As the calendar turns from one quarter to the next, points-earning opportunities change as well. That’s because some travel cards (and cashback cards) offer 5X bonus categories that rotate each quarter. Let’s take a look at the third quarter bonus categories for a couple high-value cards…
The Chase Freedom Offers 5X Back on Restaurants & Movie Theaters from July through September
The Chase Freedom regularly registers as one of the best no-annual-fee cards in my rankings. That’s in large part because of the huge return on the quarterly categories and 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.
For the third quarter, which started today, the Freedom bonus category comprises restaurants and movie theaters. You can earn the 5X back on up to $1,500 of purchases in the bonus category per quarter. Some people don’t realize the value in this as they think they’ll never spend $1,500 at restaurants and movie theaters in a quarter. However, there’s a simple trick to maximize the value of this sort of category: Buy gift cards from the bonus category vendor.
In this case you could buy gift cards at a restaurant for that specific restaurant or another restaurant within the same restaurant family. An example: If you’re visiting a Carraba’s you could of course buy a gift card to Carraba’s but you could also buy a gift card valid for use at other Bloomin’ Brands restaurants such as Fleming’s, Bonefish Grill, or Outback. The same sort of approach goes for movie theaters as well.
Another trick to getting great value out of the restaurant category: When dining out with friends, offer to put the bill on your card and get reimbursement from your fellow diners via cash or a payment service like Venmo or Paypal. If your fellow diners aren’t into the points and miles game they likely won’t mind at all and you’ll be smiling when you check your points balance later.
Keep in mind that if you have an Ultimate Rewards card like the Sapphire Reserve or Preferred or the Ink Plus or Preferred (link to secure application), you can transfer points earned with the Freedom to any of those accounts. That effectively turns a 5X return into a net return of a whopping 10.5%, given that Ultimate Rewards are worth about 2.1 cents each in my estimation.
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 Q3 bonus here.
The Discover It Card is a Good Alternative
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. 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. And the 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.
Sometimes the bonus categories for the Discover It are different than those of the Chase Freedom. For the third quarter of this year though that’s not the case. The Discover it bonus category for July-September is restaurants. So it’s actually only a subset of the Freedom bonus category this quarter.
If you don’t have a Chase Freedom card, then using your Discover it card for restaurants this quarter is a strong option. Or if you’re planning to spend a ton on restaurants this quarter you could potentially max out the category on your Freedom card and then switch to using your Discover it card for restaurants for the rest of the quarter.
If you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve card, the decision is a little less clear in this specific situation. The Sapphire Reserve earns 3X points for dining year-round. With UR points worth about 2.1 cents in my estimation, that’s an effective return of 6.3%. Obviously that’s better than 5%. However, that return on Ultimate Rewards points is only available via travel redemptions whereas the Discover it 5% back is via cash. There’s major allure in the flexibility of cash sometimes!
Also note that the Discover it card’s fourth quarter bonus category will include Amazon.com, right in line with Christmas shopping season!
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.
Rotating category spending is a great way to rack up points and some old-fashioned cash. The third quarter bonus categories for the Chase Freedom and Discover it cards are similar and they’re appealing – most people dine out at restaurants quite a bit these days. 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.
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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