My Favorite Credit Card Perk You Might Not Know About

Best Credit Card Perk: Return Protection

As you know, I like to live dangerously. And is there anything more risky than buying things on final sale? I’ve been living on the edge ever since my friend told me about how she bought a pair of shoes, wore them, them decided they were in fact, the wrong size.

Then somehow the credit card company REIMBURSED her 100% for the shoes. Like magic.

My friends, this under-the-radar credit card perk is called Return Protection.

And it is a shopper’s dream.

What Is Return Protection?

Return Protection is a credit card benefit that reimburses you for eligible items the store won’t take back. Each credit card policy is different, but generally you’ll have up to 90 days to get reimbursed for an item you can’t return. So, if the store’s return policy maxes out at 30 days, it’s like getting a 60-day extension. Or, if you bought something marked final sale, it’s like creating a return policy where there wasn’t one.

If you’ve ever been in any of these scenarios, then Return Protection is another reason why credit cards should be your best friend:

  • Have you ever bought something and forgot to return it within the return window?
  • Have you ever bought something, wore it once or twice, and it ended up being a dud?
  • Have you ever bought something that is marked as FINAL SALE and non-returnable?
  • Have you ever bought something the retailer won’t take back because you, um, failed to read their return policy thoroughly? (Guilty as charged here)

But before I go forward, I don’t want anyone opening up credit cards if they have trouble paying them off in full each month. If that’s you then here’s my last article you can read instead.

How It Works: A Real-Life Example

My go-to card for Return Protection is the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card (referral), so I’ll explain how the program works specifically with American Express.

It should be noted that I pay a $95 annual fee for this card, but for me the benefits outweigh the fee. I can use my points to transfer to airline points, exchange points for hotel nights, and I use the Return Protection benefit at least once a year. Here’s American Express’ official blurb on their Return Protection policy:

If you try to return an eligible item within 90 days from the date of purchase and the merchant won’t take it back, American Express may refund the full purchase price (excluding shipping and handling), up to $300 per item, up to a maximum of $1,000 per Card account per calendar year based on the date of purchase, if you purchased it entirely with your eligible American Express® Card.

Every time I’m iffy about a purchase I make sure to use this American Express card. Remember a month ago I bought that Comme des Garçons sweater? It was final sale so of course I busted out my AMEX. Well, you might be wondering why I haven’t made a peep about it since. That’s because it ended up being a bust. The sweater arrived a lot more wrinkly than I expected, and I was also bummed to see loose stitching like this for a sweater that retails for over $300.

Comme des Garcons Striped Sweater

Tsk, tsk, Comme des Garçons!

American Express has their own website where you log in to submit claims, so I pulled up the receipt for the purchase from my e-mail, and started plugging in all the info:

  • Date purchased
  • Merchant name
  • Date I tried to return it (you are technically supposed to try to return the item. However, I have never been asked for proof.)
  • Item name and style
  • Item model #
  • Price paid

It takes me about 10 minutes to complete. Right after, I get an email confirmation from American Express with my claim number and any other info they need from me. In their email, they sent me an updated form where they wanted to know the item condition and the merchant’s return policy.

In this specific case, the time to submit the claim to getting reimbursed took a total of 7 days. And the only reason it took that long was because I took a few days to send American Express the missing info. After I provided everything they needed, it took only 2 days to get my claim outcome, which was a statement credit for the full price paid.

American Express Return Protection Reimbursement

What Else Have I Used Return Protection for?

I’ve been taking advantage of the benefit for about four years now and have gotten reimbursed six times. Besides the Comme des Garçons sweater, here are some other items I’ve used it on:

  • A bathing suit from Ann Taylor. They have a weird return policy where you can’t return bathing suits, even unworn with the tags attached.
  • A pair of Theory pants I got from a sample sale. I tried them on at the sample sale, they were adorable, I bought them. Then I wore them to work one day and they proceeded to stretch out one whole size bigger.
  • A Barneys scarf I changed my mind about.
  • A kid’s designer dress from Barneys. It was labelled size ‘3,’ which I thought meant ‘3 years old.’ When I pulled out the dress from the box and held it up like a map, I quickly realized that ‘3’ meant 3 MONTHS old, not 3 YEARS old.

Note that all this stuff still had the tags on it or was worn only once or twice. I don’t have experience trying it with things that are more worn, but keep in mind that official policies usually state items need to be in “like-new” condition. However, they have never asked me for photos or to send merchandise to them, so I’m not sure how they would actually verify this stuff.

