Smart Buying

7 Stores With the Best Return Policies

These retailers are the most generous when it comes to refunds and exchanges.

Exchanging an unwanted gift or getting a refund on a purchase you later regret can be frustrating when the retailer makes you jump through hoops – or, worse, rejects your return outright because the receipt is missing or the return date has passed. Conversely, a store with a forgiving return policy can ease your exasperation and turn you into a loyal customer.

“It’s important to review [a retailer’s return policy] before buying an item,” says Courtney Jespersen, a shopping and retail expert for NerdWallet.com. You can find most store policies online. Pay special attention to any exclusions, especially those that are product-specific, she says.

We talked with several shopping experts to find out which retailers’ return policies stand out for all the right reasons and keep customers coming back to spend more. Here’s what they had to say.

No-Limit Return Policy

At Bed Bath & Beyond, customers who have an original receipt can make a return at any time and are eligible for a product exchange or full refund, says Benjamin Glaser, features editor for DealNews.com. For items returned using a gift receipt, customers can do an exchange or get a store credit. There are some exceptions, such as items that were monogrammed or baby merchandise that’s been opened, but not many.

Even those who’ve lost the original receipt can make a return within a year of purchase. Bed Bath & Beyond will attempt to confirm the product purchase date and amount by either looking up the credit or debit card used as payment, or by searching the store credit, merchandise credit or gift card number in their system.

Nordstrom has long been lauded by loyal customers for its generous return policy. There is no set time limit on in-store or online purchases, and the retailer works with customers on a case-by-case basis to determine whether a purchased item is returnable. If a refund is issued, it will be done using the original form of payment. If Nordstrom cannot find a record of sale in their system, you’ll receive a refund for the item at the current sale price via a store gift card. Another plus for online customers who don’t want to deal with in-store crowds is free return shipping, says savings expert Andrea Woroch.

One-Year Return Policy

Kohl’s shoppers who make an in-store or online purchase using a Kohl’s charge card have 12 months from the purchase date to return an item with the original receipt or packing slip. You’ll receive a refund in the form of a credit to your Kohl’s charge account. For all purchases using other forms of payment, customers have one year to make a return and will receive a merchandise credit or corporate-issued refund. Those making a return using a gift receipt can make an even exchange or get a store credit.

For those making returns without the original receipt, don’t fret, says Kerry Sherin, a savings expert for Offers.com. If you paid using a Kohl’s charge card, a store employee can look up the purchase in their system and you’ll get a refund to your account. If you paid using another type of credit card, check or cash, you can make an exchange or receive a store credit based on the lowest 13-week sale price.

Macy’s customers have 365 days from the date of purchase to return an item. It has to be in “saleable condition,” and you must have a proof of purchase including the original receipt, the credit card used as payment or a return label or packing slip for online purchases. Exceptions include mattresses and rugs, and certain high-end garments such as furs and social-occasion dresses must have the tags attached to be returned.

Woroch notes that even if you don’t have your original receipt, you may still be able to make a return. However, instead of getting a full refund you’ll receive a store credit for the lowest selling price within 180 days of purchase.

REI has a “no questions asked” return policy and allows customers to make returns up to one year after purchase, says Kristin Cook, managing editor of BensBargains.com. Keep in mind that this doesn’t cover items that have gone through ordinary wear and tear or damage caused by improper use. However, if the item has a manufacturing defect you can return it at any time.

Customers can return products by mail (no matter if the item was purchased online or not) or in-store with a proof of purchase. This includes the original receipt or packing slip for online orders. If you don’t have a proof of purchase, as long as you’re an REI member, a store rep can locate your proof of purchase in their system by using your REI member number.

Zappos stands out among online retailers, because it allows its shoppers to make returns up to one year after the purchase date for a full refund. “It’s among the gold standard of e-commerce sites,” Glaser says. The standard for most other sites -- including online retail giant Amazon -- is just 30 days. On Zappos.com, items eligible for return must be unworn and in their original condition with attached security tags. Return shipping is free.

90-Day Return Policy

Among big-box retailers, Target has one of the most lenient return policies, according to Cook. Most unopened items are eligible for return up to 90 days after purchase. Kmart, for example, only gives its customers 30 days to make returns. At Best Buy, customers typically have just 15 days.

At Target, you’ll receive a full refund or merchandise exchange on all eligible items. Keep in mind that there are certain products that are non-returnable. This includes opened music/movies/video games, open airbeds and open or defective collectibles (i.e., sports cards, action figures and special edition Barbie dolls).

For online purchases, you can make returns in-store or through the mail free of charge.

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