How to find bonus merchants

In my recent post, “Best Category Bonuses,” I listed credit cards that earn the best bonuses in different popular categories such as grocery stores, gas stations, department stores, restaurants, etc. If you browse through that ever growing list, you’ll see that there seem to be no end to ways to earn high rewards multipliers almost everywhere.

It’s great that credit card companies offer such generous bonus categories, but sometimes it can be difficult to figure out whether the places you shop qualify.  For example, when I buy food from a take-out place, does that purchase qualify for a restaurant bonus?  Fortunately, in the comments of a different post, a few readers shared a very helpful website (Thanks Rob and Nick!).  Visa, provides this website to their corporate customers for finding suppliers.  Luckily, they made this site open to everyone:

Generally, credit card companies use the same merchant codes found in this website to decide how to categorize transactions.  So, while what you find in the Visa website won’t be perfect, it should be a good indicator of how transactions are likely to be classified.

An Example

Since I have my US Bank Cash+ card setup to pay 5X this quarter at department stores, I wanted to see which local stores count.  I ran an Address Search and entered my City and State.  Then, for “Industry Segment,” I selected “DEPARTMENT STORES”.


After pressing “Submit”, I was shown a list of qualifying local merchants.  The results included obvious departments stores such as Kohl’s, JC Penney, Macy’s, and Sears.  Less obvious were stores such as Kmart and Fourth Ave Birkenstock.  Kmart is a nice find since they tend to have a better selection of gift cards than does Sears.

Despite Kmart showing up in the list of Department Stores, neither Walmart nor Target were there.  So, out of curiosity, I ran a name search for Walmart.  The results came back showing that Walmart has several merchant codes including discount store, drug store, and grocery store.  Do any readers know how to get your purchases to ring up as drug store or grocery purchases?  I wonder if it has to do with the location in the store in which you make your purchases?  For example, I wonder if you buy items at the pharmacy check-out would the entire purchase ring up as a drug store purchase?  That would be handy!  It looks like I’ll have to run my Amex HHonors card over to Walmart to try this out.

I ran a name search for Target as well, but my local Target showed up only as a discount store.  That’s too bad since I tend to visit Target much more often than Walmart.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. Awesome. Thanks for this. My local Target shows as GROCERY STORES/SUPERMARKETS/BAKERIES -5411 … seems like I should use the Target PP Amex as a tool for spending on my Amex Hilton I’ll apply for next week? Do they card CC for buying the temp card?

  2. FM,
    Yes it does usually depend on the location of the registers. WM has multiple MCC codes because they like to seperate out their sales of various business units. IME each store is different. My local Target always rings up as grocery store purchases.

    My local Walmart is a super Walmart so when I buy things that I want to buy to earn points I will take my purchases to the grocery side check out counters and it rings up as a grocery purchase.

    There is no hard and fast rule here. Readers will need to do a little leg work in order to find out. I.e. Test purchases. I usually find a bottle of a water and will take it to the bank of registers I want to test and then monitor my statement.

    Also a word of caution, while mastercard usually comes up the same MCC code as Visa, IME Amex will vary and vary widely, again this is where the bottle of water test comes in handy.

  3. I bought 1000s of $ worth of WM gift cards at a Super Walmart and a Neighborhood Walmart, they all coded as grocery. I bought them at any cashier, but I always bought groceries at the same time.
    Don’t know if that made a difference, but that’s the experience I had in Louisville, Ky.

  4. @FM I can answer part of your question about how to get Wal-mart to show as a grocery store. IF a Wal-mart is a NEIGHBORHOOD Wal-mart it will be classified as a grocery store. If it is a Super Wal-mart it will fall into the unstatisfying clubs which Wal-mart sought and won a court battle to strong arm credit card companies into classifying this type of store for a very low merchant fee. Because of their size and merchant clout, they were successful. So go to the Neighborhood Wal-mart to get your Walmart or other gift cards at 6% back with AX Blue Cash Preferred or similar cards f

  5. From my experience, VISA and AMEX classify differently Walmart and Target. When I shop at Target and Walmart using my Chase Freedom (when it offered 5% for groceries), I made three experiments – I bought (1) only groceries, (2) groceries+other stuff, (3) not groceries. My purchases were classified as (1) groceries, (2) not groceries, (3) not groceries.

    However, using Citi Visa at Target for anything results in “grocery” purchases.

    Maybe it is YMMV.

