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Do all purchases count when racking up rewards?

Not all rewards credit card transactions earn points, but all purchases do


If you’re looking to pay certain bills to get more credit card rewards, make sure you know what counts as a purchase that would be eligible for points.

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Generally speaking, if you purchase a product or service on a rewards credit card, you’ll earn rewards based on that card’s rewards structure. For example, if you go to the mall and use your card to buy a shirt, it’s obviously a purchase, and it will earn you rewards.

But not all charges you make on your card will count as purchases and net you rewards. Most issuers won’t offer rewards on things like interest, fees, balance transfers or cash advances. Some also have specific exclusions for purchases from certain providers, like government agencies or utility companies, or even from specific stores.

Here’s what you need to know about what kind of charges won’t boost your rewards balance. Plus, we’ll look at specific exclusions by issuer.

Not all transactions earn reward

Most credit card reward programs detail the categories that are ineligible for rewards. Let’s examine these segments in a little more depth:

  • Net purchases: If you spend $800 one month but then return $100 worth of merchandise, you’ll earn rewards on only $700 worth of spending. This happens even if the returns take place in a future month; the card issuer will subtract those points.
  • Cash advances: If your credit card has a PIN, you can probably use it at a cash machine. You also might be able to walk into a bank and get cash with your card. But that’s usually an awful idea because the interest rates on cash advances are high and begin accruing immediately, even if you pay the money back at the end of the month. And you don’t earn reward points on advances, either. There might be other instances in which using the card for cash or cash equivalents counts as a cash advance, such as buying chips at casinos or buying cryptocurrencies online.
  • Balance transfers: While it can make sense to move a balance from a high-interest card to one with lower interest rates, there are often fees. You do not earn reward points on balance transfers.
  • Convenience checks: Known as “convenience checks” or “credit card checks,” these sometimes come in the mail along with your monthly statement. Be careful: They are treated the same as cash advances, with corresponding high interest rates, and do not count toward rewards.

Purchases that don’t count as rewards by card issuer

Check for your card issuer below to see what categories aren’t eligible for rewards:

American Express rewards exclusions

  • Interest
  • Fees
  • Loading of prepaid cards
  • American Express Travelers Cheque purchases
  • Foreign exchange transactions
  • Any amounts that are subsequently credited back to your account by way of refunds

Learn more by visiting the issuer’s website.

Bank of America rewards exclusions

  • Doctors and hospitals
  • Government services and taxes
  • Insurance payments
  • Membership organization payments
  • School payments
  • Utilities and other non-retail services payments

Learn more by visiting the issuer’s website.

Capital One rewards exclusions

  • Cash advances
  • Balance transfers
  • Checks used to access your account
  • Cash equivalent transactions

Learn more by visiting the issuer’s website.

Chase rewards exclusions

  • Purchases from gift card merchants or merchants that sell points or miles
  • Merchants that specialize in wholesale or commercial sales, home furnishings, garden and landscaping supplies
  • Product warranties
  • Trip insurance

Learn more by visiting the issuer’s website.

Citi rewards exclusions

  • Balance transfers
  • Cash advances
  • Interest fees

Learn more by visiting the issuer’s website.

Discover rewards exclusions

  • Purchases from merchants outside the U.S.
  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Convenience stores
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Discount stores
  • Supercenters

Learn more by visiting the issuer’s website.

Bottom line

It’s clear that issuers handle exclusions differently, so there’s no one definition of which charges you’ll earn rewards on and which you won’t. As a general rule of thumb, buying a product will probably net you rewards, as will buying many types of services or subscriptions. But make sure you read up on the specific exclusions for your rewards card so you know exactly what to expect.

Editorial Disclaimer

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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