How to maximize Chase Freedom’s 4th quarter 5X?

Every 3 months, Chase offers new categories with which Freedom cardholders can earn 5 points per dollar (up to $1500 in spend).  This quarter, the bonus categories are Amazon.com and “Select department stores.”

Freedom5X_Qtr42013_FrequentMiler

Let’s look at ways to maximize this quarter’s bonus categories…

Amazon.com purchases and gift cards

If you shop often at Amazon.com, the simplest solution is to use your Freedom card to pay for Amazon purchases.  Getting 5 points per dollar from Amazon.com this quarter is best for those without Chase Ink cards.  If you have a Chase Ink card, you can always get 5 points per dollar at Amazon by buying Amazon gift cards at office supply stores.

Amazon.com third party gift cards

Through Amazon.com you can shop for non-Amazon gift cards such as The Home Depot, Marriott, Nordstrom, etc.  Unfortunately, most of these include a $2.99 shipping charge.  Unless you can find very high value gift cards, I wouldn’t recommend this route since the shipping charge will wipe out most of your 5X gains.

Department store purchases and gift cards

Obviously, you can earn 5 points per dollar by buying merchandise at listed department stores (see Chase’s list here).  Here is the full list, sorted alphabetically:

BASKINS®, BEALLS, BEITER’S, BELK, Bergner’s®, bloomingdale’s, Bon-Ton®, Boscov’s, Boston Store®, Bradley’s, burke’s®, Carson’s®, Cayman’s®, Cee & Cee Department Store, CHARLES, christensen’s, CONWAY, Cook Brothers, Dillard’s, Elder-Beerman®, FLEMINGTON DEPARTMENT STORE, Getz’s®, Herbergers®, HUDSON’S, JCPenney®, JC’S 5 Star, Jeffery, JOE BRAND, Kohl’s®, LOEHMANN’S, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s®, Magic Mart, MAX & JILL, Neiman Marcus, NORDSTROM, PARISIAN, RAINS, RH Renny, Saks Fifth Ave and Off 5th, SAM MOON, Sears®, STANLEY KORSHAK, The Big Store, UHAN’S Department Store, UNIWAY®, VON MAUR®, WEAVER’S STORE, Younkers®

I don’t think any of the above stores sell 3rd party gift cards online, but I’m sure that some sell them in-store.  For example, both Kohl’s and Sears are known to sell them.  If you can find the secret gift card rack at Sears, your best bet may be to buy gas station gift cards.  I’ve never seen any gift cards worth buying at Kohl’s, but you may be more fortunate.

Unlisted department store purchases

Chase’s web page showing included department stores lists “Top Selected Department Stores,” where they list 5 stores; and “You’ll earn 5% Cash Back at hundreds of other Select Department stores, including these,” where they list 44 more stores.  Since they explicitly say that there are “hundreds of other Select Department stores“, it’s clear that the list they present is not complete.  So, what other stores count?

Chase gives a hint in the “Common Questions” section:

Q. What determines whether a merchant falls within a particular rewards category?
A. Merchants who accept Visa/MasterCard credit cards are assigned a merchant code based on the kinds of products and services they sell. Chase groups similar merchant codes into categories for purposes of making rewards offers to you. Chase makes every effort to include all relevant merchant codes in its listed categories. However, even though a merchant or the items that it sells may appear to fit within a listed category, the merchant may not have a merchant code that falls within that category. Therefore, purchases with that merchant will not qualify for the stated rewards offer on category purchases.

Not surprisingly, Chase decides which merchants qualify by looking at their merchant code.  In order to accept Visa and MasterCard credit cards, every merchant is classified with a merchant code which is passed along to Chase when you pay with your credit card. 

To find out which merchant code Chase will be looking for, I used the Visa Supplier Locator web site.  I searched for the stores that Chase listed as the “Top Selected Department Stores” to see how they were classified.  All were classified with the following merchant code:  DEPARTMENT STORES – 5311.

I then used the same site to search my area for stores with the 5311 merchant code. I was pleasantly surprised to find Kmart on the list.  Kmart offers a nice selection of third party gift cards, so it could be an excellent option for 5X spend.  Some retailers have multiple merchant codes registered, though, so you’ll earn 5X only if they process your payment through the 5311 code.  I checked my local Kmart stores to see if they had any other codes registered.  Sure enough, some Kmart stores registered 5311, but others registered other codes, such as discount stores (code 5310), and some registered multiple codes.  So, be sure to check the Visa Supplier Locator before proceeding!

For those hoping to buy MoneyPak’s at Kmart: unfortunately, Kmart cash registers do not allow payment by credit card for these.

Earning more

An easy way to earn more than 5X for your purchases is to begin your shopping online in a shopping portal.  The Ultimate Rewards Mall is often a great choice, but others my be better for certain merchants.  Check current rates via CashBackMonitor to see which is best for the store where you want to shop. 

