ORLANDO, Fla. – If you believe it’s the thought that counts, then you won’t be offended if someone to whom you gave a gift can’t use it for whatever reason. And if you receive a gift that isn’t quite the right fit, you shouldn’t feel guilty about returning or exchanging it for something different.
Some retailers have flexible return and exchange policies all year long; others are a bit stricter. But many retailers often extend their return windows around the holidays, offering more generous return guidelines for holiday purchases.
No matter where you shop, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the options. Below, we’ve outlined the current guidelines at most popular retailers.
Here are the retailers with the best and worst return policies:
Best for Returning Gifts
Amazon: You have 30 days to return any new, unopened items. The company provides shipping labels for mail-in returns, or you can take items to any of the company’s over 18,000 drop-off locations. This includes Amazon Lockers, which can often be found at Whole Foods and Walmart, as well as UPS stores and Kohl’s.
For the holiday season, Amazon is extending its return window. Most items purchased between Oct. 11 and Dec. 25 can be returned up until Jan. 31, 2022. This is a narrower window than 2021, which was available from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31.
Items purchased through third-party sellers may be subject to different return policies.
Bed Bath & Beyond: As recently as last year, Bed Bath & Beyond gave shoppers a full year to make returns. Now, however, the retailer has reduced the return window to 90 days for most items. Electronics and air mattresses have a 60-day window, and smart home and seasonal products get a brief 30 days. Shipping back products ordered online is free for most items.
No receipt? An employee will look up purchases made in the past year. If the item can’t be found, you can get a refund for store credit at its current price, minus 20 percent, as long as the item is unopened and unused.
Costco: There’s no time limit on some returns and no receipt is necessary except for a few items, including tires, batteries, cigarettes, and alcohol. Electronics, including computers, TVs, major appliances, cameras, tablets, and more, can be returned, but there’s a 90-day window that starts from the date the customer receives the item.
Eddie Bauer: Eddie Bauer used to allow returns anytime, but now it honors returns only for one year with proof of purchase, whether it’s a receipt or an Adventure Rewards number. Without proof of purchase, Eddie Bauer used to have a policy offering a partial refund, but that language is now gone from its website, so reach out to customer service. Returns can be made in-store or via the mail (the company will provide a shipping label) whether the item was purchased online or in person.
Home Depot: Most items are eligible for returns for up to 90 days after purchase. They must be new and unopened, and as long as you have proof of purchase, you can get a refund by the original payment method, in cash, or as store credit. If you don’t have a receipt, try to make the return within 30 days and the company may be able to find your purchase in its system if you used a debit or credit card for the transaction. You’ll need to show ID to return items without a receipt.
If you use The Home Depot Consumer Credit Card, The Home Depot Commercial Revolving Charge, or The Home Depot Commercial Account, you have a full 365 days to make a return, and your purchase will be stored in the system for a year in case you lose your receipt.
Some items have shorter return windows. You get only 30 days to return area rugs, furniture, gas-powered equipment, and consumer electronics. And if your order arrives damaged or defective, you’ve got a very short window of 48 hours to report it, so always inspect your products as soon as you get them.
JCPenney: If you have a receipt, the company accepts returns and exchanges for up to 90 days—prior to October 2021, there was no time limit for returns. If that has passed or you don’t have a receipt, JCPenney will allow you to exchange the item or get a refund as store credit for the lowest price the item was in the previous 45 days, and you’ll need to show ID in lieu of a receipt. If you have a gift receipt, you can exchange an item or get a gift card at the receipt price.
For the holidays, anything purchased on or after Oct. 15 can be returned through Jan. 15, 2023, with an original or gift receipt. And even if you lose the receipt, you may still qualify for partial store credit.
Kohl’s: The return policy at Kohl’s gives shoppers up to 180 days for returns of most purchases. No receipt? The store can look up previous purchases. For the holidays, just note that premium electronics must be returned within 30 days in original packaging, though if purchased Nov. 1 through Dec. 25, you have until Jan. 31, 2023, to return them.
L.L.Bean: Until 2018, the company used to allow customers to exchange or return an item even years after purchasing it. Customers now have one year after, accompanied by proof of purchase. Returning items by mail will cost you $6.50 per package unless you used Bean Bucks or an L.L.Bean credit card for the purchase. In those cases, mail-in returns are free.
