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Credit card bonus categories might seem like a straightforward topic. Though as many of you know, it can be frustrating to think that you are getting a large bonus only to find that the charge was coded incorrectly. In this video/post, I want to focus on two common categories where people often miss out on points. This includes dining out and travel, which are common bonus categories for travel rewards cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Preferred card.
Why does this happen?
A common reason why these charges do not qualify is that they are improperly coded by the vendor or processor. Whenever a charge is made by credit card, a code is specified by the vendor and processor to identify the charge type. In some cases, you’ll make a purchase that qualifies for bonus points, but it’s coded incorrectly. This means that you won’t receive your bonus points.
Another reason is that the issuer may not recognize the charge. This is often the case with newer services that aren’t well known to the issuer, and may not be immediately recognizable as a travel charge. An example of such a service is the recent electric scooter craze which is especially popular in San Francisco and Los Angeles. This type of situation is a lot easier to address, and we’ll cover it later in this post.
Dining out bonuses and charges
The dining out bonus category officially includes:
- Sit-down restaurants
- Fast food restaurants
- Coffee shops
However, in most cases, you should also receive bonus points at:
- Vending machines
- Food delivery services (e.g., Eat24 and GrubHub)
There are a few of places where I’ve personally not received dining out bonus points, including:
1. Food trucks:
Most purchases food trucks should give you bonus points. Though I’ve had several instances where I didn’t get the additional points. There are several food trucks in Los Angeles that use a QR code payment system through smartphone apps. With these systems, you register a credit card within an app, then use the app to pay using a unique QR code. This has been inconsistent when it comes to earning additional points. Most times, these apps register as an online purchase rather than a dining charge.
2. Restaurant and cafes in airports:
This is another tricky situation. Sometimes the restaurant will charge through the main airport credit card system, which may or may not be coded as a dining out or travel expense.
3. Cafes or restaurant within another store:
Like the airport charges, this is also very inconsistent. I have ordered from a coffee shop or fast food restaurant inside of another store (e.g., Walmart or Target) and the charge was not coded as dining out. This can also be an issue with restaurants inside of large gas stations.
Travel bonuses and charges
For travel, the list of qualified charges usually includes:
- Airfare booked directly with the airlines
- Hotels and motels booked directly
- Travel booked through a discount website (e.g., Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline)
- Airbnb stays
- Commuter transportation (e.g., metro and bus)
- Gift cards ordered directly from airlines or hotel brands
- Cruise lines
- Car rentals
- Ride-sharing services (e.g., Uber and Lyft)
- Parking garages and lots
- Parking meters
- Tolls bridges and highways
- Passenger trains
Though in my experience, things get complicated with the following charges:
1. Parking meters and lots:
I often have this problem in Los Angeles. Some meters and lots are coded as parking, while others are coded as part of a shopping center or city. For example, my parking meter charges in Santa Monica are not coded as parking, which is ironic since the charge description includes the word “parking”.
2. Truck rentals:
You may be planning a move and thinking that your U-Haul rental will earn you points. Unfortunately, it probably won’t earn additional points. I tried this a few months ago when we rented a U-Haul truck to move some furniture. I wasn’t 100% sure it would count, but I thought I’d try by charging it to my Chase Sapphire Reserve. However, I was not awarded the extra bonus points for travel/transportation charges.
3. Boutique bed and breakfast lodging:
I’ve stayed at a few smaller bed and breakfast places that came through as a shopping or online charge instead of a hotel charge. It’s usually smaller hotels and inns that have this problem, so be sure to check your statement or account activity.
4. Tour companies:
This can be hit or miss. I’ve had a few in the past that coded as an online charge, while others processed as travel, such as G Adventures and Intrepid. Tours are often big charges, so it’s valuable to earn the additional points.
Additional tips and considerations
Below are some additional tips to keep in mind when dealing with bonus charges:
1. Know that the rules (and coding) change all the time:
Unlike other credit card situations, this usually works to our benefit. I’ve noticed sometimes that charges that were previously non-bonus now qualify as a bonus. This includes Postmates, which did not code as dining out in the past for me. Though when I recently used it, I noticed that I received the bonus points for dining out. I think it may be because people have called to complain and request the points from the issuers. This likely resulted in them adding the vendor to their system.
2. Contact your issuer:
If you have a charge that you think deserves bonus points, you shouldn’t hesitate to contact the issuer and ask for the bonus, especially if it’s a large charge. I did that when I didn’t get bonus points for my hotel stay in Sedona, Arizona. Chase awarded me the points once they verified that it was a hotel charge.
3. Look for tipping receipts:
A general rule of thumb when making a dining out purchase at a place where the coding might be uncertain, like at an airport or a large department store (e.g., Target or Walmart), is to see whether you are asked to include a tip. In my experience, anytime that I have been asked to specify a tip, the charge has come through as dining out. This means that I received the bonus points.
4. Consider consolidating charges:
There are ways to take advantage of all this confusion and uncertainty. When you’re traveling and staying at a hotel, you’re often allowed to make charges to your room. This is common for drinks or meals. Some hotels can book a tour for you as well, which is what I did when I was in Costa Rica. By having the charges come through the hotel, I was able to get all my travel bonus points on my Chase Sapphire card. All the meals and tours were included in the final hotel charge. Had I had booked the tour separately, it’s likely that tour wouldn’t have been coded as a travel charge, especially since it was a smaller tour company.
Have you ever missed out on points because it was coded incorrectly? Please share your experience so others can avoid the same mistake.
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