Good morning everyone, my friend Nigel has written another great guest post for me. If you are unfamiliar with NIgel, he has written a few other guest posts as well:
- Guest Post: My Failed 1-800-Flowers Companion Pass Experience
- Guest Post: 5 Card App-O-Rama (Diners Club, Club Carlson, US Airways, Southwest Airlines Plus, and Citizens Bank)
Without any further ado, take it away Nigel…
Year to date, I’ve already MS’d $125,000 worth of VGCs between my two local Macerich Malls. Grant calls me a heavy-hitter, but I call myself a savvy MS’er. There are people out there that cycle that amount or more in a single month. In my experience, Macerich Malls are easier to do business with than Simon Malls, so I typically find myself at the Macerich customer service desk twice a week to purchase several VGCs.
Last Thursday (April 30), I went to Flatiron Crossing, which is one of my local Macerich Malls. I grabbed a handful of VGCs and asked the service desk manager to load $500 on each gift card. I then gave him my Bank of America Alaska Airlines Credit Card (Visa) – transaction declined. No worries, I handed over my other Alaska Airlines credit card (I have multiple cards) and that credit card was declined as well. At this point, I was starting thinking Bank of America was the problem. Knowing Macerich’s credit card policies, even if a transaction is declined due to a fraud alert, the POS system won’t allow the same card to be swiped again for ~24 hours. I’ve learned to carry a few backup credit cards, just for these situations.
At this point, I reached for my wallet and pulled out my trusty Chase credit card – my Chase Marriott Rewards Credit Card (Visa). I called Chase to pre-authorize the large purchase and handed the credit card to the cashier. Transaction declined again. I immediately backed out of the transaction and called Bank of America and Chase. Both banks informed me that the transactions were being coded as cash advances. I walked over to the counter and shared the news with the cashier. He had heard nothing from corporate and the situation was quite peculiar.
Initially, I thought Macerich either intentionally or unintentionally changed their merchant categorization code (see this post about searching for MCCs). Since I was only attempting to purchase VGCs with Visa credit cards, I had to return to the mall to test my theory.
Last Saturday (May 2), I went back to the mall to try again. I chatted with the lady working behind the counter and she informed me that her manager had contacted corporate. She agreed to help me run a few
tests purchases. Test 1: my two Bank of America Alaska Airlines Credit Cards (Visa) and my Chase Ink Bold Business Charge Card (Visa) were both declined. Test 2: my FIA Fidelity AMEX and BBVA AMEX both processed the transactions successfully. I then called up all the banks to verify that the Visa credit cards were coding as a cash advance while the AMEX credit cards were coding as a purchase. During my call to Bank of America, it was funny to hear how bewildered the Bank of America / FIA rep was. She couldn’t understand why two credit cards issued by them were coding the transactions differently. I guess I know more about MCCs than she does…
After a few days, I went back to the mall. Thankfully, the desk manager was working and he had heard back from corporate. He informed me that this is likely an unintentional glitch, but he had no idea when it was going to be fixed. Since I was there, I decided to test a few other credit cards. It was same story with my Visa credit cards (both cash advances). I brought along a MasterCard, which was also declined (cash advance), but my AMEX credit card processed the transaction flawlessly.
On the way out, I wanted to test if the issue was just affecting VGCs or all gift cards. I picked up a Jamba Juice gift card and charged it to my Discover It Credit Card. I thought I had set the cash advance limit to $0. The $25 gift card purchase went through, but when I got home, I learned it was actually coded as a cash advance.
Even though I had previously spoken with Citi over the phone, I decided to log on and live chat with them. I chatted with a helpful agent and he verified that today’s attempted purchases were coding as a cash advance, while the purchase I made earlier in the week, was coded as a regular purchase.
Just as I was about to say goodbye, he proactively offered up the exact merchant codes for both transactions. It looks like Macerich Malls changed their MCC from 5947 to 6051.
Despite the Citi credit card being a MasterCard, I looked it up on the Visa Merchant Supplier Locator and the code matched what Visa codes as a cash advance.
Since this issue first came to light, I’ve heard a few other reports from people around the county. Therefore, until we hear otherwise, I would personally hold off MS’ing at Macerich Malls with Visa, MasterCard, and Discover credit cards. However, AMEX credit cards are still working as usual. Seeing how 3rd party gift cards (like Jamba Juice) are affected, I strongly believe this is a temporary issue that should be resolved shortly.
Have you MS’d at a Macerich Mall lately? Was your credit card declined? Did you get hit with a cash advance fee? If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. Have a great weekend everyone!