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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.
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.
Even if your credit card doesn’t include a clearly defined return protection benefit, you may be eligible for a chargeback, depending on the situation.
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:
The steps to take usually include:
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.
Every American Express card currently provides the same return protection perk. This encompasses a solid selection of dependable credit cards. You’ll generally have to look harder or pay a hefty annual fee if you’d like a non-Amex credit card with return protection.
If you consider return protection a must-have benefit, check the guide to benefits (if it’s available online) or contact the issuer before you apply for a new credit card. Several issuers that once offered the benefit have since removed it, so it’s best to confirm.
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.
Capital One doesn’t offer offer return protection as a benefit on its cards.
Citi no longer offers return protection. It was removed from most Citi cards on September 22, 2019, as were several other shopping and travel benefits.
Discover no longer offers return protection, which they called Return Guarantee. They previously did, but the offering expired February 28, 2018.
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.
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.
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 SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (Review) 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.
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.
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:
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.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, please click here.
Return protection is designed to help you get a refund when the merchant won’t provide one. Though it’s not universal, return protection is included with cards from a variety of big-name issuers.
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