How Do Credit Cards Define "Travel"?

by Michael on May 15, 2014

Photo of a Man on a Suitcase

In response to my recent post about the Barclaycard Arrival 5k point promo, a reader named Paul wrote in to ask:

“Regarding the Barclaycard Arrival credit card, which hotels, motels, airlines, tour operators, car rental agencies, etc. are affiliated with this card?”

The short answer is: it depends.

This card is not specifically affiliated with any particular travel provider. The same is true of many other credit cards that offer travel-related rewards. In such cases, it all depends on how the merchants code their transactions when processing them.

As I’ve noted in the past, purchase categories are defined based on something called the Merchant Category Code (MCC), and it’s up to merchants to categorize their own transactions. If it’s coded wrong, you’re out of luck.

According to the Barclaycard FAQs, travel-related transactions include:

“…airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, tourist attractions, discount travel sites, trains, buses, taxis, limousines, and ferries as defined by the merchant category code.

(bold emphasis added)

Any transactions outside of these categories, or which are mis-categorized, do not qualify. They also explicitly state that some transportation and travel-related merchants do not qualify. These include:

“…real estate agents, websites, or owners that rent properties, in-flight goods and services, merchants within airports, and merchants that rent trailers, trucks, and other vehicles for the purpose of hauling.”

Interestingly, they actually expanded their definition of “travel” when they re-branded this as the “Arrival Plus” card. It didn’t previously include: timeshares, campgrounds, tourist attractions, trains, buses, taxis, limousines, and ferries

So… Like I said, it depends.

If a merchant reports the transaction using a qualifying MCC, it qualifies. If they don’t, it doesn’t. But my own experience has been that pretty much anything that should qualify does qualify. This includes transactions with multiple hotels, airlines, car rental agencies, and even travel aggregators like Hotwire and Priceline.

As always, if you’re interested in getting this card and the associated 40k point bonus (worth up to $444 cash), you can apply by clicking this link.

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