Maximizing Points at Buc-ee’s: Understanding How Banks Classify Expenses

by joeheg

It was 2012 when we first visited Buc-ee’s. The Texas-based company opened its first travel center in 2003, but the stakes were raised when its massive complex opened in New Braunfels, TX. Located off of Interstate 35, it was the largest convenience store in the world, at 68,000 square feet

We had been visiting New Braunfels regularly for some time to enjoy Schlitterbahn, which we believe to be the best water park attraction in the world. However, during one of our breaks between trips, we were surprised to see a massive gas station that had seemingly materialized out of nowhere. To add to the intrigue, there were quirky billboards all over I-35 featuring the cartoon beaver mascot of Buc-ee’s, which reminded us of the South of the Border billboards on I-95.

a woman hugging a statue of a bear outside of a building

It’s incredible to see what’s happened in the past 10 years. Buc-ee’s has become a phenomenon. The mega-gas stations have popped up from Tennessee to Florida, exposing a larger amount of the country to the experience of visiting a Buc-ee’s for the first time. Here’s how one of our friends on Facebook described visiting Buc-ee’s:

It’s as if a Cracker Barrel, a mini Outdoor World, Epcot’s old Ice Station Cool, Walmart, 4Rivers (a local barbeque chain in Florida), and Willy Wonka had a delightful truck stop baby! It was FAB! I’m a big fan.

When you visit a Buc-ee’s now, it’s sensory overload. What originally started as a small section of branded items is now an entire area of the store devoted to items with Buc-ee’s mascot.

a store with lots of stuffed animals and people

Every location has a large bakery in the back serving kolaches and some of the best gas-station cinnamon buns on the planet. There’s a brisket station located in the middle of the store which works all day serving breakfast burritos in the morning and brisket sandwiches for the rest of the day.

What is Buc-ee’s?

So what is Buc-ee’s? In reality, it’s several things:

  • It’s a gas station with some of the least expensive gas in the area (and now they have a row of Tesla superchargers, too)
  • It’s a restaurant serving BBQ and bakery items.
  • It’s a supermarket with a large grab-and-go selection and rows of grocery items.
  • It’s a massive retail store selling everything from clothes to camping supplies & household decor.
  • It’s a rest stop with some of the cleanest bathrooms you’ll ever see.

Which brings to light an interesting question. How do banks classify Buc-ee’s?

Buc-ee’s used to be considered a gas station

Back when we started to visit Buc-ee’s in 2012, the banks considered it a gas station. Whatever you purchased inside the store was categorized as a gas station purchase and you earned bonus points for those purchases. I racked up a ton of points buying t-shirts, swimming gear, meals, coolers and holiday lawn decorations.

a inflatable squirrel in a store

Banks have wised up

During our recent trip to Texas, I used my Wyndham Earner Business card for all of our purchases at Buc-ee’s. The card earns 8X points at gas stations, so I thought I could accumulate some points for us to use at the nearby La Quinta on our next trip. However, upon checking my statement, I noticed that some points were missing. It turns out that Barclays is now categorizing purchases made inside Buc-ee’s as supermarket purchases.

a screenshot of a calendar

There are no worries, as purchases at the pumps still count as a gas station.

How to make this work for you

It’s said that every cloud has a silver lining. Although banks no longer categorize non-gas purchases inside the store as gas station expenses, most banks now classify them as grocery store expenses. This means you can use a card that offers a good multiplier for grocery stores instead.

On our recent visits, I used my Citi Premier to earn 3X Thank You points.

a screenshot of a phone

During one of our visits, we encountered a setback while using the Hilton Surpass AMEX. Despite the fact that supermarkets are supposed to earn 6X points, the purchase was classified as “other” and we only earned 3X Hilton Honors points. It’s difficult to anticipate how a bank will categorize a purchase until you try it.

a close-up of a sign

Final Thought

When it comes to maximizing points earned while making purchases, knowing the category of the expense can make a significant difference in which card to use and how many points you’ll earn. This post specifically focuses on how to maximize points earned at Buc-ee’s by understanding how banks classify a business. However, the principle discussed here can be applied to any purchase, allowing you to make informed decisions and maximize your rewards. By being aware of how different expenses are categorized, you can choose the right credit card to use and earn more points or cashback.

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