The return policy at Costco is so darn good that it deserves its own article. While I’ve talked about some of the better retail return policies in the past, Costco’s policy is arguably the best of them all. Here is exactly how it works and everything you need to know to take full advantage.
Update: I originally wrote this article back in 2016 but recently went through all of the 100+ comments and tried to answer all of your return policy questions. I hope you still find this resource helpful.
Costco was limiting the return of items that people tend to hoard, but in recent months their return policy has returned to normal.
Also, for the Costco food court lovers out there, they’ve limited the food court menu and have permanently eliminated a few things from it.
What Exactly is the Costco Return Policy?
Costco calls it their “Risk-Free 100% Satisfaction Guarantee” and with very few product exceptions, they’ll refund you the purchase price if not completely satisfied.
Pretty much everything in the warehouse is returnable with no time limit.
No questions asked.
This guarantee also includes your Costco membership. You have 364 days from the date you sign-up to try out the membership and see if it works for you.
If not completely satisfied, you can get a full refund on your membership cost.
Can Product Packaging Be Opened or Missing?
You do NOT need the original packaging or product manual in order to return the product to Costco.
But, you do need all of the parts and accessories that came with the product.
This is a wonderful feature, especially when you’ve had a product for a while and no longer have any of the original packaging.
Can You Return Food to Costco?
You can return produce, food (opened or unopened), and anything else you’d put in your mouth, to your local Costco.
No questions asked. Makes for a great reason to try new products and see if your family likes them.
Just be aware that Costco is tracking all of your returns and if they think you’re abusing the return policy they might flag your account.
Update: A comment came in saying that a lady was refused her return of unopened buns that she bought the day before.
So it seems your mileage may vary when it comes to returning food.
Keep in mind that most food items will be discarded by Costco, even though they’ll get reimbursed.
If you’re buying bakery items you can always freeze them for later use if you overbuy.
Bottom line, don’t abuse their return policy as it’ll eventually go away, and hurt all members, if more and more folks abuse it.
90-Day Return Policy on Electronics and Appliances
Due to some abuse from shoppers in recent years, Costco has shortened their return window on electronics from unlimited days to 90 days.
You now have 90 days from date of purchase to return televisions, tuner-free displays, projectors, major appliances, computers, tablets, cameras, camcorders, MP3 players and cell phones.
The 90-day policy is still fairly liberal and simply keeps Costco members from bringing back 5 year-old HDTV’s that now have a yellow picture. (For example)
Do You Need Your Costco Receipt?
You don’t need your receipt to return anything to Costco.
Simply take your Costco membership card (or number), and the item you want to return, to the customer service desk.
They’ll be able to look up all of your past purchases and quickly find evidence of your purchase and issue your refund.
See Also: 12 Things You Should Never Buy at Costco
Can You Get Cash When Returning Items Bought with a Debit Card?
Thanks to reader Olivia for this information: If you buy items with your ATM card you might be stuck with a Costco cash card when returning something.
This is especially true if the item is a gift and the person returning it has the original receipt but not the ATM card.
Great information if you regularly buy gifts with your ATM card as you might want to use a credit card or cash to make returns easier.
What Items Can’t You Return to Costco?
Here are the handful of items that you can’t return to Costco for a full refund.
Alcohol – Bottoms up on any wine, beer, or liquor as you can’t return them to most states in the U.S. and thus all sales are final. Opened or unopened, it doesn’t matter.
Cigarettes – Light ’em up, or throw them away, as you can’t return them to any Costco location.
Diamonds – Any diamonds 1 carat or larger must be returned with all original paperwork and has to be verified via the Costco fulfillment center before you get your refund.
A Costco Graduate Gemologist will inspect the diamond and issue a jewelry credit memo that allows you to purchase a different diamond or get your money back. Could take up to 5 business days.
Limited Lifetime Products – Think car tires and batteries. These are sold with a product-specific limited warranty.
Special Order Kiosk – While you can’t return special orders, you can get a warranty repair or replacement due to failure to meet product specs.
Custom Installed Programs – The same as above.
Pretty limited list when you consider the thousands of products Costco stocks on a daily basis.
Can You Return Items Bought Online to Costco?
Just bring in the item and your Costco.com receipt to your local Costco and they’ll process your refund.
Also, Costco now has a handy Online Return Form to make your Costco.com purchases even easier to return.
What About Returning Furniture That I Bought Online?
I started a live chat session with Costco and asked about their furniture return policy.
I used a couch as my example and was told the following, “Our returns for couches are quite easy. We do everything for you! The same way the couch gets delivered, would be the same way it would get picked up. Our carrier would call you once a return is requested and they would set up an appointment that works best for you.”
I then asked, “Even like 2 years later when the couch starts sagging?”
I was then told, “Yes, if for any reason you become unsatisfied with this item, you can return it!”
Pretty amazing. Why would you buy furniture anywhere else?
How About Returning Gifts to Costco?
Yes, you can return items to Costco that were given to you as a gift.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a member or not, you can walk in and return stuff.
But keep in mind that if you DON’T have the receipt you’ll need the membership number of the person who purchased the gift for you.
Can Someone Else Make a Return For You?
If they are not listed on your membership then NO they will not be able to make the return on your behalf.
You’ll have to find the time to make the return yourself.
Can You Make a Return Beyond the Manufacturer’s Warranty?
From some recent comments I have received it seems Costco will not take back an item if it has gone beyond the manufacturer’s warranty.
The example in the comments section was HP printer ink that had “expired”.
In this case, Costco would not take it back.
Can You Return Something If Your Membership has Expired?
No, Costco will only let you return items if you have an active (and paid) membership.
Can You Return a Mattress to Costco?
Yes, but if you try and return a mattress that you’ve had over a year you’re going to end up dealing with the store manager.
The manager will take a look at your buying history to decide if you spend enough at Costco to make the return worthwhile.
It’s been suggested that you return it to a Costco out of your hometown as you might make some enemies returning a nasty old mattress.
Can You Return Car Tires?
Yes, Costco basically gives you 30 days to test out your new tires.
If you don’t like them for any reason they will let you return or exchange them for a new set.
Strangest Items Ever Returned to Costco…
I loved this article from Mashed.com that breaks down some of the strangest returns that Costco employees have seen over the years.
Some of my favorites include an empty bottle of wine that gave the lady a headache, a bag of cat food without the bag, a package of opened underwear, a used chicken coop, and a broken 15-year old pressure washer.
Also, a woman was able to return a dead Christmas tree in January and get a full refund. Crazy.
Moral of the story? Be smart and don’t abuse Costco’s liberal return policy as it’ll end up costing us all.
Ask the Reader: How often do you use their return policy? Any smart Costco tips I may have neglected to mention?
By Kyle James