How I’m Maximizing The 5x Transportation Bonus This Quarter

Filed Under: American Express, Chase
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I’ve had the Chase Freedom® Card for several years, since before I even started reading One Mile at a Time. It’s one of the two no-annual-fee cards I actually use (the other is The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express).

The 5% cash back the Freedom Card offers on rotating quarterly categories (up to $1,500 a quarter) is actually 5x Ultimate Rewards points for those of us who pair it with a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

This quarter (January through March), the bonus categories are gas stations and local commuter transportation. Gas stations often sell gift cards for future fuel purchases or other things, and many people meet the bonus that way.


Lucky has said he’s meeting the bonus through Uber, but I can’t imagine spending that much on local transportation in just three months.

Thankfully, I have some ways of paying now for transportation I’ll use later in the year.

Loading money on my transit pass

I live in D.C., so I take the Metro fairly often.

I spend around $50 a month on Metro rides, which means I can load $600 onto my SmarTrip card. (Technically, I’ll be loading $300 each onto two SmarTrip cards, because they won’t store more value than that on a single card.)

Lyft and Uber: gift cards

Lyft and Uber both offer gift cards. So even if you’re not spending $500 a month on those services (if you are spending that much, how come neither of them are turning a profit yet!?), you can pay now and use the credits later.

Lyft Gift Cards

If you use the MileagePlus X App from United to purchase Uber gift cards, you can also earn United miles in addition to the Chase Freedom bonus.

Using Via for commuting

In D.C., Chicago, and New York, there’s a fairly new ride-sharing option in town called Via. This is great, because over the past few years the Metro has been consistently terrible, thanks to poorly-maintained equipment and infrastructure, underfunding, mismanagement, and fires. (Don’t believe me on that last one?)

On days when I don’t feel like dealing with single-tracking, unreasonably long wait times, and other headaches, I just open the Via app and get a ride to work for a flat $2.95. (The fee varies by city.) Via only operates in D.C. and Chicago during commuting hours, but in New York it’s full time.

I’ve found the service to be better than Uber and Lyft’s car-sharing products (POOL and Line, respectively). I typically have to wait less for a car to arrive (usually around 3 minutes), and the pick-ups and drop-offs it makes are almost always directly along my route (on POOL and Line it’s frequently taken me out of the way to get other passengers).

Via lets you prepay for ride credits, and while the most they offer is $50, they don’t seem to have any restrictions on how many times you can reload.

via screenshot

If you live in a city with Via and are interested in trying it out, you can download the app. If you use my promo code, andrew8h9y, you can get a $10 ride credit (and I get one too). As always, feel free to share your own promo code in the comments.

Bottom line

When possible, prepay whatever transit/local transportation expenses you have for the year now to make the most of this quarter’s bonus.

Any other tips for maximizing the Chase Freedom® Card bonus this quarter?

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  1. I’ve started ordering food via UberEats. Technically a food purchase but credited as an Uber spend.

  2. @JaviG: Brilliant!

    @Jason: I do use the subsidy for commuting, but for non-commuting Metro trips (and can’t use the transit subsidy for things like Uber/Lyft/Via, unfortunately).

  3. If you purchase through MileagePlus X app doesn’t it show as MileagePlus X purchase (one point per dollar) as opposed to Uber spend (5 points per dollar)?

  4. @Andrew, I read somewhere (I think in a TPG comments thread) that Uber gifts cards don’t count, but Lyft cards do. Have you successfully tried both?

  5. I bought an Uber gift card at the beginning of the quarter and was not given the 5x bonus. Not sure if anyone else had the same experience. I have purchased gas cards which qualify for the bonus. That’s my suggestion for anyone who does not use commuter services or ride sharing.

  6. I decided to test this out last night by buying a $10 gift certificate for each of Uber and Lyft. The charges should post tomorrow and we’ll see then…

  7. Weird. Bought a $25 gift card from Uber an hour ago and just got an email that says: “We were unable to process your eGift Card order from Uber. Settled charges will be refunded to the original form of payment.” The only thing I can think is that I got red-flagged for buying a gift card for myself (they would have deduced this from the matching emails). Is buying a gift card for yourself “illegal”?

  8. @AJ, the merchant on the Uber gift card I tried to buy is “CS *UBERGIFTCARD,” rather than “UBER US” or “UBER TECHNOLOGIES INC.” The latter two always net the 5x bonus. I’m speculating the former does not (in the same way any non US Uber charge does not get the bonus, on top of adding a foreign transaction fee). Anyway, Uber cancelled my gift card order, so looks like they’re sending my business to Lyft on this one.

  9. the uber gift cards dont work I tried to do it with a small value of $10 they come up as a different vendor code I tried it when I got my 300$ travel credit with my CSR.

  10. If you buy Uber gift cards through the United Mileage Plus X app, they code as Travel and 5X.

    #Uber for the rest of the year.

  11. zach4q7

    Would really appreciate the referral bonus, as a college student on a very limited budget!

  12. Last time I reloaded me, my roommate, my brother, and my friend’s metro passes, and had them all Venmo me back.

  13. @Zack S – I just bought an Uber gift card and it posted at 5x. Did you buy it directly through the app? Vendor shows as “BC UBER GIFT CARD”.

    Still waiting for my Lyft gift card to post.

  14. I tested out the MPX/Uber method and can confirm it definitely works. Purchased a $15 Uber credit through MPX and they give you a promo code to put into the Uber App. Showed up on Chase Freedom statement as MPX*UBER with 5x points. Def going to max this one out before the end of the month.

  15. I should also add to the above that I have also already received 15 United miles for the purchase as well. Double dipping success!

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