3 Costco Return Policy Tips To Keep In Mind

April 17, 2020 - Halifax, Canada - Costco Wholesale warehouse store located in the Bayers Lake retail park.
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Costco is one of the most beloved retailers in America, evidenced by its astonishing 91% annual membership renewal rate in North America for its 2020 fiscal year. Part of 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 shopping. Here’s a look at the Costco return policy, and some tips to keep in mind when shopping for gifts.

Read: If Your Credit Score is Under 740, Make These 4 Moves Now

What Is Costco’s Return Policy?

Costco’s generous return policy is in force for the entire year, with no specific changes for the holiday period. So how long do you have to return a Costco item? While Costco’s return period for general merchandise is unlimited, there are limits for certain items. 

Type of Item Return Policy Return Period
General merchandise Returns accepted Unlimited
Electronics 90-day return policy 90 days
Tires and batteries Limited returns Unlimited
Alcohol Varies by state Varies by state
Cigarettes No returns accepted N/A
Diamonds over 1-carat Paperwork required Unlimited
Custom products No returns; warranty applies N/A
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The beauty of Costco’s overall return policy — which extends unchanged through the holiday season — is that most items are returnable forever, which answers the question that so many have, “Can you return anything to Costco at any time?” Electronics have a 90-day restriction, and some items like cigarettes are non-returnable. Otherwise, the Costco return policy is unlimited.

1. Be Aware of Limits When Buying Electronics

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. Like 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, water heaters, cooktops and washers and dryers
  • TVs
  • Computers
  • Touchscreen tablets
  • Cell phones
  • Smartwatches
  • Cameras
  • MP3 players
  • Aerial cameras or drones
  • Projectors
  • Camcorders

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

2. You Can Make Returns Online

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. 

However, if you like, you can also initiate a return online via Costco.com. Simply click “Return Items” under your order history and generate a return shipping label. Where eligible, you can also schedule a pickup. Costco will contact you with further instructions if you’re returning large items.

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3. Be Aware of Costco’s Price Adjustment Service

Costco offers a price adjustment service for goods bought in a warehouse or at Costco.com. This generous policy allows shoppers to capture promotional price reductions in a Costco warehouse for 30 days after purchase. For example, if you bought a product online for $19.99 that 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.

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. 

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, 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 you are unsatisfied with.

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Final Take

Costco’s return policy allows for returns on a generous level. Since most things can be returned or exchanged as long as you follow the guidelines, it takes some pressure off the gift-givers for the holiday season

Costco Return Policy FAQ

  • What gifts can you return to Costco?
    • As Costco's general return policy applies to most merchandise, you can return nearly any gift you are unsatisfied with to your local Costco. The only exceptions are those that apply to the standard Costco return policy.
  • 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.
  • Does Costco accept returns after two years?
    • Costco does accept returns after two years on most items.
  • Are there restocking fees for certain types of returns?
    • Unlike many retailers, Costco doesn't charge restocking fees for certain returns, such as electronics.
  • What items cannot be returned 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 one 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 products are manufactured to customer specifications, they cannot be returned or refunded. The exception is a warranty replacement due to product or workmanship failure.

Chris Ozarowski contributed to the reporting for this article.

Information is accurate as of Nov. 15, 2022.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by any entity covered in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, ratings or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any entity named in this article.

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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.
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