On My Mind: Which Credit Card Do You Use When You Don’t Know The Bonus Category?

Good morning everyone, I hope you all had a great Super Bowl Weekend.  A few days ago, when I was reviewing my recent credit card statements and I spotted a few purchases that did not earn bonus points.  I assumed the purchases would code as a restaurant, so I used my American Express Gold Card, but to my surprise, the purchases did not code as a restaurant (and I only earned 1x on the purchases).  This led me down a rabbit hole where I pondered similar situations like:

  • A restaurant located inside a hotel (would it code as a restaurant or hotel purchase?)
  • A restaurant that was located on a golf course (would it code as a restaurant or golf course purchase?)
  • A café located inside a bookstore (would it code as a restaurant or a bookstore?)
  • And so on and so on…

To me, there are 2 possible ways to answer these questions: Gamble or Play It Safe.

For Gamble, if you think that a purchase will code as a restaurant purchase, you would use a credit card that offers a high return on restaurant purchases.  Likewise, if you think that a purchase will code as a hotel purchase, you would use a credit card that offers a high return on hotel purchases (and perhaps use a cobrand hotel credit card).

For Play It Safe, if you are really not sure which category the purchase will post as, you could be conservative and use a 2-3% cash back card, like the Citi Double Cash Credit Card, the American Express Blue Business Plus Credit Card, or the Discover It Miles Credit Card.  Worse case scenario, you give up a small difference in cash back, but in the best case scenario, you earn more than 1% cash back if you guess wrong.

For me, I’m more willing to take a gamble and go for a higher cash back rate.  I will then live or die by the outcome.  How would you handle this situation?  Please let me know by answering this poll question.

If you have any other types of strategies, please let me know in the comments below.  Have a great day everyone!

14 thoughts on “On My Mind: Which Credit Card Do You Use When You Don’t Know The Bonus Category?

  1. David Purdue

    Why don’t you share the places that didn’t pay the bonus points? It seems like data points and public awareness would help to remedy this in both the short and long term.

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      Hi David, I’m not sure how useful sharing a few data points would be, but I ordered food from a restaurant attached to a golf course and it didn’t code as a restaurant, instead it coded as “HALF MOON BAY GOLF LINKS”.

      Reply
  2. Gene.

    AMEX Blue Biz for 2x (3.4%). If AMEX isn’t accepted, either Chase Sapphire (1.7%) or Alaska (1.6%-1.8%, depending on my mood).

    Reply
  3. Anthony

    Howbout restaurants inside airports. I just go with my Citi Premier that way I know im getting 3x points no matter what category they put it in.

    Reply
  4. 2808 Heavy

    I go with my BBP whenever I’m not sure how something will code. Especially when I see a retailer/vendor using one of those iPad deals as a register.

    Reply
  5. NK3

    This always comes up with food stands/trucks at farmer’s markets and the like. Sometimes these do code as restaurants. Now that the Freedom Unlimited includes 3x on restaurants and 1.5x back on everything else, I use that.

    Reply
  6. lochquel

    Base it off of the purchase price. If it’s small and/or I have a good feeling about it I’ll try for the larger category bonus. If it’s a large dollar amount, I play it safe. I do tend to dig into statements to see how it codes if it’s somewhere I know I’ll go back to or spend more money on in the future.

    Reply
  7. Roy

    I use a spare $200 Visa/MC gift card that I bought at Staples for 5x with the Ink Business Cash Visa. No gambling required.

    Reply

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