These 17 Stores Have Great Return Policies That Make the Holidays Easier

Updated December 29, 2016
by Jamie Cattanach
Staff Writer
return policy

Now that we’re past Christmas, and Hanukkah is well underway, you might think the insane holiday shopping days are over.

But if my inbox full of Boxing Day deals from Monday morning has anything to say about it — or the reports of after-Christmas shopping sprees so hectic they’ve spawned out-and-out brawls — we’re not quite out of the Yuletide woods yet, snowy and enchanted though they may be.

All to say nothing of the pile of gifts I was glad to receive, but need to return. While they were certainly well-intended, they’ve put a new chore on my to-do list, and it’s not one I’m super stoked to take on.

(Related: Why don’t arm’s-distance family members ever learn that buying clothing for someone you don’t know very well is a gamble?)

I’m still recovering from my Christmas food coma, so getting cleaned up, putting on real pants and cruising into Target to wait in a miles-long customer service line is sounding like a very firm “nope” at the moment. And that’s without factoring in the snowy slush most of the country has to deal with on the way.

Why I’m Not Standing in Line Right This Second

Fortunately, many retailers relax their return policies around the holidays to account for just this situation: a sudden influx of customers who need to make returns, but might not have time to get to the store right away, or whose gifts might have been purchased quite a while ago.

And some stores’ return policies are the bomb year-round. (We’re looking at you, Athleta!)

So before you resign yourself to joining the fray, check this out: Depending on where your gifts are from, you might not need to rush.

Here’s the full scoop on the holiday return windows for 17 popular stores and brands.

1. Best Buy

Best Buy’s regular return policy is pretty strict: You only get 15 days with most items unless you join the company’s Elite members club.

That said, its holiday policy is a bit more generous. “Almost every purchase made throughout November and December can be returned through January 15, 2017,” according to the website.

2. Kohl’s

Kohl’s literally titled its official return policy page “hassle-free returns,” and it lives up to the claim. You can return most items at any time with or without the original receipt, except premium

electronics, which are subject to a 30-day window.

However, for the holidays, you can even return premium electronics anytime throughout the month of January, provided they were purchased between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25.

3. JCPenney

Returns policies at JCPenney vary a lot depending on what kind of item you’re talking about. The full details are here, but these are a few noteworthy clauses:

  • Electronics are subject to a 60-day return window and require a receipt.
  • Appliances must be returned within 30 days and are subject to a 15% restocking fee.
  • Shipping and handling charges on online purchases are not refundable.

There’s no mention of any policy adjustments for the holidays.

4. Macy’s

This department store’s policies are pretty liberal — for almost all purchases, you have a full year from the date of purchase to process your return, and you can do it in store or by mail.

See the Q&A here for full details.

5. Nordstrom

Although it doesn’t specify a certain time frame for returns, Nordstrom’s return policy mentions that it makes return decisions “on a case-by-case basis with the ultimate objective of making (its) customers happy.”

Short story: Be reasonable (and nice), and you’re probably in the clear, no matter when you get around to making your return.

You won’t be subject to restocking fees, and even without a receipt, Nordstrom will likely accept your return in exchange for a gift card.

6. Sears

Sears’ return policy generally leaves a bit to be desired — you only have 30 days from the purchase date to return or exchange the item with all packaging, accessories, manuals and parts — and your original receipt.

But the retailer has made an exception for the holidays: You may return items purchased between Nov. 1 and Christmas Eve all the way until Jan. 31.

7. Target

You must return most goodies from Target within 90 days, but again, electronics must be returned in 30 days.

However, Target won’t start that 30-day countdown until Dec. 26 for items purchased between Nov. 1 and Christmas Day, so you can go ahead and give yourself at least until January.

(Another few interesting tidbits we found by scanning the return policy: Target REDcard holders get an extra 30 days to return most items they purchase with their cards, whether in stores or online. And Target-owned brand items can be returned, with a receipt, for an exchange or refund for up to a full year.)

