Retailer return policies can be about as easy to understand as the ingredients on a nacho chips bag. You may think you can return that big-screen TV, but the fine print may say otherwise.
That's when return protection, a service offered for free through many credit cards — but not all — can come to the rescue.
What is return protection?
Return protection is a perk that extends the “return life” of an item or creates a return policy where perhaps none existed before and is typically provided by credit card processors (e.g., Mastercard or American Express) rather than issuers (e.g., Chase or Citi). While retailers themselves have return policies, credit card return protection typically adds more time to return or exchange items.
When you use a credit card return protection feature, you may have to ship the item to an address designated by the processor, which could mean additional costs. Mastercard and American Express, for example, require cardholders to pay for shipping.
How to use return protection
Obtaining return protection, like many credit card benefits, is often as simple as purchasing the item you want covered with your card. Filing a claim, though, typically requires you to submit paperwork, including:
A receipt for the item you want to return.
A credit card statement showing the purchased item.
A copy of the store's return policy.
Written documentation from the store stating its refusal to accept the item.
Among major payment processing networks, Mastercard, American Express and Visa Infinite and Signature cards offer return protection. (Discover eliminated the benefit in 2018.)
Select American Express Cards
Visa Signature and Infinite cards
Duration (from purchase)
Up to $250 per claim, 4 claims per 12 month period
Up to $300 per item, up to $1,000 per year
Visa Signature: Up to $250 per claim
Visa Infinite: Up to $300 per item, up to $1,000 per year
What's covered or excluded
Details in card benefits guide (see below)
Details in AmEx return protection policies (see below)
Details in your specific Visa Signature card’s terms and conditions, and in the Visa Infinite return protection policies (see below)
Coverage for gifts
Gifts are covered as long as they were purchased with an eligible card
Coverage is secondary; if insurance could reimburse you, you must file a claim with your insurer first
Purchases must be made within the U.S. or U.S. territories
Visa Signature: Check with your card issuer to see if you qualify
Visa Infinite: Purchases must be made within the U.S.
*Benefits may vary by issuer. Check your issuer's benefits guide for complete details.
The bottom line
Return protection is a helpful security blanket when an item has to go back. But before you count on it, read your card's terms and conditions to see what is and isn't covered.