Chase Freedom 2013 5X Ultimate Rewards Points (or 5% Cash Back) Category Bonuses Announced!

[Emily and I get a referral for links to the Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom MasterCard, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold & the Chase Ink Plus. We're always very grateful to readers who apply using our link!]

Via The #Hustle blog, the 2013 category bonuses for the Chase Freedom credit card were just released!

Chase Freedom 2013 Category Bonuses

I love the Chase Freedom Visa 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.

The Chase Freedom is a fee-free card, so it is a good Chase card to keep for a long time.  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 or the JP Morgan Select card and from there to airline or hotel partners such as Hyatt or United.

The main benefit of the Chase Freedom credit card is being able to take advantage of the quarterly bonus categories which offer a 5% bonus up to $1,500 or an extra 7,500 Ultimate Rewards points per quarter for spending in those categories.

You have to activate each quarter’s category bonuses before the quarter to earn the 5X extra points.

That’s 30,000 Ultimate Reward points a year for $6,000 in spending ($1,500 X 4)  if you max out the quarterly bonus categories by spending in specific categories.

2013 Chase Freedom Categories:

January to March

  • Gas stations, Drugstores, & Starbucks

Gas stations and drugstores often sell gift cards to other stores and some even have Southwest and Marriott gift cards.  You can also buy Vanilla Reloads and other prepaid cards from certain drugstores (CVS, Walgreen’s, Rite Aid etc.) & gas stations and earn 5X Ultimate Rewards points.

April to June

  • Restaurants & Movie Theaters

I don’t see how I’m going to maximize the bonus in this quarter.

July to September

  • Gas stations, Theme parks, & Kohl’s

Gas stations often sell gift cards to other stores and some even have Southwest and Marriott gift cards.  You can also buy Vanilla Reloads and other prepaid cards from certain gas stations and earn 5X Ultimate Rewards points.

October to December

  • Select “department stores” & Amazon.com (great for Holiday shopping!)

This makes the Chase Freedom card the best Ultimate Rewards point earning card  in 2012 for the quarters in which they are eligible for the 5X bonus (up to $1,500 in purchases).

Transferring Ultimate Rewards Points to Hotels and Airlines

Ultimate Rewards points from the Chase Freedom cannot be transferred by themselves to air and hotel partners.

However, if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Chase Ink Bold/Ink Plus, or the JP Morgan Select card you can combine Ultimate Rewards points from this card (Chase Freedom) and transfer them to air and hotel partners (United, British Airways, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz Priority Club, Korean Air, and Amtrak) at a 1:1 ratio.

Bottom Line

The quarterly category bonuses make the Chase Freedom Visa & Chase Freedom MasterCard one of the best fee-free credit cards in the marketNow if only they would eliminate the foreign transaction fee on the card!

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45 Responses to Chase Freedom 2013 5X Ultimate Rewards Points (or 5% Cash Back) Category Bonuses Announced!

  1. What amazingly terrible categories. No hotels or air travel in any quarter. Theme parks?! Q1 and Q3 are basically entirely useless.

  2. Q1 is fantastic. Drugstores = CVS = Vanilla Reloads = Bluebird, so that’s an easy 7500 points.

  3. @Mike – actually Q1 and Q3 are pretty good. If you do not use much gas – you can buy gift cards or Vanilla Reloads at drugstores. I think you can also find gift cards sometimes in gas stations also. I should be able to max out most of the categories throughout the year – with 2 Freedoms. Although my husband does fill up his gas tank twice weekly so we have no problems with the gas categories. I do agree with your assessment of the theme park category :). And it would have been nice to have a travel one too.

  4. I don’t have a car, so Q1 and Q3 are useless. I doubt the gift card trick will last that long; it seems to be dying rapidly.

  5. As none of my local drugstores will let me pay for my VRs with a card, I anticipate loading up on my family’s toilet paper, deodorant, and dish soap needs for the next decade in the first quarter.

    As for the rest of the categories, meh.

  6. harvson3: is 5% cash back enough of incentive to buy overpriced items at a drugstore instead of a discount store?

  7. Max $1500 per quarter though, right?

    Can’t buy many beans with that.

    No supermarket category. My Freedom card will be getting significantly less use in 2013.

  8. You said you didn’t know how you’d be able to maximize spend in Q2, but just buy gift cards at any restaurant you frequent, and then you’ll have already paid for your future meals while getting 5X on them!

  9. Alex: Walgreens and CVS usually have one or two loss leaders per week…where their sale prices are at or below Walmart’s price. Those are the items I look for each week.

  10. @Dan – that seems a little excessive. You can easily get 2% back anytime at restaurants on most credit cards, so loading up on gift cards at 5% would only net you an extra $45 in the 3 months (3% of $1,500)… that’s a benefit of 50 cents per day for the hassle of buying/tracking/using the gift cards. You could find more change on the ground each day…

    Nevermind the fact the gift cards immediately start to devalue and that you could alternatively actually invest the $1,500 instead of spending it.

  11. Too bad the max potential on the 5 percent is only $300 a year (on $6,000 in category purchases). Otherwise, Starbucks and Amazon are great alternatives to the usual gas, grocery, pharmacy and restaurants. You can load your Starbucks card on your phone app for the whole year in the first quarter, and purchase $1,500 in Amazon gift cards in the last quarter.

    I will apply for the Chase Sapphire first, and take another look at this early next year in case the initial sign-up bonus is great than $100.

