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The Chase Freedom card by itself is a pretty decent card for your average consumer that wants to get something back for their spend, but doesn’t want to deal with an annual fee or confusing points programs. You simply get 1% cash back and an exciting 5% on up to $1,500 spent in rotating quarterly categories. However, savvy points collectors can leverage this card because Chase allows Ultimate Rewards points earned by Freedom to be transferred to the premium Ultimate Rewards transfer partners (like United, Hyatt and Southwest) as long as you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Ink Bold or Ink Plus card. So what is a basic cash-back card for so many people, can turn into a premium rewards card producing valuable United miles and Hyatt points- all with no annual fee. Kind of a no brainer!
In addition to the 5x bonus categories, Chase also gives their customers who have a checking account access to additional point earning bonuses via the Chase Exclusives. When I signed up for the program years ago it gave me a 10% bonus (not on 5x categorizes) and a 10 point transaction per purchase, which made small purchases very lucrative. However earlier this year Chase changed the program, but many people were left grandfathered in the old (more lucrative program with no official end date). You can’t sign up online- you should call Chase to confirm you are enrolled in the program and it’ll often take a couple months for the program to be in effect once you open a Freedom card or checking account.
Instead, both of those benefits have been replaced with a 10% annual bonus at the end of the year on all points earned, including the Chase Freedom’s lucrative quarterly 5x points bonus spending categories – sort of like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s annual 7% points dividend which is also awarded on all points earned including 2X on travel and dining.
Chase warned us about these changes, but didn’t give us the actual date on which they would occur…until now. Yesterday, I received the following letter in the mail:
It states that the changeover date to the new bonus system will begin on August 1, 2013. This may just be for me, though I’d love to hear if others have gotten the notice and what their conversion date is.
While I’m sad to see the 10 points per transaction and monthly 10% bonus go away, at least we still have the annual 10% dividend and it applies to the card’s lucrative bonus spending categories as well – which makes it a good alternative. Not great, but still good.
As a reminder, you can find the current bonus spending categories here, but they include restaurants, movie theaters and Lowe’s until June 30, 2013, and each quarter you earn 5 points per $1 you spend at merchants in those categories up to a quarterly max of $1,500 (or 7,500 points). So that means if you max out the bonus each quarter to earn a total of 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points, you’ll be earning an additional 3,000 bonus points at the end of the year. Your total points haul will be 33,000 points with $6,000 in spend – not bad for a card with no annual fee.
So what does all this mean for your Ultimate Rewards points strategy?
If you have no Chase cards right now, but want to create the most power points-earning combination, I’d recommend first getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card card which currently has a 40,000-point bonus after $3,000 spend within 3 months and the $95 annual fee waived the first year.
You can also apply for either the Ink Bold or Ink Plus cards, both of which have a 50,000-point bonus after $5,000 in spend within 3 months. You can get two cards on the same day – just make sure you can spend the $8,000 within three months (here are some ways to maximize spend) and if you need ideas on how to handle it, then wait at least one month before applying for the next card.
You can then apply for the Freedom (and either the Ink Bold or Plus if you still want the one you didn’t get earlier) since it currently comes with 10,000 bonus points or $100 cash back after $500 spend within 3 months and has no annual fee.
Then when it comes to spending, max out those Chase Freedom quarterly category spending bonuses for a total of 30,000 points each year (7,500 points x 4 quarters) and you will get an extra 3,000 points from the 10% annual dividend. I value Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each, so there’s $60 in value right off the bat – already a bonus since the Freedom is a no-fee card.
When it comes to your other spending, make sure you are maximizing the specific bonus spending categories of your other Chase cards including the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s 2x points on travel and dining, and the Ink Bold and Ink Plus’s 5x category spending bonus at office supply stores and 2x points on gas stations and hotels.
Also remember that if you have the Freedom and any of the other three premium cards, you can transfer your Freedom points to your Sapphire Preferred/Ink Bold accounts (or to anyone else’s) by logging into ultimaterewards.com -> Manage Ultimate Rewards -> Combine points.
When it comes to an overall, long-term points strategy, you’ve got to think big picture and that includes not only using several credit cards, but your overall banking profile. It can’t just be all about getting credit cards with Chase. One of the reasons I have been able to get so many lucrative credit card bonuses for the banks line of travel credit cards is that I have been a customer with them for a long time and have a variety of different accounts with them, so they want to keep me happy.
And they do – not only with credit card sign ups, but also because I love their online banking software, including the ability to deposit checks by taking a picture of them on your mobile phone, and that you can pay people electronically. The fact that they have some of the best travel credit cards and most lucrative bonuses on the market these days just makes them all the more attractive to me, and is a huge reason that Chase will remain a central part of my points strategy.