[ 2018 Update: Chase and Discover no longer offer Return Protection ]
I recently attended a conference and bought a shirt, but when I went home and tried it on, I realized that it was one size too small. Since merchandise at the conference was final sale, I turned to my credit card to use the return protection benefit.
What is return protection?
Return protection is a benefit some credit cards offer that creates the ability to "return an item" when the merchant refuses to do so. This can be because the item is no longer falls within the return window or a return policy does not exist (final sale).
Return protection is provided by the credit card processor (i.e., American Express or MasterCard), and not the credit issuers (i.e., Chase or Citi). In our example, we are going to compare the most popular credit cards because each of their limitations are different.
How to file a claim
In order to use return protection, you'll need to file a claim through the credit card's benefit administrator and submit the required paperwork. It varies for each credit card, but typically you'll need:
An itemized receipt for the item you want to return
A copy of the store's return policy
Credit card statement showing the charge
American Express is considered the best in the industry for return protection because they cover return shipping. For all the other credit card processors, you are responsible for shipping.
Another benefit of American Express is that their benefits team is in-house and there is an online claims center.
Keep in mind that if the merchant is willing to process the return or if there's a satisfaction guarantee, then return protection is secondary. Learn more about return protection by American Express in this post.
Mastercard is considered the worst out of the group because they only reimburse up to $250 per claim, and you can only submit four claims per 12 month period. The limitations may vary for different credit issuers.
Unlike the other credit card issuers, you only have 60 days, not 90 days, to submit a claim.
The Citi Prestige is a Mastercard, but this is an example of a credit issuer (Citi) offering better protections for the card.
With the Citi Prestige, you can submit a claim up to $500 per item, and up to $2,500 per year. There is a 90 day return period, and Citi provides a pre-paid shipping label. Shipping may vary for each Citi card, so be sure to call the Benefit Administrator to clarify. The specific terms about return shipping are not clearly stated in the benefits guide.
The Discover It card offers coverage up to $500 per item and up to $2,500 per year. The customer is responsible for shipping and the coverage is secondary.
Visa is the only major payment processor that doesn't offer return protection directly. Some cards with the Visa logo offer return protection through the card's issuer. Always check your benefits guide to see if your card is covered. In our example, we're going to use the most popular Chase credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points.
The Chase Freedom, Chase Sapphire Preferred, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve are all Visa cards, but they have different tiers. Some Chase Freedom cards are a regular Visa, while others may be a Visa Signature.
The maximum coverage return protection with the Chase Freedom is up to $250 per item up to $1,000 per year.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Sapphire Reserve are Visa Signature and Visa Infinite cards, respectively. Both cards cover up to $500 per item, up to $1,000 per year.
With all Chase cards, the customer has 90 days to file a claim and is responsible for return shipping.