It's that time again: time to register for quarterly bonus earnings on all your credit cards, including the ones you never use.
Continuing a pretty great streak of bonus earning categories, each Chase Freedom card you have will earn 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent at Walmart and department stores, up to $1,500 in combined purchases per card. Since Walmart stores carry a variety of PIN-enabled Visa and MasterCard prepaid debit cards, you shouldn't have any trouble maximizing your bonused earnings on each of your Chase Freedom cards this quarter.
Since it's the end of the year, this seems like as good a time as any to remind readers exactly why the Chase Freedom is so much better than the other personal Ultimate Rewards-earning credit cards. This year the first, second, and fourth quarters have respectively featured gas stations, grocery and drug stores, and Walmart as bonused earning categories, collectively representing 15,750 bonus Ultimate Rewards points over a Chase Freedom Unlimited (5 instead of 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on $4,500 in purchases). The third quarter category of restaurants also represents 3,000 additional points over a Chase Sapphire Reserve and 4,500 additional points over a Chase Sapphire Preferred — with no annual fee.
I truly believe if Chase had an ounce of sense they would never make any travel, restaurant, or gas station merchant a Freedom bonus category in order to fundamentally distinguish the Freedom from the Sapphire and Ink cards. Hell, if they did that even I might re-up with a Sapphire Preferred. But failing that, you shouldn't use the bonused earning of a premium credit card as part of your decision to get or keep that card unless it doesn't have any overlap with the bonused earning of a free credit card, since each quarter that's the case eats into your supposed profit over the card's fixed annual fee.
In the fourth quarter of 2017 Discover it cards will earn 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Target. If you do a lot of shopping at Amazon.com the obvious move is to load up on gift credit, especially if your cash back will be doubled at the end of your first year of card membership.
A 5% discount isn't enough for me to bother using my Discover it card for my regular shopping at Target, but if you source products for reselling there that's another excellent option.
Remember that Discover cash back balances can be redeemed for discounted gift cards at many merchants, so cash back is worth somewhat more than its face value if you shop at merchants like Bed Bath & Beyond, for instance.
If you didn't hit your $300 annual cash back limit in the second quarter of 2017 (drug stores), you have another opportunity in the fourth quarter, with purchases at Best Buy and department stores earning 5% cash back, up to $300 in total annual cash back.
US Bank Cash+
I haven't had too much luck taking advantage of US Bank Cash+ bonus categories lately, but that's my failure of imagination, not yours. If you have a Cash+ card, be sure to register for fourth quarter bonus earnings, with department stores, cell phones, and electronics stores again being the obvious categories, especially if you're able to stack them with airline, hotel, or cash back portal earnings.
Bonus do this now: register for new hotel promotions
Reader Henry Fung pointed out in the comments to last week's post that Marriott has released their next MegaBonus promotion. I've updated my Hotel Promotions page with registration links for Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and also the current IHG Rewards Club promotion.