Credit Card Return Protection Benefits: How to Use Them to Get a Refund

Ellen Sirull

Ellen Sirull | Blog

Jun 19, 2019

Credit Card Insider receives compensation from advertisers whose products may be mentioned on this page. Advertiser relationships do not affect card evaluations. Advertising partners do not edit or endorse our editorial content. Content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when it's published. Learn more in our Editorial Guidelines.

Credit cards often offer benefits over using debit cards, like fraud protection, points or cash back, and in some cases return protection. We break down the details of credit card return protection, showing how to use this handy benefit to get your money back when the retailer won’t accept your return.

Retailers have different and complex policies on how long you have for returns and what criteria are required for refunds, so when you run into an obstinate merchant you may want to leverage your credit card’s return protection if possible.

What Is Credit Card Return Protection?

Some credit card companies offer this perk, which provides protection when buying products that may not be returnable for a refund otherwise. It’s not as common as it used to be, though.

In most cases you need to make the purchase entirely with your card. Return protection will usually cover purchases made with rewards, like points or cash back, but you may want to check your card to make sure.

Filing a Claim for Return Protection

Imagine that Jason bought a pair of Beats By Dre headphones from BrandsMart USA, a consumer electronics and appliance retailer, online for $301.65.

 

After using them once in 45 days, he decides he doesn’t really need them. However, the store’s return policy only allows for returns up to 30 days from the date of purchase.

Since Jason used his Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review) to buy the headphones, he was able to call Chase and use return protection to get his money back. He called the benefit administrator to get the return started, and they gave him details on where to mail the headphones to process the reimbursement.

After submitting the headphones, receipt, credit card statement, and a copy of the store’s return policy, Jason received a full refund.

The process may vary by the card company, but in general you’ll need:

  • Your receipt for the purchased item
  • A credit card statement showing the purchase
  • A copy of the retailer’s return policy
  • Written confirmation that the store won’t accept the return

The steps to take usually include:

  1. Contact the retailer or merchant to confirm it won’t accept the return.
  2. Collect the necessary paperwork.
  3. Call or go online to file the claim.
  4. Submit the necessary paperwork.
  5. Return the item to the credit card company or benefit administrator (if necessary).
  6. Follow up, if necessary.

Detailed instructions and return details are provided below for several major credit card companies and issuers.

Return protection usually applies to any purchases made by authorized users as well. Check your card’s terms and conditions for all details.

Return Protection by Credit Card Company

Here’s an overview of the various return protection services offered by the major credit card companies, but it would be wise to check the details for your specific card.

American Express

  • Duration: Valid for 90 days from the date of purchase
  • Eligible cards: Any basic or additional card member on an eligible American Express card. This includes business credit cards and the U.S. Bank Cash 365™ American Express® Card.
  • Details: If the merchant won’t take the item back, Amex may refund the full purchase price (excluding shipping and handling).
  • Amount covered: Up to $300 per item, with a maximum of $1,000 per card in a calendar year
  • Eligible purchases: Purchases must be made in the U.S. or a U.S. territory. Additionally, some items aren’t covered such as living plants, computer software, gift cards, seasonal items, limited edition items, items permanently affixed to your house (like garage door openers), watches, precious coins, perishable items or items with limited lifespans, travelers checks, going-out-of-business sale items, and healthcare items or medical equipment.
  • Terms and conditions: All details of this return protection policy are available on the American Express website.

How to Use American Express’ Return Protection

  • Once you’ve verified that the merchant will not accept the eligible item, call 1-800-297-8019 or visit AmericanExpress.com/onlineclaim within 90 days of the purchase date to notify Amex of your request.
  • Within 30 days of your initial request, Amex will ask you to provide a copy of the original store receipt, the American Express card record of charge, and any other items deemed reasonable to process your request.
  • After your request is reviewed, you may need to send the item to Amex within 30 days (shipping costs will be reimbursed).
  • You can check the status of your request by calling the Return Protection toll free number at 1-800-297-8019.

Capital One

Capital One doesn’t offer offer return protection as a benefit on its cards.

