Costco Return Policy: 12 MUST Knows Before You Shop In The Warehouse

Updated September 4, 2020 by Kyle
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The return policy at Costco is so darn good that it deserves it’s 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 find this resource helpful.

The Costco Return Policy: 12 Ways To Make It Work For You

COVID-19 Update:

As of 7/10/20, Costco is NOT accepting returns on the following high-demand items:

– Bottled Water

– Toilet Paper & Paper Towels

– Sanitizing Wipes

– Rice

– Disinfecting Spray

 They are doing this to keep shoppers from stockpiling them and returning stuff later if they don’t use them.

Also, for the Costco food court lovers out there, they are limiting their menu and not letting you sit down to eat, you gotta take your chow with you until further notice.

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.

See Also: How to Essentially Get a $60 Costco Membership for Free

 

Can Product Packaging Be Opened or Missing?

Yes. 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?

Yes, 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?

No, you don’t need your receipt to return anything to Costco.

Simply take your Costco membership 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?

Yes, 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.

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 Clark Howard 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 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

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Wally Butler

THIS IS fake INFORMATION… TRIED TO GET REFUND ON MEMBERSHIP AND THEY WOULD NOT DO IT.

Greg

Why are you writing in all CAPS like a jerk& it says right on the Costco website they refund memberships 100% guarantee… So why are you being a dick towards kyle

Marilyn

They will not give my son the refund because he has no membership. I work during the hours they are open. So he offers to get the refund.i gave all info like receipt and my membership card and they still refused to refund everything. When to minor need membership, my son lives under my roof and offered to help his mother. And they still refuse cash was paid.

NHRAGL

It’s all a matter of liability. There is NO way for any of the employees to KNOW 100% He IS your son and they are not going to take that chance… Banks won’t let a spouse deposit cash into the other spouse Acct and if you are not the holder of an Acct when depositing a check, you won’t be getting a receipt for that receipt either, don’t borrow a card from your boyfriend/girlfriend/fiancé/roommate/or any other close personal friend and expect to be able to give it back to them later…Costco confiscated it at the register if they notice you don’t look like the photo. As for work hours, Costco is open 7 days a week and you don’t have to go to the Costco you bought the membership from, I’m pretty sure there’s at least 15-20min during any of the 7 days that you could take care of it, it’s all a matter of How Bad Do You ReALlY want your $$ back…

Gail K

How did you manage to buy it if it’s so impossible for you to get there?

Patrick

Membership is key word. You are, he is not.

Olivia Shaw

The receipt should be all the proof Costco’s needs. This policy only benefits them.

Chuck

I tried to return a product past the manufacture guarantee and they told me costco only allows returns up to the manufacture warranty length. they said they do not know why people get the idea costco will except returns. They will never except a return beyond the manufacture warranty.

Phil

This tracks with my experience today. I tried to return some HP printer ink that had apparently “expired”, so was told they were unable to accept the return – even though I was buying new ink to fit my new printer. My old printer died, so I was unable to use the ink I had set aside for it. So now I have purchased $150 worth of new ink, and am sitting on 2 unopened packages of ink that is useless to me just because it is past its “expiration” date. Doesn’t seem like the most liberal return policy to me.

Gail K

Electronics is 90 days. Printer ink is probably included in that.

Patrick

If your mayonnaise has set on the counter and is two years expired would you expect them to accept that?

DonnaL

Well yes I would expect that…the story says they took a 15 yr old pressure washer back

David

No, the story says they did not accept the 15 yr old pressure washer.

Paul

I would not try to return things like that but they say in this article a woman was refunded the cost of her Christmas tree she returned dead in January.

David

Dude, get over it. It’s your problem, not Costco’s!

Alma

Does anyone know if in order to get a refund does your membership have to be active? What if it expired and haven’t renewed yet?

Rosie40Blue

IT would have to be active.

OnlineShopper

I don’t believe Costco is that lenient on returns. I was in line behind a woman turned away who wanted to return unopened buns. She said she over bought for a party the day before. She had her receipt. The clerk told her she could not accept food items. This was last fall. Granted I don’t know how many times the lady had made returns, but the look on her face told me she wasn’t one to abuse the policy…she had 2 kids in tow…

Sheila

Returning a bakery item because you bought too much is nuts. It can’t be resold, so it will be trashed and there’s nothing wrong with it. If it were inferior, moldly, etc., they’d accept it.

CostcoShopper999

I would think this was common sense. You should never attempt to return baked goods unless you can prove that they were defective in some way.

Karen

I was told by a Costco employee that they get reimbursed by vendors for products that are no good, so I would think they would accept the buns because even though they can’t sell it, they would be able to get reimbursed. Also, they told me they will refund your Square Trade extended warranty if you don’t use it!! 🙂

Rosie40Blue

But there was nothing wrong with the buns… So, freeze them and get over it.

David

You said it yourself Karen, “products that are no good”. The product quality was not the issue. Remember?

