Credit Card Return Protection Report: Who Offers the Best Deal?
Returns are a fact of retail life, especially after holidays and other major celebrations. For example, nearly 1 in 4 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. Offers are accurate as of January 2, 2018 and many are likely to have changed since.
Citi Prestige and ThankYou Premier are the best credit cards for return-protection benefits.
|T-1||Citi Prestige Card, Citi ThankYou Premier||92.50%|
|T-2||Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, J.P. Morgan Reserve Credit Cards||88.50%|
|T-2||Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, Barclaycard CashForward||88.50%||3||Other Citi Cards||83.00%|
|1||Chase Ink Business Preferred Card, Chase Ink Cash||88.50%|
|2||American Express Plum Card, Business Green Rewards Card, Business Gold Rewards Card, Business Platinum Card||78.00%|
Credit card return protection has improved significantly in recent years, with the average WalletHub score rising by 21.7% since 2015.
Almost half (48%) of consumer credit cards have a return protection program.
Only two of the top 10 credit card issuers offer a return-protection benefit with their business cards: American Express and Chase.
Nearly all (93%) 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 (7%) limit the number of claims you can make, but all cap the dollar amount you can claim each year.
50% of return-protection programs exclude jewelry and video game 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
|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%||92.5%|
|Citi ThankYou Premier||10%||39%||20%||15%||9%||92.5%|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||10%||35%||20%||15%||9%||88.5%|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||10%||35%||20%||15%||9%||88.5%|
|J.P. Morgan Reserve Credit Card||10%||35%||20%||15%||9%||88.5%|
|Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard||10%||35%||20%||15%||9%||88.5%|
|Other Citi Cards||10%||29%||20%||15%||9%||88.5%|
|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%|
|U.S. Bank Cash 365||10%||23%||20%||15%||9%||76.5%|
|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%||88.5%|
|Chase Ink Cash||10%||35%||20%||15%||9%||88.5%|
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:
- 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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