Chase

  • Duration: Valid for 90 days from the date of purchase
  • Eligible cards: Chase doesn’t offer return protection across the board, but it is available to Chase Sapphire Reserve® and United MileagePlus® Club Card cardholders.
  • Details: Provides reimbursement if you are dissatisfied with a personal item that you purchased and the merchant will not accept the return. Also provides coverage in excess of any applicable store guarantees.
  • Amount covered: Up to $500 per eligible item, with a maximum of $1,000 per year
  • Eligible purchases: Purchases must be made in the U.S. or a U.S. territory. Additionally, some items aren’t covered such as living plants, computer software, jewelry, and tickets.
  • Terms and conditions: All details of the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s return protection policy are available on page 33 of its Guide to Benefits; for the MileagePlus Club, check your Guide to Benefits or call the number on the back of your card.

How to Use Chase’s Return Protection

  • Call 1-800-874-7702 for information or to file a protection claim. You can also file a claim online at cardbenefitservices.com
  • The Benefit Administrator will send you a claim form. You must submit a completed claim form with supporting documentation within 30 days from the date you notified the Benefit Administrator. If the claim is filed within 30 days of purchase, you may need to submit proof of the store’s return policy.
  • The item must be returned to the Benefit Administrator in like-new/good working condition.
  • You can check the status of your request by calling the Return Protection toll free number at 1-800-297-8019.

Citi

  • Duration: Valid for 90 days from the date of purchase
  • Eligible cards: All Citi cards come with Return Protection, except for certain co-branded cards like the Costco credit cards. Return protection is also available on purchases made with points earned from eligible Citi cards.
  • Details: If you try to return an item within 90 days of purchase and the merchant won’t take it back, Citi may refund you the purchase price.
  • Amount covered: Up to $300 per item, with a maximum of $1,000 per year per account for most cards; the Citi Prestige® Card provides up to $500 per item, up to $1,500 per year
  • Eligible purchases: Purchases must be made in the U.S. or a U.S. territory. Additionally, some items aren’t covered such as collectible items, furniture or appliances, jewelry, firearms and ammunition, and tickets.
  • Terms and conditions: For most cards, the return protection details are available on pages 29–30 of this Guide to Benefits; details for the Citi Prestige card can be found here.

How to Use Citi’s Return Protection

  • To file a claim, call 1-866-918-4670 or visit cardbenefits.citi.com within 30 days of when you attempt to return the item to download a claim form for submission.
  • Citi will ask you a few questions and advise you on what documents are needed to support the claim.
  • Citi may ask you to send the item in.
  • Return all requested documents within 60 days of the date you initiated the claim. Citi will notify you of its decision once the claim is processed.

Discover

Discover no longer offers return protection, which they called Return Guarantee. They previously did, but the offering expired February 28, 2018.

Mastercard

  • Duration: Valid for 60 days from the date of purchase
  • Eligible cards: Not all Mastercards include the Satisfaction Guarantee; check your card’s Guide to Benefits to learn if it’s included.
  • Details: Mastercard may refund the full original purchase price if it’s not covered by insurance, warranty, or coverage (excluding additional costs like taxes, storage, shipping, and handling).
  • Amount covered: Up to $250 per item, with a maximum of four claims per cardholder per 12 month period
  • Eligible purchases: The item must not be damaged. Items such as customized or personalized items, jewelry, precious coins, music or compact discs, and tickets of any kind aren’t covered by Mastercard’s Satisfaction Guarantee.
  • Terms and conditions: All details are available on Mastercard’s website.

How to Use Mastercard’s Satisfaction Guarantee

  • Call 1-800-Mastercard to request a claim form within 60 days of the date of purchase.
  • Submit the following documentation within 180 days of reporting the claim: completed and signed claim form, receipt showing the purchased item(s), statement showing the purchased item(s), itemized purchase receipt(s), written documentation from the store on its refusal to accept the return, a copy of the store’s return policy, and any other documentation requested by Mastercard to validate a claim.
  • You must send in the item before any claim will be paid. The item must be returned in its original packaging along with the original owner’s manuals and warranty information.
  • You are responsible for mailing or shipping costs.

Visa

Visa only offers Return Protection on Visa Infinite cards. Any other Visa cards that have the benefit are getting it from one of the card issuers above.

  • Duration: Valid for 90 days from the date of purchase
  • Eligible cards: Visa Infinite cards
  • Details: Visa may refund the full original purchase price if you’re dissatisfied and the merchant won’t accept the return, or if the merchant only offers a partial refund. Items must be in like-new or good working condition.
  • Amount covered: Up to $300 per item, with a maximum of $1,000 per year
  • Eligible purchases: Most purchases are eligible, but the list of ineligible purchases includes animals and living plants, motorized vehicles, damaged or non-working items, formal attire, perishables and consumables, and seasonal items.
  • Terms and conditions: All details are available on Visa’s website.