Other Types of Purchases You Can Use It for

Technically, it should work for electronics like cameras, phones, etc. I haven’t tried it for anything except for clothes, so your mileage will vary. You’ll want to consult the benefit terms and conditions for your specific card. I usually just Google [card name] + “return protection” to check.

What You Can’t Use It For

As I mentioned, you’ll want to consult the exclusions list for your specific credit card, but here’s a general list that was common to all:
Animals and live plants, jewelry, watches, computer software, motor vehicle parts, gift cards, tickets, and formal wear, just to name a few.

So, no trying to get reimbursed for your new puppy.

I also want to note that secondhand or pre-owned stuff won’t fly because there’s a requirement for items to be in “like-new”condition. That means it won’t work on things bought from places like The Real Real or eBay. I tried to use it on a 3.1 Phillip Lim bag from The Real Real and got denied.

What Happens to the Merchandise?

After you get reimbursed, technically, you are supposed to mail the item to the credit card company, but American Express has never asked me to do so. However, when I filed a claim with my Chase card, I was asked to mail the item to them. It should be noted that the cardmember is usually responsible for mailing costs if asked to send the item in.

Which Credit Cards Offer Return Protection?

This is not an exhaustive list, but most likely a card you own already offers Return Protection:

Card Duration (from date of purchase) Item Maximum Annual Maximum Full Terms
American Express 90 days $300 $1000 Terms + Conditions
Barclays 90 days $500 $1000 Terms + Conditions
Chase 90 days $250 $1000 Terms + Conditions
Citi 90 days $300 $1000 Terms + Conditions
Discover 90 days $500 $2500 Terms + Conditions

Are There Any No-Fee Cards that Offer Return Protection?

If you want a no-fee card that offers Return Protection, here are three options:

Which Credit Card Has the Best Return Policy?

I’ve used American Express and have also experimented with using Chase’s benefit. With American Express, the typical response time is two days after providing all the required information. The one time I used Chase, it seemed to take much longer, and I needed to provide a lot more information and talk to a representative on the phone. I’ve read that Chase outsources their Return Protection program so that could explain why the customer service isn’t quite as top notch as American Express’. With Chase, I also was asked to mail them the item.

Winner: American Express, hands down.

What You’ll Need to File a Claim

Have this info ready to go when you sit down to submit your claim:

  • Receipt of the purchase
  • Filed within 90 days of the purchase date
  • Once your claim is open you’ll have 30 days to submit all information. If not, your claim will be closed.
  • Item should be in “like new” condition or in “good working order.”

Pro-Tips

To increase your chances of getting reimbursed, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you keep the item in question in good condition. American Express has never asked me to send them merchandise, but they might, especially if it’s a higher price point. Don’t throw the merch out or treat it like a rag until they let you know the outcome of the claim.
  • Follow instructions! I’ve been guilty of this, but I would get annoyed a claim response would be taking too long, but then I realized it’s because I failed to give the information they asked me for. Oops.
  • Don’t throw away receipts! Thankfully, mine are mostly online orders and the receipts sitting in my e-mail inbox, but if you have paper receipts, keep those in a spot where you’ll remember.
  • Return Protection sounds awfully similar to Purchase Protection, which is a totally different benefit. Don’t confuse the two!

My Top Credit Card Picks

Since I have had the best experience with American Express, I’d recommend using them over Chase. I don’t have experience with Barclays, Citi or the Discover benefit, although I do have Discover and should investigate! Here are the two American Express options:

Summary

And that is the end of my PSA! The credit cards that we carry every day offer useful perks that most of us aren’t aware of. Are you maximizing the benefits you’re already entitled to? With the holidays coming up, Return Protection is a valuable benefit to have in your back pocket.

Have you ever used this benefit? What was your experience like?

Image: Unsplash

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  • Adventure Rich

    Wow, I had no idea credit cards offered this perk… haha, what the heck have I been doing all these years?!? I like the Amex method… we have mostly Chase cards but we are starting some churning so maybe I’ll grab an Amex for that reason 🙂

    • Oh, you mean you’re not a weirdo who reads credit card terms with a fine-toothed comb? 🙂 Yeah, I love both Chase and Amex, but I have very different uses for them. Someone asked me why I have so many credit cards and now I feel like I have to write a post explaining why, haha!

  • Never used return protection, but I do love my credit card perks. Best one of all time so far has been reimbursement for Global Entry fees (one of the Amex charge cards). Goes to show, always pays to read the fine print!

