Guest Post: Macerich Visa Gift Card Purchases Posting as a Cash Advance

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:

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…

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 9.38.00 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 9.38.27 PM

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.

Flatiron Crossing GC Purchase 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.

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 8.20.38 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 8.22.44 PMa

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.

MCC Visa Gift Cards

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!

71 thoughts on “Guest Post: Macerich Visa Gift Card Purchases Posting as a Cash Advance

  1. Kate

    Darn it! Just bought 2000 on four cards yesterday for first time at Macerich mall. Would appreciate your advice!

    Reply
  2. AlohaDaveKennedy

    What makes you think a change of 5947 to 6051 is unintentional? Store POS systems are often individually or regionally programmed in a chain. This old auditor suspects the finger of god is at work.

    Reply
    1. Nigel

      At a minimum if this is intentional, I don’t believe 3rd party GC’s were meant to be affected. I thought of that so I made an effort to be checked out at both of the POS locations at the mall. Thing is that it’s a card reader attached via usb to a dell computer, not an advanced POS device, doubt it matters in this case.

      Reply
  3. Kate

    First, thanks for the post! Yes, I just called. Was charged a cash advance on citi premier and CSP. Not on Amex surpass. Chase claims it didn’t charge cash advance on husband’s southwest, but this doesn’t make sense. We just called and paid entire balance, including the pending balance on the two chase cards. Citi would allow me to only pay the balance, not the pending mall purchase, by the bank routing number reference.

    Reply
    1. Grant

      Thanks for the update Kate, sorry you were charged a cash advance. After you pay off everything, call the credit card company and tell them to reimburse the cash advance fee and any interest you were charged.

      Reply
  4. MisterMister

    Luckily everyone keeps talking about it. That way what ever avenue is still open will get shut as well. Good thinking guys. Keep us up to date about what you’ll help kill off next.

    Reply
      1. Paul

        Of course you’re just “informing people”. You’re just a great guy! No ulterior profit motives at all. Frigging hypocrite.

        Reply
  5. eddy

    Thanks for the detailed post and testing. A close friend got caught by this earlier in the week. Frankly, I was skeptical that it was Macerich’s doing. Seems odd that they could “unintentionally” change the MCC code. However, they are in for a storm of protests if unsuspecting customers get hit with cash advances on their $10 Chipotle and Subway gift cards! Maybe we should all pick a few of those, get charged the CA, and then raise hell with Macerich. . . .

    Reply
    1. Steven

      @eddy

      I am sure raising hell with the mall will fix the problem for good. Cash or debit only.

      Reply
      1. eddy

        Right. Because people will happily use only cash or debit to buy gift cards at Macerich since that’s the only place they can get them. It’s not like they can walk into any grocery store or drugstore and buy them. What a great way for Macerich to gain a competitive advantage.

        Reply
  6. Racerboy80

    Hi Grant and Nigel,

    Thanks for the post! Ironically, I was just formulating my plans to use Macerich, specifically Flatirons, next month to continue my MS. Hopefully, this will get remedied soon.

    Nigel, I have been looking for somebody in the area to possibly coordinate a meetup with, like Grant does every few weeks/month. Is this something you might be interested in? If so, I can provide my contact info to Grant so we can get in touch.

    Cheers!

    Reply
      1. Racerboy80

        I know…how the heck am I supposed to get a Double Double Animal Style?!?! ;)

        We do have Five-Guys though…and a heck of a lot of microbreweries!

        Out of curiosity…does 29th Street sell them? Maybe coded different there.

        Reply
        1. Nigel

          As of April 27th, 29th Street stopped selling gift cards for the foreseeable future because Macerich leased out the mall management office to a tenant. Until they find a new location on property, no gift cards, I’ve been told they may not even return. Personally the biggest MS tragedy of the year due to convenience, rarely anyone purchased any due to the hidden location.

          Macerich is also trying to lease out the customer service desk at Flatirons, thankful they only moved a few steps away.

          Reply
  7. Frank

    Grant, I usually enjoy your blog as I consider you “different” than other bloggers. You post a lot of deals / travel info that isn’t talked about much on other blogs.

    I don’t see your reasoning for bringing MS at this particular mall to the surface. It’s not talked about much on FT, we have had enough avenues die in the past six months. The people who rely on these malls already knew that the CA issue was happening well before this post was published.

    Pimping posts for hits isn’t cool, nor is contributing to the death of an avenue. Please don’t get all Doc of Credit on us…

    Reply
    1. Grant

      Good morning Frank, I appreciate your feedback. I try my best to walk the line between what is safe to share and what shouldn’t be shared. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes not. Please forgive me for mentioning anything about Macerich Malls. Have a great weekend.

      Reply
    2. James

      Yes when I read this I seriously thought I was reading DR of Credit or Miles to Memories. Very surprised when I saw it was your content.

      Reply
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  9. Sam

    In all likelihood, the report on Macerich told of a deal dying. And it told of a place the author himself MSed.

    Hard for me to find either lack of discretion or greed in that.

