Know Amazon’s Holiday Return Policy Before You Shop

Amazon gives you more time to return items over the holidays.

With the holidays just around the corner, you might already be planning out your annual gift-giving strategy. And if your plans include shopping online, you’re probably considering buying at least some of your gifts from Amazon.com.

Originating as an online bookstore, Amazon has grown to be one of the largest retailers in the world, announcing that it generated $70 billion in sales just in its most recent financial quarter ending Sept. 30, 2019.

When a company generates these types of sales, it needs clearly articulated return policies to keep everything running smoothly — particularly around the holidays. Here’s a look at Amazon’s holiday return policies and how it compares with both its competitors and the retailer’s own standard return policy:

What Is Amazon’s Holiday Return Policy?

Like many retailers, Amazon slightly alters its standard return policy over the holidays to allow shoppers extra time to return gifts and other purchases if they’re not happy with the products. Generally speaking, you have until Jan. 31, 2020, to return any items shipped by Amazon.com between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2019. This policy varies a bit for certain categories of purchases — or for items not shipped by Amazon.com, as outlined below.

Amazon Holiday Return Policy
Type of ItemReturn PolicyDaysRestocking Fee
General MerchandiseUntil Jan. 31, 2020Up to 91, if purchased Nov. 120% if after return window
ElectronicsUntil Jan. 31, 2020Up to 91, if purchased Nov. 1Depends on item
Opened CDs, VHS tapes, vinyl records or cassette tapesUntil Jan. 31, 2020Up to 91, if purchased Nov. 150%
Damaged or used itemsUntil Jan. 31, 2020Up to 91, if purchased Nov. 1At least 50%
Open software or video gamesUntil Jan. 31, 2020Up to 91, if purchased Nov. 1100%

Amazon’s return policy for most of the year extends for just 30 days from receipt of a shipment, so this extended holiday return window gives those shopping in November and December extra time for returns.

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What Is Amazon’s Electronics Return Policy?

Amazon has the same 30-day return policy for electronics that it has for most goods, which is longer than the 15-day return window of many of its competitors.

Nonworking or unopened laptops, desktops or tablets — excluding Kindle E-readers and Fires — purchased from Amazon.com can be returned within 30 days for a full refund. Computers that are damaged through customer misuse or otherwise misrepresented as to their condition may face a restocking fee of 15% or higher. Items purchased through Marketplace vendors are subject to their vendor’s return policy.

Amazon-branded devices, including Fire TV devices and tablets, Echo devices and Kindle e-readers can be returned within 30 days of receipt if in new condition.

Televisions shipped without Enhanced Delivery should be in new and unopened condition, while those shipped with Enhanced Delivery can be in like-new condition.

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What Other Gifts Can You Return to Amazon?

Amazon Renewed products may have a return policy extending up to 90 days, although those sold by Marketplace sellers carry the standard 30-day return policy.

Wedding Registry gifts can be returned within 180 days. Gifts purchased from a baby registry enjoy a 365-day return policy, while baby items, in general, carry a 90-day return policy.

Wickedly Prime, Amazon Elements, Happy Belly, Mama Bear and Presto! products have a 365-day return policy.

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What Can’t You Return to Amazon?

In spite of the generous return policy, Amazon does have a fairly extensive list of items that can’t be returned, including the following:

  • Amazon Fresh and grocery items
  • Purchases from the Amazon Digital Music Store, Amazon Appstore or the Amazon Video store
  • Gift cards, except where required by law
  • Hazardous materials, including flammable liquids or gases
  • Live plants or insects
  • Pet food
  • Pre-paid phone or gift cards
  • Theme park tickets
  • Any product missing the serial number or UPC
  • Downloadable software products
  • Online subscriptions after they have been accessed
  • Prepaid game cards (World of Warcraft, Xbox 360 Live, Wii Points, etc.)
  • Some jewelry orders
  • Some health and personal care items
  • Open software
  • Items with special shipping restrictions imposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation (as indicated on the product detail page)

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Are There Any Exceptions to Amazon’s Holiday Return Policy?

Amazon doesn’t accept returns from third-party sellers. You must contact your seller directly to make return arrangements.

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Restocking Fees for Certain Types of Returns

Amazon has an explicit policy regarding restocking fees. Even standard returns may be subject to a restocking fee if they fall outside of the return window.

