Maximizing 5% Cash Back on the Chase Freedom

Like the Student Discover It card, the Chase Freedom distinguishes itself with its rotating quarterly 5% cash back bonus categories. For the months Jan-Mar, Apr-June, Jul-Sept, and Oct-Dec there are different purchase categories that will give you 5% cash back up to $1,500 in spend.
Here’s an example of what the categories might look like for the year.
One thing to keep in mind is that the bonus awards are not automatic and you have to activate these bonuses before the deadline. But as long as you activate it before the deadline, all your category related purchases made in that quarter will qualify for the bonus. Yes, that includes those made before activation. 
By taking advantage of these bonuses, you could rack up 30,000 points from just $6,000 in spend. That’s 24,000 more points than what normal spend at 1% cash back would have gotten you.
Hitting that $1,500 spend translates to $500 of spend per month that you might not have budgeted which is why I’ve listed some of the tactics I’ve used to ensure those points.

Grocery Stores  (Not only groceries)

Buy for the Roommates: Most of us who have roommates probably have them for the social aspect, the financial incentive, or even both. And at the intersection of those two things is cooking at home. It brings everyone together and saves you money. So next time there’s a grocery run, why not offer to do the shopping in exchange of using your card? A room of four can easily pump out $100 a week on groceries which will only leave you with about $100 to spend on your own.
Ask Your Parents: If you’re living at home, commuting from home, or very close to home, have your parents use your card to buy groceries for the family. If sending the credit card back and forth is a hassle, just call Chase and ask them for another one. That way they can go to the grocery store at a time most convenient to them.
Gift-Cards: My go-to method for spending those last couple of hundred dollars is going to my local grocery store and buying up gift cards. I’ll stock up on cards that are a part of my normal spend including Starbucks, Amazon, or even the grocery store itself (to be spent after the quarter). As long as the purchase is billed under the grocery store, it will qualify for the bonus.

Gas Stations (local commuter)

 Commuter Cards: If you've got a job that gives you pre-tax dollars to spend on your commute, let that pile up in your account for three months while you hit your spend for the quarter. Most commuter benefit cards can be used for other purchases like the subway, buses, or even Uber and other ride-sharing apps. 
Buying Gas: Time your purchases. Before heading into the quarter, allow your tank to hit empty so you can start out with a full purchase of gas. Do similarly for the end of the quarter and top off your tank to squeeze out those remaining points. 
Gift Cards: I no longer have a car being in NYC, but I was pretty loyal to QuickTrip. So if I was ever short a couple of hundred dollars at the end of the quarter, I would stock up on gift cards since gas was a expense I knew wasn't going anywhere. It's important to note that only stand-alone gas stations qualify for this category which means Walmart, Costco, and other grocery store gas stations don't qualify. 


Practice Generosity: If you've ever wanted to treat others to a meal, this is the time. Whether it's a nice dinner for mom, a romantic dinner for two, or a night out with the friends, it might be easier to pay when you knowing you'll be getting 5% back. 
Or Not: With the advent of Venmo, paying for the group is a sinch. Offer to take the "hassle" out of splitting the bill and just ask everyone to Venmo you. As long as there are no other credit card fanatics, you'll just be the nice guy. 
Gift Cards: Restaurants are usually the easiest category to hit the maximum because of the reasons mentioned above, but gift cards are always a fail-safe. You have to purchase the card directly from the restaurant, but go grab one for Chipotle, one for Chilis, and another for Dunkin Donuts. As long as you have a history of going to these places, there's no need to worry about letting those cards go to waste. 

Department Stores

Holidays: This category to our advantage usually runs during the months of October to December. With so many sales and promos going on, this is the best time to buy clothes for the winter and the coming spring season. 
Gifts: What better way to be in the spirit of the holidays than to get your friends and family gifts from department stores where you'll find all different styles and price points. If getting gifts isn't your forte, you can always feel free to get them a gift card. Yes, gift cards are lifesavers when it comes to hitting your spend. 
With just a little bit of effort and planning, you can set yourself for a nice chunk of points. Do the work and make the effort because 30,000 points is just barely shy of a round-trip international flight. 
And remember, if you apply at, you'll get an additional cash bonus from us!
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