  12. It’s all about incremental spend. Why spend 5x on drugstores when you get lucrative bonuses with Ink via GC or with Amex HHonors? Especially if you need to buy gas, which many people get <5x?

  13. Starbucks?? Amazon??? I’m in heaven :)

  14. @Mike – For me, Q2 is the tougher quarter because I’m not going to spend much at restaurants & movie theaters. Q1 is great for some of us because we can buy Vanilla Reloads at drugstores! Gift cards to other stores or even prepaid Visa cards from gas stations should help towards the limit.

    @Jon – I agree.

    @harvson3 - You can also give them as gifts. :)

    @Forba – In some cases, you can buy gas store gift cards and used at the supermarket. For example, buy Kwik Trip gift cards and use at Kroger.

    @Dan – I can’t imagine spending $1,500 on the same set of restaurants! We usually eat out when traveling and once a week otherwise (but usually trying out new restaurants).

    @WishyAnand - It could make sense to wait for a higher sign -up bonus if you won’t max out the categories.

    @AK – I agree on the incremental spend, but not everyone will buy gift cards in 1 store and then go to another store to buy a Vanilla Reload.

    @CU – I’m looking forward to Amazon in Q4.

  15. Say goodbye to vanilla reload cards in January..

  16. @Ritson – Chase points are worth more than $0.01 if you use them on things like United miles. Plus, by transferring those 4500 extra Chase points to a Sapphire Preferred card, you’ll get the 7% dividend at the end of the year on it, which is an additional 315 points. Also, you could potentially pair the Chase Freedom card with a dining club and earn even more miles/points. Lastly, there’s the bonus on every transaction if you’re a Chase Checking account holder and thus can benefit from Chase Exclusives.

    Speaking of Chase Exclusives, Q1 could have HUGE payoffs for Starbucks purchases. A coffee at $1.69 would earn the 10 points from category bonus plus 10 points from the Chase Exclusives transaction. There may even be another point thrown on top but I don’t know how Chase rounds tenths of points on the Chase Exclusive 10% bonus. Either way, this comes out to be way more than 5X!

  17. Has anyone ever transfered points to Amtrak?

  18. to Dan: are you sure that transfer points to Sapphire Preferred card will get you 7% from transferring? I have read a lot of blogs and from my understanding, we will not get 7% from transferring points to Sapphire Preferred.

  19. Dan, if you pay via the credit card each time (to maximize number of transactions) rather than via the Starbucks card/Starbucks phone app, you lose the one free Starbucks product reward after every 12 purchases right?

    FYI — here is what Dan is talking about:

    http://travelsort.com/blog/chase-exclusives-bonuses-maximize-chase-freedom-ultimate-rewards-points

  20. So which gas stations have beans?

  21. Didn’t you say the Freedom card was being changed for the worst this month?
    Is there any point getting the card now or are the perks still good enough for someone to get it?

  22. @Dan..Do we get 7% dividend on the Transferred points also in Sapphire? I thought the dividend is only on the points “earned” using sapphire. Can anyone confirm this? I have around 100K points on Chase Ink and Freedom.

  23. @RK it’s only pts earned.

  24. @Drew - I’ve transferred points to Amtrak as a test.

    @Gina – Some Valero’s have them (but not all). There could be others as well.

    @Gina - I got points for transfers last year, but I believe that won’t happen this year.

    @Corey - You still get the 5% category bonus, but some of the Chase Exclusive benefits have been revised.

  25. Darius,
    For your Q2 restaurant spend problem, may I suggest restaurant gift cards for some of your contests and giveaways in 2013. Most of your readers are well on the way to accumulating free airline tickets and hotel stays through your excellent advice. To achieve truly free travel some free food would be great. After all, a girls got to eat :)

  26. @Val – That’s a good idea. Please remind me in Q2.

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  28. So I had a chase cash back cc that was automatically converted to the freedom visa a couple years back. Since I technically never received a signup bonus, would I be eligible for the bonus if I applied for a freedom mc?

  29. @yesleez – You might, but I believe you’d have to cancel the Visa version to get the MasterCard. But it may not be worth it for only a 10K sign up bonus, especially if the Visa version is one of your oldest cards since it helps your credit score.

  30. Hey Darius! Probably the wrong place to ask this but was wondering if there was any kind of limit on how many UR points from Chase Freedom I can combine over to Chase Sapphire Pref. I just opened the Chase SP and got tons of points in Freedom I wanna move over. How does that work? Thanks!

  31. @SD – There isn’t any limit that I know about. Just log into the Ultimate Rewards portal and transfer the points from your Freedom to your Sapphire Preferred. And then you will be able to transfer them to airlines or hotels or get 1.25 cents towards travel via the Ultimate Rewards mall.

  32. i thought for sapphire preferred, starbucks counts as a restaurant…would this be the same for chase freedom and thus qualifying for 5% on Q2?

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  36. Sorry it has been shared before, but I just found out about this myself. The restaurant 5% back for Freedom only apply to about 150 chain/restaurants and they are keep changing. so not all restaurant expense will work. One example of fast food chain that is not in the list is Taco Bell.
    Anybody know if Sapphire restaurant classification also follow such restriction?

  37. @jack – I don’t have personal experience, so the best way is to do a small test, but I suspect it should get you 5x.

    @ec – Are you sure about the Freedom classification? I believe most restaurants should get the bonus like it does with the Sapphire.

  38. not sure if they had amazon on last year, but do you know if you can get the 5% using the AP sending cash method?

  39. @royce – It doesn’t work.

  40. Royce, I had the same idea! Bummed it won’t work…

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