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How credit card issuers classify purchases for bonus rewards
CNBC Select reviews what expenses the major credit card issuers consider for bonus rewards on travel, dining, groceries, gas, streaming services and entertainment.

If you have a rewards credit card that earns cash back, points or miles, you may earn bonus rewards in common spending categories, such as travel, dining and groceries. But card issuers (American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi and Discover) differ in how they classify what purchases qualify for extra rewards.

Card issuers use merchant category codes (MCCs) to classify purchases. But they have no control over which MCC a merchant receives, so that's a factor to consider when looking at what purchases qualify for bonus rewards.

If you purchase groceries at a wholesale club, like Costco, for example, you typically won't earn rewards under the supermarket category. And if you grab food at restaurant located in a hotel, it may not qualify for dining rewards. This can be confusing, especially if you have more than one credit card.

Below, CNBC Select reviews what expenses the major credit card issuers consider for bonus rewards on travel, dining, groceries, gas, streaming services and entertainment (as applicable).

How credit card issuers classify purchases

  • American Express
  • Bank of America
  • Capital One
  • Chase
  • Citi
  • Discover

How American Express classifies bonus category purchases

Travel

  • Airfare booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com
  • Prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com
  • Airfare for a scheduled flight on a passenger carrier, chartered flights and private jet flights (American Express® Green Card only)
  • Transit, including trains, taxicabs, rideshare services, ferries, tolls, parking, buses and subways (American Express® Green Card only)
  • Hotel stays, timeshare rentals and vacation rentals (American Express® Green Card only)
  • Car rentals (American Express® Green Card only)
  • Other travel purchases including cruises, tours, vacation packages and travel purchases made through tour operators and travel agencies, including online (American Express® Green Card only)

Travel exclusions

  • Purchases of timeshare properties
  • Banquets or events held at a hotel
  • Meeting rooms booked at a hotel
  • Truck rentals or moving van rentals

Amex credit cards that offer bonus rewards on travel:

Learn more: How to make the most of your hotel points

Dining

  • Restaurants located in the U.S.
  • Restaurants located worldwide (depending on the card you have)

Dining exclusions

  • Restaurants located worldwide (depending on the card you have)
  • Bars, nightclubs, convenience stores, supermarkets, grocery stores, cafeterias, caterers, theatre clubs, breweries, bakeries and meeting venues
  • You may not earn additional rewards at a restaurant located within another establishment (a restaurant inside a hotel, casino or event venue). For example, purchases made at a restaurant located within a hotel may be recognized as a purchase at a hotel, not at a restaurant

Amex credit cards that offer bonus rewards on dining:

Grocery stores

  • A supermarket offers a wide variety of food and household products such as meat, fresh produce, dairy, canned and packaged goods, household cleaners, pharmacy products and pet supplies
  • Must be located in the U.S.

Grocery store exclusions

  • Convenience stores and specialty stores (like fish markets, cheese shops, wine shops, and other specialty food stores)
  • Superstores (like Amazon, Target and Walmart)
  • Warehouse clubs (like Costco, BJ's Club)

Amex credit cards that offer bonus rewards on groceries:

Gas

  • A gas station is defined as a merchant that is in the primary business of selling gasoline to consumers. Gas stations may sell other convenience items, but its primary business must be selling gasoline to consumers
  • Must be located in the U.S.

Gas exclusions

  • Superstores, supermarkets, and warehouse clubs that sell gasoline (like Target and Costco)
  • Marina or any type of commercial fuel (jet fuel)

Amex credit cards that offer bonus rewards on gas:

Streaming services

  • Amazon Music Unlimited
  • Apple Music
  • Apple TV+
  • AT&T Now
  • Audible
  • CBS All Access
  • Disney+
  • ESPN+
  • Fubo TV
  • HBO Now
  • Hulu
  • iHeartRadio
  • Kindle Unlimited
  • Luminary
  • MLB.TV
  • NBA League Pass
  • Netflix
  • NHL.TV
  • Pandora
  • Prime Video
  • Showtime
  • Sling TV
  • SiriusXM Streaming and Satellite
  • Spotify
  • Stitcher
  • YouTube Music Premium
  • YouTube Premium
  • YouTube TV

Streaming services exclusions

  • Subscriptions bundled with another product or service or billed by a third party (such as a digital platform, a cable, telecommunications, or internet provider or a car manufacturer), may not be eligible

Amex credit cards that offer bonus rewards on streaming services:

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How Bank of America classifies bonus category purchases

Travel

  • Airlines
  • Boat leases and rentals
  • Buses
  • Campgrounds and trailer parks
  • Car rental agencies
  • Cruise lines
  • Ferries
  • Hotels, motels, resorts
  • Limousines
  • Motorhome and recreational vehicle rentals
  • Parking lots and garages
  • Passenger railways
  • Real estate agents and managers (rentals)
  • Recreation services
  • Taxicabs
  • Timeshares
  • Toll and bridge fees
  • Travel-related arrangements services
  • Travel agencies and tour operators
  • Tourist attractions and exhibits (amusement parks, carnivals, circuses, aquariums and zoos)
  • Truck and trailer utility rentals

