Activate Chase Freedom Rewards & Use These 3 Tricks

Do more than just activate your bonus rewards. Here’s my strategy to earn even more after you do that.

As you probably know, in order to earn 5% cash back with the Chase Freedom card, you have to “activate” or “signup” each quarter to earn those rewards. For 2013 the categories are:

  • January 1st thru March 31st = gas stations, drug stores, and Starbucks
  • April 1st thru June 30th = restaurants, movie theatres, and Lowe’s
  • July 1st thru Sept 30th = gas stations, Kohl’s, theme parks
  • October 1st thru Dec 31st = and select dept. stores

So how do you activate? Well the first time you do it you have to use their website for it:

screenshot of Freedom 5% activation website

You don’t even have to login. Just enter your last name, last 4 numbers on card, and zip code.

Once you’ve done that, you have the opportunity to enroll in text or emails for the future (if you want).

About 15 days before a new quarter starts, you can activate your rewards for it – i.e. for Q4 (Oct thru Dec) you can activate beginning on Sept 15th.

Surprise! It’s retroactive, but don’t wait too long

It’s best to make a habit of signing up for the categories before the quarter starts. But if you forget to, you can still signup and it will take place retroactively. Per Chase’s official Facebook page for the card:

Facebook post about retroactive rewards enrollment

But don’t wait too long because the enrollment will close about 15 days before the next quarter starts.

But can you do even better?

Sure, 5% is great, but you might be able to do better. Here are 3 strategies I use.

Trick 1. Combine 5% categories + Chase Ultimate Rewards

earning 10% at StarbucksThe Ultimate Rewards mall lets you shop at hundreds of online merchants and earn additional rewards. And guess what? Some of those merchants might also qualify for the 5% categories.

When that happens, you are earning bonus rewards both ways (thru your 5% categories AND the UR Mall).

Pictured right is an example that was actually posted on the Chase Freedom Facebook page about this for Starbucks.

Trick 2. Buy gift cards you can use other places

During a given quarter, after you activate the Chase Freedom’s 5% bonus, typically $1,500 in category spending will qualify for it. But I don’t think many people have a need to spend $1,500 at say, drugstores, during a 90 day period.

But remember, some retailers sell gift cards for other retailers, too!

gift card display

For example, during the drugstore quarter, you can go to CVS or Rite Aid and buy the gift cards they sell for gas stations, clothing stores, restaurants, etc. Since you’re buying them at the drugstore, they typically will qualify as drugstore spending, and hence, you’re earning 5% on them!

You might be surprised how many places do this. With Lowes being in Q2 for 2013, I may have to swing by my local Lowes which sells gift cards for iTunes and a few other places.

Q3 should be even better, since some gas stations sell a plethora of partner gift cards. And for Q4? That will be real fun, because they sell gift cards for just about everywhere.

Trick 3.  Transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points

The drawback with Freedom’s UR points is that they’re not as versatile.

If you have a Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold, you can convert your UR points to participating airline and hotel partners at a 1:1 conversion. You can also use them to book travel thru UR’s website and get more than 1 cent value per point. But of course, the drawback with those 2 cards is that they don’t have the Freedom’s 5% categories.

So how do you get the best of both worlds? It’s simple… get a Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold, in addition to your Freedom.

combine rewardsAfter you have one of those, you can transfer your Freedom points to your Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold rewards account. Once that’s done, you now have more ways to spend points and get more value for them.

Oh and by the way, you can apply for the Ink Bold as a sole proprietor, using your SSN for your business tax ID number and your own name as the name of your business.
The Ink Bold is my favorite, because the 5x points at office supply stores is awesome since Staples and Office Depot both sell gift cards for other retailers!

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