Returns are a fact of retail life, especially after holidays and other major celebrations. For example, more than 1 in 3 people plan to return a holiday gift this year, according to a recent WalletHub survey. But returning an item that you’ve purchased or received as a gift isn’t always so easy. A variety of factors have the potential to turn this minor inconvenience into a waste of your precious time. But retailers’ strict return policies are among the biggest impediments.
Stores have several reasons for being rigid with returns, including trying to prevent fraud: returning a used or stolen item, for instance. That impacts roughly 3.5% of all returns. But where does that leave honest people who, for one reason or another, can’t meet a particular store’s return requirements? The answer might already be in your wallet.
Most major credit cards offer a so-called “return protection” service, much like rental car insurance and extended warranties. Credit card return protection enables eligible cardholders to return items that a retailer won’t accept. The specifics vary by issuer and card, however. So before relying on this particular credit card benefit, it’s important to determine if you are covered, which items can be returned and how much you can get for them.
With that in mind, WalletHub 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.
Some of the cards listed on this page originate from our partners, but that did not impact our conclusions. Offers information was collected on Feb 2, 2019 and is likely to have changed since. Information listed here is no longer accurate.
Chase Sapphire Reserve and J.P. Morgan Reserve are the best credit cards for return-protection benefits.
|T-1||Chase Sapphire Reserve, J.P. Morgan Reserve Credit Card||88.50%|
|2||Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard||85.50%|
|1||All American Express Cards||78.00%|
Credit card return protection has improved compared to last year, with the average WalletHub score rising by 17.3%.
Less than half (42%) of consumer credit cards have a return protection program.
Only one of the top 10 credit card issuers offers a return-protection benefit with their business cards: American Express.
91% of credit cards with this benefit enable you to make returns for up to 90 days from the date of purchase.
Most cards cap refunds at $300 per returned item.
Few cards (18%) limit the number of claims you can make, but all cap the dollar amount you can claim each year at $1,000.
Almost all return-protection programs exclude jewelry purchases from coverage.
American Express, Wells Fargo and USAA are the most transparent issuers when it comes to return-protection policies.
The Coverage You Can Expect
|Info||Example of a Standard Policy||Best Policy|
|Sign Up||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 is not covered||Jewelry is not covered|
|Maximum Coverage Per Item||$250||$500|
|Annual Coverage Limit||Up to $1,000 per account||Up to $1,000 per account|
|Return Period||90 days from the date of purchase|
|Number Of Claims Per Year||No limit|
|Claims Process||Filing a claim requires:
- Purchase receipt
- Proof of the store’s return policy
|Filing a claim requires:
- Purchase receipt
- Monthly credit card statement
|Cards Offering This Type Of Policy||Chase Freedom||Chase Sapphire Reserve|
|Info||Sign Up||Coverage||Return Period||Claims||Transparency||Total Score|
|Other Citi Cards||10%||23%||20%||15%||9%||77%|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||10%||35%||20%||15%||9%||89%|
|J.P. Morgan Reserve Credit Card||10%||35%||20%||15%||9%||89%|
|Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard||10%||35%||20%||12%||9%||86%|
|Bank of America Premium Rewards||10%||26%||20%||15%||9%||80%|
|All American Express Cards||10%||23%||20%||15%||10%||78%|
|Wells Fargo Propel||10%||23%||20%||15%||10%||78%|
|U.S. Bank Cash 365||10%||23%||20%||15%||9%||77%|
|U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card||10%||23%||20%||15%||9%||77%|
|USAA Visa Platinum||10%||26%||15%||4%||10%||65%|
|American Express Business Cards||10%||23%||20%||15%||10%||78%|
The following cards do not feature the return protection benefit:
In compiling this report, we explored publicly available information for product return protection 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 requested clarification. Accuracy of our data was confirmed or corrected (which was then incorporated into the final version of this report).
We scored and ranked each card based on the criteria listed below:
1. Sign Up – Worth 10% Total
- 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%
2. Coverage – Worth 45% Total
A. Coverage & Exclusions – Worth 20%
- 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. cosmetics), we subtracted 2%
B. Maximum Coverage Per Item – Worth 15%
- $500+ = 15%
- $400 - $499 = 12%
- $300 - $399 = 9%
- $200 - $299 = 6%
- $100 - $199 = 3%
- Less than $100 = 0%
C. Annual Coverage Limit – Worth 10%
- $2,000+ = 10%
- $1,500 - $1,999 = 8%
- $1,000- $1,499 = 6%
- Less than $1,000 = 0%
3. Return Period – Worth 20% Total
- 90+ days = 20%
- 60 - 89 days = 15%
- 30 - 59 days = 10%
- 15 - 29 days = 5%
- Less than 15 days = 0%
4. Claims – Worth 15% Total
A. Number Of Claims Per Year – Worth 5%
- 5+ claims = 5%
- 4 claims = 4%
- 3 claims = 3%
- 2 claims = 2%
- 1 claim = 0%
B. Claims Process – Worth 10%
- 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%
5. Transparency Score – Worth 10%
A. How Easily Can One Find The Info? – Worth 3%
- 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%
B. How Easy Is It To Read The Info? – Worth 1%
- Information is presented in normal-size font = 1%
- Information is in small-size font = 0%
C. How Complete Are The Provided Policies ? – Worth 4%
- 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%
D. How Open And Transparent Are Card Issuers About The Policies? – Worth 2%
- Transparent about policies = 2%
- Not transparent about policies = 0%
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 protection 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.