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2019 GBR Retail Report: Stores With the Best and Worst Return Policies

Cameron Huddleston

When you’re making your holiday gift list this year, keep in mind that where you buy presents is just as important as what you buy.

Wait, what? Isn’t it the thought that counts? And what if you put a lot of thought into finding the perfect gifts for friends and family? They shouldn’t care where you bought those gifts.

They shouldn’t, but it’ll be important if they want to return those gifts. The chances are pretty high that some of the gifts you buy will be returned. A survey by Oracle Retail found that 77% of consumers plan to return at least a portion of their gifts this holiday season. Nearly 1 in 5 expect to return more than half of their gifts.

Yes, the thought behind a gift does count. But you should also think about buying gifts at stores with generous return policies to make it easier for your friends and family to take back the items they don’t want. Who has time to research store return policies, though?

Don’t worry: GOBankingRates has done the research for you. This report looked at 71 of the top U.S. retailers to find out which ones have the best and worst return policies. Return policies were ranked based on the time allotted to return items for a full refund, whether a refund is given in the form of original payment, whether an item can be returned without a receipt and whether free shipping is available for online returns. The stores on GOBankingRates’ list are organized by retail category and listed from best to worst in each category.

So, if you’re trying to figure out where to do your holiday shopping, consider these stores that offer generous returns — and think twice before shopping at stingy retailers.

Big-Box Retailers

A majority of shoppers — 71% — plan to do holiday shopping at big-box stores, according to RetailMeNot. That’s probably no surprise, considering that these retailers offer such a wide range of products. If you’re planning to do your shopping at a big-box retailer, the good news is that the two biggest players in this retail sector — Walmart and Target — have generous return policies. In fact, Walmart’s return policy is better than most on this list.

1. Walmart

  • Days to return for a full refund: 90
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A, except the return window is extended until Jan. 10, 2020, for items with a 14-day return limit
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes
  • Free shipping for online returns: Yes

2. Target

  • Days to return for a full refund: 90
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: Yes

3. K-Mart

  • Days to return for a full refund: 45
  • Extension for holiday returns: Jan. 31, 2020, for purchases made Nov. 1, 2019, through Dec. 24, 2019
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: No
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

4. Big Lots

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: No
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

5. Sears

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: Jan. 31, 2020, for purchases made Nov. 1, 2019, through Dec. 24, 2019
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: No
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

Clothing and Department Stores

After gift cards, clothing and accessories are the second-most popular items on Americans’ holiday wish lists this year, according to the National Retail Federation. Be careful where you do your holiday shopping for clothes — return policies can vary greatly among retailers in this category.

Department stores tend to have better return policies than clothing-only stores. The return policy at Macy’s is one of the better ones. However, the most generous policy is at Nordstrom, which doesn’t place a time limit on returns and doesn’t require a receipt for returns.

1. Nordstrom

  • Days to return for a full refund: No time limit
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

2. Bloomingdale's

  • Days to return for a full refund: 365
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: Yes

3. L.L. Bean

  • Days to return for a full refund: 365, except for defective items, which will be considered for returns beyond a year
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

4. Macy's

  • Days to return for a full refund: 90
  • Extension for holiday returns: Depends on item
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes
  • Free shipping for online returns: Yes

5. Gap/Old Navy/Banana Republic

  • Days to return for a full refund: 45
  • Extension for holiday returns: Jan. 15, 2020, for items purchased between Nov. 1, 2019, and Dec. 24, 2019, or 45 days after purchase
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes
  • Free shipping for online returns: Yes

6. Neiman Marcus

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: Jan. 31, 2020, for items purchased Nov. 1, 2019, through Dec. 25, 2019
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes
  • Free shipping for online returns: Yes, within 15 days

7. J.C. Penney

  • Days to return for a full refund: No time limit
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

8. Kohl's

  • Days to return for a full refund: 180, except for premium electronics
  • Extension for holiday returns: Jan. 31, 2020, for items purchased between Nov. 1, 2019, and Dec. 25, 2019
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

9. Zara

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: Yes

10. Victoria's Secret

  • Days to return for a full refund: 90
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

11. Abercrombie & Fitch

  • Days to return for a full refund: 60
  • Extension for holiday returns: 60
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

12. Anthropologie

  • Days to return for a full refund: 60
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only as an exchange
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

13. Express

  • Days to return for a full refund: 60
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

14. Lane Bryant

  • Days to return for a full refund: 45
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

