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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, including popular rewards cards like The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, and U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card.
Both Mastercard and Amex offer blanket policies covering all the cards issued on their network, including debit cards in Mastercard’s case, although the coverage on Mastercard-issued products varies across by card and issuer. Some of the Mastercard’s reviewed in the section below provide up to $500 per item, although the annual cover remains the same.
|Cards Covered||All credit and charge cards - 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 Return Protection FAQs||Mastercard Satisfaction Guarantee Policy or Detailed PDF Download||Visa Infinite Return Protection Policy|
Return Protection by Credit Card Issuer
Amex and Citi are the only credit card providers to offer a blanket return protection policy, with the benefit featuring on every Amex card including those issued by other providers such as U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo. The majority of Citi cards provide up to $2,500 per year in return protection coverage, however, lower-tier rewards cards like the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card are restricted to $300 per item, and a maximum of $1,000 annually.
Despite the news to the contrary, not all Chase rewards cards lost return protection in August 2018, with both the Ritz-Carlton Card and Sapphire Reserve continuing to offer return protection as Visa Infinite cards. If you take a look at the latest guide to benefits' issued by Chase, most cards mention:
“Effective 08/26/18, Price Protection and Return Protection will be discontinued.”
Whereas the guide to benefits for the Sapphire Reserve states only that price protection will be removed.
“Effective 08/26/18, the Price Protection benefit will be discontinued.”
|Cards Covered||Return Window||Per Item Coverage||Max Annual Coverage||Limitations|
|American Express||All 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. See Benefits Guide for Arrival Plus|
|Chase||As of 08/26/18 Return Protection will only be provided on the Sapphire Reserve and Ritz-Carlton Card||90 days||$500||$1,000 annual maximum||Sapphire Reserve Guide to Benefits|
|Citi||Included on all Citi rewards cards, but benefit varies depending on the card you hold.||90 days||$500||$2,500 per calendar year||See policy for Citi Prestige® Card|
|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, and Discover do not offer return protection on credit cards.
The Best Rewards Credit Card for Return Protection
If you’re purchasing an item and there’s the potential you may need to return it, Citi’s return protection policy provides a good incentive to swipe your Citi Prestige® Card or Citi Premier℠ Card, which, alongside other premium Citi cards, provide the best return protection policy across all providers. While the return window matches up with the majority of other cards at 90 days, the $500 per item maximum sits at the higher end of the range, and the annual maximum of $2,500 is more than double the limit you’ll receive on any other card.
The return protection offered on the Sapphire Reserve also warrants a mention, 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 Citi Premier 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 or Capital One.
An important point to keep in mind is that if you have multiple credit cards that offer return protection and you've maxed out the benefit on one card, merely pull a different card out of your wallet 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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