Maxing Out Bonus Spending Categories — Reader Mistake Story

Oct 10, 2017

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We often publish stories from readers that illustrate how points and miles can help you get where you want to go. However, it’s important to learn from our mistakes as well as our successes, so I’m calling on you to send us your most epic travel failure stories. Email them to and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls. If we publish your story, we’ll send you a gift to help jump-start your next adventure!

Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Joann, who used the wrong card for some of her dining purchases. Here’s what she had to say:

I focus on earning Ultimate Rewards points, so I was very excited about the 5x bonus at restaurants on the Chase Freedom this summer.  I put all my dining charges on the Freedom card rather than my Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn the extra 2 points per dollar.

One day I was checking my account online and noticed that it said I had reached the  limit for the quarterly bonus. I hadn’t even considered the cap, since I was so used to the Reserve having no limit on earning 3x points for dining purchases. The extra $544 I spent on the Freedom card only earned 1 point per dollar, so I received 544 points instead of the 2,720 points I expected. I would’ve earned 1,632 points by charging that extra spending to my Reserve card instead.

On top of that, I learned that Chase doesn’t count certain purchases as dining (like bakery products). I lost a handful of points from not using my Freedom Unlimited card before I realized that mistake. Overall, I missed out on around 1,100 points — it’s not much, but I hope this story will help people be more aware of which card they use to maximize their spending!
The Chase Freedom is no longer open to new applicants.


To maximize your points, make sure you know the dates and limits of your quarterly spending bonuses.


Joann’s mistake wasn’t too costly — I value Ultimate Rewards at 2.2 cents apiece, so she only lost about $24 worth of points. Still, her story highlights the importance of tracking your purchases on cards that offer limited spending bonuses. One missed opportunity is no big deal, but those rewards add up quickly.

The Freedom card offers 5 points per dollar on up to $1,500 in purchases in rotating quarterly categories. Beyond that $1,500 threshold (or after the bonus period ends) you’ll only earn 1 point per dollar, so you should switch to another card that offers a better return. If you need help tracking bonuses or deciding which card to use for a given purchase, check out the TPG To Go app.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Joann for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on future travels.

I’d like to do the same for you! If you’ve ever arrived at the airport without ID, booked a hotel room in the wrong city, missed out on a credit card sign-up bonus or made another memorable travel or rewards mistake, I want to hear about it. Please indulge me and the whole TPG team by sending us your own stories (see instructions above). I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured image courtesy of Kathleen Finlay via Getty Images.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.