15. Burlington

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

16. Marshalls

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30, except for online purchases, which get 40 days
  • Extension for holiday returns: Jan. 25, 2020, for purchases made between Oct. 13, 2019, and Dec. 24, 2019
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

17. TJ Maxx

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: Jan. 25, 2020, for purchases made between Oct. 13, 2019, and Dec. 24, 2019
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

18. H&M

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: Jan. 31, 2020, for purchases made between Nov. 19, 2019, and Dec. 24, 2019
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for an in-store exchange
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

19. Dillard's

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: No
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

20. Dollar General

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: No
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

21. Forever 21

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: No
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

22. Ross Stores

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit and you must show ID
  • Free shipping for online returns: N/A

23. Saks Fifth Avenue

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: No
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

24. Dollar Tree

  • Days to return for a full refund: Does not offer refunds
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: No
  • Free shipping for online returns: N/A

Electronics and Game Stores

Video games and electronics are among the most popular items on holiday wish lists this year, according to the National Retail Federation. Unfortunately, electronics and game stores have some of the worst return policies. In fact, Apple has the shortest return policy of any retailer on this list — only 14 days.

1. Newegg

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: Jan. 31, 2020
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes
  • Free shipping for online returns: No, plus a restocking fee

2. Apple

  • Days to return for a full refund: 14
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes
  • Free shipping for online returns: Yes

3. GameStop

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30, except for pre-owned items, which get seven days
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: No
  • Free shipping for online returns: Yes

4. Best Buy

  • Days to return for a full refund: 15
  • Extension for holiday returns: Jan. 14, 2020, for purchases made between Nov. 1, 2019, and Dec. 31, 2019, except for cell phones and major appliances
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

Health and Beauty Stores

Buying beauty products as holiday gifts can be tricky, unless you know exactly what the recipient wants. If you don’t, consider buying from retailers with policies that will make returns easy. Among health and beauty stores, MAC Cosmetics and Bath & Body Works have the best return policies. The final two stores tied for the least generous policies.

1. MAC Cosmetics

  • Days to return for a full refund: No time limit
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: Yes

2. Bath & Body Works

  • Days to return for a full refund: No time limit
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

3. Ulta

  • Days to return for a full refund: 60
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

4. Morphe

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but for only store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

5. Sephora

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: No
  • Free shipping for online returns: Yes

Home Goods and Furniture Stores

About one-fourth of consumers surveyed by the National Retail Federation said home decor was on their holiday wish list. So, if you have friends or family who want to spruce up their homes, you’ll have to consider return options from home goods and furniture stores.

Most offer only 30 days to return items, and several don’t allow returns without a receipt. Only one retailer offers free shipping on returns. Additionally, there are two ties because the retailers have similar policies.

1. Bed Bath & Beyond

  • Days to return for a full refund: 180
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit and some form of proof of purchase is required
  • Free shipping for online returns: Yes

2. Ikea

  • Days to return for a full refund: 365
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: No
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

3. Wayfair

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

4. The Container Store

  • Days to return for a full refund: 120
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

5. Pier 1 Imports

  • Days to return for a full refund: 45
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

6. HomeGoods

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

7. Crate & Barrel

  • Days to return for a full refund: 90
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: No
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

8. Pottery Barn

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: No
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

9. Williams-Sonoma

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: No
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

Home Improvement Stores

Believe it or not, 17% of consumers have home improvement items on their holiday wish lists, according to the National Retail Federation. Fortunately for DIYers, the two biggest home improvement stores — Home Depot and Lowe’s — offer relatively generous return policies and tied for first. But be careful: One only offers store credit for returns without a receipt, and the other doesn’t offer free shipping on returns.

1. Lowe's

  • Days to return for a full refund: 90, except for major appliances, outdoor power equipment, liquid paint and highway trailers
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: Yes

2. The Home Depot

  • Days to return for a full refund: 90
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

3. Sherwin-Williams

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

4. Menards

  • Days to return for a full refund: 90
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but you must print a receipt for check or credit card purchases using the Return Receipt Kiosk in stores
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

5. Ace Hardware

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: No
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

Office, School and Art Supply Stores

“I want a stapler for Christmas,” said no one ever. But if you have a friend or family member who needs office supplies or kids who love arts and crafts, the stores that sell these items have consumer-friendly return policies. The best, by far, is at Staples — which allows returns at any time for a full refund or store credit if you don’t have a receipt.