  6. I have gone to multiple walmarts, including super walmarts.
    For the most part there are two VISA codes at all the Walmarts I tend to goto:
    5411- Grocery, and 5912 – drugstore.
    If I use the cashier at the pharmacy it shows up as 5912 on my CC statement (VISA). If I use any of the checkout lanes, it shows up as 5411 (VISA).

    However, when I use my AMEX at Walmart cashiers (coded 5411 with VISA), it gets coded as

    Doing Business As: SUPERCENTER
    Merchant Address: 702 SW 8TH ST
    Category: Merchandise & Supplies – Wholesale Store

    never tried with MC.

  7. Another example of why FM is the best blogger out there. Original, universally helpful content. Lets see who rips this off and passes it off as their own first….

  8. I’ve been messing around with this site
    to ferret out Home Improvment codes for Discover products at various stores. I’m intrigued by the idea that a store might have certain registers within a store that use different codes. I know you’ve been exploring your new Discover card and mine just came in the mail. I see interesting possibilies.
    I’ve also wondered if there are other stores catagoried by Chase as an Office Product store besides the big three.

  9. While my local Target is categorized as grocery store by Visa, my Amex purchased there is shown as purchase at “wholesale store”. Will experiment at Walmart.

  10. guys, romsdeals was talking about PP cards (5x at office stores), which cost more but still are very profitable.

    To me both 5x & 6% are helpful.

  11. Thanks to Frequent Miler and his savvy readers for sharing that website. That takes away some of the uncertainty over deciding what credit card to use at what store.

  12. Chuck #4: That’s interesting, hadn’t heard that–do you have any links? I was under the impression that Wal-Mart classified as a grocery where possible because that MCC has lower interchange fees, but I can’t remember where I read that so I could be off base for all I know.

  13. Definitely an interesting post. I’d been thinking about this as I just applied for the AmEx Blue Preferred and have noticed that MC coded Fred Meyer as grocery in my experience.

    Anyone know how online purchases are treated for the likes of Target/Wal-mart/Fred Meyer type stores?

  14. Yeah, would be good to figure out which codes count for 5x bonus on the Ink card – is it just Office Supplies/Stationary and Utilities/etc.?

  15. @matt I’m talking about vanilla prepaid cards not reloads. I’ve been doing vanilla reloads long before bluebird. Vanilla prepaid gets 5x and you can liquidate by buying beans at cvs or use amazon payments.

  16. Are foreign purchases also coded, and do category bonuses work for them? I spend half the year in China, and Discover is the only cc that regularly is accepted in my area. Trying to decide which card works best for my situation.

  17. Just one quick note about the Visa categories. There are two targets near me. One listed as discount/wholesale and one as grocery store. I checked a purchase made with Amex Hilton at the “wholesale” location last week, and it was coded as “discount/wholesale.” I made a purchase last night at the “grocery” location with the same card, and it is still showing as “discount/wholesale.”

  18. @Chris. Yes, foreign purchases are also coded. Any supplier/shop accepting Visa needs to have an mcc-code. A US credit card with cashback on, say, groceries will give casbach in any shop in the world that is coded with 5411 for groceries.

  19. FYI, I noticed my local Chevron gas station is showing up in the credit card statement as ‘Jack In The Box’, it’s attached to a Jack In The Box. Which is coded as ‘Restaurant/Bar’.

    I am switching to credit card with restaurant bonus for this gas station.

  20. Oh wait. Nevermind.
    Correction: Pre-Authorized charge shows up as ‘Jack In The Box’ but actual charges shows up as ‘Chevron’.

  21. Hehe.. You can appreciate this – the Model A Restorers Club is showing up in the Gym Category. So it looks like 5% back for us on membership with the Citi Preferred since it’s one of the categories this quarter.

  22. Late to the party here, but thought I’d contribute one of the policies behind multiple MCCs for a given merchant. From the Visa Merchant Data Standards Manual ( ):

    Merchants with multiple business operations on their premises must use more than one MCC. If there are different businesses operating on the same merchant premises, each business must be assigned its own MCC if (1) they operate under different merchant names, (2) they operate in distinct areas and (3) have separate points of sale. For example, lodging merchants often operate other types of businesses on the premises (i.e., restaurant, flower shop, gift shop, etc.) with separate business names and payment terminals from the hotel. Visa requires the merchant classify these other businesses as a separate business under a unique and separate MCC that describes the specific business operation. For example, a flower shop in a hotel should be classified under the Florist MCC, whether or not it is affiliated with the hotel property

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