Don’t Miss Out on Rewards!  How to Know If Your Purchase Will Earn a Category Bonus

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When you’ve got a healthy collection of credit cards, it can make sense to use specific cards for different purchases like eating out, airfare, or cell phone expenses.  Because some cards will have higher earning rates for certain categories.

But what’s not always clear is whether or not the payment you’re making will fall into your card’s bonus category.  For example, if you dine at a hotel restaurant, will it count as a hotel or restaurant purchase?  And expenses like tolls might not always code as travel.

So before you end up missing out on free points, here is what you need to know about how credit cards classify spending.

What Category Will My Purchases Fall Under
The Chase Ink Business Preferred Card Has a Bunch of Great 3X Bonus Categories! But How Will You Know Which Purchases Qualify for the Bonus?

Million Mile Secret Agent Carlos asked:

I have the Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card and the card’s 3X spending categories are confusing me.

I recently purchased a documentary program online and renewed my Microsoft Office online.  Both purchases earned me 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points.   Not complaining, but does anyone know what category theses 2 purchases fell under?  This way I can ensure I’m doing the best to get the most Chase Ultimate Rewards points on future purchases.

This is an important question for miles & points enthusiasts to answer, so thanks for asking, Carlos!

Every merchant that accepts credit cards is assigned a code by the card network (Visa, Mastercard, AMEX, Discover).  And that code will determine which category purchases from that merchant fall into.

Chase Ink Business Preferred Bonus Categories

Link:   Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

Link:   Chase Ink Business Preferred Card Review

The Chase Ink Business Preferred earns 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent in the following categories (up to a maximum of $150,000 in combined purchases per account anniversary year and 1X points per $1 after that):

  • Travel includes airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges, highways, parking lots, and garages
  • Shipping purchases include couriers, postal and freight shipping companies, express shipping services and mailbox stores
  • Internet, cable and phone services.  Only purchases for internet, cable, satellite television, radio, cellular, wireless data, and landline services will qualify
  • Advertising purchases made with social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and search engines (Google AdWords, Microsoft Bing Ads, etc.)

So in Carlos’s situation, it’s not clear what category his purchases were coded as.  But it’s likely they fell under the social media or search engine umbrella.

The Microsoft purchases may be coded the same as Bing Ads.  And if he bought the documentary on YouTube (owned by Google) it might have the same code as other Google purchases like AdWords.  But this is just a guess.

How Do I Know What My Purchases Will Code As?

It’s not always obvious what category you spending will fall into.  If you eat at a hotel’s restaurant and charge it to your room it should qualify as a hotel (or travel) purchase.  But if you ate at the same restaurant and paid for it directly (not through a room charge) it might end up as a dining charge instead of a travel purchase.

Visa (the payment network for the Chase Ink Business Preferred) has a tool you can use to look up a merchant’s category code.  But it can be confusing to use because you’ll need the merchant’s address.  And when you’re making online purchases, it’s not always clear what the vendor’s address is.  Plus, each card payment network (Visa, Mastercard, etc.) might code the same stores differently.

What Category Will My Purchases Fall Under
Before You Do a Lot of Shopping, It’s Good Idea to Figure Out Whether or Not You’ll Earn a Category Bonus With Your Card

Chase has an FAQ site with detailed definitions of their bonus categories.  But that site doesn’t name specific stores.

Your best bet might be to search (Google, forums, etc.) for other folks’ experience with your card at the specific place you want to make a purchase.  Or if you have a big purchase coming up that you want to be sure you’ll earn bonus points on, you could make a small purchase with that store first to see how it will be classified.

Bottom Line

Every place that accepts credit cards as payment has a merchant code which categorizes the business.  These codes are what the banks use to determine whether or not you’ll earn extra rewards for your purchase!

It’s important to understand which categories your spending will fall into, especially for large purchases.  So either make a small purchase first to see how it codes.  Or you can search the internet and miles & points forums to see what other folks’ experiences were using the card at that merchant.

Thanks for the question, Carlos!

Million Mile Secrets features a team of points and miles experts who have traveled to over 80 countries and have used 60+ credit cards responsibly to accumulate loyalty points and travel the world on the cheap! The Million Mile Secrets team has been featured on The Points Guy, TIME, Yahoo Finance and many other leading points & miles media outlets.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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