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Return protection: A guarantee that you have up to 90 days to return purchases.

Have you ever purchased an item and found yourself wanting to return it, only to discover that the return window had passed? Or have you ever wanted to return an item that was sold as a “final sale” item? Some credit cards offer a benefit called return protection that can get you a refund even when a store or online retailer refuses to take an item back.

Here’s how return protection works.

What is return protection?

Return protection is a credit card benefit that protects the items you purchase using your card. The benefit can provide reimbursement for eligible items that a merchant refuses to accept for return. Coverage is usually limited to 90 days or less and few hundred dollars per item or claim. Return protection is most common on high-end premium credit cards that carry an annual fee.

What return protection covers

Return protection covers cases where you want to return an item you purchased and the place you purchased it from won’t take it back. Most return protection plans only cover items that do not qualify to be returned under a merchant’s return policy. Generally, items must be in like-new condition and in otherwise returnable condition. Return protection won’t cover items that are stolen or have been broken from misuse.

Coverage limitations and exclusions

If your card offers return protection, the coverage will come with certain limitations and exclusions. You can find the limitations that apply to your specific card in your card’s guide to benefits.

Here are some common types of limitations and exclusions.

Amount of coverage and claims

Every return protection policy will place limits on the amount of coverage. Most policies have a per item and an annual limit that they will cover. Some policies limit the number of claims that you can make in a year. The most common limits are $300 per item and $1,000 per year per credit card account. The policy on the Chase Sapphire Reserve covers items up to $500. Some Mastercard policies cover only $250 per claim.

Your policy may also exclude expenses like shipping and taxes from your claim amount. If your policy excludes these amounts, you won’t be reimbursed for these amounts, even if your claim is approved.

Coverage period

Return protection benefits typically cover items only for 90 days from the date of purchase or delivery, but some policies offers shorter coverage periods. 60 days of coverage is not uncommon and some cards may only cover items for 30 days from the date of purchase.

Items that return protection doesn’t cover

Return protection also won’t cover every item you purchase. Many categories of items are commonly excluded under return protection coverage. Here are some examples.

  • Living items like plants, pets.
  • Perishable items and consumables like food, batteries, and lightbulbs.
  • Motorized vehicles like cars, boats, aircraft, and motorcycles.
  • Cash equivalents like gift cards, prepaid debit cards, money orders, and travelers checks.
  • Items that can be duplicated or require activation like computer software.
  • Attire that is typically rented or used for a one-time event like a wedding dress or tuxedo.
  • Anything you purchase for resale or commercial use.
  • Firearms and ammunition.
  • Medical equipment.
  • Seasonal items like holiday decorations and seasonal clothing.

How to file a return protection claim

If you need to file a return protection claim, you’ll follow a similar process, regardless of which credit card you have and who your benefits administrator is. Which website you use and how much hassle you’re likely to experience will differ, but the overall process will be similar.

Here’s how you can file a return protection claim.

Step 1: File your initial claim.

If you need to make a claim under a return protection benefit, the first thing you’ll need to do is open a claim. Often, the easiest way to do this is through an online portal run by the return protection benefit administrator. Information on how to open a claim can be found by calling your card’s customer service number of in your card’s guide to benefits. Here are some of the websites and phone numbers you can use to start your claim.

Screenshot of the American Express online claims center

Information you’ll need to provide

When you make your initial claim, you’ll provide general information about your claim, including the following:

  • Your personal information, including name, address, phone number
  • The card that you purchased the item with.
  • Purchase information, including the date of purchase, cost of the item, amount of the credit card charge, the merchant you purchased the item from, and the date you attempted to return the item.
  • An explanation of why the merchant is unable to take the item back
  • Item information, including description, model number, serial number, and manufacturer.
First step of submitting a return protection claim with Card Benefit Services

Step 2: Provide documentation to validate your claim.

Once you’ve initiated your claim, your claim benefit administrator will usually require you to submit some documentation to verify your claim. What you’re required to provide will vary, but it will usually include the following:

  • A copy of an itemized sales receipt or packing slip showing the item purchased and the amount charged.
  • A copy of your credit card statement showing that the item you’re claiming was charged to your card.
  • Evidence that you either attempted to return the item or a copy of the retailer’s return policy showing that the item is no longer eligible for return.

The quickest way to submit these documents is to upload them to a benefit administrator’s portal. Some benefit administrators may allow you to submit documents by email. Others may require you to send documents by postal mail.

Documents can be uploaded to the Card Benefit Services portal.

Step 3: Answer additional follow up questions.

