The Chase Freedom card has long been one of my favorites. With the ability to earn 5x Ultimate Rewards points on quarterly rotating categories, it is an excellent no-fee card to have in your wallet. Most of the time I can maximize the quarterly category and earn most or all of the 7,500 points for $1,500 in spend.

Except when I make a simple mistake that could cost me all of said 5x return.

Confusion Using Two Chase Freedom Cards

Back in August I downgraded my Chase Sapphire Reserve to a Chase Freedom card, which gives me two of these in my wallet. I’d rather be earning 5x UR for the next couple quarters rather than paying a $450 annual fee. The move was calculated, as I will be looking to pick up a Chase Sapphire Preferred next year for a new sign-up bonus.

But having two Freedom cards resulted in a blunder that I did not expect. The category for Q4 2019 includes PayPal purchases, which should be very easy to maximize. I bought a trio of gift cards a few days ago and paid through PayPal, expecting these to earn me 5x Ultimate Rewards points.

However, I checked my transactions and noticed that these had only earned 1x. Do not all PayPal purchases count? This had me a bit perplexed.

Until I realized the mistake was entirely my own: I’d forgotten to activate the card for the 5x earning. Whoops. I’d activated one of my Freedom cards, but not the second. Although I lost out on an easy 540 Ultimate Rewards points in this case, I immediately clicked the Activate button so that this wouldn’t happen again.

Photo copyright Chase Bank.

The Need to Activate the 5x Drives Me Nuts

This “feature” is one I can’t stand. Why doesn’t Chase just automatically apply the 5x earning every quarter? What is the point of activation? All you end up doing is denying people points.

But I’m sure this is exactly Chase’s plan. Cause breakage. Discover does the same thing, requiring you to activate the 5% cash back category every three months. It would be so much easier if they just emailed you and said, “Here are the categories. Use your card for 5% back.” I know it’s just a button click, but if I miss the email and it slips my mind, I’m out of luck.

If I had not caught the mistake and made some larger purchases that would put a serious dent in the quarterly cap, I would have been substantially more frustrated. Luckily, I should still be able to easily maximize.


The takeaway is simple: for any card that requires you to activate its 5% earning category, make sure you do it as soon as the window opens. Just get it done so that you don’t have to worry about missing out on points. Chase does make it easy, as you’re able to activate in one click. What slipped my mind that I now need to do this twice. It’s also going to be fun keeping up with the spending on each card to make sure I’m maximizing both cards and not spending more than the $1,500 quarterly 5x cap.

Have you ever lost out on points for so simple a mistake?

Featured image courtesy of Jim the Photographer via Flickr under CC BY 2.0 license