Because of a major personal project that’s in-progress at Middle Age Miles – downsizing; buying a townhouse and getting our current home ready to sell – we’re running a bit behind into the new year of 2020! But we think we’re ready to get the blog rolling again, and we’ll start with this quarter’s 5x categories on the Chase Freedom card.
For the 1st quarter of 2020, the 5x bonus categories on your Chase Freedom card are:
- Gas Stations;
- Internet, Cable & Phone Services; and
- Select Streaming Services
Here are details and our thoughts on how to use the bonus this quarter.
Background – The Chase Freedom Visa & 5x UR Earning
The Chase Freedom Visa is a no-fee card that earns 1x Ultimate Rewards (UR) points on all purchases (1% cash back if you don’t have a Chase Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, or Ink Preferred business card).
This card is valuable, though, for one key feature – rotating 5x bonus categories each quarter. This allows us to earn 5x UR points on the designated categories each quarter, up to $1,500 in spend – that is, up to 7,500 UR points per quarter.
5x UR points earning will be best-in-class for virtually any category of spend. At our baseline valuation of 1.5 cents per UR point, that’s a points rebate of 7.5%, which is excellent.
If you’d like to take advantage of the no-fee Chase Freedom’s benefits, including a sign-up bonus of 20,000 UR points (which Chase advertises as $200 cash back) after $500 in spend within 3 months, plus the rotating quarterly 5x bonus categories, here’s our referral link:
- Chase Freedom: Apply here (Middle Age Miles referral link)
Remember that the Chase Freedom card is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule, so you won’t be approved if you have 5 new personal credit cards within the past 24 months.
Details of the 5x Bonus Categories for 1Q20
As we mentioned above, the 5x bonus categories for the 1st quarter of 2020 (January 1 through March 31, 2020) are:
- Gas stations
- Internet, cable & phone services
- Select streaming services
You must activate the bonus category offer to receive the 5x bonus. To activate your offer:
- Log in to your Chase online account
- There should be a box in the upper right part of your screen with your Ultimate Rewards points balance, and a link to Activate the Freedom 5x bonus (or, if not, select your Chase Freedom card to get an activation link)
- Once you click “Activate,” the display will tell you wither your “5% cash back” has been activated – if not, click through and activate your offer
Once activated, your display will show a checkmark and a tracker that indicates how much of $75/7,500 UR you’ve used during the quarter to date.
The deadline to activate your 1Q20 5x bonus offer is March 14, 2020. If you activate your offer by that date, you should receive 5x UR points for all purchases in the bonus categories during the quarter.
To help you determine what qualifies for 5x earning, Chase provides some helpful lists. It’s our understanding that the lists for Gas Stations and Internet, Cable & Phone Services are examples; thus, there may be other merchants that code into these categories and may earn 5x even if not included on the lists. On the other hand, it is our understanding that the list for Select Streaming Services is complete; that is, only the services on the list qualify, and if a service isn’t on the list then it isn’t eligible for 5x earning.
In addition, Chase provides a helpful list of things that *do not* qualify as Gas Stations:
For more information on the Chase Freedom card’s rotating 5x bonus categories and the details for this quarter, see these Chase reference pages:
- Chase: FAQs for the 5x feature of the Chase Freedom card
- Chase: Merchant list for 1Q20 bonus categories
Analysis & Our Strategy for the Quarter
For the most part, 5x UR points, which gives you an effective points rebate of 7.5%, will be best-in-class for spend in the bonus categories during this quarter. That said, though, there may be some nuance to how to best use the categories. Let’s take a look at each of the bonus categories individually, and then we’ll summarize our overall strategy at the end of this section.
Gas Stations – 5x UR is best-in-class for gas stations, so organic spend on gas can go onto the Freedom card this quarter. One other option for spend in the gas station category would be to find a gas station-convenience store that sells gift cards and codes as gas. If you have a known spot where this works, great; otherwise, having to find one by trial and error may be too much trouble for this quarter. In our area in the north Dallas suburbs, we haven’t yet found a gas station that accepts credit cards to purchase Visa or Mastercard gift cards (credit card/gift card fraud seems to be rampant in our area). The good news, though, is that if you find a GC-selling “gas station” location, you may be able to use this location in connection with other cards that have gas stations as a permanent bonus category, such as the Amex Business Gold (4x Membership Rewards points on your top 2 spend categories each month, one of which is gas stations) or the Citi Premier (3x ThankYou Points for gas stations).
Internet, Cable & Phone Services – In this category, there are 2 considerations. First, there’s points earning. There, the Freedom 5x bonus category is tied for best-in-class. The Chase Ink Cash (CIC) business card also earns 5x on these services, as a permanent bonus category with a $25,000 limit per cardholder year. Second, there’s cell phone insurance. The Freedom card and the CIC do not have cell phone coverage, but there are other cards that do. We typically forego 5x points earning on our cell phone bill in favor of paying with a card that has cell phone insurance coverage. In our case, we use the Chase Ink Preferred (CIP) business card, which gives us 3x UR points-earning plus some insurance coverage (which we’ve used twice in the past year).
For phone services that aren’t cell phones, plus Internet and cable – If you don’t have a CIC card, definitely use the Freedom 5x category for these charges during this quarter. If you do have a CIC card, you’ll have to make a determination of which limit you want to “burn” this quarter – the Freedom’s $1,500 quarterly limit, or the CIC’s $25,000 annual limit (which also includes spend at office supply stores). In any event, you’ll want to be sure to get 5x on these purchases on some card!
For cell phone – You just have to decide which is worth more to you, 5x UR points on Freedom, or some lesser number of points that also includes cell phone coverage.
Select Streaming Services – In this category, 5x UR points on Freedom this quarter is definitely best-in-class. Here, your only choice will be whether the amount of the charge is worth the hassle of switching your payment to Freedom now and remembering to switch it back at the end of the quarter.
Our Strategy – For us, we’ll use Freedom 5x for organic gas purchases. That’ll use a few hundred dollars of our $1,500 limit for the quarter. We’ll probably continue to pay our Internet/cable bill with a CIC card, as it’s a business expense for us that we’ll just keep on a business card. We’ll keep our cell phone bill on a CIP card, as it’s also a business expense and we want the insurance coverage. For streaming services, it’s not worth it to switch the modest amount for our Netflix subscription back and forth. But I’ve been wanting to subscribe to ESPN+, so maybe this will be a good opportunity for me to get 5x for my first year’s subscription!
At the end of the day, unless we find a gas station that will allow us to purchase a $500 Visa or Mastercard gift card with a Freedom credit card, we’ll probably wind up leaving some of this quarter’s $1,500 limit unused. But for Middle Age Miles readers, we hope you can earn valuable 5x UR points at gas stations, internet/cable/phone services and select streaming services during the 1st quarter of 2020!
How do you plan to maximize the 5x Freedom bonus categories this quarter? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!
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