The post-holiday shopping season is marked by lines at customer service desks, with consumers returning gifts or purchases.

Many times these returns go smoothly. Sometimes, for whatever reason, they don't. So it is helpful to remember that the credit card used to make the purchase in the first place just might make the process go more smoothly.

Stores have these strict return policies to protect themselves against fraud. In fact, retailers claim that 3.5% of all attempted returns are not legitimate. So, how can your credit card help?

According to personal finance site WalletHub, all of the major credit card networks provide some sort of “return extension” benefit, meaning consumers using a particular card have more time in which to make a return. It allows eligible cardholders to return an item the retailer ordinarily would not accept.

The benefit is similar to the one card networks provide when you rent a car. It provides damage coverage that ordinarily you might have to pay for.

Coverage varies by network

But just like the rental car coverage, the return extension is going to vary by the card and the network. WalletHub says the things you have to determine include whether you are covered, what items can be returned and what you can get for them.

In its study, WalletHub found more than half of non-co-branded consumer credit cards offer an extended return benefit. It also found 94% of cards with an extended return benefit allow consumers to return an item up to 90 days from the date of purchase.

When it comes to a refund, most of the cards cap the allowable refund at $300, although a quarter of the cards in the study allowed up to $500. Only 6% of cards limit the number of claims you can make, but all limit the annual dollar amount of total refunds.

Excluded categories

Credit card companies don't treat all return categories the same. In fact, jewelry purchases are the most common excluded category, followed by video games. Forty-five percent of credit cards exclude both from their extended return programs.

Which credit cards provide the best return benefits? The editors at WalletHub say you can't go wrong with a Discover Card. All Discover Cards earned a 96.5% rating in the survey, followed by the Citi Prestige Card, at 92.5%. The rest of the field tied at 88.5%.


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