Return protection, now a rare perk, is still offered by some credit cards
Here's everything you need to know, including rules, restrictions, and the cards where return protection remains available
Specializes in mortgages, credit and credit scores
The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date. Some of the offers mentioned below may no longer available. Please review our list of best credit cards to find our current offers, or use our CardMatch tool to find cards matched to your needs.
In addition to rewards programs, many credit cards come with additional perks that can help you save money. One of them, return protection, can help consumers get a refund when retailers won’t accept a return.
Return protection is, however, becoming a rarity, as card issuers have been reviewing their lineup of benefits, eliminating this perk from their offerings. At the same time, those card companies that still offer return protection place plenty of limits on what consumers can return and require loads of paperwork to verify a purchase.
Here’s everything you need to know about return protection in 2019.
Return protection guide
What is return protection?
Certain credit cards – those offered through American Express and a more limited number through Visa and Mastercard – offer this benefit, which makes it easier to return items you've purchased if retailers won't take them back. Your card's return protection benefit could mean that you don't have to pay for that TV you no longer want or that shirt that’s too tight.
But there are complications. First, there are plenty of exclusions. Return protection programs usually include a long list of items that are not eligible for the service, everything from watches and jewelry to books, compact discs and video games.
Secondly, return protection is becoming increasingly harder to find. Visa only offers return protection with its Visa Infinite cards now. Discover canceled the benefit in February 2018. Mastercard and American Express offer the service with more of their cards, but not all of them.
A disappearing, cumbersome perk
David Gafford, marketing director with credit card processing company Shift Processing, said he's not surprised that Discover has eliminated its return protection perk. The benefit has always been a cumbersome one, he said.
"Return protection has always been a hassle for both the consumer and the card issuer," Gafford said.
Brittney Mitchell, public relations specialist with Discover, said that the credit card provider decided to cancel return protection – Discover called its perk “return guarantee” – because cardholders weren't using the perk.
"As common practice, we regularly evaluate our cardmember benefits to ensure that we are meeting or exceeding our cardmembers' current needs and expectations," Mitchell said. "Due to prolonged low usage, we discontinued our return guarantee."
How to use return protection
If you have a Mastercard, Visa or American Express credit card, you might still have access to return protection. The banks issuing specific cards, however, could elect not to offer return protection, even if they are issuing Mastercard, Visa or American Express cards.
Every return protection program has different rules, limits, restrictions and eligibility requirements.
Here’s how this service works for all three providers:
American Express Return Protection
What it does:
- You can only use this service if you first try to return an eligible item within 90 days from the date of purchase.
- If the retailer won't approve the return, American Express might refund the full purchase price.
- Amex will refund a maximum of $300 for every item up to $1,000 during a calendar year.
- You must have purchased the item entirely with your Amex card.
What's not eligible?
Amex has a long list on its return protection FAQ page. For example, you won't be able to return:
- Animals or living plants
- One-of-a-kind items including antiques, artwork and furs
- Items bought during a going-out-of-business sale
- Items with limited lifespans such as food, perfume, light bulbs and batteries
- Jewelry, watches, compact discs, computer software or console video games
- Books, magazines or periodicals
- Health care items and medical equipment
- Personal hygiene items
- Formal wear, firearms, garage-door openers and car alarms.
How to file a request:
- Call 1-800-297-8019 or Amex’s online claims center within 90 days of the purchase date.
- Within 30 days of your request, Amex will ask for a copy of the original store receipt, the number of the card you used to purchase the item and any other documentation Amex needs to prove you bought and were unable to return the item.
What happens with the item you bought?
- If American Express approves your request, the company will ask you to send the item to it within 30 days.
- American Express recommends that you keep a record of your shipping receipt in case the item does not arrive.
- If you are required to send the purchased item, Amex will reimburse you.
Mastercard's Satisfaction Guarantee
What it does:
- Mastercard's program, called Satisfaction Guarantee, requires that you request a refund within 60 days from the date of your purchase.
- Again, the merchant that sold you the product must first refuse your return request.
- You also must have purchased the item entirely with your Mastercard.
- Up to $250 per claim for a maximum of four claims during a 12-month period.
What's not eligible?
- Jewelry and art
- Plants, consumables and perishables
- Customized or one-of-a-kind items
- Computer software, DVDs, CDs and motorized vehicles.
- Check your card's terms and conditions to see the full list of items not eligible.
How to file a request:
- Call 1-800-Mastercard to request a claim form, then submit several documents within 180 days of the date on which you report your claim.
- This includes your completed and signed claim form, receipt, credit card statement showing the purchased item, written documentation from the store manager or other personnel stating the retailer refused to accept the returned item and a copy of the store's return policy.
- If Mastercard accepts your return, you'll then send the item to the company.
- The item must be returned in its original packaging along with the original owner's manuals and warranty information.
- You must pay the shipping or mail costs.
Visa return protection (available on Visa Infinite cards)
What it does:
- This coverage will reimburse you for the cost of an eligible item of personal property within 90 days of the date on which it was purchased.
- You must have purchased the item entirely with your Visa Infinite card.
- The retailer from where you purchased the item must have first refused your return request.
- You can make a claim for up to $300 an item with an annual maximum of $1,000. There are exceptions, though.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve, a Visa Infinite card, allows you to make a claim for up to $500 an item, though the yearly maximum is still $1,000.
What’s not eligible?
- The list includes: animals and living plants
- Computer software
- Damaged or non-working items
- Formal wear, including cocktail dresses, tuxedos and gowns
- Items purchased outside of the United States
- Jewelry, rare or precious coins, art, antiques and collectibles
- Medical equipment
- Seasonal items such as holiday decorations
- Limited-life items such as rechargeable batteries
- Check your card's terms and conditions to see the full list of items not eligible
How to file a request:
- Call 1-888-221-3289 within 90 days of purchasing your item to request a claim form.
- Within 30 days of this call, you must return the completed form with your original itemized sales receipt and original Visa Infinite card receipt to: Card Benefit Services, P.O. Box 2894, Great Falls, MT 59403.
- A customer service representative will then contact you to request any other needed documents.
- You will have 60 more days to provide any extra paperwork.
- If your claim is approved, you will have to ship your item to Card Benefit Services at your own expense.
- The item must be in like-new and good working condition.
Credit cards that offer return protection: A partial list
- American Express: All American Express consumer credit cards feature return protection, said Heather Norton, Amex director of corporate affairs and communications. OPEN business cards and Amex prepaid cards do not feature this benefit.
- Visa: Visa Infinite-branded credit cards offer return protection.
- Mastercard: Not all Mastercard cards will offer this perk. If you have a Mastercard card and are unsure whether it offers return protection, check your card’s terms and conditions or call your issuer’s customer service. Mastercard cards that do offer return protection include the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Mastercard and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard.
- Chase: Chase Sapphire Reserve, a Visa Infinite card.
- U.S. Bank: The U.S. Bank Cash 365 American Express Card and the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Card.
- Wells Fargo: The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card.
- PenFed Credit Union: PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® card.
- Calling all foodies: Best credit cards for restaurants – Is eating out part of your everyday routine? Score cash back or rewards points by paying with the right card at restaurants; these cards can help ...
- How to offset pharmacy expenses by using credit cards – Cash back, rewards and travel cards can help bear the cost of pharmacy expenses. The choice will depend on where you usually shop for pharmaceuticals ...
- 'FOMO,' 'likes' and card debt: How Facebook might lead you to overspend – Facebook's business model makes it easy for advertisers to know almost everything about you, increasing the chances you overspend. Here's what you can do ...