Tomorrow, March 14, 2017, is the last day to register your Chase Freedom to earn 5x Ultimate Rewards at gas stations, on Uber, and other local commuter transportation costs that you can transfer (circuitously) to United, Korean, British Airways, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Flying Blue, and Singapore miles.
This is different than the new Chase Freedom Unlimited card, which Scott reviewed here.
If you register by tomorrow, your Freedom purchases will earn 5x on those categories retroactively to January 1, 2017 (up the standard limit of $1,500 spent in the bonus category per quarter).
On March 15, you will have the chance to register for 5x at grocery stores from April 1 to June 30.
With the Chase Freedom card, you can earn 5% cash back on your first $1,500 in purchases in bonus categories that rotate quarterly.
These are the categories Chase has announced so far for 2017:
To give you an idea of what’s to come, these were the bonus categories for 2016 (the final quarter was wholesale club, department store, and drug store purchases):
Although the chart says 5% cash back, you actually earn 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar that can be redeemed for cash back at a rate of 1 cent each– that’s why all the marketing of the card features cash back language. BUT if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred card, there is a second way of redeeming the Ultimate Rewards: transfer them to your Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred account and from there to airline miles or hotel points. We call this the Freedom Two Step.
Where You’ll Earn 5x Ultimate Rewards Retroactively From January Through March
All gas stations that specialize in selling gas should count, like a BP or Shell Station. Truck stops and boat marinas do not count. Local commuter transportation includes services like Uber or Lyft, taxis, subways, buses and trains. Parking, tolls, and Amtrak don’t count.
Using Gift Cards to Maximize the Freedom’s Category Bonuses
To maximize the quarterly bonuses, you’ll need to spend $1,500 within each three month period. That would get you a total of 30,000 Ultimate Rewards over the course of a year:
($1,500 in purchases x 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar) x 4 quarters in a year = 30,000 Ultimate Rewards
If you’re only shopping for one it could be difficult to spend that much on gas stations and Uber/subways etc. within three months. But there is a work around that enables you to spread out that $1,500 of spending over the course of a more reasonable amount of time– gift cards.
Some major gas station chains offer gift cards that have much longer periods of expiration than three months (the length of time this category bonus lasts). Uber and Lyft also offer gift cards. I’m not positive Uber and Lyft gift cards count and I can’t find any data points on whether they do or not, if anyone has any experience please leave it in the comments.
The same practice of widening the time window you have to maximize category bonuses via gift cards could be applied to upcoming category bonuses as well. Wholesale clubs will likely be one of the merchants in the holiday shopping category as it was last year, and places like Sam’s or BJ’s sell gift cards that don’t expire for long periods of time.
How to Activate the Category Bonuses
Your Freedom card will not automatically start earning 5x Ultimate Rewards each time the quarter changes. You have to you register your card at chasebonus.com to activate the category bonuses.
The deadline to activate the 1st Quarter Bonus is tomorrow, March 14. In case you forgot to activate until later in the quarter, Chase will retroactively credit you the 5x Ultimate Rewards for every dollar spent since the first day of the quarter as long as it’s by the activation deadline.
Other Reasons to Get the Chase Freedom
- You’ll get $150 cash back or 15,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $500 in the first three months of opening the card
- You’ll get $25 cash back or 2,500 Ultimate Rewards when you add an authorized user and make your first purchase within the first three months of opening the card
- 1% Cash back or 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other spending with no limit
- No Annual Fee
With no annual fee, it’s easy to see why this card is worth signing up for and keeping, to use whenever you’re not meeting minimum spending requirements for new cards. Everyday 1x spending aside, you can earn 47,500 Ultimate rewards just from the sign-up bonus, adding an authorized user, and maximizing the category bonuses each quarter for a year:
15,000 + 2,500 + 30,000 = 47,500
That’s either $475 cash back, or 47,500 Ultimate Rewards transferrable to seven types of airline miles or four different kinds hotel points if you also have a Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred you can complete the Freedom Two Step with.
What You Can Do with Your Ultimate Rewards if You Also Have a Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred
- You can use 57,500 United miles for a one way trip in a flat bed from the United States to Europe, or 40,000 United miles for a one way trip in Thai First Class from Bangkok to Sydney with a free hourlong Thai massage before the flight.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards are worth about 1.4 cents toward any Southwest flight with no blackouts. You can do better with other transfer partners, but that’s still 40% better than redeeming the Ultimate Rewards for cash back at 1 cent each.
- For only 45,000 Korean miles, you can fly roundtrip from the United States mainland to Hawaii in Delta First Class. Or you can book amazing Korean First Class for as cheap as 45,000 miles.
- Free nights at Hyatts worldwide start at 5,000 points.
- Award flights with British Airways Avios start at 4,500 miles one way, and Boston to Ireland or the west coast to Hawaii is only 12,500 miles one way.
- Use 30,000 Singapore miles for a United First Class flight to Hawaii.
As you can see, transfers offer the opportunity to do way better than 1 cent per Ultimate Reward.
If you are planning on opening the Chase Freedom card and don’t already have a Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred card, you should consider opening one or the other to expand your Ultimate Rewards redemption possibilities. Not to mention the current sign-up bonus offers of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards for the Sapphire Preferred and 85,000 Ultimate Rewards for the Ink Business Preferred — talk about expanding redemption possibilities!
For purchases on the Chase Freedom card in gas stations and on local commuter transportation like Uber and subways from January 1 through March 31, you will earn 5% cash back. Make sure you register your card here by tomorrow, March 14, if you want to earn 5x points retroactively for this past quarter.