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Ever purchased an item only to find it doesn’t fit correctly or work as expected? Returning purchased or gifted items back to the retailer can be a pain, often made harder by inflexible store return policies, and there’s a good chance you’ll wind up stranded with unwanted items. So what avenues are open to you if you don’t meet the retailer's strict return policy?
One solution is to ensure you purchase items using the right credit card. A number of credit card issuers offer ‘return protection’ policies which enable cardmembers to return purchases retailers won’t accept. Return policy details differ widely between providers, and even on different cards offered by the same card issuer. It’s essential you check the guide to benefits provided with your credit card to determine the level of coverage offered, which items qualify for return protection, and the steps required to make a claim.
What is Return Protection and How Does it Work?
Return protection is one of the purchase protection benefits offered by credit card processors and providers, extending the return policy provided by the retailer when you make a purchase. Return policies offered on credit cards allow you to return an item purchased in full with your eligible card when the retailer refuses to accept the item under its return policy. There are plenty of caveats and excluded items from credit card return policies, so it’s best to familiarise yourself with your card’s policy before you need to make a purchase.
If you find yourself in a position where a retailer won’t accept a returned item, you’ll need to contact the Benefits Administrator for your credit card to make a claim.
Claims typically require you to submit:
- Receipts for the item you are returning
- Credit card statement displaying the purchase
- A copy of the retailer’s return policy, and potentially, a letter from the store confirming the refusal to accept a returned item
Typical exclusions from credit card return protection policies include:
- Jewelry, art, antiques, coin, and collectibles
- Items purchased for resale, professional, or commercial use
- Plants, shrubs, animals, pets, consumables, and perishables
- Cars, boats, aircraft, and motorcycles
- Traveler’s checks, tickets, or currency
- Shipping charges, taxes, postage, and delivery charges
- Items purchased at auction
- Items purchased outside of the U.S.
- Medical equipment
- Christmas/Easter (seasonal) decorations
- And many more, see your guide to benefits for a detailed list
Return Protection by Credit Card Network
With Discover ditching its return protection policy at the start of 2018, it joins Visa on the sidelines without a blanket return protection policy. The exception in Visa’s case is Visa Infinite cards, which began offering return protection in 2014. Visa Infinite cards include:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- United Club℠ Infinite Card
- The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card (closed to new applicants)
- U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
|Cards Covered||Most premium credit and charge cards plus the Blue Cash Preferred and Amex EveryDay Preferred - See full list of cards and benefits||All credit and debit cards (Benefits vary by card type and card issuer)||Only covers Visa Infinite cards|
|Return Window||90 days||60 days||90 days|
|Per Item Coverage||$300||$250||$300|
|Maximum Annual Coverage||$1,000||4x claims per year||$1,000|
|Link to Policy Details||Amex Platinum Return Protection Guide to Benefits||Mastercard Satisfaction Guarantee Policy or Detailed PDF Download||Visa Infinite Return Protection Policy|
Return Protection by Credit Card Issuer
|Cards Covered||Return Window||Per Item Coverage||Max Annual Coverage||Limitations|
|American Express||Amex cards||90 days||$300||$1,000 per calendar year||Shipping and handling costs for the purchase will not be refunded. See full limitations here|
|Barclays||Select cards including the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® and AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®||90 days||$500||Max 2x claims per 12 month period||Must be purchased from a store that provides a return policy of at least 10 days. Barclaycard Arrival Plus Guide to Benefits|
|Chase||As of 08/26/18 Return Protection will only be provided on the Sapphire Reserve and||90 days||$500||$1,000 annual maximum||Sapphire Reserve Guide to Benefits|
|Citi||As of 09/22/2019, Citi is removing all Return Protection credit card benefits||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|U.S. Bank||Only features on U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card and U.S. Bank Cash 365™ American Express® Card||90 days||$300||$1,000 annual maximum||See policy for Altitude Reserve|
|Wells Fargo||Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card and legacy Wells Fargo Amex cards.||90 days||$300||$1,000 annual maximum||See Wells Fargo Propel Amex Guide to Benefits for details|
Note: Bank of America, Capital One, Citi, and Discover do not offer return protection on credit cards.
- As of 08/26/2018, Chase has removed return protection from all cards that are not in the Visa Infinite group listed above.
- As of 09/22/2019, Citi has removed return protection as a credit card benefit, a real shame as they did provide the best policy of all card issuers.
- As of 01/01/2020, American Express has removed return protection from many of its low- and mid-tier cards. Coverage will be retained on most premium cards, plus the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express and The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express.
The Best Rewards Credit Card for Return Protection
With Citi no longer providing return protection benefits, the return protection offered on the Sapphire Reserve now tops the list of best cards for return protection, offering up to $500 per item with few limitations outside of excluded items. And although the Barclays policy requires the retailer to provide a return policy of at least 10 days, it also covers items purchased using the rewards earned on the card.
Outside of the rewards earned with each purchase, familiarizing yourself with the purchase protections offered on each of your cards is an excellent way of ensuring you’re covered for every purchase. Swiping a card like the Sapphire Reserve at checkout provides you with a considerable range of purchase protection benefits which you may not receive if you were to use a similar card from Discover, Citi, or Capital One.
An important point to keep in mind is if you have multiple credit cards that offer return protection and you've maxed out the benefit on one card, you can pull out a different card for that next purchase. Negating some points or miles to potentially save cash, could be well worth it.
Return protection is a valuable benefit when you need to return an item to a retailer, be sure to read the fine print on your policy before purchasing to ensure the item is covered.
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