Returns are a fact of retail life, especially after major celebrations and holidays. In fact, 38% of U.S. adults returned some of their holiday gifts last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Complicating the matter is the issue of return fraud – such as returning a used or stolen item – which impacts roughly 5.5% of returns and has spurred the implementation of stricter return policies that can negatively impact innocent consumers.
So what is a consumer to do upon encountering difficulties when attempting to return an item? Potential pitfalls clearly abound, considering that nearly 10% of those polled by the NRF report that retailer return policies are unfair.
The answer might already be in your wallet, interestingly enough. Much like with rental car insurance and extended warrantiesall the major credit card networks – Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover – offer a so-called “return extension” service, which enables eligible cardholders to return items that a retailer won’t accept. The specifics of these policies vary by issuer and card, however, so it’s important to determine if you are covered, which items can be returned, and how much you can get for them – among other things – before relying on this particular credit card benefit.
With that in mind, CardHub compared all of the non-co-branded personal and business credit cards from the 10 largest issuers to see what types of protection they offer. You can check out our findings as well as the scoring criteria we used below.
- 53% of consumer credit cards (excluding co-branded offers) have a return extension program, up from 51% last year. In contrast, only 21% of business credit cards offer return extension.
- The best personal credit cards for return extension benefits are:
- Bank of America, Capital One and U.S. Bank do not offer a return extension program with any of their personal credit cards.
- When it comes to business cards, the Chase Ink Plus card obtained the highest score (89%), while American Express business cards came in second (78%). No other business credit cards (excluding co-branded offers) provide the benefit.
- Jewelry is the type of item most commonly excluded from coverage under credit card return extension programs.
- Most of the cards offering this benefit extend the return period for 90 days, though some – namely, USAA Visa cards and most Citi cards – extend it for only 60 days.
- All of the cards require customers to keep their purchase receipts in order to return an item.
The Coverage You Can Expect
|Example of a Standard Policy||Best Policy|
|Sign Up||Annual sign up required||No sign up or product registration required|
|Type Of Coverage||An item purchased with your credit card that is not eligible to be returned to the retailer which sold it may qualify for a refund through this program|
|Coverage & Exclusions||Jewelry and cosmetics are not covered||Cosmetics are not covered|
|Maximum Coverage Per Item||$250||$500|
|Annual Coverage Limit||Up to $1,000 per account||Up to $2,500 per account|
|Extension Of Return Period||60 days from the date of purchase||90 days from the date of purchase|
|Number Of Claims Per Year||No limit|
|Claims Process||Filing a claim requires a receipt and a copy of the manufacturer’s written warranty, if applicable||Filing a claim requires a receipt and a monthly credit card statement|
|Cards Offering This Type Of Policy||Citi cards (except Citi Prestige)||All Discover cards|
|Full Policy Details||Citi Return Extension Policy||Discover Return Extension Policy|
of Return Period
|All Discover Cards||10%||43%||20%||15%||9%||97%|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||10%||35%||20%||15%||9%||89%|
|Citi Prestige Card||3%||37%||20%||10%||10%||80%|
|Barclaycard Arrival Plus||10%||35%||20%||5%||9%||79%|
|All American Express Cards||10%||23%||20%||15%||10%||78%|
|Wells Fargo Propel 365||10%||23%||20%||15%||10%||78%|
|Wells Fargo Propel World||10%||23%||20%||15%||10%||78%|
|USAA Visa Platinum||10%||26%||15%||4%||10%||65%|
|Other Citi Cards||3%||24%||15%||10%||10%||62%|
|Chase Ink Plus||10%||35%||20%||15%||9%||89%|
|American Express Business Cards||10%||23%||20%||15%||10%||78%|
The following cards do not feature the return extension benefit:
In compiling this report, we explored publically available information for product return extensions regarding all non-co-branded personal and business credit cards from the 10 largest credit card issuers by purchase volume. Where policies were incomplete or unclear, we contacted the issuers directly and requested clarification. All issuers responded to our questions and either confirmed the accuracy of our data or provided corrections (which were then incorporated into the final version of this report).
We scored and ranked each card based on the criteria listed below:
- If there is no sign-up requirement = 10%
- If there is a onetime sign-up requirement = 7%
- If there is an annual sign-up requirement = 3%
- If each product needs to be registered = 0%
- For each major category of items excluded from coverage (e.g. jewelry), we subtracted 6%
- For each minor category of items excluded from coverage (e.g. game consoles), we subtracted 2%
- $500+ = 15%
- $400 – $499 = 12%
- $300 – $399 = 9%
- $200 – $299 = 6%
- $100 – $199 = 3%
- Less than $100 = 0%
- $2,000+ = 10%
- $1,500 – $1,999 = 8%
- $1,000- $1,499 = 6%
- Less than $1,000 = 0%
- 90+ days = 20%
- 60 – 89 days = 15%
- 30 – 59 days = 10%
- 15 – 29 days = 5%
- Less than 15 days = 0%
- 5+ claims = 5%
- 4 claims = 4%
- 3 claims = 3%
- 2 claims = 2%
- 1 claim = 0%
- If filing a claim requires only a product receipt and a credit card statement = 10%
- If filing a claim requires a product receipt, a credit card statement and a copy of the original warranty when applicable = 5%
- If filing a claim requires a product receipt, a credit card statement and written documentation from the store manager detailing refusal to accept the item = 0%
- Information is prominent on issuer website = 3%
- Information is not prominent on issuer website; or it is prominent but users need to log in to see the full disclosure = 1.5%
- Information cannot be easily found on website = 0%
- Information is presented in normal-size font = 1%
- Information is in small-size font = 0%
- Full policy provided = 4%
- A couple of key points missing from policy = 3%
- Part of policy provided = 2%
- Benefits briefly described = 0.5%
- No key details provided = 0%
- Transparent about policies = 2%
- Not transparent about policies = 0%
1. Sign Up – Worth 10% Total
2. Coverage – Worth 45% Total
A. Coverage & Exclusions – Worth 20%
B. Maximum Coverage Per Item – Worth 15%
C. Annual Coverage Limit – Worth 10%
3. Extension Of Return Period – Worth 20% Total
4. Claims – Worth 15% Total
A. Number Of Claims Per Year – Worth 5%
B. Claims Process – Worth 10%
5. Transparency Score – Worth 10%
A. How Easily Can One Find The Info? – Worth 3%
B. How Easy Is It To Read The Info? – Worth 1%
C. How Complete Are The Provided Policies ? – Worth 4%
D. How Open And Transparent Are Card Issuers About The Policies? – Worth 2%
The card with the most accumulated points received the highest score. The maximum score is 100%.
The scores for each category are based on our opinion of how each return extension program compares to an ideal policy. An ideal policy would be one based on common sense, where the average consumer would know what to expect without having to read the fine print.