If you need to make a return after a year, L.L.Bean will work with you to reach a fair solution if a product was defective in any way. For returned gifts, you’ll get a merchandise credit if you don’t want to make an exchange. Items purchased before Feb. 9, 2018, are grandfathered in and can still be returned anytime.
Lands’ End: The retailer’s return policy is flexible. For returns made within 90 days of purchase, a full refund will be issued by the original payment method. If you return something by mail, Land’s End will now deduct $6.95 from your refund credit for using the Easy Return Label. If you want to return something without proof of purchase or after the 90-day window, Land’s End will issue a merchandise credit. Anything that’s been personalized or purchased as a final sale can’t be returned.
Lowe’s: Most items can be returned up to 90 days after purchase. As long as you have proof of purchase, Lowe’s will refund in cash, by the original payment method, or as store credit. If you lose your receipt, the store may have a record of the purchase in its system with the original credit card, checking account number, MyLowe’s card, or phone number. if no record of a purchase can be found, Lowe’s may still be able to provide in-store credit for the current selling price. You’ll need to show ID for returns without proof of purchase.
Some items can only be returned within 30 days and must be in “like new” condition. This includes TVs, major appliances, liquid paint, and outdoor power equipment. If you receive an item that’s damaged or defective, you have only three days to contact the company to document it.
And if you have a Lowe’s Commercial Account (LCA), Lowe’s Business Advantage (LBA), Lowe’s Advantage Card (LAC) or Lowe’s Business Rewards (LBR), the company gives you a full 365 days to make a return.
Macy’s: You have 90 days to return most items purchased at Macy’s. It’s free to return a purchase whether in-store or by mail, and while you can return online orders in stores, in-store purchases can only be returned to stores and not via mail. Shipping costs for purchases are nonrefundable, and items must be new, unused, and with original tags. Some items have shorter return windows, such as Apple products, which can only be returned within 14 days.
For the holidays, anything purchased on or after Oct. 3 can be returned up until Jan. 31. This is one week earlier than last year.
Nordstrom: There’s no formal return policy; returns are handled case by case. No receipts are required, there are no time limits, and no original tags are needed (except for special occasion dresses). Returns made by mail and in-store can take five to seven days to process; mail-in returns can take up to two weeks. And you can now return Nordstrom store and online purchases to Nordstrom Rack locations, a new addition to the retailer’s policy.
Target: You have up to 90 days to return most items at Target (but 30 days for most electronics and 15 days for Apple products). The retailer provides free shipping on returns, and you can bring your items to any location as well. The company may honor returns on items that have been opened, damaged, or don’t come with a receipt, but it doesn’t guarantee this. If you have a Target Red Card, the return window is extended an additional 30 days.
For the holidays, the 30-day return window (15 days for Apple products) begins Dec. 26 for electronics and entertainment items purchased between Oct. 1 and Dec. 25.
Walmart: For most items, Walmart offers a 90-day return window. Electronics get 30 days, and post-paid cell phones have only a 14-day window. Walmart’s 30-day window for returns on tech purchased between Oct. 16 and Dec. 25 begins on Dec. 26. The retailer provides free returns regardless of whether you’re returning in-store or by mail and offers pickup services, though freight charges for large items are nonrefundable.
Zappos: This online-only retailer promises free returns on all U.S. orders for up to a year as long as the items are unworn and returned in their original packaging, with original tags still in place. Return shipping is free, and the company also allows exchanges.
Tough for Returning Gifts
Apple: Apple gives you just 14 days to return an item and get a refund, whether it’s purchased online or in a store. And you can’t return something if you didn’t buy it directly from an Apple Store or Apple online.
For the holidays, Apple’s return policy is a bit more flexible. Items purchased online between Nov. 4 and Dec. 25 may be returned through Jan. 8, 2023.
Barnes & Noble: For online and in-store purchases, you have 30 days from the date you received the item to get a return, but you’ll need a receipt or an invoice. If mailing back your items, refunds and returns are processed only once an item is received, and you have to pay for shipping. In-store returns are welcome regardless of purchase method. With a gift receipt, you have 60 days to return an item.
Barnes & Noble is extending its return window for the holidays. Purchases made on Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 are refundable or exchangeable through Jan. 31, 2023.