And even more

In my post “Plinking Sears“, I showed how one could get more points from Sears by shopping through an online portal and paying with a credit card registered to Plink.  With the current 5X offer, you could do the same, but would earn triple rewards:

  • 5X from the Freedom card category bonus.
  • Up to 6% in Plink points from Plink.
  • 5X or more from an online portal.

Sears’ Gift Cards

You may be tempted to maximize point earnings by buying Sears physical gift cards online, but I do not think this will work.  Sears’ physical gift cards bought online are processed by Kmart (even when you buy from Sears.com), so you’ll only earn 5X on your Freedom card if Kmart uses merchant code 5311 to process the payment.  To test this, I ordered a gift card from Sears to see how Chase would classify the purchase.  As expected, Chase listed this transaction on my account as being from Kmart.com.  So, I then checked Chase’s Blueprint feature and found that the $50 purchase was classified as “Department and Clothing Stores/Catalogs.”  That was good news, but still not conclusive since the merchant code wasn’t listed.  I then went to the Customer Center page and selected “Dispute a Charge” to see more detail about how it was processed.  There I found the merchant category listed as:
DIRECT MARKETING/MARKETERS – NOT ELSEWHERE CLASSIFIED.  Ouch, bad news.  I believe this means that purchasing Sears gift cards online will not result in Freedom 5X earnings..  No, I didn’t file the dispute.  It is simply a handy way to see how Chase classifies your purchases.

Summary

Here is a quick summary of my findings and suggestions for maximizing Freedom’s fourth quarter 5X earnings:

  • Shop Amazon.com for merchandise or gift cards.
  • Shop any department store on Chase’s list.
  • Shop any department store that has merchant code 5311 as found in the Visa Supplier Locator web site.  Make sure the store you want to shop does not have multiple merchant codes because you can’t predict ahead of time which code will be used to process your payment.  Check the codes for your local Kmart since they tend to have a reasonably good gift card selection.
  • Double dip at almost any department store by shopping through an online portal.
  • Double dip at Sears and Kmart by registering your Freedom card with your Plink account.  And, make sure that Sears and Kmart are in your Plink wallet.
  • Buy gift cards in-person at any qualifying department store.
  • Do not buy Sears gift cards online if you’re hoping to get 5X from the Freedom card.  Based upon the evidence shown above, I do not think that it will not work.

Don’t forget to register your Freedom card for the fourth quarter category bonus.

Reader suggestions

Did I miss any good opportunities here?  Please comment below.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Pingbacks

Comments

  1. Interesting opportunity for those of you who live in Virginia that I would like the group’s thoughts on.

    1) Start with the Sears triple dip (above).
    2) Add the Virginia October sales tax holiday on energy star rated appliances.
    3) Add the Columbus Day 10% off sale
    4) Potentially add pre-Columbus Day extra 10% off (this might not work because VA sales tax holiday timing).

    Assuming pre-Columbus works, so for example, $1,500-20%=$1,200-6%=$1,128, no sales tax, and 11,280 points.

    Thoughts?

  2. Does AP not count toward the 5x category bonus? I tested it this month but I won’t know if it worked until Nov 2. Does anyone else have information on this?

    • Milezjunkie: I’m 99% sure that AP (Amazon Payments) will not count for the Freedom 5X bonus, but it should count for the Discover card 5% cash back 4th quarter bonus.
      .
      Anita:
      1. I have Amazon Prime, but it still wants to charge me $2.99 shipping since it comes from Gift Card Mall, not Amazon (see The Home Depot gift card, for example).
      2. I don’t know whether the level 3 codes will make a difference. My guess is no. The stores near me do not have the level 3 info listed

  3. There is no $2.99 shipping charge for gift cards if you have Amazon Prime.

    If you do not have Amazon Prime, get it. It is well worth the $69 or whatever annual fee!!!

    We buy a considerable amount of our household goods on Amazon (pretty much all at 5x) and don’t pay anything for 2 day shipping.

  4. FM,

    My local Kmart is listed as 5311 on the Visa Supplier Locator. However, when I page down, it is listed again (and the column on the far right now reads “Level III Summary” with different codes (5910, 5912).

    Do you know what this means?

  5. I know your research on Chase.com led to you thinking the triple dip will not work. However, before you posted this statement I called to Chase customer service and asked the rep in regards to a test purchase I made on Sears.com. The rep seemed to think it would count, but said that if I called back once the transaction posted that they have a way to find out for sure on their end. Have you tried this? I know your research led you to believe no, but maybe on Chase’s end they have multiple codes that hit for promotions?

    • George: I haven’t tried calling to ask after making the purchase primarily because I’ve found that phone reps rarely have the correct information. For example, last week I did contact them to ask if Kmart or Lands End were included and I was told “no, because they’re not on the list.” Well, as I pointed out in this post, the list is incomplete, but the Chase reps don’t necessarily understand that.

