Credit Card Bonus Categories May not Translate Overseas


So you took your travel credit card abroad, made bonus-eligible purchases, like hotel stays and?train tickets, and today you’re wondering why you didn’t get extra rewards. You won’t?always earn bonus rewards abroad, but there’s a?few?cards that provide solid rewards for purchases made?away from U.S.

How bonus categories work

Let’s say your charge card gives 2 points per $1 spent on travel and 1 point per $1 spent elsewhere. If you book a night in the Marriott for $100, you will get 200 points. But who decides that Marriott is a hotel? For instance, who decides that hotels count as travel?

When a merchant starts accepting Mastercard or visa, it’s assigned a merchant categorization code (MCC), which lets you know if the business classifies itself like a department store, hotel, travel agency?or other category. MCCs are used by payment companies to calculate interchange fees, through the IRS to create reporting standards, and – most significant for the purposes – by banks to find out reward eligibility.

A credit card’s issuing bank will group certain MCCs together to form a rewards category -?for example, airlines, car rental agencies and online travel specialists might?fall under travel -?and give bonus rewards through?any merchant with a matching MCC.

MCCs are sometimes counterintuitive. Uber, for instance, is not a taxi -?it’s a “ground transportation service.” Costco is listed as a “wholesale store” as opposed to a department store.

So why didn’t you earn those extra rewards whenever you allocated to an added bonus category? Though MCCs are utilized worldwide, it’s not impossible for?international merchants to be?categorized differently.

To avoid surprises, try booking via a U.S.-based agency like or Orbitz, and find their merchant categorization codes using Visa’s lookup tool.