Chase Freedom is probably the best no annual fee consumer card that exists. It’s a easy card to get approved for and for a limited time it comes with a 20,000 point signup bonus instead of the normal 10,000 point bonus.
2 things make the card so lucrative:
-Every quarter you can earn 5 points per dollar on up to $1,500 in quarterly spending in rotating categories. Currently that includes department stores as well as Amazon.com. That’s up to 30,000 points per year.
-If you have a Chase checking account you will get a 10% bonus on top of all points earned during the previous year. That means you’ll earn 1.1 points per dollar everywhere and 5.5 points per dollar in the rotating categories. That bumps the bonus category earnings to 33,000 points per year.
Those points can be cashed out for a penny a piece though that’s borderline criminal as the points can be worth so much more when transferred to miles. If you or your spouse has or will get a Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus, or Ink Bold card in the future you can transfer Freedom points over to one of those cards and then transfer them at a 1:1 ratio into much more valuable airline miles (United, British Airways, Southwest, Korean, or Virgin America), hotel points (Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, Priority Club), or Amtrak points. You can read more about the Chase Trifecta and why miles are better than cash back in this post.
At any rate:
1. You must register for the Q4 category bonus by 12/14 and complete spending by 12/31. Registering now will retroactively credit you for any bonus category purchases made since October.
2. The bonus category list for 2014 will be:
Q1: Gas stations, Movie theaters, Starbucks (Activate starting 12/15)
Q2: Restaurants and Lowe’s (Activate starting 03/15)
Q3: Gas stations and Kohl’s (Activate starting 06/15)
Q4: Amazon.com, Zappos.com, and Department stores (Activate starting 09/15)
With $6,000 of spending that’s 30K points or 33K points with a Chase checking account.
There are 2 quarters with gas stations and that includes items bought in gas station stores as well. Last time I maximized that by buying One Vanilla gift cards at 7-Eleven on my Freedom cards. Most 7/11s are categorized as gas stations, you can confirm each one on the Visa merchant categorization site. Then I went next door to Walmart to load them onto Bluebird cards using the last 4 digits of the card as the pin number without even needing to register the card. You can read more about Bluebird in this post.
That’s 8,250 points (per Freedom card) for $14.85 in total fees or 0.18 cents per point. In more practical terms that’s like buying a nonstop one-way business class ticket to Israel on United for $108 or a one-way short-haul flight on American for $8.10.
Lowe’s also sells gift cards to other stores and gas stations. And your favorite restaurant will always be happy to lock in your money as well.
Department stores like Sears also sell gift cards to other stores. You effectively you can spend all $6,000 on gift cards to other stores.
Of course if you have an Ink Plus, Ink Bold, or Ink Cash card you will earn 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent all year round on telecom, cable, internet, as well as everything from office supply stores, which includes gift cards to other stores and prepaid cash cards that can be used anywhere. With the Bold/Plus cards that’s capped at $50,000 per year and with the Cash card that’s capped at $25,000 per year. The cards also earn 2 points per dollar year-round at gas stations and either hotels (Bold/Plus) or dining (Cash). More about Ink benefits and how you can get an Ink card in this post.
3. As long as you have an open Chase Freedom and Chase checking account on 12/31 you will get the 10% bonus for everything in 2013. Now is the time to open those accounts if you don’t have one yet!