Best Buy: The electronics retailer has a meager 15-day window for returning most items outside of the holidays. Cell phones and cellular tablets and watches get 14 days. The store requires proof of purchase and has a 15 percent restocking fee on certain items, including drones and some digital cameras and lenses if the original packaging has been opened.
Its holiday return policy is more generous. Items (except major appliances and holiday products such as artificial trees and other holiday items) bought between Oct. 24, 2022, and Dec. 31, 2022, can be returned through Jan. 14, 2023. If you’re a My Best Buy Elite member, you have 30 days to return anything purchased after Dec. 18. Elite Plus members get 45 days and Totaltech members have 60 days.
Forever 21: Forever 21 has one of the stricter return policies. The retailer is back to giving shoppers 30 days to make returns; last year it doubled the return window to 60 days. You must bring the original receipt or a gift receipt for returns of in-store purchases, and online orders can be returned only via mail along with the packing slip. And regardless of where you’re returning, all items must be unworn and unwashed, and have the original tags attached.
GameStop: Unlike some retailers that can provide a partial refund or look up your purchase, Gamestop always requires a receipt or an order number to process a return. You get 30 days for a refund or an exchange of unopened products, but only seven days for pre-owned products and tablets. For merchandise that’s been opened, you can only get an identical exchange within 30 days. And if you’re returning by mail, you’ll be charged an $8.99 fee; in-store returns cost nothing.
Kmart: You have 30 days for returns with a receipt. With a gift receipt, you can exchange an item or get store credit. If you’re a member of the free Shop Your Way program, you’ll have 45 days to request a refund or an exchange. Seasonal holiday items can’t be returned once the holiday has passed, and there are no extended return windows for holiday gifts.
Newegg: This online seller of electronics and other products guarantees a refund on most items marked as sold and shipped by Newegg as long as they’re returned new and unopened within 30 days of purchase. Items bought via Newegg’s marketplace are subject to the seller’s individual return policy.
Sears: As with Kmart, which merged with Sears in 2004, returns must be made within 30 days and with a receipt. With a gift receipt, you can exchange an item or get a gift card. If you’re a member of the free Shop Your Way program, you have 45 days for a refund or exchange.
Wayfair: Most items can be returned within 30 days provided they’re unopened and in the original condition. There are some exclusions, including clearance items, bundled items (unless you’re returning everything in the bundle), and Open Box items. But if you received a damaged or defective item, the exclusions don’t apply. Mattresses come with a 100-night guarantee, and Wayfair typically provides return pickups for large items. Just note that appliances are ineligible for returns once they’ve been installed.
For the holidays, purchases made between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 can be returned until Jan. 31, 2023.
4 Tips for Returning Gifts
Don’t open the box. If you try to return an item and the original packaging isn’t intact, merchants may impose a restocking fee (often 15 percent of the purchase price or more). That’s especially common for electronics.
Other products, such as computer software, CDs, and DVDs, generally aren’t returnable once their packaging has been opened unless they’re defective. And if products are missing tags, you may be stuck with them. So at the very least, take a look at the return policy before removing any packaging if there’s a chance you may need to return an item.
Keep those gift receipts. Make sure you don’t toss them out with the wrapping paper because merchants often turn you away if you don’t have one. If you didn’t get a gift receipt (and you don’t want to ask the giver for the original), you may be eligible for store credit, though it may be in the amount of the lowest price the item sold for recently.
Check return policies and note any time limits. You can do that most easily online, or you can ask at a store’s customer service counter. Big merchants usually allow up to 90 days for most items to be returned, but they may have far shorter periods for certain goods. During the holidays, however, some retailers will extend their deadlines, often until late January.
For items purchased online, note whether the merchant has walk-in store locations and allows in-person returns. That way, you can avoid repacking the item and going to the post office, as well as paying for any return shipping costs.
It’s also important to check whether you’ve purchased an item from a third-party seller, because it may have different return policies than the retailer. This includes retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, eBay, and Newegg.
Bring ID. Some chains, including Best Buy and Victoria’s Secret, use computerized return authorization systems to detect abuse. So you may be asked to show your driver’s license or other government-issued ID when you return an item in person.
Merchants scan and store data from your ID to track your history, noting such factors as the frequency of your returns, their dollar value, how often you return items without a receipt, and the time between returns.