Credit card reader question: What happens to items in a return protection claim?

Oct 26, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a column to answer your toughest credit card questions. If you would like to ask a question, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at 

In addition to benefits like bonus spending categories, elite status and lounge access, a lot of credit cards offer various protections to make cardholders more confident in their purchases. While a number of issuers are cutting down on the purchase protection benefits offered, there are still a number of cards that offer extended warranty or return protection.

Want more from TPG? Sign up for our daily newsletter!

Any idea what happens to the items credit card companies take back from return protection benefits? I’m curious!

TPG Reader Jake


Return protection allows you to return certain items even if the merchant won’t accept it or issue a refund. That can come in handy if you change your mind about a purchase outside of the standard return period. While it differs from one card to the next, policies generally stipulate that upon request, you must send the item in to collect your refund. That brings us to Jake’s question: Where do all these returned items go?

Generally, return protection is a benefit offered through the payment network your specific card uses. American Express, Mastercard and Visa Infinite cards all typically offer some form of return protection, though it may differ by issuer. For example, even though Mastercard offers return protection, most Citi credit cards dropped that specific benefit (along with a number of other protections) back in September 2019.

Each card issuer and payment network that offers return protection contracts with a third-party benefits administrator that handles your return. When you file a claim, you’ll likely be sent shipping labels to mail off your return. Your item gets shipped to a processing center (basically a big warehouse) and waits there while a claims representative verifies that your return is eligible for a refund. If your claim meets all the requirements (for example, the item generally has to be in “like new” condition), then the rep will cut you a refund check and decide what’s to become of your return.

Your items will be shipped back to a processing center before its next steps. (Photo by Morsa Images/Getty Images)

I was happy to hear from several card issuers that, unlike lost luggage, many items are donated to charity. Others are sold at auction, with the proceeds then being donated. Some items might be resold. Unfortunately, some items are simply thrown out. Claims representatives and upper management make the call in each case, and whatever algorithm they use to decide is kept under wraps. It’s not clear why some items have to be sent in and not others, but I was told that each claim is handled individually, so presumably, this too is at the discretion of the claim processor.

Ultimately, the refund is what matters to cardholders, but it’s good to know those items (mostly) aren’t just disappearing into the void.

Related: Best cards for purchase protection in 2020

Photo by Tevarak Phanduang/EyeEm/Getty Images.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.