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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – The Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN
Time to activate your Chase Freedom card for the third quarter category spending bonuses for 2013 where you can earn 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar you spend at select merchants from July 1 – September 30, 2013.
This time around, the Q3 2013 bonus categories: Gas stations, theme parks and Kohl’s. You have until September 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.
After this, the Q4 spending bonuses will be:
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 also always get reminded at Chase ATMs and was able to activate this quarter’s 5x by clicking a button at the ATM.
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 Sapphire Preferred, or Ink Bold or Ink Plus (read about some of those cards’ lesser-known benefits here) – both of which are currently offering a limited-time bonus offer of 60,000 points for this week only – Update: The current offer for the Ink Plus and Ink Bold cards is 50,000 points with $5,000 spend in the first 3 months . Not only that, but the Freedom recently revised its bonus earning structure so that starting August 1, 2013, instead of the old Chase Exclusives formula where you earned a 10% bonus on the base points you earned every year and a 10-point per-transaction bonus to just earning a flat 10% bonus on all points you earn in the year, including the 5X bonus points, so if you max out these categories, you’re looking at another 3,000 points on top of it.
If you have one of those premium Ultimate Rewards cards, travel partners include: United, British Airways, Southwest, Korean Air, Virgin Atlantic, 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.
Check out this post for how to maximize the Freedom/Sapphire Preferred/Ink combination’s points-earning potential.
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 Q3, I’m thinking about using my Freedom card to max out my gas purchases, where it shouldn’t be hard to hit the $1,500 quarterly cap given that I have a few road trips coming up and how high gas prices are.
I have the Premier Rewards Gold and Business Gold Rewards cards from Amex, both of which offer 2X points per $1 at gas stations, but I’ll take 5X Ultimate Rewards over 2X Membership Rewards points any day, and then once I hit my cap, I may switch back to one of my Amex’s – especially because I’d really like to hit the annual $30,000 spending threshold on the Premier Rewards Gold to earn a bonus 15,000 Membership Rewards points. I also have the Chase Ink Bold and Ink Plus cards, which earn 2X points at gas stations up to $50,000 per year, so that’s another option for bonus points earning.
If you don’t have these other cards, or you won’t hit the $1,500 cap at gas stations, you can consider the other two categories (hey, everyone has fun at Six Flags or Disney!), or look for gas stations that sell gift cards to other merchants you like like Starbucks or Amazon.com and you can use your Freedom to buy those cards and max out the quarterly bonus cap then use those cards to make your everyday purchases.
For more on how to maximize your points earning from gas station purchases, check out this post.
What is your strategy for maximizing the Freedom’s Q3 5X bonus categories?