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.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.