Use Gift Cards to Max Out the 5% Chase Freedom Gas Category Bonus

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I love the Chase Freedom Visa and Chase Freedom MasterCard because it makes it really easy to earn 5 times the number of Ultimate Rewards points (up to $1,500 or 7,500 points a quarter) for purchases which Emily and I would make in any case.

Chase Freedom Gas

My Gas Shop Drill – Gas & Gift Cards!

The Chase Freedom is a fee-free card, so it is a good Chase card to keep for a long time.

Up to the end of September (3 days away!), you earn 5 times the number of points for purchases in gas stations and in restaurants with the Chase Freedom Visa and MasterCard (provided you already activated the category).

And from October to December, you get 5 times the number of points for airline and hotel purchase directly through the airline or hotel, Best Buy & Kohl’s.

You can either redeem the points earned for cash back (5% cash back isn’t too shabby and some folks prefer cash back).  Or you can transfer the Ultimate Rewards points to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, Chase Ink Plus and from there to airline or hotel partners such as Hyatt or United.

Mommy Points has a post on how to use Chase Blueprint to track your spending by category.

We did not max out the $1,500 spending limit for gas stores, so we went to our Kwik Shop gas station (part of the Kroger chain) and stocked up on the following:

1.   Kwik Shop store brand cards.   We can use the Kwik Shop gift cards to not only pay for gas, but also to pay for groceries because Kwik Shop gift cards are also valid at Dillons & Kroger grocery stores.

Chase Freedom Gas

Buying Gas Station Gift Cards

2.  Restaurant gift cards.  We stocked up on restaurant gift cards.  I know we’ll give these as gifts at some point, so I might as well earn 5 times the number of points!

Chase Freedom Gas

Restaurant Gift Cards for Sale in the Gas Station

3.   Amazon gift cards.  I try to do as much of my shopping online, so I bought ~$200 worth of Amazon gift cards and applied them to my Amazon account.

Chase Freedom Gas

Amazon Gift Cards for Sale in the Gas Station

As I expected, all these purchases counted towards the 5% category bonus for gas stations!

Our gas station carried a HUGE selection of gift cards – Starbucks, Bob Evans Restaurants, Target, Marriott, McDonalds, Lowes, Macy’s – so don’t give up if you haven’t yet maxed out the 5% category bonus for gas stations with your Chase Freedom!

Bottom Line:  If you suspect that you won’t max out the 5% category bonus for gas stores or restaurants with the Chase Freedom Visa and MasterCard, buy gift cards from your gas station or from your favorite restaurants and use them later on.

But make sure that you can pay off your entire credit card balance when it comes due!  You could even buy a $500 Visa, MasterCard, or AMEX gift card and use that for regular purchases.  You’d still come out ahead, even with the ~$6 purchase fee.

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27 responses to “Use Gift Cards to Max Out the 5% Chase Freedom Gas Category Bonus

  1. It is much easier to track Freedom quarterly spend (and any other bonus category spend) using Mint.com. Using Mint, click on Trends. Select which card you want to track, put in Jul 1 – today for this quarter, and select your categories. (For me, checking categories is unnecessary because I use the Freedom ONLY for bonus categories, but some who have the Chase trifecta probably use it for a lot of small purchases.)

  2. I’m curious if this will work with Kohl’s and Best Buy as well for next quarter – don’t they sell Gift Cards at both of those stores? We no longer have a Best Buy in our area – but I’m pretty sure Kohl’s sells national retailer GC’s. Would it work the same?

    • @Anita – I use mint to keep track of my finances, but haven’t used it for the categories. I’ll give it a try!

      @Susan – I don’t have personal experience, but I’m sure that gift card purchases from Kohl’s and Best Buy will count towards the 5X.

      @Ryan from MA – I don’t have personal experience, but you may be able to get it since there are valid reasons for wanting both.

  3. Do you know if someone can get a Freedom Visa AND Freedom Mastercard? Not that I want to right now but just intrigued.

  4. Won’t it look suspicious (fraud almost) if Chase sees $300+ purchases at gas stations? I think if you did a bunch of small transactions throughout the 3 months you would fly under the radar.

  5. I’m still debating on getting the Freedom card….ugh. What to do……

  6. @Corey, how many Chase cards do you have? What kinds?

  7. United Explorer and Priority Club so far

  8. do you guys know if there is a gas station in NYC that sells gift cards? i am nowhere near maxing out on this promo… thanks.

  9. is this $1500 max PER 5% category bonus or $1500 max combine all the 5% category bonus?

  10. @Tommy – this would be $1500 max for each account you have. You can spend $1,500 at gas stations, or $1,500 at restaurants, or $750 at restaurants and $750 at gas stations, but anything over $1,500 per quarter combined in these categories will only get you 1x points.

    In Q4, combination of spending on airlines, hotels OR Best Buy and Kohl’s, not $1,500 each.

    • @Grant Thomas – Ha! While we were making the purchase we got a text from the Fraud Department asking us to verify a purchase at a gas station, which we did and all was fine.

      @Tommy – As Greg commented, it is 5% with a cap of $1,500 across all the categories in that quarter.

  11. @Tommy – it’s for spending summed across all categories, not per category.

    @Daraius – I have no doubt in your ability to read the fine print, but did you notice that flight bookings through the UR OTA give 6% for Freedom next quarter? Just making sure.

    @Grant Thomas – It’s possible that you and your brother each have an RV or other large vehicle to fill up from time to time. Those can have 80+ gallon tanks.

  12. thx guys.. I was going to go on a gas station shopping spree. lol love this site

  13. Do you guys know if purchasing Marriott gift cards on Marriott.com qualifies for the 5x bonus category?

    I have an upcoming Marriott stay and I want to buy Marriott some gift cards to pay for it. Especially since clicking on Marriott via the UR mall gives 2x UR points and if purchased on the freedom card also gets 5x points that’s 7x UR points per dollar.

  14. @Harvson, thats a good excuse I guess. I got in trouble once for buying $800 worth of gift cards at a grocery store and they denied the charge.

  15. I’ve been doing this with my AMEX Blue Cash Preferred card for a while at my local grocery store. Since it’s 6% cash back year round for grocery stores, whenever I know I’ll be buying something expensive I’ll stop by my grocery store and pick up gift cards to the appropriate store. Recently I bought a camera on Amazon so I bought $1000 in Amazon gift cards with no problem (I did it in two trips) and I know I’ll get $60 cash back for my next statement.

    Same works for the Freedom of course, but it’s 5% and categories rotate. I still use my Freedom card for most my everyday purchases since I value 1 UR point more than $0.01 cash back (I also have the Sapphire that I can transfer Freedom points to and redeem for air travel at a 25% bonus). Plus, the AMEX has a $75 annual fee (which is quickly paid off from gift card buying).

  16. Does this also work with the rolling categories on Discover?

  17. @Eric: Blue Cash is awesome 🙂
    Already made over $1500 in cash back this year using it. 🙂

  18. @Grant Thomas – Ugh, sorry to hear it.

    @Miss Miles – First, there’s no guarantee that Marriott will be at 2x on the UR mall when the prices rotate on October 1st, but we can all hope. Here’s a piece from the relevant paragraph from the Chase website: “Hotel room purchases made directly with the hotel will qualify for bonus cash back. Merchants in the hotel category include hotels and motels and many smaller establishments like bed & breakfasts, and inns. Hotel accommodations not booked directly with the hotel will not qualify … . Please keep in mind that hotels usually do not bill your card until your stay.”

    It does say “Hotel room purchases.” My (amateur) take is the following: if your booking is in the fourth quarter, it would make sense to just book the room and be assured of 5%. If you want to book rooms after December 31st, buy a small gift card at first and see if it counts on your next statement. If so, you’re clear and you have the rest of the quarter to buy more cards. If not, at least you didn’t go all-in.

    • @harvson3 – Actually, I missed that so thanks for point that out! I’ll dig into it..

      @MissMiles – I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing it would count if the purchase is coded as originating from Marriott.

      @Grant Thomas – What type of “trouble?” I’d be ticked off if I wasn’t allowed to make legitimate purchases after explaining to the fraud department that the purchases were legitimate.

      @Eric J – Nice!

      @Ryan Thompson – I don’t have personal experience with the discover card, but I’d guess that it would work.

      @Duke – $1500 cash back? That’s $25,00 in purchases (assuming all of it was with the 6% category bonus)! What have you been doing?!

  19. @ harvson – my Marriott stay is in October, but I want to take advantage of the Southwest/Marriott gift card promo.

    @ daraius – I just called Chase and the rep said he “thinks” that the gift card purchased at Marriott.com should be coded as a hotel purchase, but he said he’s not 100% sure.

  20. @Darius, that is correct.. $1500 + 🙂
    Using the Amex Blue card since Jan of this year 🙂
    My target is to cross $2000 by Dec 2012.

  21. Daraius- For the record, it’s 5% Freedom category + 1% UR booking. That’s just a small extra that gets around the “must book directly with airlines” rule.

  22. I believe the card I used was a PayPal Debit Card. The credit card portion was denied at $800 but the debit transaction was approved. I just missed out on 1.5% cash back on that transaction = $800 x 1.5% = $12, not the end of the world but still frustrating.

  23. Can this be done with Discover card 5% CB too?

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