Amazon 5x Quarterly Bonus
I have been joking back and forth about this with the ToP team and they tend to think I am crazy, which is nothing new by the way. They think I am crazy for saying the Amazon 5x quarterly bonus is my least favorite of them all. How can that be? Amazon is the number place to shop in the world after all. That is true, but there are two main reasons it is my least favorite of the four normal rotating options. First off, I can get 5x on Amazon purchases any time I like and can actually do better than that anyway. Secondly, it is a hard quarter to ramp up if you have more than one Freedom Flex card etc. since there is no easy way to move that spend somewhere else (Visa gift cards etc.). I should say, at least not without large fees.
This is my personal take and your least favorite quarterly option may differ depending on the area you live in. Maybe you don't have a good gas station or grocery store to work with and loathe those quarters etc. If nothing else hopefully this shows you not to easily accept 5x earning as gospel and proves you can often do better than that. Let's dive into all of this a bit more.
Amazon Is Difficult To Ramp Up
I should start this off with a caveat, if are into buying groups then this is likely one of your favorite quarters. That is because buying groups source a lot of deals on Amazon. That allows you to rack up spend on products, and rack up 5x points, without much of an out of pocket cost. This article isn't for you, it is for the people in the back!
We spend a few hundred dollars a month on Amazon so I can cover a good chunk of one Freedom Flex card just through normal spending habits. If I only had one Freedom card I may even just do an Amazon balance load for the remainder of the spending cap at the end of the quarter. This would let me max out my card's earning and lock in 5x Ultimate Rewards on future purchases as well. It should be noted that loading your account that may take months to use is essentially giving Amazon a fee free loan. That isn't ideal, and it isn't like they need help making more money either! A balance load diminishes some of the return you get on the spend too, because of the missed interest you would make on that money, but it is an option.
Multiple Cards Makes It Infinitely Tougher
What if you have two or three Freedom Flex (or OG Freedom) cards though? You don't want to be sitting on thousands of dollars of Amazon credit without an immediate use. Amazon has been known to shut down accounts without notice and lock up Amazon balances too. So this could potentially end up costing you huge down the line (no matter how small the risk is it should be noted).
Amazon does sell some third party gift cards for stores like Best Buy etc. that could help you use up some of your bandwidth. They also sell $200 Mastercard gift cards, just like the ones in the office store deals, but they come with large fees which gobbles up most of the 5x earning value.
As you can see the options are somewhat limited on what you can do to use up the $1,500 in spend on multiple cards. For me, this is much simpler with the gas or grocery category where the fees on cards sold there are closer to a 1% – 1.5% cost and not the 3.5% we see here on Amazon (for the $200 Mastercards).
You Can Do Better Than 5x Earning For Amazon
Since it is hard to scale up Amazon purchases you may be left considering a balance reload. Before you dive in head first we should discuss if that is even a good idea. I already said carrying a large balance comes with risks from Amazon. You can't do a charge back like you can with a credit card purchase and Amazon controls that money. They can, and have, confiscate that money whenever they feel like it too. That leaves me feeling uneasy at best. On top of all of that it definitely doesn't make sense to load up a large balance for only 5x earning. That is because you can do much better than that on a regular basis. Here are a few examples:
Chase Ink Cash All Day, Every Day
It should be noted that you can get 5x on Amazon gift cards at the office store any day of the week if you carry a Chase Ink Cash. That right there makes this less appealing to me as a Freedom quarterly bonus. You may like transitioning your Amazon spend from your Ink Cash to a Freedom card to free up some of that $25K yearly cap for other things though. If that is the case, have no fear, I have better options to share anyway.
Amex & Chase Offers
One great option is taking advantage of Amex & Chase offers. If the deal is right these can lead to a good enough opportunity that I may actually be willing to lock up some Amazon balance. The Lowe's $50 off $250 Amex Offer at the end of last year is one such example. You could purchase an Amazon gift card at Lowe's and save 20% on your purchases, far outweighing 5x Ultimate Rewards. Chase Offers have offered value as well. Let's look at the $10 off $110 at Office Depot offer, a 9% return plus the points you would earn. If your Chase Ink Cash is targeted for the offer you can pair the cash discount with 5x Ultimate Rewards earning on top of that.
If you pay attention to these they will often offer you 10% – 20% off of Amazon PLUS you will earn points on the purchase. And sometimes it will even be 5x points! If you stack enough of these throughout the year you should be able to cover most of your Amazon needs at a much better discount than 5x Ultimate Rewards.
Grocery Store & Fuel Points
The last example I'll give, although there are more out there, is stacking grocery spend with a 4x fuel points promo. This happens to be going on at Kroger affiliates right now, although many different grocery chains offer something similar. If you have an Amex Gold card, for example, you would earn 4x Membership Rewards points for the purchase of Amazon gift cards in store. That is 1x less than the Freedom Flex on Amazon this quarter, but you would also earn the fuel points.
If you value Membership Rewards points and Ultimate Rewards points at around 1.5 cents each this is how the numbers compare for $500 in spend:
- Freedom Flex on Amazon
- 5 x $0.015 = 7.5%
- $500 Amazon load x 7.5% = $37.50
- Total Savings = $37.50
- Amex Gold at grocery store for Amazon gift card
- 4 x $0.015 = 6%
- $500 Amazon gift card x 6% = savings of $30
- 2,000 Fuel points ($500 x 4 points per dollar during promo) worth $2 on up to $35 gallons = $70
- Total Savings $100
As you can see the Amex Gold would earn less points per dollar, but when paired with the fuel points promo it could bring you a savings of up to 25% on that $500 Amazon gift card purchase. This is assuming that you max out the 35 gallons on two fill ups (most states allow you a maximum discount of $1 per fill up). That may not be possible for some people but it is possible if you take 2 cars or gas cans to get it done. Even if you just get 16 gallons per fill up, a pretty standard empty tank, that is $32 in savings on fuel. That gives you a total of $62 off the Amazon gift card which is still leaps and bounds better than the Freedom Flex reload.
What About Lowe's?
This post was intended to cover Amazon, since it is a routine quarterly bonus option, but Lowe's is a part of it this year too. Outside of the Mastercard deal they had a lot of the same theories apply. They sell a better range of 3rd party gift cards than Amazon but I can do better on those at the grocery store (see above). They also have a limited selection of Mastercard and Visa gift cards, but like Amazon the fees are high as well. That is unless you find a few $500 golf variables here and there.
I also find the prices at Lowe's to be 5% – 10% higher than Home Depot gobbling up that 5x earning. Plus, it is somewhat easy to get their gift cards on sale for 10% off (a sale going on right now pictured above on Giftcards.com) which means you are actually paying 2 cents per point to earn 5x with your Freedom Flex. This all equates to a mostly hard pass on Lowe's for me outside of that Mastercard promo they had to start the quarter.
Amazon 5x Quarterly Bonus: ToP Thoughts
Hopefully I made my case on why this quarter isn't great for me, and potentially you. I prefer options like gas, grocery and warehouse clubs where you can shift the 5x earning onto non bonus spend via Visa and Mastercard options where the fees are reasonable. I have tried to love this quarter time and time again. One such instance ended up having Amazon essentially steal $400 from me, but I'll get into that in a future article over the next week or so.
That doesn't mean that this quarter won't work for you. Maybe you like the ease of just using one card and making your purchase. I can't fault you there. Maybe you have limited credit card options and can't recreate some of the scenarios above, which is understandable.
If nothing else, hopefully this opens you up to the critical thinking needed in this game. Especially when you fully build out your wallet and have a lot of different credit card options. At least remember that 5x earning isn't always quite as good as it seems, and it will never be able to top a good stack!
Hopefully I finally convinced Sarah I am right on this too 🙂