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Getting the Bonus Points You Deserve When Purchases Don't Code Properly

Sept. 01, 2017
5 min read
Getting the Bonus Points You Deserve When Purchases Don't Code Properly
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Many credit cards give bonus points for spending in particular categories such as dining, travel and entertainment. Some cards have permanent bonuses (i.e., the Chase Sapphire Reserve gives 3x points on travel and dining) while others award bonuses in quarterly rotating categories, such as the Chase Freedom with its 5% back/5x points at restaurants and movie theaters in the third quarter of 2017. (No longer open to new applicants)

On a recent Citi Prestige Card statement, I had purchased tickets to see Cirque Du Soleil for $609. The Citi Prestige earns you 2x ThankYou points on dining and entertainment, but when the statement arrived, I saw that I was only given 1x points. I called Citi to inquire and was told that the vendor coded the charge as "Management Consulting" rather than entertainment. This did not seem right to me — luckily, the agent agreed and gave me a one-time bonus for the additional 609 points I should have received.

This made me curious, so I looked online at my transactions on my Chase Sapphire Reserve and saw that several restaurants and travel expenses were only given 1x Ultimate Rewards points, not the 3x bonus. I called Chase and was told that various restaurants were coded as grocery store, a bakery and a caterer. United Airlines, meanwhile, coded as "Business Services." Again, this did not seem fair to me, so the agent noted the transactions impacted and said someone would get back to me. A week later, I received a letter from Chase saying that "as a courtesy" it was awarding me 3,922 Ultimate Rewards for four of the merchants while continuing to withhold the bonus from one of the merchants.

Only 1 point per dollar given at a restaurant.

Interestingly, one of the merchants, Manhattan Bagel, was deemed a bakery and not given the dining point bonus on the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, but the same Manhattan Bagel was given the 5x restaurant bonus on the Chase Freedom.

The same restaurant not considered dining on the Chase Sapphire Reserve was considered a restaurant on the Chase Freedom.

The letter from Chase went on to say: "Please note, merchants who accept Visa/MasterCard are assigned a code depending on the kinds of products and services they sell. We group similar merchant codes for purposes of creating categories for reward earnings. Every effort is made to include all relevant merchant codes in our reward categories.'

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The Citi Prestige website states the following:

"Merchant Codes. Each merchant – e.g., a retailer, business or any other place where you can make a purchase – is assigned a code that indicates the merchant's area of business. For example, restaurants are generally assigned a specific merchant code. We don't assign or have any control over merchant codes. Codes are chosen and assigned by a third party, who may change the codes from time to time. When you make a purchase at a merchant, we're provided the code for that merchant. If the code matches a category that gives you additional Points – for example, if the merchant code tells us that you made a purchase at a restaurant, and you get additional Points for "dining out" purchases – we'll give you the additional Points. Because we don't control what code a merchant is assigned, sometimes a purchase that you think fits a certain category may not earn additional Points. For example, a restaurant located within a large retail outlet may not be assigned a "restaurant" code, but rather a "retailer" code. This means that if you receive additional Points for "dining out," you won't earn additional Points for purchases at that restaurant. Or a restaurant located within a hotel may not be assigned a "restaurant" code, but rather a "hotel" code. This means that if you receive more Points for purchases at a hotel than you receive for purchases at a restaurant, each purchase at that restaurant will be treated as a purchase at a hotel, and you'll receive additional Points. Please see our FAQs at, or call the ThankYou Service Center at 1-800-THANKYOU (1-800-842-6596) for more information about merchant codes and categories."

Bottom Line

Make sure you look at the transactions for which you're expecting bonus points to ensure the bonus points are indeed granted. For Chase, you can click on the individual transaction on the Chase website and see which points were awarded.

For Citi, you have to call to get the detail on each transaction. If the bonus points weren't awarded and you feel you deserve them, call credit card customer service. If they can't resolve the issue for you, ask to open a case. While not guaranteed as per Citi's explanation that points are awarded based upon merchant-designated codes, you still may be able to obtain a customer service credit and will hopefully be credited with the points to which you're entitled.

Have you had a similar situation, and if so what was the resolution?

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