American Express Return Protection Plan Review

I see a lot of questions on CreditCardForum about the Return Protection benefit from American Express. Whether you have an AmEx card or are thinking about getting one, here’s an on overview of the program details as well as answers to frequently asked questions.

American Express card on pile of receiptsWhat is it?

Ever try to return something, only to have the merchant refuse? Perhaps you don’t have your receipt, the store doesn’t accept returns, or some other technicality. Whatever the case may be, if you are dissatisfied with your purchase and the store is refusing, then you can take advantage of American Express Return Protection for eligible items.

Within 90 days from date of purchase, AmEx will refund the full purchase price for your eligible item if the merchant refuses your return. The plan covers up to $300 per item, up to $1,000 annually. Reimbursement does not apply to any shipping and handling costs you paid (if applicable).

Who can use it?

This is an automatic benefit (as in, there’s no need to activate it) that is included on American Express cards for both the primary cardmember as well as any additional cardmembers on the account.

How to file a claim?

  1. You must call American Express during the 90 day period to report that the merchant is refusing to accept your return. Call the number on the back of your card or 1-800-297-8019.
  2. Within 30 days from reporting, AmEx may ask you to send in the original receipt, proof that it was paid for with your AmEx card, and “any other items deemed reasonable to process your request.” That being said, I once filed a claim for a purchase of around $35 and AmEx never asked for me to send in any receipts or statements (they verified the credit card charge on their end).
  3. After your Return Protection claim has been approved, you will be given instructions for mailing the item to American Express.

In a nutshell, that’s how to file an AmEx Return Protection claim, but how do you even know if your item is eligible for a claim in the first place? Well that’s what we will review next…

Exclusions?

As one can expect, there are a number of different exclusions to this program that you need to be aware of, such as…

  • Jewelry and watches
  • Healthcare items
  • Cell phones
  • DVDs and video games
  • Motorized vehicles
  • “One-of-a-kind items” (including art and antiques)
  • Formal wear

For a full list of exclusions and details about the program, you can check out this page.

Are eBay purchases covered?
I have seen multiple people post on the forum asking “Does AmEx Return Protection cover eBay or Craiglist? Well for starters, the program only covers “like new” items, so that would automatically exclude any used items being sold through those websites. But what about new items sold on eBay… do they qualify or not?

I really wasn’t able to find a conclusive answer to this question anywhere online, so I called up American Express myself to ask. I spoke with a representative in the Return Protection department and she stated that eBay purchases are only covered if (a) they fit within all of the other guidelines, and (b) they are sold be a “recognized merchant.” She said individuals selling items on eBay would not be considered a recognized merchant and therefore would not qualify.

Call AmEx to check/clarify eligibility for a given eBay purchase before you buy.

What about restocking fees?
What happens if a store does accept your return but charges a restocking fee? For example, Best Buy often charges 15% for electronics. Unfortunately the American Express Return Protection plan does not cover restocking fees, nor does any similar plan offered by other credit card issuers.

However if you are willing to pay $49.95 per year for the AmEx Premium Return Protection then your restocking fees WILL be covered. In addition, the paid version also doubles the return period to 180 days and coverage increases to $600 per item/$2,500 per year.

A few important things to remember…

This is a great free benefit that is offered on American Express cards but it’s important for you to research the program details. Every once in a while I see a forum poster who bought a cell phone, formal wear, video game or something else assuming those items qualify, when they unfortunately do not. Don’t be caught off guard – every cardmember should read the benefit details from AmEx, which I linked to in the “Exclusions” section above.

Last but not least, as a disclaimer I need to say that information on this page is not guaranteed to be accurate nor up-to-date. This review was written April 2011 and I will do my best to keep it updated if/when changes to the Return Protection plan are made, but please realize there is no guarantee. The bottom line is all questions you may have regarding coverage should be answered directly by American Express.

 
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