Today (October 1) marks the start of the 4th quarter and a new set of 5x categories to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points with your Chase Freedom card. This quarter, the 5x bonus categories are: Department Stores, Wholesale Clubs and purchases made using Chase Pay. You must activate your offer before spending in order to earn 5x. Purchases are capped at $1,500 for the quarter for 5x UR points-earning; thus, the maximum number of points that can be earned is 7,500 Chase UR points.
Details & Analysis
The Chase Freedom card generally earns 1 Chase UR point per dollar of purchases. But each quarter, Chase comes out with a set of bonus categories, in which purchases earn 5x UR points. This quarter, the categories are Department Stores, Wholesale Clubs and purchases made using Chase Pay.
You must activate your Freedom 5x offer each quarter, before spending, in order to earn 5x UR points. Activation is done in the Ultimate Rewards section of the Chase website. To activate:
- Log in to your Chase online account
- Go to the Ultimate Rewards section
- In the “old” Chase interface, click on the Ultimate Rewards section near the upper right of your page
- In the “new” Chase interface, scroll down the menu on the left side and click on the Ultimate Rewards box
- Choose your Chase Freedom card
- Activate your 5x bonus categories
You only need to activate the bonus categories in the primary cardholder’s account. No separate activation is required for authorized users, but spend on AU cards will earn 5x as long as the bonus categories have been activated in the primary account.
What Purchases Qualify?
If you’re wondering what qualifies as a “Department Store” or a “Wholesale Club” for purposes of the Chase Freedom 5x bonus, you’re in luck. Chase has a handy page to help you out.
- Department Stores include merchants such as JC Penney, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Dillard’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sears, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, and many others
- The Department Store category does not include WalMart, Target, Kmart, discount stores such as TJ Maxx, electronics stores, or general merchandise and variety stores (but you may be able to earn 5x anyway, if you can use Chase Pay as your payment method)
- Wholesale Clubs include Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale (but gas/fuel purchases are excluded)
- Purchases made on the website of a Department Store or Wholesale Club are included
This is a valuable set of categories for 5x earning, especially during the holiday season. I would expect that many readers will be able to max out the $1,500 spending in these bonus categories for this quarter.
Note that gift cards purchased at these merchants should qualify for 5x earning, regardless of where the gift card may be redeemed. However, Department Store gift card purchases made at stores or other locations that do not fall within these bonus categories will not earn 5x, even if the gift card is for a Department Store or Wholesale Club.
We have not found Chase Pay to be widely accepted and thus don’t use it regularly. Chase has a web page showing merchants that accept Chase Pay. We have found in practice that not all locations of these merchants actually accept Chase Pay. The most valuable of these merchants appears to be Best Buy. Many Best Buy stores sell Visa gift cards and other 3rd party gift cards, which would give you even greater flexibility on your 5x earning.
Value and Other Considerations
Our baseline value for Chase UR points is 1.5 cents per point if you hold a Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) card. With Chase, you can transfer points earned with one card to another card where the points may have greater value – for example, from your Freedom card to your CSR. Thus, if you have a CSR, you’ll be getting back UR points worth 7.5 cents, for every dollar you spend in these bonus categories.
If you don’t hold any Chase premium cards, your UR points are basically cash-back at 1 cent per point; thus, this quarter’s 5x categories would be a 5% cash-back return.
Note that the Chase Freedom card does have foreign transaction fees of 3%, so you won’t want to use a Freedom card for transactions outside the US.
The Chase FAQ page for the Freedom 5x promotion is available here.
Don’t leave points on the table – activate your Chase Freedom 5x bonus categories, and use the Freedom for all of your US spend in the bonus categories during the 4th quarter!
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