How to Return Items Through Your Credit Card If the Store Refuses

One of the greatest conveniences that shoppers have is the ability to return purchases for a refund. Retailers’ return policies allow you to make a purchase knowing that you can always take it back if it doesn’t work out or you change your mind. (See also: 7 Retailers With the Absolute Best Customer Service)

But what if the deadline for a return has passed? Or the store rejects it on some other grounds? This is where your credit card may be able to help. Some cards offer return protection programs (also known as return assistance or return guarantee) that will get your money back, even when the retailer refuses. (See also: 4 Surprising Reasons to Always Use Your Credit Card for Purchases)

How Return Protection Policies Work

Return protection policies are meant to be a backup plan for store returns, not your primary defense. To qualify, you have to make the purchase with your card and if you’re dissatisfied with the item, you need to try to return it to the store first. Only if the place you bought it refuses your return can you then try the card’s return protection policy.

There is some fine print to keep in mind. Usually, you won’t get a refund on shipping and handling costs if you made your purchase online. You may have to mail the item to the card’s benefits administrator (often at your cost) in “like-new” and good working condition. If you’ve damaged it, there are other credit card policies such as theft and accidental damage coverage that you may be able to use instead.

Lots of purchases are excluded from return protection coverage, so read the policy carefully. Among those we found in different issuers’ policies: tickets of any kind, jewelry, food, plants, animals, computer software, motor vehicle parts, items bought overseas, and customized items.

Credit card policies typically give you 60-90 days to contact them to file a claim. Then you’ll usually have another 30 days to submit the claim, along with a receipt for the item, and sometimes other documentation, such as a copy of the store’s return policy. There are also limits per item ($250-$500) and per year ($1000-$2500).