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How to Optimize Chase Freedom’s 5% Cash Back at the Movies

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How to Optimize Chase Freedom's 5% Cash Back at the Movies

Cinephiles, rejoice! The Chase Freedom® credit card has movie theaters as a 5% cash-back category for July through September 2017. The card is also offering 5% rewards at restaurants this quarter. So if you’ve been putting off date night, now might be the perfect time to spring for dinner and a movie.

There’s a $1,500 cap for the quarter on combined movie theater and restaurant spending eligible for 5% cash back. All other spending earns 1% back.

And the movie theater bonus includes more than just the cost of tickets. Here are some Chase Freedom® spending tips to help you make the most of that category this quarter.

What counts toward the movie theater bonus

  • Movie tickets from recognized theater merchants. Major theater chains are covered — AMC and Regal, for example. And so are some less traditional options, including IMAX and restaurant/theater combos, such as Alamo Drafthouse. Mom-and-pop, indie and arthouse theaters also count, as long as they’re categorized as movie theaters in their merchant IDs. Drive-in theaters might earn you the bonus, too.
  • Movie theater gift cards. When bought directly from the theater, gift cards count as a bonus purchase. If you prefer Oscar season over summer blockbusters, stock up on movie theater gift cards now. You’ll get your bonus points, and you can support your movie habit long after the quarter has ended. (Gift cards can also make good presents for people who are hard to shop for.)
  • Advance movie ticket purchases through Fandango. Guarantee your tickets, skip the lines and earn your 5% cash back via Fandango, which is a bonus-earning merchant on the Chase Freedom® list this quarter. This does not include purchases from FandangoNOW, Fandango’s online movie streaming service, which has a different merchant category code from the online ticketing service.
  • Snacks and drinks from the movie theater concession stand. Can’t live without your popcorn and candy? Your 5% cash back works here, too.
  • Merchandise purchased from the theater. Some movie theaters sell items such as souvenir T-shirts or commemorative cups. These purchases also count toward the bonus.

What doesn’t count

  • Movie rentals. Sorry, Redbox fans. Movie rentals don’t count as theater purchases, so you won’t earn the 5% bonus when you have a night in.
  • Online movie downloads, pay-per-view content, movie subscriptions and streaming services. Though movie-related, these purchases will show up on your card as purchases from non-theater merchants and are therefore ineligible for the 5% cash back.
  • Live theater performances. Performance venues aren’t typically categorized as movie theaters, so that Broadway show won’t count toward your bonus spending.

Remember to activate

Whether your purchase qualifies for Chase Freedom®’s 5% cash-back bonus on movie theater spending this quarter ultimately depends on how Chase defines the business’s merchant category. Sticking to Chase’s merchant list is the best way to optimize your bonus points.

Also, these tips are all moot if you don’t remember to activate your quarterly bonus category. You have until Sept. 14, 2017, to activate, according to Chase’s FAQ section. Chase sends Chase Freedom® cardholders activation reminders via email every quarter, but you can also activate through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal or this page.

Happy date night!

Chanelle Bessette is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: cbessette@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @crbessette.