Chase Freedom: 5% Cash Back Categories Calendar 2012 (Updated)
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As a Chase Freedom credit card holder since 2007, I've dedicated a lot of time to learning about its rewards program.
The best way to earn cash back on this card is by purchasing items in the rewards categories designated by Chase, which changes every quarter. Basically you earn 5% cash back in the designated categories, and 1% on everything else.
If you read my Chase Freedom Visa review you know that I’m not the biggest fan of the rotating reward categories. When there are too many categories, it becomes hard to keep track of which reward you’re currently eligible to receive. However, this year there are only two categories per quarter (except for the 4th quarter) so it’s a lot easier to remember.
The current Chase Freedom reward categories for 2012 include some awesome deals like 5% back on Amazon, gas purchases, grocery stores, movie theaters, and more. Some of these rewards categories are easier to rack up rewards points in than others, but overall it’s a good mix. Below I’ve laid out the 2012 Chase Freedom reward categories, along with a few basic tips on maximizing your rewards, and a FAQ section where a Chase representative answered all my tough questions about the categories and the card.
5% Cash Back Categories for 2012:
- January 1 - March 31: Gas Stations and Amazon.com
- April 1 - June 30: Grocery Stores and Movie Theaters
- July 1 - September 30: Gas Stations and Restaurants
- October 1- December 31: Hotels, Airlines, Best Buy, Kohls
(Editor's note: The cash back categories for January through March 2014 are Gas Stations, Movie Theaters, and Starbucks stores.)
Basics on Chase Freedom Rewards Categories
1. Before you can start earning the 5% in these categories, you must activate the bonus on your card (or cards—activate them all if you have more than one). Here are the easiest ways to activate:
- Online at Chase.com/freedom
- Phone - call the number on the back of your card and the rep will help you get set up (800 524-3880).
- In Person - when you’re at your Chase branch ask the personal banker to help you or use the ATM
- Email - if you’ve included your email address on your Chase profile then they will send you an email when it’s time to activate and you only have to click on one link to get it set up
2. You must activate by March 14, 2012 to get the 5% cash back for the first quarter rewards at Amazon and gas stations. Don’t worry though, the activation is retroactive. So as long as you activate by the 14th of March, all your previous purchases at gas stations and Amazon will count.
3. Activation is free.
4. You can earn 5% cash back on up to $1500 worth of purchases made in the designated categories during the quarter. On all purchases made in other categories you’ll earn 1% cash back. This means that if you spend $1500 on Amazon before March, you’ll get $75 back. Another way to look at it is a 5% savings on all of your Amazon purchases.
5. To determine whether a particular store counts towards the category, look at the Chase merchants site during that period or call Chase customer service (800 524-3880).
6. You’ll see the 5% cash back rewards listed at the top of the rewards portion of your statement. So, it’s easy to tell how much you’ve been earning in rewards. If you have any questions call a Chase representative.
7. Note that the 5% “cash back” is actually points. For every dollar you spend you get 5 points in the rewards categories and 1 point in all the rest. Each point is worth $0.01 in cash back. 100 points are worth a dollar. So if you have 2500 points you can get a $25 check or statement credit. There are also other ways on the Chase Ultimate Rewards website to earn cash back.
Basics about Chase Freedom Amazon and Gas Station Rewards
1. You’ll earn 5% back on all gas purchases at gas stations. For instance, all gas stations that I can think of (along with plenty I’ve never heard of) are listed on the Chase list of participating merchants such as BP, 76, Exxon, Texaco, Sam's Club, Chevron, Marathon, Holiday, Valero and many more.
2. You’ll earn 5% cash back on all purchases made at Amazon. All purchases made on Amazon.com (in the US, but not the UK, France, Germany, Canada, or Japan sites) are part of the Chase Freedom reward categories. Also included are Amazon Local, Marketplace, and digital downloads.
3. You can also earn cash back by purchasing gift cards on Amazon and possibly at gas stations. But gift card purchases at gas stations are not guaranteed (see the FAQ below). If you want to purchase a lot of gift cards at gas stations, I would run a test. Go to a gas station and buy a $25 gift card along with your gas purchase. Then look on your next statement (or call Chase) and ask how many rewards points you got for the purchase. If you got the full 5% then go back and buy more gift cards.
