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Do all purchases count when racking up rewards?

Learn which transaction types do not earn rewards on your credit card


If you’re looking to pay certain bills to get more credit card rewards, be 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 the issuer.

Not all transactions earn rewards

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. 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.
  • 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

Other than the usual exclusions on fees, interest, balance transfers and cash advances, each issuer has its own specific exclusions on which its cards do not earn rewards. Check for your card issuer below to see what categories aren’t eligible for rewards:

American Express rewards exclusions

  • Loading of prepaid cards
  • American Express Travellers Cheque purchases
  • Foreign exchange transactions
  • Taxes, booking fees, airport fees, insurance premiums and other service fees related to a travel booking
  • Any amounts credited back to your account after a refund

Learn more by visiting the issuer’s website.

Bank of America rewards exclusions

  • Doctors and hospitals
  • Government services and taxes
  • Insurance
  • Membership organizations
  • Schools
  • Utilities and other non-retail services
  • Colleges, universities and professional schools

Learn more by visiting the issuer’s website.

Capital One rewards exclusions

  • Checks that access your account
  • Money orders
  • Gambling chips
  • Lottery tickets
  • Any amounts credited back to your account after a refund

Learn more by visiting the issuer’s website.

Chase rewards exclusions

  • Purchases made through a third-party payment account mobile reader or online or mobile digital wallet if the technology is not set up to process the purchase in that rewards category
  • 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
  • Other non-purchase charges

Learn more by visiting the issuer’s website.

Discover rewards exclusions

  • Portion of purchases paid with rewards
  • Transfers from Discover checking or other deposit accounts
  • Illegal transactions
  • Any cash you receive at point sale through Cash at Checkout feature
  • Purchases made through third-party payment accounts, mobile or wireless card readers, digital wallets or similar technology are not eligible if the technology does not provide sufficient transaction details for rewards qualification

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 be sure to 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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