Posted by William Charles on March 20, 2014
Credit Cards

Published on March 20th, 2014 | by William Charles

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Does A Credit Card Issuer Know What Items You’re Purchasing?

Question:

I purchase a lot of Vanilla Reloads with my credit cards to increase my manufactured spending and get more points for a trip I’m planning on taking. I’ve heard that it may be possible for the credit card issuer to see that I’m only purchasing Vanilla Reloads from CVS and not actual pharmacy products. Is this true and am I at any risk of having my card terminated because of it?

Answer:

Credit card companies receive four different levels of data currently:

  • Level One Data: Typical consumer data such as amount of transaction, the time and date the transaction was processed. Cardholder generally using a personal credit card issued from a US bank. Can be processed with a standard credit card machine or PC processing program.
  • Level Two Data: Cardholder generally using a corporate or business credit card. Can be processed with a standard credit card machine or PC processing program.
  • Level Three Data: This level is also known as line item detail, the same information that is found on an itemized invoice is communicated. Cardholder generally using a corporate or government credit card. Requires a special credit card machine or additional PC processing software.
  • Level Four Data: Also known as bespoke data. This contains specialist information that is captured and delivered outside of level three. Not much is known or published about this data type.

Table Of What Data Each Level Includes:

Data TypeLevel 1Level 2Level 3
Merchant NameYesYesYes
Transaction AmountYesYesYes
DataYesYesYes
Tax AmountNoYesYes
Customer Code (16 Char)NoYesYes
Merchant Postal CodeNoYesYes
Tax IdentificationNoYesYes
Merchant Minority CodeNoYesYes
Merchant State CodeNoYesYes
Item Product CodeNoNoYes
Item DescriptionNoNoYes
Item QuantityNoNoYes
Item Unit of MeasureNoNoYes
Item Extended AmountNoNoYes
Item Net / Gross IndicatorNoNoYes
Item Tax AmountNoNoYes
Item Tax RateNoNoYes
Item Tax IdentifierNoNoYes
Item Discount IndicatorNoNoYes
Ship from Postal CodeNoNoYes
Freight AmountNoNoYes
Duty AmountNoNoYes
Destination Postal CodeNoNoYes
Destination Country CodeNoNoYes
Alternate Tax AmountNoNoYes


Table courtesy of Evolve Systems, this table is a guide only. Level 2 and level 3 data may contain less or more information.

Why Do Merchants Give Out Level 2 & 3 Data?

There are a few reasons as to why merchants give credit card issuers

  • Reduced payment times: Merchants typically have to wait between 30 and 60 days to receive funds from credit card transactions. If they provide level 3 data, they can have these funds released as soon as the next business day.
  • Lower credit card processing fees. Because level 2 and 3 data is usually reserved for business, commercial and government credit cards they can receive a lower card processing fee when providing level 2 and 3 data. That’s because fraud and chargebacks are far less (and thus costs are lower) than when compared to consumer transactions.

So Am I At Risk Of Having My Credit Card Closed?

As far as we are aware, level two onward is really only for business, corporate and government credit cards. If you’re using a personal card you shouldn’t have any issue. Credit card companies will need to receive level three data to be able to see exactly what items you purchased, so you should be in the clear.

That being said, if the only purchases you’re making at $503.95 from CVS (the maximum load amount is generally $500 and there is a fee of $3.95) using a card that gets a high cash back from CVS it’s going to be obvious to anybody looking at your account what you’re doing.

[Read: Best Drugstore Credit Cards]

You should add in some regular expenses at locations other than CVS and make regular purchases (such as any prescriptions needed) to make it less obvious to any prying eyes.



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[…] concept of Level 3 Processing which tells the card issuer the exact items that were purchases, see Does A Credit Card Issuer Know What Items You’re Purchasing? We noticed, for example, that Amex knows exactly what items you purchase from Staples and it even […]

Sam
Sam

Digging one up from the dead…. Sorry

I am curious though, what are some data points around this? I have started amping up my third part merchant GC reselling and with the recent Office Supply store deals and my use of my SimplyCash Amex Business card I am trying to understand if I am messing with fire here and if I am how bad are the burns?

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[…] report indicates that even grocery spend is not immune, possibly only in cases where Amex has Level 3 Data on the […]

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