1. Staples

  • Days to return for a full refund: No time limit, except for electronics and furniture, which get 14 days
  • Extension for holiday returns: Jan. 11, 2020, for any electronic or furniture products purchased between Nov. 17, 2019, and Dec. 24, 2019
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: Yes

2. Joann Fabric and Craft Stores

  • Days to return for a full refund: No time limit
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

3. Michaels

  • Days to return for a full refund: 180
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: Yes

4. Hobby Lobby

  • Days to return for a full refund: 90
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

Online Retailers

Holiday shopping can be a breeze if you do it all online from the comfort of your home. But there’s a drawback to shopping at a major online-only retailer such as Amazon: Your gift recipients won’t have much time to return items if they don’t like them. The return policy at Amazon gives customers only 30 days to return items for a refund. However, Amazon does have one of the best store credit cards that you might want to consider if you frequently shop on the site.

1. Jet

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes
  • Free shipping for online returns: Yes

2. Amazon

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: Jan. 31, 2020, for items purchased between Nov. 1, 2019, and Dec. 31, 2019
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

Check Out: Amazon’s Holiday Return Policy

3. Overstock

  • Days to return for a full refund: 30
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

Pet Stores

Don’t forget Fido or Fluffy during your holiday shopping. You’ll likely find what you need for your animal friends at Petco and PetSmart. But do these two popular pet stores have the return policies you need, too? Turns out, their return policies are almost identical.

1. PetSmart

  • Days to return for a full refund: 60
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

2. Petco

  • Days to return for a full refund: 60
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

Shoe Stores

Shoes can be a tricky holiday gift to buy. Even if you know the recipient’s shoe size, there’s no guarantee that the fit will be right. Fortunately, online shoe retailer Zappos provides free shipping and ample time to make returns for a refund — 365 days. However, other retailers aren’t quite so generous.

1. Zappos

  • Days to return for a full refund: 365
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes
  • Free shipping for online returns: Yes

2. DSW

  • Days to return for a full refund: 60, or for store credit thereafter
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

3. Foot Locker

  • Days to return for a full refund: 45
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: No
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

Sporting Goods and Recreational Stores

If you’re shopping for sports fans or outdoor enthusiasts, one retailer stands out for its return policy: Big 5 Sporting Goods. You can return purchases for a full refund at any time if you have a receipt and for store credit without a receipt. The one drawback is that it doesn’t offer free shipping for returns.

1. Big 5 Sporting Goods

  • Days to return for a full refund: No time limit
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

2. Dick's Sporting Goods

  • Days to return for a full refund: 60
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit and you must show ID
  • Free shipping for online returns: Yes

3. Recreational Equipment Inc.

  • Days to return for a full refund: 365, except for outdoor electronics, which get 90 days
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: No, unless you’re a REI member
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

4. Cabela's/Bass Pro

  • Days to return for a full refund: 90
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes, but only for store credit
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

Wholesale and Warehouse Stores

You might not only be stocking up on gifts at a warehouse store but also on food and other things for your holiday gatherings. In addition to low prices, these stores make it easy to return items if you’re not satisfied with them. Of these retailers, Costco offers the most generous return policy.

1. Costco

  • Days to return for a full refund: No time limit, except for electronics, which get 90 days
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes
  • Free shipping for online returns: Yes

2. Sam's Club

  • Days to return for a full refund: No time limit, except for contact lenses, which get 30 days
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

3. BJs Wholesale Club

  • Days to return for a full refund: 365, except for major appliances (30 days after delivery) and electronics (90 days)
  • Extension for holiday returns: N/A
  • Returns accepted without a receipt: Yes
  • Free shipping for online returns: No

More From GOBankingRates

Last updated: Nov. 26, 2019

Methodology: GOBankingRates looked at 71 of the top retailers in the U.S. to find the stores with the best and worst return policies. It analyzed their return policies using the following factors: (1) time limit to return items to get a full refund; (2) whether the store gives a refund in the form of original payment; (3) whether an item can be returned without the original receipt; and (4) whether the store offers free shipping on returns. These four factors were then scored and combined, with the lowest score being best in the final rankings in 12 retail categories. The National Retail Federation’s 2019 list of the top 100 retailers was used as inspiration for GOBankingRates’ list of included retailers. No grocery or pharmacy-based stores were included. All data used to conduct this study was compiled and verified on Nov. 12, 2019.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 2019 GBR Retail Report: Stores With the Best and Worst Return Policies