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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.
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: Amazon.com, Zappos.com and select department stores
So you’ve still got 2 more weeks to maximize the Freedom at gas stations, movie theaters and Starbucks before the new merchants come into effect. The only downside of this benefit as I see it 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. Those 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, 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 good deal for a card that has no annual fee.
There is a bit of overlap in the bonus categories here with one of my other workhorse credit cards, the Sapphire Preferred, which earns a total of 2.14x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar at restaurants including the card’s 7% annual points dividend. Because the Freedom’s quarterly cap is $1,500 and the Sapphire Preferred’s bonus is unlimited (and it earns 3x points per $1 on First Fridays), I’m going to concentrate my bonus spending at Lowe’s this quarter. I have a lot of home improvement to do this spring, actually, so this really comes in handy for me – especially since right now, I can earn an extra 5x points per dollar for clicking through to Lowes.com via the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal.
However, even if you don’t have $1,500 to spend at Lowe’s, you can always purchase something online at Lowes.com for in-store pickup and then go into the store to exchange it for retailer gift cards, like Starbucks and iTunes, since those are usually only sold in-store, and you can shift your spending that way. There are a lot of options!
If you haven’t activated your card for the 5x categories yet, you can activate your card the following ways:
- Online: Visit chase.com/freedom.
- Text Message: Sign up for Chase Freedom 5% Text Reminders at chase.com/freedom and you’ll get a text reminding you when it’s time to activate.
- Email: Provide your email address at chase.com/freedom 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.
- $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.
For more on the Chase Freedom, read these previous posts:
Chase Freedom 2014 5x Bonus Categories Announced
Top 10 Cards In My Wallet And What I Use Each For
Maximizing Dining Purchases
What is the Best Credit Card for Home Improvement Expenses?