Merchant Category Code (MCC): E-Commerce Explained

If you're running an e-commerce business, understanding Merchant Category Codes (MCC) is crucial.

Understanding Merchant Category Codes (MCC)

Before delving deeper into the world of MCC, it's essential to understand what MCCs are all about. In simple terms, MCCs are a categorization system used to classify different types of businesses based on the goods and services they offer. Payment networks use MCCs to determine how to process transactions, how much to charge in fees, and how to manage fraud and chargebacks.

What is a Merchant Category Code (MCC)?

A Merchant Category Code (MCC) is a four-digit number assigned to businesses by payment networks. MCCs are intended to classify businesses into different categories based on the goods or services they offer to customers. Essentially, MCCs are a way of identifying the type of business for payment processing purposes and ensuring that transactions are managed correctly.

For example, a business that primarily sells clothing would have a different MCC than a business that primarily sells food. This is because the payment network needs to know what type of business it is dealing with to process transactions correctly.

The Purpose of MCC in E-Commerce

MCCs serve several essential purposes in e-commerce. They enable payment networks to identify the type of business and ensure that transactions are processed correctly. MCCs also allow payment networks to charge appropriate fees for processing transactions and regulate fraudulent activities. In short, MCCs enable seamless payment processing for businesses and provide a transparent system for payment networks to keep track of different types of businesses.

In addition to payment processing, MCCs can also be used by businesses to understand their customers better. By looking at the MCCs of their customers' purchases, businesses can gain insights into what types of products or services are popular among their customers and adjust their offerings accordingly.

How MCCs are Assigned to Businesses

Payment networks such as Visa, Mastercard, and American Express assign MCCs to businesses based on the type of goods or services that they offer. The process of assigning MCCs is relatively straightforward, but it's essential for businesses to ensure that the MCC assigned to them is accurate and appropriate. This is because MCCs impact many aspects of payment processing, such as fees, fraud measures, and chargeback management.

It's also important to note that MCCs can change over time. For example, if a business changes its primary focus from clothing to electronics, it may need to update its MCC to reflect this change. Businesses should regularly review their MCCs to ensure that they are up-to-date and accurate.

In conclusion, MCCs are a critical component of payment processing in e-commerce. They enable payment networks to identify the type of business and ensure that transactions are processed correctly, while also providing businesses with valuable insights into their customers' purchasing habits. It's essential for businesses to understand their MCCs and ensure that they are accurate and up-to-date to avoid any issues with payment processing.

The Role of MCC in Payment Processing

Now that we've explored the basics of MCC let's dive deeper into its role in payment processing.

Identifying Business Types for Card Networks

The primary role of MCCs in payment processing is to enable payment networks to identify the type of business and the transactions they process. Payment networks use MCCs to understand what type of payments are being processed, which allows them to apply appropriate processing fees, terms, and conditions.

For example, businesses that fall under the MCC code 5812, which includes restaurants and fast-food chains, are subject to different processing fees than businesses under the MCC code 5999, which includes miscellaneous and specialty retail stores. This is because the transaction volume, average ticket size, and risk factors associated with each MCC code are different.

Impact on Authorization and Settlement

MCCs can also impact the authorization and settlement process of payment transactions. In some cases, card networks may require additional authorization steps based on the MCC of the business. For example, businesses that fall under the MCC code 5541, which includes service stations, may require pre-authorization for a specific amount before the final transaction amount can be settled.

Similarly, settlement of transactions can be affected by the MCC, as some payment networks may have specific settlement requirements for certain types of businesses. For instance, businesses that fall under the MCC code 8398, which includes charitable and social service organizations, may have longer settlement times than businesses under the MCC code 5813, which includes drinking places such as bars and nightclubs.

MCCs and Chargeback Management

MCCs also impact the chargeback management process for businesses. When a customer disputes a transaction, the reason for the dispute can be linked to the MCC of the business. Businesses must be prepared to manage chargeback disputes effectively, and accurate MCC coding can help facilitate this process.

For instance, businesses that fall under the MCC code 7995, which includes betting and casino gambling, are more likely to receive chargeback disputes related to fraud or unauthorized transactions. On the other hand, businesses under the MCC code 7399, which includes business services not elsewhere classified, may receive chargeback disputes related to service quality or delivery issues.

In conclusion, MCCs play a crucial role in payment processing by enabling payment networks to identify the type of business and transactions being processed. This information is used to apply appropriate processing fees, terms, and conditions, as well as to facilitate the authorization, settlement, and chargeback management processes.

MCCs and Tax Compliance

MCCs also play a crucial role in tax compliance for businesses.

How MCCs Affect Tax Reporting

Businesses must report their income according to their assigned MCC to ensure accurate tax reporting. MCCs can also impact any potential sales tax obligations that a business may have. Understanding the tax implications of MCC can help businesses stay compliant with tax regulations.

IRS Requirements and Regulations

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has specific requirements and regulations regarding MCCs for businesses. Businesses must be aware of these requirements, such as maintaining proper records and ensuring accurate coding for tax reporting purposes. Non-compliance with IRS regulations can lead to financial penalties for businesses.

International Tax Considerations

For businesses that operate globally, MCCs can impact tax obligations in different countries. Understanding how MCCs are used in different regions can help businesses stay compliant with international tax regulations and avoid legal and financial penalties.

Benefits of Accurate MCC Selection

Finally, let's explore the benefits of accurate MCC selection for businesses.

Improved Customer Experience

Accurate MCC selection can improve the customer experience by enabling seamless payment processing. When transactions are processed quickly and efficiently, customers are more likely to return to a business for future purchases.

Enhanced Fraud Detection and Prevention

Accurate MCC coding can also contribute to a business's fraud detection and prevention efforts. MCCs can help identify potentially fraudulent activities and alert payment networks of suspicious transactions, which can help mitigate the risk of cybercrime.

Optimized Payment Processing Fees

Finally, accurate MCC selection can optimize payment processing fees for businesses. When MCCs are assigned correctly, businesses can avoid overpaying or underpaying for payment processing fees, ensuring that they are receiving fair and appropriate rates for their transactions.


MCC plays a critical role in e-commerce, impacting payment processing, tax compliance, and business operations. By understanding the basics of MCC and the importance of accurate coding, businesses can optimize their payment processing efforts and stay compliant with relevant regulations. Ultimately, accurate MCC selection can lead to a better customer experience, enhance fraud detection and prevention, and optimize payment processing fees.

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