Maximizing Chase Freedom's 4th quarter bonus

My apologies in advance that this post is a bit derivative (for way more info check out Frequent Miler's post on the same subject), but I received a request from a reader who has a couple Chase Freedom cards and wants to maximize his 4th quarter earnings. As a reminder, in the 4th quarter of 2013 you can earn up to 7,500 non-flexible Ultimate Rewards points by spending up to $1,500 at or "select department stores."

Since in general doesn't participate in any shopping portals (although select categories do earn cashback through some portals), this is an opportunity to earn 5 valuable Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on your normal shopping.

This is much more valuable than Discover's 5% cash back category of "online shopping" this quarter, since Discover cash back is frustrating to redeem, while non-flexible Freedom Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to a flexible Ultimate Rewards account for transfer to Chase's valuable partners or for redemption for paid travel at 1.25 cents each.

Sears Gift Cards

This technique's a bit trickier, but Frequent Miler has done the Lord's work figuring the ins and outs of it. Basically, if you're buying gift cards online, you need to know that physical Sears gift cards are sold not by Sears, but by Kmart, and Kmart isn't a "select department store" for the purposes of this quarter's Chase Freedom bonus. If you buy eGift cards online, on the other hand, they'll be charged to your credit card by Sears, and earn you 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar.

Of course, if you have a nearby Sears store location (I don't), you can simply go to that store and buy gift cards there.  If you decide to go that route, then you can either buy Sears gift cards or you can look for what Frequent Miler calls the "secret gift card rack," where you can potentially find other, more useful gift cards.

Either way, before you make any Sears purchases you'll want to sign up for Plink, add Sears to your Plink Wallet, and make the Freedom card that you'll be using your active card.

Why should you care about Sears gift cards? Here's the fun part: on Friday Frequent Miler ALSO reported that it's possible to pay for travel using Sears gift cards, by going through Sears Vacation.

Apparently you have to make your reservation over the phone in order to use Sears gift cards, which is admittedly pretty annoying, and their prices are $10 more than you'll pay elsewhere. On the other hand, the ability to earn 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar, worth at least 6.25 cents when used for paid travel with a flexible Ultimate Rewards account, means that for flights over $267 you're strictly better off using a Sears gift card purchased with your Chase Freedom than a Chase Sapphire Preferred which earns just 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar, worth at least 2.5 cents in paid travel (since you're netting 3.75 cents per dollar, at which rate $267 is the break-even point for the $10 booking fee).

Of course many people value flexible Ultimate Rewards points even higher than that, which lowers the break-even point further. 


Those are my thoughts so far on the Chase Freedom quarterly bonus categories. As for my own plans, I was "fortunate" enough to need to buy a new Apple computer this quarter, so that was an easy way for me to use up the $1,500 cap on my Discover card. For the rest of the quarter I'll be doing my Amazon shopping with my Chase Freedom card, and then I'll spend the rest of my $1,500 Chase Freedom cap on Sears eGift Cards, which I'll use the next time I need to book a paid flight. I'm all booked up for the rest of this year, but there's no doubt I'll be buying flights again soon, hopefully at 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar.