Credit Card Return Protection Report: Who Offers the Best Deal?
Returns are a fact of retail life, especially after major celebrations and holidays. In fact, 35% of U.S. adults returned some of their holiday gifts last year, according to the National Retail Federation. But returning an item that you’ve purchased or received as a gift isn’t always so easy, as a variety of factors have the potential to turn this minor inconvenience into a waste of your precious time. For one thing, stores must rely on strict return policies to prevent fraud – returning a used or stolen item, for instance – which impacts roughly 3.5% of all returns.
So what is a consumer to do upon encountering difficulties when attempting a return? The answer might already be in your wallet, interestingly enough.
Much like rental car insurance and extended warranties , all the major credit card networks – Visa, Mastercard and American Express – offer a so-called “return protection” service. This enables eligible cardholders to return items that a retailer won’t accept. The specifics 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, 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.
|1||Citi Prestige Card||92.50%|
|T-2||Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve and J.P. Morgan Reserve Credit Cards||88.50%|
|T-2||Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard and Barclaycard CashForward||88.50%||3||Other Citi Cards||83.00%|
|1||Chase Ink Business Preferred Card and Chase Ink Cash||88.50%|
|2||American Express Plum Card, Business Green Rewards Card, Business Gold Rewards Card and Business Platinum Card||78.00%|
WalletHub Scores by Year – Personal Cards
More than half (51%) of non-co-branded consumer credit cards have a return protection program.
Issuer Eligibility – Personal Cards
*The following issuers are not represented in the chart, as they do not have any cards offering the benefit: Bank of America, Capital One, Discover and U.S. Bank. Only certain cards from Barclaycard, USAA, Chase and Wells Fargo are listed because the rest of their offers do not have the benefit.
Only two of the top 10 business credit card issuers offer a return-protection benefit: American Express and Chase.
Issuer Eligibility – Business Cards
Nearly all (94%) credit cards with the 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.
Maximum Coverage per Item
Few cards (6%) cap the number of claims you can make, but all have an annual limit for the dollar amount you can claim.
Maximum Coverage per Year
Jewelry purchases are the most common type of exclusion among credit card return-protection programs, followed by video games, with 45% of cards excluding both.
American Express, Wells Fargo and USAA are the most transparent issuers when it comes to return-protection policies.
Most & Least Transparent Issuers
The Coverage You Can Expect
|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||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|
|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||Citi Prestige|
|Sign Up||Coverage||Return Period||Claims||Transparency||Total Score|
|Citi Prestige Card||10%||39%||20%||15%||9%||93%|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||10%||35%||20%||15%||9%||89%|
|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%||15%||9%||89%|
|Other Citi Cards||10%||29%||20%||15%||9%||83%|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||10%||26%||20%||15%||9%||80%|
|All American Express Cards||10%||23%||20%||15%||10%||78%|
|Wells Fargo Propel 365||10%||23%||20%||15%||10%||78%|
|Wells Fargo Propel||10%||23%||20%||15%||10%||78%|
|USAA Visa Platinum||10%||26%||15%||4%||10%||65%|
|American Express Business Cards||10%||23%||20%||15%||10%||78%|
|Chase Ink Business Preferred||10%||35%||20%||15%||9%||89%|
|Chase Ink Cash||10%||35%||20%||15%||9%||89%|
The following cards do not feature the return protection benefit:
|All Bank of America Cards (personal and business)||All Capital One Cards (personal and business)||All U.S. Bank Cards (personal and business)|
|All Discover Cards||Chase Slate||USAA Visa Signature|
|USAA American Express||Wells Fargo Cash Wise||Wells Fargo Home Rebate|
|Wells Fargo Home Rebate Visa Signature||Wells Fargo Rewards Card||Wells Fargo Business Elite|
|Wells Fargo Visa Signature||SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express||Blue for Business Credit Card from American Express|
|Wells Fargo Business Platinum|
Information is accurate as of Nov 14, 2017.
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:
- 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. cosmetics), 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. 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 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.
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