Travel exclusions

  • In-flight goods and services
  • Duty-free airport purchases

Bank of America credit cards that offer bonus rewards on travel:

  • Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card: 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings, 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (3% and 2% qualifies on the first $2,500 spent at choice category, grocery store and wholesale clubs each quarter, then earn 1%) and 1% cash back on all other purchases

Dining

  • Restaurants
  • Fast-food chains
  • Drinking establishments, such as bars, nightclubs or taverns

Dining exclusions

  • Bank of America doesn't specify exclusions, except that it varies by how merchants classify purchases

Bank of America credit cards that offer bonus rewards on dining:

  • Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card: 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings, 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (3% and 2% qualifies on the first $2,500 spent at choice category, grocery store and wholesale clubs each quarter, then earn 1%) and 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card: 2 points for every $1 spent on dining purchases

Grocery stores

  • Supermarkets/grocery stores
  • Wholesale clubs

Grocery store exclusions

  • Bank of America doesn't specify exclusions, except that it varies by how merchants classify purchases

Bank of America credit cards that offer bonus rewards on groceries:

  • Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card: 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings, 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (3% and 2% qualifies on the first $2,500 spent at choice category, grocery store and wholesale clubs each quarter, then earn 1%) and 1% cash back on all other purchases

Gas

  • Gas purchases at automated fuel dispensers; fuel dealers for coal, fuel oil, liquefied petroleum and wood; marinas and marine service and supplies; and service stations, with or without ancillary services

Gas exclusions

  • Wholesale clubs that offer pay at pump locations may not qualify

Bank of America credit cards that offer bonus rewards on gas:

  • Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card: 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings, 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (3% and 2% qualifies on the first $2,500 spent at choice category, grocery store and wholesale clubs each quarter, then earn 1%) and 1% cash back on all other purchases

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How Capital One classifies bonus category purchases

Travel

  • Hotel and car rentals booked through Capital One Travel

Travel exclusions

  • Purchases made outside of Capital One Travel, such as hotel incidentals, upgrades or other expenses

Capital One credit cards that offer bonus rewards on travel:

Dining

  • Restaurants
  • Cafes
  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • Fast-food chains
  • Bakeries

Dining exclusions

  • Food trucks, food carts and restaurants in department stores or hotels may not qualify

Capital One credit cards that offer bonus rewards on dining:

Grocery stores

  • Supermarkets/grocery stores
  • Meat locker, freezer, dairy product store
  • Specialty markets

Grocery store exclusions

  • Superstores (like Walmart and Target)

Capital One credit cards that offer bonus rewards on groceries:

Entertainment

  • Ticket purchases made at movie theaters, sports promoters (professional and semi-professional live events), theatrical promoters, amusement parks, tourist attractions, aquariums, zoos, dance halls, record stores, pool halls or bowling alleys

Entertainment exclusions

  • Golf courses, country clubs (including membership fees)
  • Collegiate sporting events categorized as "universities"
  • Cable, digital streaming and membership services
  • Charitable organizations that provide live entertainment
  • Amusement park tickets purchased on third-party sites
  • Entertainment and resort packages categorized as "travel" or "hotel"

Capital One credit cards that offer bonus rewards on entertainment:

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How Chase classifies bonus category purchases

Travel

  • 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 and highways
  • Parking lots and garages

Travel exclusions

  • Merchants that provide transportation and travel-related services are not included in this category; for example, real estate agents, educational merchants arranging travel, in-flight goods and services, on-board cruise line goods and services, sightseeing activities, excursions, tourist attractions, boat rentals, merchants within hotels and airports, and merchants that rent vehicles for the purpose of hauling
  • The purchasing of gift cards, points or miles do not qualify in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in the travel category

Chase credit cards that offer bonus rewards on travel:

Dining

  • Restaurant category merchants' primary business is sit-down or eat-in dining, including fast-food restaurants and fine dining establishments

Dining exclusions

  • Merchants that sell food and drinks located within facilities such as sports stadiums, hotels and casinos, theme parks, grocery and department stores will not be included in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in a restaurant category
  • Bakeries, caterers, gift card and delivery service merchants will not be included in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in the restaurant category

Chase credit cards that offer bonus rewards on dining:

Grocery stores

  • Supermarkets/grocery stores
  • Merchants that offer a full service grocery line of merchandise including a deli and bakery as well as smaller grocery stores

Grocery store exclusions

  • Warehouse clubs
  • Discount stores
  • Smaller merchants such as drugstores
  • Merchants that specialize in only a few grocery items
  • Purchases made at gas stations from merchants who also operate grocery stores are not included in this category
  • Delivery service merchants will not be included in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in the grocery stores category

Chase credit cards that offer bonus rewards on groceries:

Gas

  • Merchants in the gas stations category sell automotive gasoline that can be paid for either at the pump or inside the station, and may or may not sell other goods or services at their location

Gas exclusions

  • Merchants that do not specialize in selling automotive gasoline are not included in this category; for example, truck stops, boat marinas, oil and propane distributors and home heating companies

Chase credit cards that offer bonus rewards on gas:

  • Chase Freedom®: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate (then 1%). Categories for January to March include gas stations, select streaming services and internet, cable and phone services. Check out the Chase Freedom 5% cash-back calendar.

