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How can I change my business’s merchant category code?

Contact a card company and explain why your current MCC doesn’t fit – if that doesn't work, you may need a specialized merchant processor

Summary

To get a new merchant category code, contact a card company to explain why the number you have does not apply to your business. The card company may need more information to investigate your request and will tell you what procedures to follow to challenge the MCC assignment.

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Dear Your Business Credit,

I need to get a new merchant category code (MCC). The one I have doesn’t fit the business I’m doing. Is it possible to get a different one? – Dale

Dear Dale,

Yes, it is possible to get a new MCC. Before I dive into the answer, I’d like to offer a quick explanation of what an MCC is, in case some readers are not familiar.

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Ask Elaine a question.

What is a merchant category code?

An MCC is four-digit number the major credit card networks (Visa, Discover, American Express and Mastercard) assign to each business that applies to accept credit cards. The number represents the type of business or service the company offers. There is a specific number for cruise lines, bakeries and other industries.

Credit card networks use MCCs to label purchases. When you get a bill from your credit card company, you’ve probably noticed that a category like “pharmacies” is assigned to it.

This flows from the merchant category code. Credit card companies that offer cash back or points on certain purchases — for instance, purchases made at gas stations — may also tie these rewards to MCCs.

See related:  How to find a business’s merchant category code

How can I get a new one?

What do you do if you think you’ve been assigned the wrong MCC? You can contact a card company to explain why the number does not apply to your business. The card company may need more information to investigate your request and will tell you what procedures to follow to challenge the MCC assignment.

If you’ve been assigned a “high risk” MCC that you think has been wrongly attributed to your business, don’t let it go. High-risk MCCs are attributed to categories of business that tend to experience a lot of chargebacks and fraud.

These often range from neighborhood businesses like drugstores to those involved in adult activities, such as casino gambling and escort services. You will likely have to work with a specialized merchant processor if you fall into one of these categories and pay higher fees.

Plus, some businesses set up credit cards for their employees that don’t allow purchases with certain MCCs, which limits who can buy from you. Although it’s hard to get an MCC changed, it’s worth a try if you feel your business has been put in the wrong bucket, as it could save you money.

If you can’t get your MCC changed, then you’ll probably have to find a specialized merchant processor. Shop around carefully to see who offers the best prices. High fees cut into your profits.

What determines your MCC?

Your note reminds me of why it’s important to carefully consider what you will sell in your business before you get set up with a merchant account.

A decision to add a particular type of product could result in an MCC you don’t want, so consider new additions carefully. (Some businesses are required to use more than one MCC by the card issuers, which could complicate things even further).

If you’re not sure what category adding a new product line will put you in, check out the Visa Supplier Locator tool and the Quick Reference Booklet – Merchant Edition from Mastercard, which allow you to look up these issuers MCCs online.

They’ll give you a general idea of which categories you may be assigned to. (I could not find similar guides for American Express or Discover online, so you will need to ask the card issuers.)

Referring to these guides will help you to make an informed decision about expanding into new areas in your business.

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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