    • Yes, credit card perks should be maximized! I have global entry through Chase, but I haven’t had a chance to use it yet. I’ll try it for the first time in December when I go to New Zealand. I have used the Chase lounge access benefit and that’s been pretty great so far. Now I feel like I’m spoiled and can’t go down to not having access to lounges.

  • Dave @ Married with Money

    This is a great perk that so few people know about. Admittedly I’ve never used it (never had to) but it’s nice to know that it’s a fall-back just in case 🙂

    • Yeah, definitely take a read at your credit card benefits if you have time! I always have some kind of strategy for deciding which cards I am going to use for certain purchases.

  • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    I’ve used their Purchase Protection for some fixtures that were accidentally broken – they reimbursed us in full within 24 hours. American Express beats Chase hands down on service for these things – they take care of it immediately and don’t fiddle around like Chase does.

    • I haven’t had to use Purchase Protection just yet, but I definitely know it’s an option, just in case. Totally agree that AMEX wins over Chase. They recently gave me 25k points just because I had to “wait too long” to get bonus points. Chase would have never done that.

  • Krystel

    What an amazing perk to know about! Thanks for sharing, Luxe. I’ve been waiting to apply for an AmEx until I get my spending completely under control again, but this is yet another great reason to jump on board when I’m ready. Here I come final sale items 😉

    • Hey Krystel,

      Glad to spread the knowledge! And I’m so glad you are doing the responsible thing and getting spending under control before applying for new credit cards. But yes, if you use them right, they can unlock so many wonderful things 🙂

  • Yes, yes, yes to this! I too think return protection is one of the best perks credit card companies offer. Saved me more than once. I use my credit card for every purchase I can for the return protection and extended warranty coverage benefits!

    • Agreed! In addition to nice benefits, I always use my credit card so I can automatically track my spending. My husband always gets annoyed with me I never have any cash 🙂 But then he takes cash out from the ATM and totally forgets what he bought with the money, which drives ME crazy.

      I haven’t had a reason to use extended warranty yet, but I always use my Amex for anything expensive or precarious.

  • slippers on a plane

    I love Return Protection, and finally after much persuading (uh, you don’t want money back?) got my boyfriend to take advantage of it as well.

    And I agree completely that AmEx is much better than Chase, and that has swayed my spending to AmEx whenever I buy anything final sale. I have the no-fee AmEx Everyday card, so this benefit isn’t just limited to cards with annual fees, although I think the annual benefit limits vary based on which card you have.

    On the other hand, Chase gets all my travel spending, because the trip delay protection has come in handy several times recently.

    And I really appreciate seeing a site that doesn’t paint credit cards as these devilish tools of enslavement. Yes, obviously a lot of people use them irresponsibly, but I am happy to wrest every benefit I can from these cards.

    • Wow, I wonder why your boyfriend was so reluctant to try it. Maybe he thought it was too good to be true? Anyway, I’m glad you got him to see the light!

      Totally agree with using Amex over Chase for anything expensive or final sale. I did include some no-fee options for Chase and Discover, and have added an American Express option, as well. I think the Amex policy should be the same across the board, fee or no-fee:
      https://www.americanexpress.com/us/credit-cards/features-benefits/policies/return-protection-terms.html

      I haven’t had to use trip delay protection yet, but do usually use Chase anyway for the 3x points on travel!

      Re: credit cards, I know gurus like Dave Ramsey tell people to cut up their credit cards, because it’s an easy-to-understand sound bite. But I agree that there are ways to use them so they basically end up paying you 🙂

  • Thanks for the PSA! I use credit cards for practically every purchase, but since I’m not much of a shopper I usually skip over the Return Protection section in my Credit Card Agreements. (Yeah, I’m kind of a weirdo so I’ll actually read portions of those agreements sometimes.) It sounds like a great perk to being a cardholder, that can come in handy in a pinch! Now that I know a little bit about it I might take a walk on the wild side just to test it out 🙂

    • Hey Cato, you can use it for other things besides shopping! Things like electronics, etc. Ha, I’m a weirdo and read everything too, because I like maximize everything. You can best believe I go over my employee handbooks with the same fine-toothed comb, haha. There are lots of other benefits that are useful as well, like the Purchase Protection one in case what you buy breaks, etc. I usually take advantage of the rental car insurance, too.

  • Man I did not know this or think to use it this way. I thought it was cool for Amex to have collision damage when we rented a car over Xmas. I was a bit worried that buying something final sale means I had to keep it so I’ve steered away – great hack Luxe!

