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

Oct. 26, 2020
3 min read
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Credit card reader question: What happens to items in a return protection claim?
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Editor's Note

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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 info@thepointsguy.com.

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.

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[pullquote source="TPG Reader Jake"]Any idea what happens to the items credit card companies take back from return protection benefits? I’m curious![/pullquote]

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.

Featured image by Getty Images/EyeEm

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  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases