The spinel type chromites MCr 2O 4 (M = Co, Ni and Cu) were synthesized by the co-precipitation method and have been characterized by a number of analytical tools. The efficacy of the synthesized system as catalysts for the oxidation of benzyl alcohol by molecular oxygen has been studied wherein it has been observed that benzaldehyde is formed with 100% selectivity. The catalytic activity of the chromites follows the order Co > Ni > Cu. The effect of the reaction parameters like the amount of the catalyst and reaction time was studied and it has been observed that the surface area and chemical hardness of the catalysts play a significant role. © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.