3. The limit on rewards is a combined total of $1500 in both categories. This means that you can’t spend $1500 in gas and $1500 on Amazon and get 5% back on everything. You get the 5% only on the first $1500 worth of purchases in those categories.
I like to test the boundries of any rewards program. So I've asked Rob Tacey, a representative for Chase, about the best ways to maximize my bonuses. (My questions are in bold.)
Is there a limit on the 1% cash back, or only the $1500 limit on the 5% cash back? So for example, if I buy an expensive camera and computer on Amazon and spend $5000, do I get 5% on the first $1500 and 1% on the rest? (So $110 in rewards total)
Both your description and example are correct. You get 5% cash back on new categories every quarter on the first $1500 you spend in those categories. ALL other purchases as well as those purchases over the first $1500 will earn an unlimited 1% cash back.
How can I tell if a particular merchant I shop at falls in the gas station merchant category? Is this something I can see on my statement? Or can I call Chase to ask? Would the merchants themselves know if they are qualified?
The best way to determine if a merchant qualifies for the promotion is to check our website at chase.com/freedom. We have a link that lists out the top merchants. Our customer service advisors can also assist in determining whether a merchant qualifies. Since the promotion is based on how the merchant identifies themselves, the service employees at most major merchants will not likely be able to answer this question.
Yes. All gas stations at warehouse stores will earn 5%. However, Costco will not since they only accept American Express.
How can I tell whether I’ve spent $1500 and earned all of my cash back rewards in the 5% categories this quarter?
Currently, you would have to add up your transactions for the quarter. We are working to make this better identifiable for our cardmembers. You still earn a full 1% cash back after you’ve spent $1500 in the 5% categories.
Why do you have to reactivate the rewards every 3 months?
Activating the 5% cash back each quarter acts as a great way for customers to be reminded of the new categories. We have several easy ways for customers to activate. We send an email reminder each quarter with an easy, one-click activation button. You can also activate over the phone, with a banker at a Chase branch, at an ATM or on the Internet. The easiest way to activate is through text reminders. We can send you a text reminder each quarter and you are activated within seconds of your response.
Do Amazon.com Subscribe and Save purchases count?
I know you send out reminders in the beginning of the activation period, do you also send reminders at the end? For example, does Chase send a reminder in the middle of March?
Yes. Activation in the 5% cash back promotions are retroactive for all spending made in the quarter as long as you activate before the deadline (the 14th of the last month of the quarter). We send reminders to all customers throughout the quarter.
I can’t remember if I’ve activated my Chase card or not or this quarter, is there an easy way to check?
The best way is to call to confirm. You can also see your activation status when you log into chase.com.
Does the 5% at gas stations only cover gas or does it cover everything purchased at gas stations, like snacks, coffee, car wash, auto repair, gift cards, debit cards, and phone cards?
This will depend on how the merchant classifies these transitions. We can only ensure that all gas purchases are included in the promotion.
Is the 5% guaranteed for the quarter, or does Chase reserve the right to cancel this before Q1 ends. If canceled, will I get notified?
The 5% promotion is part of the Chase Freedom credit card product. We fulfill on our promise to our cardmembers of earning 5% on stated categories within the terms of the promotion (i.e., 5% cash back on up to $1500 on specified categories as long as you activate each quarter before the deadline). Once you activate your 5% cash back, you will earn bonus rewards as long as your account is open and not in default at the time of fulfillment.
How can I tell if I've successfully earned a 5% reward? Is there a place to check?
On your statement, you will see your rewards totaled in the Rewards Summary section. In most cases, once you activate your 5% cash back, you’ll see your rewards on the same statement you see your purchases.
If I think Chase has made an error about my bonuses, what is the best place to ask about it?
A Chase customer service advisor can help you. Simply call the number on the back of your card.
What other questions do you have about the Chase Freedom rewards categories for 2012? (If we get a good mix of questions we can follow up with the PR rep for a future post.)
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.