Merchant Category Code (MCC)

The Merchant Category Code (MCC) is a four-digit code assigned to businesses by credit card networks and financial institutions to categorize the type of products or services they offer. It is an essential component of the payment processing system, enabling financial institutions to accurately classify and track transactions based on the industry or sector in which a merchant operates.

MCCs play a crucial role in various aspects of the financial services industry, including payment processing, fraud detection, and data analysis. By assigning a unique MCC to each merchant, financial institutions can effectively monitor and control transaction activity, ensure compliance with industry regulations, and provide valuable insights for business reporting and analysis.

How MCCs are assigned

MCCs are typically assigned by credit card networks, such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover, in collaboration with financial institutions. These codes are based on standardized industry classifications, such as the International Standard Industrial Classification (ISIC) system, which categorizes businesses into specific sectors and sub-sectors.

When a merchant applies for a credit card processing account, they must provide information about the nature of their business operations. This information, along with other factors such as the merchant’s primary revenue source, is used to determine the appropriate MCC. The assigned MCC is then included in the merchant’s account profile, enabling financial institutions to accurately process transactions and apply relevant fees and regulations.

Importance of MCCs

MCCs are essential for various stakeholders in the financial services industry. For financial institutions, MCCs provide a standardized way to evaluate risk, implement fraud prevention measures, and ensure compliance with industry regulations. By categorizing merchants based on their MCC, financial institutions can identify potential fraudulent activities or unusual transaction patterns, allowing for timely intervention and protection of cardholders.

MCCs also benefit merchants by providing a means of understanding their transaction data and identifying trends within their industry. By analysing MCC data, merchants can gain insights into customer spending habits, market dynamics, and competitive landscapes. This information can help merchants optimize their business strategies, target specific customer segments, and make informed decisions regarding product offerings and marketing campaigns.

Limitations and Challenges

While MCCs are a valuable tool in the financial services industry, there are some limitations and challenges associated with their usage. One limitation is the potential for misclassification, as the assignment of MCCs relies on merchant-provided information and subjective interpretation by financial institutions. This can lead to inconsistencies or inaccuracies in categorizing certain businesses.

Additionally, the evolving nature of industries and emerging business models can make it challenging to assign appropriate MCCs. New types of businesses may not fit neatly into existing MCC categories, requiring updates and modifications to accommodate industry changes.


In summary, the Merchant Category Code (MCC) is a four-digit code that categorizes businesses based on the products or services they offer. MCCs are assigned by credit card networks and financial institutions to facilitate payment processing, fraud prevention, and data analysis. They play a crucial role in the financial services industry, enabling accurate transaction tracking, compliance monitoring, and valuable insights for both financial institutions and merchants. While MCCs have limitations and challenges, they remain a fundamental tool for classifying merchants and understanding transaction data within the financial services ecosystem.