8. Toys R Us

This toy giant’s policies are a little trickier. You have 30 days to return items purchased online, but 90 days for purchases made in stores — unless we’re talking about electronics, video games, DVDs and VHS tapes (LOL), which need to be returned within 45 days.

It doesn’t look like the company’s changing any of its rules for the holidays.

9. Walmart

Almost all goods from Walmart carry a 90-day return window, but certain items — i.e. electronics, i.e. all the stuff that winds up under the tree — are subject to limited, 15- or 30-day return eligibility.

However, Walmart’s holiday return policy extends the window for limited-return items purchased between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24. You can return goods normally subject to a 15-day window through Jan. 10, and those with a 30-day limit can be returned until Jan. 25.

Stores with Awesome Return Policies Year-Round

Although these might not be the first retailers you think of when it comes time for the holiday shopping hullabaloo, their returns policies are stellar — so keep ’em in mind for next year (or whenever)!

10. Anthropologie

Although I’ll admit I fantasize about living inside an Anthropologie catalog, this upper-end retailer isn’t exactly Penny Hoarder friendly.

But its return policy sure is: Bring or mail back any item, any time, for a full refund.

(Unless it’s an oversized item, like a couch. In which case, you probably spent like $4,000 on it because it’s from Anthropologie, so you should probably make darn sure you really like it before you cut the check.)

11. Athleta

This athleisure line’s return policy is famously lax, and I can vouch for it personally: I once returned a pair of yoga pants I’d worn for an entire year before I lost too much weight for them to stay up.

(Granted, I got a refund in the amount they were selling for at the time, which was a fraction of what I’d spent on them — but seriously, I RETURNED YEAR-OLD, WELL-WORN PANTS. How is that possible?)

The other brands under The Gap Inc.’s umbrella, including Gap itself, Old Navy and Banana Republic, require you to return items within 45 days of purchase.

12. Bath & Body Works

Bath & Body Works’ “100% satisfaction guarantee” means you can return a product to any store at any time — although what you’ll get back depends on how you purchased it. See the full return policy for details.

13. Costco

Our favorite warehouse club store will refund the purchase price of almost any item, no matter when you do so — with the exception of electronics, which you must bring back within 90 days.

But hey, if that’s a dealbreaker for you, no problem. Costco will refund the price of your membership whenever you decide to leave!

14. L.L. Bean

According to the retailer’s return policy page, founder L.L. himself “didn’t consider a sale complete until goods are worn out and the customer still satisfied.”

The store thus offers an open-ended return policy: “… if something’s not working or fitting or standing up to its task or lasting as long as you think it should, we’ll take it back.”

15. Lands’ End

Goods from Lands’ End are “guaranteed. Period.

“If you’re not satisfied with any item, simply return it to us at any time for an exchange or refund of its purchase price.”

If the price of an item you purchase goes down within 14 days, the company will also refund you the difference between the new price and what you paid. Pretty freaking sweet, right?

16. REI

This purveyor of quality outdoor gear accepts returns within a year of the purchase date and at any time in the case of manufacturing defects.

You will, however, need to provide proof of purchase and all original packaging.

17. Zappos

This online marketplace for shoes — and everything else — is well-known for its simple free- return policy.

And again, I can vouch for this one. Having recently purchased a pair of boots that weren’t quite as comfy as I’d have liked, my heart sank: I’d already clipped off the tag.

But when I contacted a Zappos customer service agent through its chat feature, she identified herself as Cinderella and told me that she grants wishes — including the one I made to process the return, even without all of the original packaging.

Of course, that’s no guarantee it’ll work for you… but it definitely intensified my loyalty to the brand.

(Not that I needed much help in that department. Because, shoes.)

Happy holidays, Penny Hoarders! Here’s to keeping the slippers on and the tumbler of eggnog filled… for just a little while longer.

Your Turn: What will you do this week — instead of hitting the stores to process your returns?

Jamie Cattanach is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Her writing has also been featured on the Ms. Magazine blog, The Write Life, Word Riot, Nashville Review and elsewhere. Find @JamieCattanach on Twitter to wave hello.

by Jamie Cattanach
Contributor for The Penny Hoarder

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