  6. Sorry for the incorrect information. I’d selected Subway and it had no fee and I just assumed that was because of Amazon Prime. The others I just tried (Starbucks, Home Depot) did show the $2.99 fee. Bummer.

  7. Some gift cards that have no shipping fee when purchased via Amazon: AMC, Subway, Chili’s, iHop, Forever 21, Sephora, Jiffy Lube, Kohls, Basically, if it currently says “$3 MP3 credit” under it, it will not have a shipping fee. These are fulfilled by an Amazon company rather than GiftCardMall.

    • Anita: Thanks for the extra gift card info!
      .
      Nun: In my original post about Plink I addressed that concern and basically said that I’m willing to risk it in this case. I completely understand those who aren’t willing to.
      .
      Ben: Yes, you can sign up for the Q4 categories once your card is activated.

  8. You seem to like Plink. Maybe you should address the fact that they want your credit card login info. I’m not OK with that being stored on someone’s website.

  9. If you have a Chase Ink, it’s not worth buy in-store gift cards for 5% Freedom – you could just get them at Office Depot.

    I’m hoping the Kmart angle works out.

  10. Thanks for the great info (as usual, I should add). If I open a Chase Freedom now, will I be able to sign up for the Q4 categories?

  11. If you do buy gift cards at Kmart in Michigan, if you spend over $50.00,you’ll end up getting $.30 off per gallon(up to 15 gallons of gas) at Speedway. Nice little bonus if your local Kmart qualifies as a department store.

  12. I was in Nordstrom Rack this weekend and at the register hesitated if I should use my Freedom or not wondering if it’d count. I used it because I saw Off Saks Fifth did count and sure enough after checking the Visa classification site, Nordstrom Rack is coded as a department store.

  13. If you know someone with an amazon affiliate link (cough) that earns 6%+, best option is to buy Amazon GCs online. Much better than buying Amazon GCs with Ink. 😉

  14. No problem, although I fully expect the carptetbloggers to follow suit, inundating their readers with “reminders” to use Chase Freedom to buy Amazon GCs, using their Amazon affiliate links, of course, not to mention Freedom affiliate links. Wait for it…

  15. @Shannon One of my local KMarts gives the 30 cent coupon to Speedway, the other gives the 30 cent coupon to BP so it may depend on with whom they have an agreement. Also, one Kmart will sell me $100 Visa/MCard gift cards by using a Sears gift card that they swipe while the other won’t. And they are reversed when trying to purchase BP gas cards using a Sears gift card. So, you just don’t know until you try. Also, a much larger gift card rack is in the layaway department of one store where there is rarely, if ever, a line.

    The coupons are nice but nothing compared to the $1.00 discount available from using Kroger fuel points, especially since everything can de done at the pump as opposed to having to go inside to have them scan the Speedway coupon. The last 4x points special which just expired apparently was only made known via the emails received directly from Kroger as there was nothing saying 4X in the store and the cashier was adamant I was wrong until we actually checked the receipt after the transaction.

  16. Readers can also use FM’s Amazon link to “double dip” support when paying with Amazon GCs. I’m sure FM would prefer readers use ebates or fatwallet to earn cash back for themselves in the limited Amazon categories that earn cash back, but in other categories you can support FM by using his link.

  17. My Kmart has three codes… One for discount stores, one for department stores, and one for drugstores. Perhaps different registers in the store trigger the code, but I don’t know if I’m willing to put forth the effort to find out. Even buying a $200 Visa GC at KMart results in only 2.1% cash back if you value 1 cent per point (which I know many value them higher than that)

  18. I bought a pair of jeans on sears.com with my freedom and under the “dispute a transaction” tab it listed the transaction’s merchant category as “direct marketing/marketers”. I did not use a GC and I did not purchase any GCs, just the jeans.

    Something is amiss.

  19. Ryan: I may have been wrong in assuming that the “dispute a transaction” section listed the transaction details accurately. Just wait and see if you get 5X. If not, call Chase. I’m sure they’ll credit you the points.

  20. Too late! I just bought $450 amazon gc and just saw your affiliate link. I will use this next time. I super love your blog!!!

    • cindy I: It should count for the Freedom card bonus, but you might not get additional portal points. One report a while ago said that no portal cash back was given for a purchase of an e-gift card from Nordstrom.

  21. Update regarding Kmart purchases:
    On my Freedom statement I see that all Sears e-gift cards (processed by Sears) did receive 5X. Physical gift cards bought from Sears.com (processed by Kmart) did not receive 5X. Also, I did not receive 5X from a purchase made in-person at a Kmart that seemed to be coded as a department store.

  22. I just applied for and was approved for the Freedom card tonight. I used your affiliate link as a small way to help keep you in business, and to say thanks. Keep up the good work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *