Amazon Return Policy: No More Confusion, Here’s EXACTLY How It Works

Updated May 8, 2024 by Kyle James
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There’s been a lot of confusion recently on how the return policy at Amazon actually works. Are all returns free? How often can you return something? Do you have to be a Prime member to get free return shipping? All questions that aren’t clearly answered by Amazon. So I figured is was time to do the research and find the answers to these questions. After many phone calls and live chat sessions, here’s how their return policy currently works.

Amazon Return Policy: No More Confusion, Here's EXACTLY How It Works

Does Amazon Have an Extended Holiday Return Policy?

Yes.

For 2023, anything bought between November 1st – December 31st can be returned all the way until January 31, 2024.

This is great because it allows you to start your Christmas shopping in early November, knowing that the gift recipient can return items up until the end of January.

What Exactly is Their Return Policy?

Amazon Return Center

Here are the important details:

– You have 30 days from date of delivery to return items for free (for a full refund) if the item is defective, damaged, or the incorrect product.

– Items must be sold and/or fulfilled by Amazon directly, otherwise the customer has to pay for return shipping, MAYBE. See below for details.

Return policy does NOT apply to international shipping.

See Also: Is It Possible to Make an Amazon Return After 30 Days?

Any Exceptions to the 30 Days?

Yes, there are a few important ones…

– 3rd Party Sellers – These sellers sometimes have their own stated return policy which ranges from 7 -30 days.

I recently was denied a return from a 3rd party as they told me I had to deal with the manufacturer directly.

This came as quite a surprise to me and this is a relatively new change.

Because of this, it’s smart to be aware of the sellers stated policy before you make the purchase.

Wedding Registry Gifts – These come with 180 day return policy from the date the item is delivered.

Baby Registry Gifts – You get a generous 365 return days for most items purchased from your registry.

See Also: 8 Brilliant Ways to Save Money on Amazon

Where Can I Make My Amazon Return?

When it comes to making an Amazon return, you have MANY options theses days.

They include the following 5 options:

– UPS – You can take your return to any UPS Store or UPS Access Point or schedule a UPS Pickup.

– Staples – Last year Staples started taking Amazon returns.

– Kohl’s – You can also take your return to your nearest Kohl’s store and they will process your return for free. No box or packaging supplies required.

– Whole Foods – You can also make free Amazon returns at your local Whole Foods Market during store hours.

– Amazon Hub Locker – Another option is to return your item to an Amazon Hub Locker, follow the instructions here.

Do I Have to Pay Return Shipping Charges?

Maybe.

If items are fulfilled by Amazon, you typically won’t have to pay return shipping charges, especially if the reason for the return is not your fault.

If items are sold by a 3rd party and you try and initiate the return through the Amazon return page, you’ll probably have to pay return shipping fees.

PRO TIP

If you start a live chat and initiate the return that way, you stand a great chance of NOT having to paying return shipping fees. Your chances of success rise greatly if you’re a Prime member and order quite a bit every month.

To prove it the above tip, here’s a screenshot of this exact scenario. I was going to be charged return shipping until I started a live chat and then the operator gave it to me for free.

Amazon Free Return Shipping

What if the Item is Opened or Used?

Easy Returns

Doesn’t matter.

If the item had been opened or used they’ll take it back within 30 days. Plus, they’ll pay for the return shipping charges.

Keep in mind that the item must be sold and shipped directly by Amazon and not a 3rd party.

Can You Abuse Their Return Policy?

Absolutely, YES.

If you tend to return a lot of the stuff you buy, Amazon will take notice and could flag your account and not let you make any more returns for a certain amount of time.

Also, if you ask for a return, but never actually return the item, Amazon reserves the right to take action against you although I think you’d have to do this a lot for them to notice.

The action they’ll take is to check the “Concessions Limit” of the seller.

For example, it could be a $1000 limit, or it could be $500. Amazon actually has a team that researches your returns and comes up with the specific dollar amount for policy “abusers”.

If you cross this limit, Amazon will mark your account as “Concession Abuse”.

In other words, if you typically only contact Amazon for a refund or discount, and abuse their policy frequently, you’ll fall into this category.

Once your account is marked “Concession Abuse”, no returns will be accepted on any orders made by you in the future.

Worried about getting banned? Amazon will send you a warning notice via email first.

If you keep abusing their policy you’ll get your account banned permanently.

How Do You Return a Gift to Amazon?

Gift Returns

Returning gifts to Amazon is slightly different than a normal return.

Start by visiting the Gift Return Page and enter your order number which is the 17-digit code found on the packing slip.

Next, follow the online prompts and you’ll get a free shipping label which you can print and attach to the box.

PRO TIP

If you DON’T know the order number you can either ask the gift giver or contact Amazon customer service at 1-(888) 280-4331. When calling, make sure you have the “gift giver’s email address, phone number and the package tracking ID ready (if you have it).”

Is the Policy Different for Prime Members?

No, it is not.

Amazon Prime and non-Prime members get to use the same return policy.

Do You Need a Reason to Return an Item?

Yes, you need to state a reason.

It could be you just don’t need or want the item and that answer is perfectly acceptable.

You’ll be asked if it’s broken or the wrong item, but you’re under no obligation to answer.

Does Amazon Limit Your Returns?

As long as your issue or problem with the product is genuine, there is NO limit on the number of returns you can make.

What’s the Return Policy on Electronics?

You can return consumer electronics and computers to Amazon within 30 days of purchase.

If the reason for the return is a defective product, incorrect description, or wrong item sent, you will not have to pay the return shipping fees.

Be aware that you may get hit with a restocking fee if the item is damaged due to misuse, missing parts, or unauthorized tampering.

Can Amazon Ban You For Making Too Many Returns?

Amazon has never come out and said that they can ban your account, or limit your returns, because you made too many returns.

But it goes without saying that they track your return history and absolutely reserve the right to take action if they feel you’re abusing their policy.

I’ve heard of account holders being warned via email if they return 15-20% of all their Amazon purchases but have yet to find any concrete evidence of a specific percentage that triggers a warning.

Can Any Sized Item be Returned?

Yes, any product on the Amazon website can be returned.

It doesn’t matter what size or weight, it can be returned within 30 days.

What About Returning Items Bought via Alexa?

Items bought through Amazon Alexa voice shopping can be returned just like any other non-digital item you buy on Amazon.

Also, if you accidentally buy a digital song or album with Alexa you can request a return and refund within 7 days of date of purchase.

Just contact Amazon customer service and let them know you’d like a refund.

Why Won’t Amazon Let Me Print a Return Label?

In an effort to make your returns “easier” Amazon often doesn’t give you the option to print a label at home and box up the item yourself.

Instead they want to send you to Kohl’s location or a UPS Store and let them box it up for you.

If you’re like me, this is a pain in the butt as I don’t live near a Kohl’s or UPS Store and would rather box up my return myself and drop it off at a UPS collection station.

But a clever workaround is to start a Live Chat session and tell them you need a return label, they’ll email you one and make one available in your account.

What’s the Deadline Once a Return Has Been Initialized?

People in the comments are wondering if items need to be “sent by me” before the deadline, or “received back at Amazon” before the deadline date they give you when you initialize the return.

It’s an excellent question, and the answer is your return needs to be scanned by UPS before the deadline or on the day of your deadline.

See Also: Find an Amazon Return Store Near You and Save a TON

Are Returns Free on a Purchase I Try to Cancel?

Yes.

If you try to cancel an order on something you just bought, but CANNOT, you should not have to pay the return shipping.

From commenter Wendy, she was able to start a live chat and “the response was our account will be credited for the shipping charges after we return it.”

What Items Cannot Be Returned?

Because Amazon sells so many different products this list is quite long.

– Grocery/Prime Pantry products – Perishable produce, dairy, and meats are not eligible for a return.

– Live Insects – Unless your lady bugs or ants show up dead you’re stuck with them.

– Downloadable Software – This keeps people from downloading the program then returning it.

– Gift Cards – Fortunately these are basically like cash.

– Online Subscriptions – This includes Amazon Prime, Kindle Unlimited, and Prime Student.

– Hazardous Materials or Gas – You’ll need to contact the manufacturer directly.

– Some Personal Care Items – Not sure what items specifically.

– Pet Food – Not returnable but you’re eligible for a refund if there is something wrong with the food.

– Live Plants/Fresh Flowers – Make sure you really want that house plant before you order it.

– Some Jewelry Items – Think personalized jewelry that can’t be resold.

– Stuff Missing the UPC or Serial # – If an item is tampered with and this information is removed you’re stuck with it.

If you order one of these non-returnable items and it arrives damaged or defective you should contact Amazon to get resolution to the problem.

Can I Make a Return to Amazon Brick & Mortar Stores?

Yes…in most cases.

If you’re lucky enough to live close to an Amazon store you can take “eligible items” bought on Amazon.com there for a full refund within 30 days.

According to their website, items that are NOT eligible for an in-store return are really large items, or stuff that doesn’t meet “safe to ship standards”.

Will Amazon Ever Give Me a Refund But Let Me Keep the Item?

Yes.

If you order from Amazon regularly this has probably happened to you.

They’ll give you a refund, but tell you there is no need to mail it back.

Personally, I’ve had it happen when I was sent something I didn’t order as they had to record of the order in their system so they told me keep it.

It can also take place if they send you too many of an item, or if it costs more in return shipping costs than the product is worth.

Ask the Reader: Have you ever returned anything to Amazon? Was it a smooth process, not worth the hassle, or somewhere in-between?


By Kyle James

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Sameer

Do the items need to be *sent by me* before the deadline, or *received back at Amazon* before the deadline?

cody

Recently on feb 1 my amazon return was due and I gave it to canada post on feb 1 and they still refunded me it is pending right now

Alan

What if I buy a computer tablet and try it out for less than 30 days and just don’t like it even though it is not defective? Can I return it without a restocking fee or shipping charge? I am a prime member.

cody

It totally depends on what electronic or where you buy it from

Annemarie

You should definitely pay a re-stocking fee and shipping. The seller/company you purchased it from loses money when this happens, why would you think you shouldn’t have to???

Jenny

I’ve had a lot of issues returning on Amazon recently which makes me feel that the return policy itself probably went through major changes. They receive the item and refuse to refund until I fight it with the Better Business Bureau. The company is no longer the same as how I joined 10+ years ago. If I have any issues, Amazon just sends me to their “special team”. 95% of the time, the “special team” sends cookie cutter template letters that don’t make any sense or try to go around the question. And because it is a one way conversation, you will go in circles trying to get anything resolved.
For example, I had a UPS pickup return and UPS didn’t pick up the item, so I reached out to customer service and was sent to the “special team” whom said the item was delivered to an Amazon hub locker; therefore, UPS pick up was not an option. WHAT? Then, on another occasion, I ordered an advent calendar where the chocolate was missing on many days. I reached out to amazon asking for a refund and again was sent to a “special team”. The “special team” sent a template letter saying that the advent calendar was delivered so it cannot be replaced. But the issue wasn’t that it was not delivered; the issue was the item was missing components. Ugh! Very frustrating.

Hannah

Hey Jenny! How do you fight it? This has been happening to me!

John

To my pleasant surprise, Amazon provided a replacement for a book that I bought two years ago. It was a reference book and I only just discovered that there were 50 missing pages. I explained the situation via live chat (thank you for that suggestion) and without any fuss the Amazon rep, Sejal, authorised dispatch of a replacement book.

Thomas

You do know that you’re scamming everyday resellers out of their money, right? Approximately 60% of the items you buy are from small business owners, not Amazon.

It’s disgusting how things come back sometimes … buyers are “pigs” and should definitely not get as much leniency as Amazon provides. If you don’t want the item please do your best to ensure the product is returned in sellable condition and packaged correctly so it doesn’t get damaged during shipment. Give us the same respect we give you. (especially if a 3rd Party person is shipping) Amazon is a lot more sloppy…

STOP abusing hard working sellers on Amazon. Many of us aren’t as wealthy as Bezos!

Joe biden

Shut up bone head

Annemarie

your are 1000% RIGHT – opening A To Z claims for bogus reasons, claiming the item didn’t arrive by the delivery date and demanding a refund because Amazon says so, Returning items that are broken or not even the item you ordered, we once received a stuffed Animal in a box for a camera we shipped and Amazon gave a REFUND. Or my favorite – I want to return but I no longer have the box or manuals, well than, I guess you keep it!!! I don’t have proof of purchase and still want a refund! Shop in store!!

Jessica

Oh I really want to know about your store so I can keep buying and returning your junk on Amazon over and over

Dzevad

you do realize that amazon does not pack items well and 90% of th times come damaged to us so often we have to return it th same way it was sent to us in thin plastic bags probably resulting in further damage of items.

Cathy

If you take your return to a UPS STORE, there’s a chance it will be bagged for you and consolidated with other customer returns. Once the container is full, it is shipped to Amazon but can take them 2-3 weeks to process it.

Annemarie

Stop telling people how to cheat and get money back for bogus reasons

Leah

The part where you said you CAN ABSOLUTELY ABUSE AMASON’S RETURN POLICY. You also provide a “tip” that customers can abuse the system and only stop when they receive a warning email without repercussions. Then they can open another account and do it again. You are a cheater and a liar.

Michael

Can you really buy “live insects” on Amazon? You said under the title “What Items Cannot Be Returned”, that one of the things that cannot be returned is live insects.

LoriC

You can purchase insects to feed your snake or go fishing with. Grubs make great fish bait.

Chuck Hicks

I just spent the past 10 days battling with Amazon customer service over an order I made with a 2 day delivery time w/PRIME. I ordered a 2″x 42″ belt sander for knife making and a bunch of little things like extra 2″ belts and some other items. I’ve been working with a larger, less user friendly, machine and needless to say I was very excited to get the new one.
Well it never did show up and I spent all week on the phone for an hour or so each day trying to figure out what the story was.

