If you haven’t already, register your Chase Freedom to earn 5x Ultimate Rewards at restaurants and movie theaters this summer that you can transfer (circuitously) to United, Korean, British Airways, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Flying Blue, and Singapore miles.

The Chase Freedom is different than the Chase Freedom Unlimited card

If you register by September 14, 2017, your Freedom purchases will earn 5x on the first $1,500 spent at restaurants and movie theaters from July 1 (retroactively) through September 30, 2017.

Here are the other bonus categories for all of 2017:

Although the chart says 5% cash back, you actually earn 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar that can be redeemed for cash back at a rate of 1 cent each– that’s why all the marketing of the card features cash back language. BUT if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred card, there is a second way of redeeming the Ultimate Rewards: transfer them to your Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred account and from there to airline miles or hotel points. We call this the Freedom Two Step

Where You Can Earn 5x Ultimate Rewards July Through September

You can find a list of example merchants that qualify/don’t qualify as a restaurant or movie theater here.

Everything from fast food to fine dining should count for the restaurant category. The restaurant must stand alone, however. Food vendors within sports stadiums, hotels, casinos, theme parks, and department stores do not count.

All normal movie theaters including drive-ins should count in the movie theater category. Movie streaming services like Netflix do not count.

Using Gift Cards to Maximize the Freedom’s Category Bonuses

To maximize the quarterly bonuses, you’ll need to spend $1,500 within each three month period. That would get you a total of 30,000 Ultimate Rewards over the course of a year:

($1,500 in purchases x 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar) x 4 quarters in a year = 30,000 Ultimate Rewards

If you’re only shopping for one it could be difficult to spend that much in restaurants and movie theaters within three months. But there is a work around that enables you to spread out that $1,500 of restaurant/movie theater spending over the course of a more reasonable amount of time– gift cards.

Many restaurants and movie theaters offer gift cards that either don’t expire or have much longer periods of expiration than three months (the length of time this category bonus lasts). Of course, you can always offer to pay for group dinners as well and have your friends Venmo/PayPal/reimburse you in whatever method you guys use. That’s probably the easiest way to quickly maximize this quarter’s bonus.

The same practice of widening the time window you have to maximize category bonuses via gift cards could be applied to upcoming category bonuses as well.

How to Activate the Category Bonuses

Your Freedom card will not automatically start earning 5x Ultimate Rewards each time the quarter changes. You have to you register your card at chase.com to activate the category bonuses.

The deadline to activate the 3rd Quarter Bonus is September 14, 2016. In case you forget to activate until later in the quarter, Chase will retroactively credit you the 5x Ultimate Rewards for every dollar spent since the first day of the quarter as long as it’s before the activation deadline.

Other Reasons to get the Chase Freedom

  • You’ll get $150 cash back or 15,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $500 in the first three months of opening the card
  • You’ll get $25 cash back or 2,500 Ultimate Rewards when you add an authorized user and make your first purchase within the first three months of opening the card
  • 1% Cash back or 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other spending with no limit
  • No Annual Fee

With no annual fee, It’s easy to see why this card is worth signing up for and keeping, to use whenever you’re not meeting minimum spending requirements for new cards. Everyday 1x spending aside, you can earn 47,500 Ultimate rewards just from the sign-up bonus, adding an authorized user, and maximizing the category bonuses each quarter for a year:

15,000 + 2,500 + 30,000 = 47,500

That’s either $475 cash back, or 47,500 Ultimate Rewards transferrable to seven types of airline miles or four different kinds hotel points if you also have a Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred you can complete the Freedom Two Step with.

What You Can Do with Your Ultimate Rewards if You Also have a Sapphire Preferred, Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred

As you can see, transfers offer the opportunity to do way better than 1 cent per Ultimate Reward.

If you are planning on opening the Chase Freedom card and don’t already have a Sapphire Preferred, Ink Business Preferred, or Sapphire Reserve card, you should consider opening one or the other to expand your Ultimate Rewards redemption possibilities. Not to mention the current sign-up bonus offers of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards for the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve and 80,000 Ultimate Rewards for the Ink Business Preferred.

Bottom Line

For purchases on the Chase Freedom card in restaurants or movie theaters July 1 through September 30, you will earn 5% cash back. Through maximizing the category bonuses for a year coupled with the sign-up and added authorized user bonuses, you can get $475 cash back. If you have the Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred card, you can get 47,500 airline miles instead of the $475 cash back.

I know many of you are probably used to whipping out your Sapphire Reserve for spending at restaurants as it earns 3x Ultimate Rewards for ever dollar spent. Move that Reserve to the back of your wallet for the summer and replace it with your Freedom if you have one!