Researching the inner workings of your credit card rewards may seem like a scary sinking at first, but the extra elbow fat is worth it. For example, exploring the terms of your card will reveal that you earn cash based on the Merchant Class Code (MCC).
This hidden knowledge can help you figure out what makes your rewards program specific. Read on to find out the ins and outs of MCC – and how to earn maximum cashback with your cashback credit card.
What is the merchant class code?
Merchant class codes are four-digit numbers that credit card networks — such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover — primarily use to label businesses in order to track consumer spending. They collect this information to protect you from fraud, customize rewards, and collect marketing data that fine-tune their products.
On the flip side, you can look up the list of network merchant class codes to see which retailers might earn you cash according to your card’s reward classes before you shop.
It is important to remember that each network has its own list of merchant class codes and definitions for which purchases or retailers are counted.
Why didn’t I get a cashback on a purchase from a specific store?
This boils down to two things: define the rewards category for your rewards card and your network’s MCC rating.
Some credit cards have broader category tariffs. For example, Chase Freedom Flex℠ has earned rewards online shopping on Amazon.com, Walmart and PayPal purchases at various points this year based on the 2020 cashback calendar.
Meanwhile, the Bank of America® Personalized Cash Rewards credit card has an in-depth online shopping category that covers major retailers like Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and Target.com, all the way to specialty merchants like Etsy.com.
Personalized Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card last updated on 05.03.21
If it wasn’t the Limited Rewards category’s fault, my MCC probably wasn’t lined up. Two common examples of this tend to be big box stores like Walmart and branded gas like Costco gas stations.
Although Walmart is the largest retailer of groceries in the United States according to the USDA, Walmart Supercenters are typically listed under Visa MCC 5310 (“Discount Stores/Depot/Wholesale”) rather than MCC 5411 (“Grocery Stores/Shops”). supermarket / bakery”). Likewise, many Costco fuel sites are listed as MCC 5542 instead of MCC 5541 (like most conventional gas stations), and bonus category descriptions can invalidate rewards on these purchases as well.
These pesky differences develop in my MCC because a store merchant’s category code is determined by their core products – which means what they make the most money for. Since Walmart primarily doesn’t sell supermarket products, MCC reflects this.
How to find merchant class code
Finding a merchant’s category code for a business can be difficult depending on your network. It’s easy to find Visa merchant class codes in general because it’s the largest network – especially considering that you can use the Visa Provider Locator to search for MCCs for specific stores near you. A quick search for Mastercard’s Merchant Category Code will easily find a list of Mastercard MCCs.
However, some networks such as American Express and Discover do not make their code listings publicly available. In this case, your card issuer may provide a list of MCCs of their network either online or by request if you contact them.
It may take some trial and error to determine which stores near you offer the best rewards otherwise. You can try to make a small purchase with your card at the store you want to shop and double-check the following statement to see how much rewards you have earned.
Earn coins with merchant class codes
Earning cash with MCC starts with taking the initiative to find merchants you shop with frequently – or partner retailers that offer specials with your card issuer. (Keep in mind that brands have their own MCC, especially when it comes to travel chains.)
To help you get started maximizing your cashback, we’ve compiled a list of popular reward classes, Visa and MasterCard merchant class codes. They can be quite similar but differ in a few key areas.
|Grocery / American supermarkets||
|Department Stores / Supermarkets (Walmart, Target, etc.)|
|Restaurants / dinner||
|entertainment||Very broad, but here are some common examples:
||Very broad, but here are some common examples:
||These can vary depending on the merchant, but digital goods range from 5815-5818. Mastercard has not specified a specific class of online marketplace such as the Visa MCC 5262 class.|
|travel||Very broad, but here are some common examples:
||Very broad, but here are some common examples:
Ultimately, it is at your card issuer’s discretion, which MCCs you will accrue in your Rewards category. Not all cards with a travel bonus take into account passenger railways, for example.
How to Maximize Your Cashback with Merchant Category Codes
Now that you have a general understanding of rewards category codes, here are some strategies to align your spending and increase rewards card cashback categories.
Find out the merchant class codes of your favorite stores
The first step to optimizing your spending is to spend some time collecting MCCs from the stores you shop often. Investing a little time in finding the store that rewards you the most can yield an excellent return with cashback.
In the process, you may find that some stores in the same chain may have different MCCs, depending on their primary inventory. Even different counters/departments in the same store may hold different MCCs. You can use this to your advantage if you know that one location near you will provide you with a better cashback rate than the other.
Try to keep your shopping in the best cashback category
It may take some extra work, but try to align most of your shopping (or at least big-ticket items) converted to the category that earns you the most money.
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, for example, earns 6 percent of cash back on U.S. supermarket purchases (up to $6,000 a year, then 1 percent), but you can use that to earn 6 percent of Cash at other retailers if your supermarket allows you to buy gift cards with your credit card.
Get creative with your shopping
As mentioned earlier, some store locations will have different MCCs than those in the same chain or other unexpected MCC classification. These “gaps” can provide great opportunities to make money on purchases that do not usually earn rewards.
If you frequently visit drug stores, for example, some Kmart sites are rated MCC 5912 (Drug Store). This means that Chase Freedom Flex can typically earn 3 percent of cash back on department store purchases.
Simply check the rewards statement later to see if your creativity has been rewarded or if the ‘hole’ has been closed.
Embodying your card’s terms for gold nuggets like Merchant Class Code (MCC) ratings can seem overwhelming if you hate the law, but these valuable specs are worth their weight in cashback opportunities.
Once you understand MCCs for your favorite stores, you can optimize your shopping list to get cashback on purchases that you don’t usually earn anything. That is, as long as you are willing to put in more creativity and creativity.