How to Use Visa’s Return Protection

  • Visit cardbenefitservices.com or call 1-888-221-3289 to request a claim form within 90 days of the date of purchase.
  • Submit the following documentation within 30 days of reporting the claim: completed and signed claim form, itemized receipt showing the purchased item(s) or an original packing slip for mail orders, statement with your last four account digits showing the purchased item(s), and any other requested documents; for claims filed within 30 days of purchase, you may be asked to submit proof of the store’s return policy
  • You must send in the item before any claim will be paid. The item must be returned in its original packaging along with the original owner’s manuals and warranty information.
  • You are responsible for mailing or shipping costs.

When Return Protection Can Help Most

This card benefit is often helpful for expensive items and at stores where sales are final. Many people use it to return electronics, since they may have shorter return timeframes or may not be eligible for returns after a package is opened.

Returning an Expensive Item

Syed Hasan, Personal Finance Specialist at Money Done Right, explains how Amex’s return protection helped him replace a $900 suit. “In January 2018, I bought a nice suit at Brooks Brothers in Manhattan one month before my wedding. While packing it up afterward, I realized that it was ruined after being damaged by the boutonniere,” shares Hasan.

Hasan adds, “At first, I thought I was out of luck. But then I remembered that I had used my Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express to purchase the suit. So I filed a claim with American Express for the damage.”

He describes the process as pretty easy and said they even laughed with him about the situation on the phone. After 2–3 weeks, Amex approved and processed the return, refunding the full amount and even letting Hasan keep the suit, which has sentimental value.

“Since then, I charge all big purchases on my American Express cards since I had an amazing experience with their return protection policy on a relatively big-ticket purchase,” notes Hasan.

Take note that American Express’ current policy only provides up to $300 in reimbursement per item, so you probably wouldn’t be able to get a $900 suit fully refunded.

Returning Items When Sales are Final

Jonathan Huang of mrcentsible.com recommends using a card with return protection whenever shopping at places with a “no returns” policy, like factory warehouse sales (but take note that some return protection policies may not include items on sale).

Huang shares one experience: “I once went to a clothing factory sale and purchased a pair of designer jeans (for approximately $70–$80). Most of these factory warehouse sales are “all sales final,” but after a few days, I didn’t like how they fit. So, I used my Amex card’s return protection benefit and received a refund of my full purchase price.”

“The process was fairly straightforward and not time-consuming,” Huang notes. “It was just a call to set up the claim, and then I had to mail back the item (at my cost). Personally, I would prefer if it could be done completely online, but I understand why the credit card company wants to verify information with you to confirm the return eligibility.”

Amex’s current return protection policy will refund your shipping costs when you send the item in, although that may not have been true when Huang bought his jeans.

Considering Benefits When Getting a New Card

Return protection is one of the many benefits credit cards may offer, so check into all the perks you’ll get when considering a new credit card. By weighing the annual fee, rewards, interest rate, and other benefits, you can determine which card is best for you.

If you’re planning on making big purchases with the card, or purchases from retailers with strict or no return policies, you should look into getting a card with a solid return protection policy. You never know when you might need it.

Credit cards have a variety of other useful shopping benefits to help out when something goes wrong; look for protections like:

  • Price Protection: Reimbursement if you find something you bought being sold at a lower price.
  • Purchase Protection: Covers your purchases against damage or theft.
  • Extended Warranty Protection: Extends a manufacturer’s original warranty.
In the market for a new credit card, whether you need return protection or not? See our picks for the Best Credit Cards for a variety of categories and lifestyles.
Was this helpful?

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by bank advertisers. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers' responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

The Insider

Abigail Welles
How to Protect Yourself From Credit Card Fraud: Scams, Skimmers, and Phishing
Abigail Welles | Sep 20, 2019

Do you know what a credit card skimmer is? You may have swiped your card through one without even knowing, leaving your information in the hands of a thief.

Read More
Jacob Lunduski
2019 Survey: 40% of Retail Store Credit Cardholders Regret Applying
Jacob Lunduski | Sep 19, 2019

Do you have a retail store credit card? Is it useful, or do you get hit with interest and fees? Learn why so many people regret getting store cards here.

Read More
Abigail Welles
What Is a Data Breach and What Should I Do If I Am a Victim of One?
Abigail Welles | Sep 17, 2019

Data breaches are more common than ever, exposing the confidential information of millions of Americans each year. Have you been involved in a breach?

Read More