Executive Summary -
In this section, we examine the definition of standalone supermarkets and department store in the context of MCC (merchant classification code) to determine which stores fall under the category and hence earns you extra cash back.
One of the most frequent questions we get is American Express definition of supermarket. What is considered a supermarket. To answer this question, perhaps it is easier to define what is not a supermarket. Amex does not consider discount stores and warehouse clubs to be considered. Therefore, I guess we could safely rule out Walmart, Costco and BJs.
That means in reality, every grocery and supermarket outlets will be considered under the definition and earn cardholders 3% cash back (for the first $6,000 in annual spending for this category). The other thing you have to be aware of is that whether you get paid the 3% cash back depends on whether the appropriate interchange fee code is applied to the store. Visa, MasterCard and American Express have hundreds of different codes that they apply to different merchants. Supermarkets and groceries have their own code. As long as the store you visit applies the correct code when you pay with your card, then everything should go smoothly.
Below are supermarkets that (through readers feedback) do qualify as "supermarkets".
One of the things to take note of is that based on our experience and readers feedback, once the "store" is classified as a supermarket, anything that you purchase there (from the same check out counter so pharmacies should not count) will be considered a purchase made from a supermarket. That means even gift cards purchases from supermarkets earn you the extra cash back.
Some folks have also tried to find Visa's MCC (merchant category code) for supermarkets from this page. It turns out that the code for it is 5411. However, American Express appears to have their own definition because they are their own interchange network after some research, it appears that the Amex network is also using the 5411 code. But who they assign that code to is probably slightly different from other networks.
But I think on the whole, it is safe to say that most recognized standalone supermarkets would get you the extra cash back when you use this card. The exceptions are well known discount warehouses like Costco, Sam's Club, Walmart and Target.
The MCC code for department store under the Amex network is 5311. After speaking to the Amex representation, department stores need to be B&M (ie Bricks and Mortar). It a department store has a proper bricks and mortar store, they are mostly likely classified as one and you will earn the extra cash back whether you shop online or physically at the store.
By definition, it also means that "online e-commerce stores" are not classified as a department store. Neither is Amazon.com because it does not have a physical store presence. That means if you make a purchase through amazon.com and the merchant on the marketplace is a B&M department store, you will not earn the extra cash back because the sale is being processed through Amazon.com.
That means it is safe to say that stores like Macy's, Sears, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom are all classified as department stores.
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