Once your claim is reviewed, the benefit administrator likely will follow up with requests for additional information. What they ask for will vary, but here are some of the pieces of additional information that they might request:

  • Clarification of your reason for returning the item.
  • A written statement from the merchant stating the reason for denying your return.
  • Provide additional documentation of the item condition, such as photos.

You’ll need to provide requested information to the benefit administrator for them to continue to evaluate your claim.

Step 4: Return the item if requested.

In some cases, your return protection benefit administrator will ask you to return the item. If you’re required to return the item, you’ll usually be require to return it like-new condition with all original packaging and materials.

Whether you will be on the hook for return shipping depends on your benefit terms. The return protection provided with many Visa and Mastercards cards requires that shipping an item back is at your own expense. American Express return protection will reimburse your return shipping cost, provided you provide a receipt for reimbursement.

Important: If you’re returning an item with personal data on it, such as a cell phone, iPad, or laptop computer, be sure to erase your personal data before sending the item in. The benefit administrator may resell your item in order to recoup the cost of paying your claim.

Step 5: Get paid on your claim.

Once you’ve provided the requested documentation and the return protection claim administrator has evaluated your claim, they’ll make a claim determination. If they decide that you have a legitimate return protection claim, you’ll receive a payment reimbursing you for the cost of the item, up to the benefit’s limits.

Email I received after sending my item to the claims administrator on a return protection claim.
Email I received after sending my item to the claims administrator on a return protection claim.

Some plans will pay your claim as a statement credit, some plane will provide your reimbursement as a paper check. Check with your benefit administrator to see how you will be reimbursed.

Credit cards with good return protection benefits

Several premium credit cards offer good return protection benefits. Here are the ones we like the best.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Low annual fee and a reputation for good service.

My go-to card for purchasing anything that I might want to return is the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. American Express has a reputation for excellent customer service and a low-hassle claims process. I know that, should I need to submit a return protection claim request, chances are good that my legitimate claim will be approved with minimal hassle. The Blue Cash Preferred has the lowest annual fee among American Express cards offering return protection.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express card art
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is the upgraded version of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, offering increased rewards on purchases at U.S. supermarkets, select U.S. streaming subscriptions, and U.S. gas stations. It comes with a $0 introductory fee for the first year, then $95/year. (See Rates and Fees)

The card offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year, plus 6% back on a long list of streaming providers. The card earns unlimited 3% cash back on U.S. gas stations and on transit. Other eligible purchases earn 1% cash back.

The Blue Cash Preferred® can be a great choice to use for retail purchases, as it offers the trifecta of retail insurance benefits: Purchase protection, return protection, and extended warranty. Terms apply to all benefits.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card welcome offer: Earn a $250 statement credit after $3,000 of purchases in 6 months. (Annual fee: annual_fees)

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express card art

bonus_miles_full Get this welcome bonus.
(See Rates and Fees)

Decent bonus, and we like that the card gives you 6 months to complete the required spending. This car earns cash back rewards.

Increased rewards on groceries at U.S. supermarkets, gas at U.S. gas stations, and on U.S. streaming services, plus excellent consumer insurance benefits. (More in our card review.)

This is an affiliate link.

Frequently asked questions

Do all credit cards offer return protection?

Not all credit cards offer return protection; return protection is typically a benefit of premium credit cards that carry an annual fee. Cards with high annual fees like the American Express Platinum card and the Capital One Venture X offer return protection, but the benefit is offered on some cards with more moderate fees as well like the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card.

What is return protection?

Return protection is a credit card benefit that protects the items you purchase using your card. The benefit can provide reimbursement for eligible items that a merchant refuses to accept for return. Coverage is usually limited to 90 days or less and few hundred dollars per item or claim. Return protection is most common on high-end premium credit cards that carry an annual fee.

About the author

  • Aaron Hurd

    Aaron Hurd is a credit card, travel rewards, and loyalty program expert. Over the past 15 years, he has authored over a thousand expert contributions published by leading outlets including WSJ, TIME, Newsweek, Forbes, NerdWallet, The Points Guy, Bankrate, CNET, and many others. He has also served in consulting roles for many of these same outlets, designing content strategy, hiring teams of teams of editors and contributors, developing thought-leadership pieces, and ghost-editing for senior editors. Aaron is well-known in the miles and points community and regularly presents about travel rewards at conferences like the Chicago Seminars and Minnebar. Aaron has enjoyed the game of optimizing credit card rewards since getting his first credit card shortly after he turned 18. He started learning about credit cards and travel rewards from the (now defunct) FatWallet Finance forums and FlyerTalk. He holds more than 40 open credit cards and has first-hand experience with almost every major credit card product.

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