    Reply
  10. JT

    April 28: I went to one of the Macerich malls in Arizona to get my small fix of gift/debit cards to buy using my Barclaycard Arrival MC. Everything went well, or so I thought, until a dew days later the transaction in my Barclaycard account went from pending to active — and that’s when I saw the $100+ cash advance fee as a separate line item, with no reference to how it originated. [Unwisely, I had not set the cash advance level to zero until after this incident.] A call to Barclaycard revealed that this cash advance fee was a result of the card purchase at the mall. Sure enough, that transaction on the 28th showed the merchant category as “quasi cash” whereas previous transactions were coded as ordinary purchases.

    With screen prints of my account transactions in hand, I went to see the desk manager, who said she had heard of a similar story at another area mall. She was going to go up the chain and see what corporate was doing. I found out a few days later from her that this seemed to be a coding mistake developed by corporate. On May 8 I checked back with her — no resolution yet, but it seems like my complaint and those of others shut down Macerich’s sales of all gift cards nationwide — and just in time for Mother’s Day gifts and graduation gifts. Who knows how many thousands of $ in sales the company has lost due to this snafu, and at a prime time for gift giving?

    I am hopeful that Macerich corporate will come to its senses and recode the MCC, and that my April 28th transaction will be reconsidered as an ordinary merchandise purchase.

    To top it off, my credit card statement just closed, and Barclaycard at the end of the billing period added insult to injury … I was charged interest of over $14 dollars for the April 28 purchase, on top of the cash advance fee. Fortunately, the Barclaycard rep today said she would give statement credit for this newly discovered interest charge pending the change in the MCC for my transaction.

    Macerich doesn’t need this kind of bad publicity, and none of us customers need this hassle and b.s.

    Reply
    1. Grant

      Thank you for sharing JT. This could not have come at a worse time (well maybe during December holiday shopping would be worse), but it seems like an easy mistake to fix. Let’s hope Macerich can fix this issue soon and no further problems arise. I’m glad Barclays was able to help you out by issuing you a refund/statement credit for the interest charges. This is just another reminder to always set your cash advance limit to $0 when you activate the credit card.

      Reply
  11. VinB

    Grant – Have you had any experience lowering the cash advance limit for the Barclays USAir/Aviator Red card? I sent them a message and they say it is not possible. The exact text was:
    “We are sorry, however, we regret to inform you that we are unable to reduce cash limit as it is tied with the credit line on your account. Your account is primarily a financing credit card and therefore the the benefit of having cash limit cannot be removed and/or reduced. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”
    Is this a Barclays thing? Or a new thing because of the switch to Aviator Red? thanks!

    Reply
    1. Grant

      I don’t have a Barclays credit card, but I’ve heard similar things from other banks. Some banks use your credit line to determine your cash advance limit. Nothing you can do but accept it as is.

      Reply
    2. Racerboy80

      Hi VinB,

      The information you received is incorrect. I just lowered the cash advance on both my Arrival+ and my Aviator Red card last month.

      Just call 866-408-4064, Barclays credit specialist. They will help you lower the cash advance. They did not ask any questions about why and it took all of 5 minutes.

      Cheers!

      Reply
      1. VinB

        @Racerboy80 – You’re right! I called that number and it was a very easy and painless process. “Can I set my credit limit to $0 please?”…”Yes of course, I’ll do that right away”…awesome. thanks!

        Reply
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      1. Racerboy80

        I just spoke with customer service at the local Macerich Mall (FlatIrons). The representative advised that the only card posting as a Cash Advance are Visa cards. She confirmed that both Amex and Mastercard are posting as purchases.

        She also confirmed that they are working diligently to get the glitch remedied.

        Reply
        1. Racerboy80

          Reading some of the past comments leads me to believe this might not be the case everywhere…so proceed with caution.

          Reply
          1. Grant

            Gotcha, good point. Everyone should have a $0 cash advance limit on all their credit cards. So that will minimize potential problems. Thanks for the update.

  13. Nigel

    Hi all, I’d like to share a update to Racerboy’s comment.

    Yesterday I received a brief voice mail from the desk manager, here’s an excerpt of what he said.

    “Hi Nigel…I had you on a list of returning customers to call when our system error has been fixed, it has been fixed as of today [June 1st] and we are accepting all forms of payment…everything is fixed on the other side with the way things are being processed”

    Rather conveniently I just returned from my 19 day trip so I’ll head over to verify it in person.

    On another note, if you’re Denver based or on that “list of returning customers” and haven’t previously reached out to me, I’ll be organizing a Denver area meet up sometime this summer. So feel free to contact Grant for my info or stay tune.

    Reply
      1. Racerboy80 (Bill)

        Hey Steve,

        I’m also in the area. Nigel and I are currently working together to get the meetup setup.

        Hoping it is something we can grow and continue. Keep an eye out here for an announcement, as Grant has agreed to post the details on his blog once we get a location and time figured out.

        Now we just need to convince Grant to come out for a visit, so he can attend as well. ;)

        Reply
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