let you rack up Chase Ultimate Rewards Points, transferrable to partners or redeemable via the portal.