What Is Costco’s Return Policy for the Holidays?

Costco's return policy outshines that of other major retailers.

Costco is one of the most beloved retailers in America, as evidenced by the company’s astonishing 90% annual membership renewal rate in North America for its 2018 fiscal year. Part of the reason for the store’s popularity is its generous return policy. As the holidays approach, choosing a retailer with a wide-ranging, easy return policy can become even more important when you’re shopping. Here’s a look at Costco’s holiday return policy, including comparisons of the store’s standard return policy and those offered by its major competitors.

Here’s what you’ll find in this guide to Costco’s return policy:

What Is Costco’s Holiday Return Policy?

Costco’s generous return policy is in force for the entire year, with no specific changes for the holiday period.

Costco’s Return Policy at a Glance
Type of ItemReturn PolicyReturn PeriodRestocking Fee
General merchandiseReturns acceptedUnlimitedNone
Electronics90-day return policy90 daysNone
Tires and batteriesLimited returnsUnlimitedNone
AlcoholVaries by stateVaries by stateNone
CigarettesNo returns acceptedN/ANone
Diamonds over 1 caratPaperwork requiredUnlimitedNone
Custom productsNo returns; warranty appliesN/ANone

The beauty of Costco’s overall return policy — which extends unchanged through the holiday season — is that most items are returnable essentially forever. Certain restrictions apply — such as with electronics, which have a 90-day restriction, or nonreturnable items, such as cigarettes — but otherwise, the Costco return policy is by and large unlimited.

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What Is Costco’s Electronics Return Policy?

Although the general Costco return policy is wide-ranging and applies to most merchandise, the company does break out a specific, more limited return policy when it comes to electronics. As with many retailers, Costco only accepts returns on certain electronics for 90 days after customer receipt. Specific electronics included in the 90-day return policy include the following:

  • Major appliances, including refrigerators above 10 cubic feet, freezers, dishwashers, over-the-range microwaves, ranges, cooktops, and washers and dryers
  • TVs
  • Computers
  • Tablets
  • Cellphones
  • Smartwatches
  • Cameras
  • MP3 players
  • Aerial cameras (drones)
  • Tuner-free displays
  • Projectors
  • Camcorders

You can contact Costco directly for more information on which products are included under the electronics return policy.

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What Other Gifts Can You Return to Costco?

As Costco’s general return policy applies to most merchandise, you can feel free to return nearly any gift that you are not satisfied with to your local Costco. The only exceptions are those that apply to the standard Costco return policy.

What Can’t You Return to Costco?

Costco is legendary for accepting almost any type of return. News articles regularly cite the more sensational returns, such as half-eaten food, dead plants and used toilets. The bottom line is that as long as a product doesn’t explicitly violate any part of the Costco return policy — such as the 90-day restriction on certain electronics — you can return practically anything to Costco.

That being said, there are some limits to the company’s generosity, and not all are company-imposed. Individual states, for example, have their own alcohol return policies that Costco must follow.

For diamonds 1 carat or larger, members must present all original paperwork, including IGI and/or GIA certificates, to receive a Jewelry Credit Memo. You can receive a refund within 48 hours after a Costco Graduate Gemologist verifies the authenticity of your diamond.

Products such as batteries and tires, which have a limited useful life expectancy, might have a separate, product-specific limited warranty.

Perhaps the greatest exception to the all-encompassing Costco return policy applies to Special Order Kiosk and Custom Installed Programs. As those types of products are manufactured to customer specifications, they cannot be returned or refunded. The exception is a warranty replacement due to product or workmanship failure.

Also See: 50 Stores With the Best and Worst Return Policies

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

As the Costco holiday return policy is the same as the retailer’s standard return policy, the only exceptions are listed above.

Restocking Fees for Certain Types of Returns

Unlike many retailers, Costco doesn’t charge restocking fees for certain types of returns, such as electronics.

How To Return an Item to Costco

Costco makes returning items easy. Customers who bought an item at a Costco warehouse can get a refund at the returns counter at any Costco location, not just the one where the purchase was made. Even items purchased online can be returned to any Costco warehouse, although you can also initiate a return online via Costco.com. Simply click on “Return Items” under your order history and you’ll generate a return label. Where eligible, you can also schedule a pickup. If you’re returning large items, Costco will contact you with further instructions.

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Exchanges and Refunds

If you would like to exchange an order, contact Costco. In many cases, it’s easier to simply return the item for a full refund and then purchase the item you would like. The company does allow for returns by mail; however, as with exchanges, it’s often easier to visit any Costco warehouse location for a full refund.

Costco also offers a price adjustment service for goods bought in a warehouse or at Costco.com. This generous policy allows shoppers to capture any promotional price reductions in a Costco warehouse for a full 30 days after purchase. For example, if you bought a product online for $19.99 and it goes on sale for $14.99 in a warehouse 20 days later, you can receive the price difference back as a credit within three to five business days.

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How Costco’s and Other Major Retailers’ Return Policies Compare

Costco is one of the few retailers that doesn’t alter its return policy over the holidays. In most cases, its competitors do, typically to offer more generous returns during a busy shopping season. But it’s apparent that even with these modifications, the holiday return policies of most retailers still can’t match the general, year-round return policy at Costco.

Costco’s and Other Major Retailers’ Return Policies
RetailerHoliday Return PolicyGeneral Return Policy
CostcoSame as general return policy
  • Generally unrestricted
  • 90 days for certain electronics
  • Limited returns for select products like tires and batteries
  • State-specific returns for alcohol
  • No returns for cigarettes or custom products
Walmart14-day return policy on certain electronics begins Dec. 26
  • Generally 14-90 days
Target30-day return window begins Dec. 26 for electronics and entertainment items purchased between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25
  • 90-day general return policy
  • 14-30 days for electronics
  • Up to 1 year for Target-owned brands
Best BuyItems purchased between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 can be returned through Jan. 14 of the following year
  • Generally 14-15 days
  • Up to 45 days for Elite Plus members
  • Restocking fees of $45 for cellphones, excluding prepaid phones, and 15% of purchase price for certain electronics may apply
AmazonItems purchased between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 can be returned up until Jan. 31 of the following year
  • 30-day general return policy

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How Do Costco Returns Stack Up?

At first glance, some shoppers might be disappointed that Costco doesn’t have a separate, more expansive holiday return policy. But loyal Costco members likely have no problem with that. Costco returns are easy and nearly unlimited in scope. Even the electronics return policy extends for 90 days, which is much more than the 15-30 days offered by many competitors. Thus, Costco has no need to adjust its return policy over the holidays: At any time of the year, the retailer will likely take back nearly any product that you are not satisfied with.

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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.