They eventually offered to let me keep the machine when it arrived as well as refund the money.

I was very skeptical, having spent a week with some shifty customer service characters I was beginning to see through their polite façade and I kept getting the feeling they were about to hack my computer any minute… think what you want but they were giving off that vibe.. I must have chatted with 5 of them a day…I’d start getting somewhere with 1 and then boom they’d switch off to someone else! Never been so annoyed…

Having noticed some of our earlier conversations seemed to be missing the details and promises from the day before I started taking screen shots of everything, especially of the delivery dates because every day it (the sweet belt sander) was supposed to arrive but it never did. The other items arrived around day 7 but they’re useless without the belt sander. oh yeah, someone at Amazon name Leo S emailed me a nice letter apologizing and again told me to keep the machine when it arrived and the he had just completed the refund process into my account.

I softened a little after reading it and thought it was gonna be all good and I neglected to take that screenshot.. this morning I noticed that Amazon sent the belt sander to the warehouse and under the reason it said customer return, I did no such thing.
Now i know for a fact that Amazon has some ability to wipe away emails and chats when they want because it happened to me. The lady I was talking on the phone with tonight was so hyped to have me check my email for that one email, she said ‘go on then check for the email, there’s no email sir’ all nasty and smug.

Sure as shit it was gone. It escalated from there. I still need the belt sander and I despise Amazon ~ does anyone have a cure for agoraphobia ’cause I have to leave the house and hit the hardware store in a few hours. I blame Amazon for that as well.

Chris

Now I have received the following answer from the seller, for which I thank them:

“Jun 2, 2023 4:54 AM
Based on your question, I consulted Amazon customer service and found that the return shipping fee will be directly deducted from the seller’s account, so it is indeed free for you.
You can directly print prepaid labels and have the courier pick them up at your doorstep. You can consult Amazon customer service on how to operate this process.
I apologize for the incorrect expression in the previous communication.”

Now I think Amazon (not the seller) needs to change its website to eliminate this confusion:

If shipping is free to Prime members, either don’t show the charge at all or accompany it with the wording “disregard the return shipping fee shown as it will be directly deducted from the seller’s account, making the shipping free for you.”

If there is a shipping fee for non-Prime members, they should indicate that, not give the false impression that the shipping is free.

Do you agree, Amazon? (I asked them.)

Angel

I just want to know if I return something after paying the earlier shipping will that be included in the refund or no?

Cathy

You missed one important point. Sometimes Amazon requires customers to box and seal their own returns. They need to stop assuming it will be done for them all the time. QR codes differentiate what needs to be customer packed and what doesn’t. Customers need to pay attention to this detail and stop arguing with employees of the business they are returning them through.

Cathy

One more thing about returns… if Amazon sends a prepaid shipping label that has to be printed by the customer, they are not going to pay printing fees. This is the responsibility of the customer to print, package and label their own boxes or bags. The shipping is covered but printing out the label is not. These are the old fashioned labels that have to be physically attached to the package and cannot be scanned like a QR code because nothing will happen if it is scanned other than showing a customer it can’t be done. When all else fails people, read the directions and if you still can’t figure it out, call Amazon and they will talk you through the printing process.

Judy

I received some thing I did not order. I have never ordered from Amazon and it does not have any return information or company shown. Why does this happen?

Tony

Normally when I have to return an item or in this case replace an item I never get charged for returns, today it was a different story???
I was rather pissed 3 days ago when I received a package from Amazon via. UPS. The box looked like it had gotten wet then was stepped on. So I figured the item is robust so it should be ok..

Nope it was not, it is an e-bike controller so when it was wet it fried the components.. No big deal I’ll ask for a replacement ( not a refund but a replacement).. Here comes the rub I was told for the first time I would have to pay $7.99 shipping fee?? Normally I ask for a return slip and for UPS to pick up the package (since there is no way to return my item in my area at all) and I don’t drive. Hence the e-bike controller.. and a disability. Walmart here I come, and only a bus or bike ride away!!

RANT SECTION—————————————————————————————————————-
I recently stopped my Prime membership. I only have to pay half for my fee (disabled) but it’s the principal of the matter. I was tired of not receiving half my orders, at all! Never even fulfilled. Had to constantly watch when the other half takes a week to ship out. And then getting them in 2 days see what they do there?
Took just as long to get them with out Prime. If you complained about it they state it’s when it ships not when you order..
So what about the order now and get it in 2days click bait?? If you don’t get it in 2 days and complained.. Nope will not count your not close enough to a warehouse?? What?? Just another Amazon excuse..

Not sure if that’s the reason as this is recent but it looks suspect..

Seth

Sent a return item threw kohl’s that was supposed to go threw whole foods. Will I still be fefunded?