Excellent 5X Bonus Categories for Q1 of 2018 to Pile Up Points & Cash

In my recent post on strategies for 2018 I emphasized the impressive value you can pull from quarterly bonus offers.  Well, with the transition into the new year we of course have entered a new quarter.  And that means new bonus categories….and they’re good ones!

Let’s take a look at the 2018 first quarter bonus categories for the Chase Freedom and the Discover It card.  And there’s another “bonus” in that Discover has actually revealed their 5X categories for the whole year!

5X Back for Gas Stations, Internet/Cable/Phone Services and Mobile Wallet Programs with Chase Freedom

The Chase Freedom regularly ranks as one of the best no-annual-fee cards.  That’s in large part because of the huge return from the quarterly bonus categories and because it offers a strong signup bonus for a card without an annual fee (link to secure application).

With bonus categories earning 5X, you can really rack up points quickly.  And if you have an Ultimate Rewards card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve, or Ink Plus or Ink Preferred, you can convert the points earned with the Freedom card into full-fledged Ultimate Rewards points.  That means you can transfer them to high-value travel partners such as United, Hyatt, Southwest and more, or redeem them via Chase’s travel portal.

Chase has selected some high-value merchant categories for the 5X Chase Freedom bonus program!

For the first quarter of 2018, the Freedom bonus category comprises gas stations, internet/cable/phone services, and major mobile wallet programs.

Here’s a list from Chase of examples of qualifying merchants: Merchants.

As usual, you can earn the 5X back on up to $1,500 of purchases in the bonus category.

Let’s break down the three current categories a bit further as some people don’t realize how easily they can reap value from these offers.

Gas Stations

Gas is a major expense for many people, especially those with long commutes.  For those people, taking advantage of this offer is straightforward – simply use the Freedom for your gas purchases.

For others who drive less, getting great value from this category is as simple as buying gift cards for gas from the gas station and then using them at a later date.  There is one caveat: There’s always the possibility that purchases made inside the gas station don’t code as a gas purchase.  So if you’re going this route, make a small gift card purchase first to confirm you earn the bonus before going full-bore with this approach.

Internet/Cable/Phone Services

Now this category isn’t for me as I already get 5X back at these types of merchants via my Ink Plus card.  However, that card is no longer available.  It’s been replaced by the Chase Ink Preferred, which as of writing comes with the best signup bonus  around in my opinion (link to secure application).

For those folks that don’t happen to have a Chase Ink Plus, this category can offer strong value.

Now unless you’re using your Chase Freedom to pay for a bunch of business-related internet/cable/phone services you probably aren’t spending anywhere near $1,500 a quarter on such services.  However, many internet/cable/phone services providers are happy to take prepayments.  If that’s the case you could pay for perhaps your whole year of internet or cable or phone service or some combination of them with the Freedom card and get great value.

Mobile Wallets – Chase Pay, Android Pay, Apply Pay and Samsung Pay

For what I believe is the first time ever, mobile wallet payments are included in the Chase Freedom’s 5X bonus category.

If you’re a big user of any of the major mobile wallet programs, this is a major win for you.  Simply select your Chase Freedom as your payment method for your mobile wallet and purchase away.

This option is even easier than the others to maximize since it’s so broad-reaching.

All you have to do is find a store, such as a grocery or drug store, that accepts your mobile wallet payment service and then buy gift cards there for other merchants you patronize.  For example, you could head to a Kohl’s, grab a gift card there for Kohl’s or any other gift card they offer, and check out with Samsung Pay (selecting your Chase Freedom of course).

At some stores you may even be able to buy Visa or Mastercard gift cards using your mobile wallet.  If that’s the case you then can use those cards for any purchase, meaning you’ve essentially morphed the 5X bonus category into 5X on everything (up to the $1,500 quarterly limit).

If you’re able to max out the Freedom bonus categories for a quarter, you’ll pile up 7,500 points.  If you’re able to transfer them to an Ultimate Rewards account, you’re looking at about $158 of value, per my last valuation.

The Chase Freedom currently comes with a $150 signup bonus and it doesn’t carry an annual fee (link to secure application).  With these bonus categories and the lack of an annual fee it’s one of the best cards around and a perfect card for those new to the points and miles game.

Note though that the Freedom card is subject to Chase’s unpublished 5/24 rule.

Activate your Chase Freedom quarterly bonus here.

The Discover It Card Offers 5% Back at Gas Stations and Wholesale Clubs This Quarter

The Chase Freedom 5X offers can’t be beat in my mind because not only are you getting that 5X multiplier, the points are worth about 2.1 cents each in my estimation if you have an Ultimate Rewards card.

However, there are some people who are unable to get the Chase Freedom card because of the 5/24 rule.  Those people (and even those who do have the Chase Freedom) can turn to the Discover It card for great bonus categories also.

The Discover It card currently comes with a signup bonus that Discover doubles, making it effectively $100 (link to secure application).  That’s better than the zero-dollar signup bonus that some cashback cards offer.

There is often some overlap of bonus categories for the Discover It and the Chase Freedom.  For this quarter that is the case again.  The Discover It bonus categories quarter one of 2018 are gas stations and wholesale clubs.

For the first quarter of 2018 Discover’s 5% cashback bonus category includes gas stations (same as Chase Freedom) and wholesale clubs.

Of course the same advice I offered earlier in this post on maximizing the gas station payback for the Chase Freedom applies for the Discover It also.

You can maximize the payoff at wholesale clubs in the same ways I’ve described earlier in this post also.  For example, consider buying a BJ’s gift card at BJ’s using your Discover It.

Wholesale clubs inherently offer bulk products, many of which are non-perishable, so you could simply cut out the gift card element and stock up on goods for the next year or so!

One downside to this offer: Costco doesn’t accept Discover cards in the store.  Here’s a handy trick though: You can use your Discover (or Mastercard) to purchase a Costco Cash card on the Costco website and then use that for payment in the store.

If you don’t have a Chase Freedom card, then using your Discover it card for gas stations this quarter is a strong option.  Or if you’re planning to spend a ton on gas stations this quarter you could potentially max out the category on your Freedom card and then switch to using your Discover it card for gas stations for the rest of the quarter.

You may have noticed in the image above that Discover has actually released their bonus categories for the entire year!  I’ll publish posts at the start of each quarter detailing the best ways to maximize the offer but take a moment now to think ahead based on the info in that graphic.

You can get the Discover it card with a $50 signup bonus that gets doubled to $100, by using this link to the secure application.

The Summary

Rotating category spending is a great way to rack up points and some good old-fashioned cash.  The first quarter bonus categories for the Chase Freedom and Discover It cards both include gas stations, which is a valuable category for most consumers.  The Freedom bonus offer also includes a new element in mobile wallets.  For those consumers that use such services this could be an easy quarter to get max benefit from the 5X category.  Discover also includes warehouse clubs this quarter making it easy for bulk product purchasers to rack up the points at places like BJ’s (or even Costco with the trick mentioned above).  Given that both cards have no annual fee and they come with signup bonuses to boot, they’re cards to consider grabbing if you haven’t already.

>>>Link to secure Chase Freedom application

>>>Link to secure Discover it application

Are you planning to use your Chase Freedom or Discover it card for bonus categories this quarter?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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