    • Yeah, I figured if the benefit is there, why not maximize it? Yeah, I def use either Chase or Amex for whenever we rent cars and I can’t even remember the last time we paid for separate car rental insurance. Life’s too short to avoid final sale items!

  • Former New Yorker

    I’ve never tried this! I wish I had known! Best Buy has a terrible return policy (only 2 week window!) and once I tried to return a digital TV receiver thing at 3 weeks, having assumed that they had a 1 month return policy. It was 3 years ago so I have no idea where it is now in the vortex of our messy apartment. Will use this going forward.

    • Oh yeah, it’s definitely saved me several times, with very little effort on my part. And wow, what a terrible return policy Best Buy has! I feel like I tend to go with Amazon due to their customer service, but can understand if sometimes BB just has a better deal.

  • Thanks for spreading the word Luxe, I had no idea about this return policy. I usually take advantage of the car rental insurance that my credit cards offer. It beats using rental car companies’ insurance they always offer you when you are checking in to rent your car.

    • Hey Kris,

      I take advantage of the car rental insurance, too! The car rental companies usually get mad when I do that. I do remember getting bullied into the rental insurance one time, and then I told myself, never again.

      Anyway, I hope you can take advantage of the benefit one of these days!

  • GYM

    Geez I had no idea! I should check to see if Return Protection is something Canadian credit cards offer. Thanks for sharing!

    I used to have a SPG Amex card and LOVEEED it. Stayed at the Westin in Waikiki for $50 a night and the Sheraton Princess beside it for free.

    • Hi GYM,

      For sure! I actually did do a check and the Canadian equivalents should offer the benefit, too! Def ask Barry Choi, since he’s the Canadian credit card guru, haha.

      Yes, SPG saved my butt when I had to do a long layover in Hong Kong at the Sheraton, and it’s been one of my fave cards over the years. I value their points so much.

  • randomizationme

    I did not know about this AT ALL. Thanks for this post!! I was effy about paying an annual fee for a credit card that I might not use to its fullest advantage, but this perk makes me think otherwise.

    • Hey, well, I’m glad you’re now aware! I can totally understand not wanting to pay an annual fee. The good news is that there are cards that have this benefit that are no fee! American Express, Chase and Discover offer no-fee cards and I’ve updated the post to include links to the specific cards. I actually have both the Chase Freedom and the Discover It no-fee cards myself! However, if you’re looking to solely take advantage of the Return Protection benefit, I would recommend the American Express Everyday Blue since I know for a fact that their customer service is pretty great.

  • I’ve never been in a situation where I needed to consider using return protection – I almost never end up buying final sale and am pretty good about returning things in the return window.

    I did, however, recently use the travel insurance perk on my Chase Sapphire Preferred. Thanks to a minor accident the night before I was supposed to take off, I was at the dentist and then urgent care at the time when I was going to be on the plane. Of course I wasn’t eligible for any kind of refund for my flight from United, having booked Basic Economy. (I technically wasn’t eligible for a hotel refund either, as I’d booked that at a super-discounted no-refund rate, though the hotel was nice to me refunded.)

    The process took several weeks, and the travel insurance company (Allianz, who I think is the biggest travel insurance provider) was rather fussy, requiring a letter on United’s letterhead confirming then didn’t give me a refund or a credit, even if the United Basic Economy policies clearly don’t allow refunds. I ended up getting my claim paid, and they technically didn’t even ask me for a few things they would typically require (i.e. a letter from the doctor saying they recommended I not travel, and evidence that one first filed a grievance with the airline). It was a really low-dollar value claim though, as far as travel insurance claims likely go, just one cheap round-trip plane ticket.

    • I don’t know if you go to sample sales, but you usually can’t return stuff, so that’s a good use of Return Protection. Same thing if you bought something and realized it didn’t fit, like a bathing suit.

      Thanks for the info on the travel insurance! I have never bought travel insurance separately, because I live on the edge, remember? I thankfully have never had to use the travel insurance perk. It’s nice to know that it does work, although it takes a while.

  • Nice! Never would have thought of this side benefit were it not for your post. I can imagine something breaking like a small kitchen appliance or even your iPhone. Would be nice to file a claim and get some dough back, so long as you’re not being unethical with the policy.

    • Glad you’re aware of it now! Although, for instances of something breaking you’d actually want to use PURCHASE protection, and not RETURN protection. It’s confusing, I know! But yeah, whenever I’m making an expensive purchase (like, a TV or iPhone), I try to use Amex in case anything comes up. And agree that some people will definitely take advantage of the benefits in unethical ways. Hopefully, Amex can nab them and shut them down!