Streaming services:

  • Disney+
  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • Sling
  • Vudu
  • Fubo TV
  • Apple Music
  • SiriusXM
  • Pandora
  • Spotify
  • YouTube TV
  • ESPN+

Streaming service exclusions:

  • Merchants not mentioned above

Chase credit cards that offer bonus rewards on streaming services:

  • Chase Freedom®: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate (then 1%). Categories for January to March include gas stations, select streaming services and internet, cable and phone services. Check out the Chase Freedom 5% cash-back calendar.

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How Citi classifies bonus category purchases

Travel

  • Airlines
  • Hotels
  • Car rental agencies
  • Travel agencies/travel aggregators/tour operators
  • Gas stations
  • Commuter transportation
  • Ferries
  • Commuter railways
  • Subways
  • Taxis/limousines/car services
  • Passenger railways
  • Cruise lines
  • Bridge and road tolls
  • Parking lots/garages
  • Campgrounds and trailer parks
  • Timeshares
  • Bus lines
  • Motor home/recreational vehicle rentals
  • Boat leases and rentals

Travel exclusions

  • Recreational camps
  • Insurance companies
  • Auto clubs
  • Fuel used for non-automobile purposes
  • Real estate agencies
  • Gas purchases made at warehouse clubs, discount stores, department stores and convenience stores

Citi credit cards that offer bonus rewards on travel:

Dining

  • Restaurants (including cafes, bars, lounges and fast-food restaurants)

Dining exclusions

  • Bakeries
  • Caterers
  • Restaurants located inside other establishments (such as hotels, department stores, grocery stores, discount and convenience stores or warehouse clubs)
  • Online dining delivery services

Citi credit cards that offer bonus rewards on dining:

Grocery stores

  • Supermarkets/grocery stores

Grocery store exclusions

  • General merchandise/discount superstores
  • Freezer/meat locker provisioners
  • Dairy product stores
  • Miscellaneous food/convenience stores
  • Markets, drugstores, warehouse clubs, wholesale clubs, specialty vendors, bakeries, candy stores, nut stores, confectionery stores, and meal kit delivery services
  • Some online supermarkets may not qualify

Citi credit cards that offer bonus rewards on groceries:

  • Citi Rewards+℠ Card: 2X ThankYou® points at supermarkets and gas stations for the first $6,000 per year, then 1%

Gas

  • Gas

Gas exclusions

  • Fuel purchased for commercial purposes or used for non-automobile purposes
  • Warehouse clubs, wholesale clubs, superstores, discount stores, department stores and convenience stores may not qualify

Citi credit cards that offer bonus rewards on gas:

Entertainment

  • Live entertainment
  • Live theatrical productions
  • Concerts
  • Live sporting events
  • Movie theaters
  • Amusement parks (including zoos, aquariums, circuses and carnivals)
  • Tourist attractions (including museums, and art galleries)
  • Record stores
  • Video rental stores
  • On-demand internet streaming media

Entertainment exclusions

  • Satellite and cable service providers
  • Charitable organizations that provide live entertainment
  • Sporting camps, sports complexes where you participate in the sport
  • Public and private golf courses
  • Country clubs (including membership fees)
  • Bowling alleys
  • Video game arcades
  • Stores that primarily sell video games/accessories and musical instruments
  • Bookstores

Citi credit cards that offer bonus rewards on entertainment:

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How Discover classifies bonus category purchases

Dining

  • Full-service restaurants
  • Cafes
  • Cafeterias
  • Fast-food chains

Dining exclusions

  • Purchases made at warehouse clubs, wholesale distributors and discount stores
  • Purchases made using third-party payment accounts, tap-and-pay, mobile or wireless card readers, virtual wallets or similar technology may not be eligible

Discover credit cards that offer bonus rewards on dining:

Grocery store

  • Supermarkets/grocery stores

Grocery store exclusions

  • Grocery purchases made at convenience stores, gas stations, warehouse clubs, discount stores, superstores (or at grocery stores associated with superstores or discount stores), including Walmart and Target
  • Purchases made using third-party payment accounts, tap-and-pay, mobile or wireless card readers, virtual wallets or similar technology may not be eligible

Discover credit cards that offer bonus rewards on groceries:

Gas

  • Merchants that sell automotive gasoline that can be paid for either at the pump or inside the station

Gas exclusions

  • Gas stations affiliated with superstores, supermarkets, discount stores, warehouse clubs or wholesale distributors may not be eligible
  • Purchases made using third-party payment accounts, tap-and-pay, mobile or wireless card readers, virtual wallets or similar technology may not be eligible

Discover credit cards that offer bonus rewards on gas:

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Information about the Chase Freedom®, Citi Premier℠ Card, and all Capital One® cards has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the cards prior to publication.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.