Returning merchandise to a retailer isn’t as easy as it used to be. Some online stores have a no-refunds policy, and traditional stores are putting up more roadblocks. Sellers can set up any return policy they want, says Edgar Dworsky, editor of the online guide ConsumerWorld.org. They can refuse to accept returns longer than two weeks after a purchase, charge a restocking fee or insist an item be returned unopened with its packaging intact.
Out of luck? Not necessarily, if you made the purchase using one of several credit cards that offer “return protection”—a benefit that most people don’t even know they have.
If you have a Gold, Platinum or World MasterCard, you can be reimbursed up to $250 per item if you tried to make a return within 60 days of purchase and were unsuccessful. The Chase Sapphire card covers up to $500 per item (with an annual limit of $1,000) that retailers won’t take back within three months. American Express cards also provide this benefit, as do American Express Hilton HHonors and Starwood Preferred credit cards, refunding up to $300 per item with a $1,000 annual limit.
You don’t necessarily have to pay an annual fee to get this protection. MasterCards from some issuers, such as Citi, have no annual fee, nor does the Chase Sapphire card. Some Amex cards do charge fees, but the Hilton HHonors does not. Call the number on the back of your card for details.
Joan Rattner Heilman writes on good deals and where to find them.