Amazon Restocking Fees
Type of ReturnRestocking Fee
In original condition from Amazon.com, past the return window20%
In original condition from a third-party seller, within the return windowUp to 20%
Opened CDs, VHS tapes, vinyl records, DVDs or cassette tapes50%
Damaged or used itemsAt least 50%
Open software or video games100%

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How To Return an Item to Amazon

Amazon has different return policies depending on how and where your item was purchased. Generally speaking, Amazon returns are easy.

For items purchased from Amazon.com, you can visit the online Returns Center. If your item is eligible for a return, you’ll receive a return postage authorization and label that you can print and attach to your package. Simply ship the prepared and sealed package and Amazon will do the rest.

If you received a package that was marked as a gift at the time of purchase, you can return it through the same process if you have the order number. Otherwise, you’ll have to contact customer service.

You’ll get your refund within two to three weeks, although Amazon usually completes refunds within seven days of receipt and processing of your claim.

Physical Store Returns

Amazon used to exist entirely online at Amazon.com, but now the company has some physical stores, including Amazon Books. If you purchase in any of the company’s physical locations, including Amazon 4-star and Presented by Amazon, you can return items in-person for 30 days. Exceptions include magazines and gift cards, except as required by law. Some Amazon.com purchases can also be returned in a physical store, although the company suggests you visit the Online Returns center first to check eligibility.

Seller Return Policy

When you order from a third-party seller, you’ll send your return back to the seller, rather than to Amazon. Seller return policies may vary.

Tips for Returning Items to Amazon

As far as retailers go, Amazon makes returning items fairly easy. With a few clicks on the company’s website, you’ll have your pre-printed mailing label, and your shipment will be ready to go. To make things easier for yourself, it’s a good idea to keep your original box and packaging until you are absolutely sure that you are keeping an item. If you decide you want to return it instead, you can simply reuse the same box to ship your item back to Amazon.

You can track the status of a refund under “My Orders” in your Amazon.com account.

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Exchanges

Under certain conditions, you can use the Amazon online Returns Center to exchange an item. Exchange requests must meet the following requirements:

  • Shipped to a U.S. address
  • Not a gift
  • Shipped/sold by Amazon.com
  • No add-on items
  • Not identical to what you are returning
  • Originally purchased via credit card
  • Not purchased via a promotion (except for free shipping)

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How Does Amazon’s Policy Compare With Other Major Retailers’?

Here’s a look at how other retailers stack up when compared with Amazon.

Comparison of Major Retailers’ Return Policies
RetailerHoliday Return PolicyGeneral Return Policy
AmazonItems purchased between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 can be returned up until Jan. 31 of the following year30-day general return policy
CostcoSame as general return policyEssentially unrestricted: 90 days for electronics; limited returns for select products like tires and batteries; state-specific returns for alcohol; no returns for cigarettes or custom products
Walmart15-day return policy on certain electronics begins Dec. 26Generally, 14-90 days
Target30-day return window begins Dec. 26 for electronics and entertainment items purchased between Nov. 1 and Dec. 2590-day general return policy; 14-30 days for electronics; up to one year for Target-Owned Brands
Best BuyItems purchased between Oct. 28 and Dec. 28 can be returned through Jan. 14 of the following yearGenerally 14-15 days; up to 45 days for elite members; restocking fee of $45 for cell phones and 15% of purchase price for certain electronics

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What’s the Bottom Line on Amazon’s Return Policy?

Amazon’s holiday return policy is more or less in line with that of other major retailers. Essentially, you’re given until the end of January to return any eligible items purchased from Nov. 1 until the end of the year, which should be more than adequate for most holiday shoppers. As always, be wary of the list of prohibited returns and mind the restocking fees that apply to specific situations.

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About the Author

After earning a B.A. in English with a Specialization in Business from UCLA, John Csiszar worked in the financial services industry as a registered representative for 18 years. Along the way, Csiszar earned both Certified Financial Planner and Registered Investment Adviser designations, in addition to being licensed as a life agent, while working for both a major Wall Street wirehouse and for his own investment advisory firm. During his time as an advisor, Csiszar managed over $100 million in client assets while providing individualized investment plans for hundreds of clients.