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One of the best ways out there to rack up bonus points on specific spending categories is with Chase Freedom’s quarterly rotating categories of merchants and retailers where cardholders earn 5 points per $1 up to a $1,500 quarterly cap.

Earn 5% cash back at department stores this quarter.
Earn 5% cash back at gas stations, movie theaters and Starbucks.

The categories for the entire year are as follows:

  • Q1 from January 1-March 31, 2014: Gas stations, movie theaters and Starbucks
  • Q2 from April 1–June 30, 2014: Restaurants and Lowe’s home improvement stores
  • Q3 from July 1–September 30, 2014: Gas stations and Kohl’s
  • Q4 from October 1–December 31, 2014:, and select department stores

And now that it’s January, it’s time to maximize your earning at the Q1 categories of gas stations, movie theaters and Starbucks.

Though gas prices have dropped a bit lately, they’re still pretty high and if you use your Freedom to purchase gas (or gift cards at gas stations), you can probably max out the $1,500 quarterly cap in no time. While I go to Starbucks every day, I don’t think I’ll come close to hitting the $1,500 cap, so I’ll use it for gas until I do and then switch back to my Amex Premier Rewards Gold card for gas purchases since I already earn 2X points per $1 with it.

It won't take long to max out the $1,500 cap on gas!
It won’t take long to max out the $1,500 cap on gas!

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 then loading 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.

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 Chase Sapphire Preferred, or Ink Bold or Ink Plus, including United, British Airways, Southwest, Korean, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, IHG Rewards, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton and Amtrak. Earning 5 United miles for every dollar spent is a pretty great deal for a card that has no annual fee.

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If you haven’t activated your card for the 5x categories yet, you can activate your card the following ways:

  • Online: Visit
  • Text Message: Sign up for Chase Freedom 5% Text Reminders at and you’ll get a text reminding you when it’s time to activate.
  • Email: Provide your email address at and they will send you an email when it’s time to activate.
  • Phone: Call the number on the back of your card and let an adviser activate your 5% cash back.
  • Chase location: Visit any Chase bank and see a personal banker.
For those new to the Chase Freedom, the current sign-up offer is:
  • $100 bonus cash back after you spend $500 in your first three months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in bonus categories each quarter.
  • New 5% categories every month.
  • Earn 1% cash back on everything else that you buy without limits on what you can earn.
  • Earn extra cash back with you shop online at select merchants through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Just keep in mind that the bonus sometimes goes up to 20,000 points (which it just was in December and will probably be again at some point in the future).

For more on the Chase Freedom, read these previous posts:
Chase Freedom Visa 2014 5x Bonus Categories Announced
Chase Freedom Sign-Up Bonus Increased To 20,000 Bonus Points
Top 10 Cards In My Wallet And What I Use Each For
Getting the Most Points From Starbucks Purchases
Earning the Most Miles and Points on Gas Station Purchases
Maximizing Points on Gas Spending and Gift Cards

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