Ashley

I was behind a woman in line who was returning a shitload of Hamburger Buns, Muffins and other packaged food saying that they had ordered extra for an office party… I was furious initially (as all that food would’ve been thrown away immediately) as told to her by the Cust Rep who agreed to take it back… The good thing is that she said she would instead donate it to the needy… So in short, Costco was willing to accept the returned food products but wanted to let her know that it meant that the food would be discarded immediately… At least it gave the woman a chance to make a better decision… I applaud Costco for that !

David

You were “Furious”? Might want to talk to someone about that Ashley.

David

Trying to return a food item because she didn’t properly plan. Ridiculous!

Guille

Definitley not working in my situation. I bought a Kirkland signature BBQ $1200 and after the first 5 years the pipes blew out and they would not refund it nor even replace the parts for me. Corporate said it’s up to the manager at the store to make that desicion and when I asked him he said pipes blow out after 3-5 years and he wouldn’t do anything for me. 35+ years a member never returned anything.

Paul

Try different Costco

CostcoShopper999

Five years sounds like the average life span of a BBQ.

CC123456

Not for a $1200 BBQ though

Jojoboom

I have a 15 year Jenn Aire, I have replaced pipes and grates 2 times each so far. They are less than $100 for pipes. Just replace them and don’t work the system. How would you feel if you owned the business that people abused ? You got your monies worth.

Costcoshopper

Seriously. You had this BBQ for five years and the pipes you said blew out on you. I take it that you meant the burners! I wouldn’t take it back either especially if it was working fine for the first four years. Every BBQ owner knows that the burners must be cleaned out especially if the bbq is sitting over the winter months. Heck just get new burners, they are not that expensive. Some common sense must prevail here.

my name

what about Google play e gift card codes?? that have been used already and was unsatisfied because lost ability to use the currency purchased with the e gift code

your name

Hey that’s my name!

Lovell

Why is it that unopened bottles of alcoholic beverages cannot be returned? I just overbought some for a party, so will I have to consume them all myself?

Sarah

They definitely can be. We returned all of the unopened alcohol we purchased for our wedding that we didn’t consume. It was a quick 5-minute stop at the customer service desk and we were on our way…

J lo

State laws say that in order for you to return alcohol you yourself must have a liquor license to sell it back to the store.

Doug

Fake news- not completely accurate info:
Costco says they will only take back items the store manager feels he can resell. Store manager said “our stock holders don’t like us taking hits by taking items back”. Then don’t advertise 100% satisfaction.

We tried to return some unopened food items (hamburger buns, cookies, water bottles, etc). Also tried to return some of their salsa that we didn’t use or open but had popped open due to a poor manufacturing seal; we obviously didn’t want to feed to our guests. It was visibly apparent the tubs hadn’t been opened and the lids popped but Costco didn’t refund or swap or abide by the so called 100% satisfied bs policy; nope, they wouldn’t take these items back either.

After extensive “discussion”, store manager eventually took about half of some of the items back leaving us with the other half. Seemed to be a very random determination on what he eventually agreed to take back. So maybe call their policy a “50/50 if you’re lucky (and argue until the guy gets fed up)” policy.

Prices weren’t even that great and we could have gotten similar items in bulk from another store. We bought bulk for a party because of how costco advertises their return policy; what a waste.

Icy

“We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell” – costco website.

Patty

We bought our son a mattress when he moved to finish college. He started complaint about it about ft er year, but was really busy. So I called costco a few months

later and was told that we would have to deal with the mattress company, not them because by then, he had had it for a bit more than 18 months. The mattress company wouldn’t do anything. Just a very sagging mattress and my son is thin. We bought from costco because we thought the larger purchase would be covered. That was a big chunk of money for a college kid.

mike schnebel

Hi…I bought an emergency generator at Costco that I never opened at all and still as I bought it…can I return it to Costco even though i bought it 4 years ago?

Lindsay

Costco has a great return policy that I’ve used with great success. I bought Kirkland nonstick pots and pans that were guaranteed to not flake. I was careful and didn’t use metal utensils on them and after almost three years they started flaking. I called and asked if I could just exchange them and was told to bring them in and return them for a full refund and I could get any new set I wanted. My refund was for the purchase price, too, not the lowest price they sold them for. I got a new set of Kirkland all stainless pots and pans, paid the $20 difference after my refund and I’ve had them for about 5 years now and I love them.
I’ve never had any problem returning anything and the employees have always been super nice.

John C.

Coffin bought online wheeled instore warehouse via shopping cart. Used slightly ?
Unknown. A decade ago fonny.

David

I return wine all the time to costco, open and unopened. Not sure where you alcohol policy statement comes from, Kyle.

D J Trump

Per California state law via California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control you are currently able to return bottles of alcohol.

Brittany

I want to take back truly sparking water it’s nasty. Not sure if salem costco well let me take it back in salem oregon

Jake

My brother and I would always laugh at the people around New Years who return those huge, fancy Xmas trees for refunds. You’d have to be a pretty cheap mofo to pull that off each year.

John

My friend returned a 5 year old humidifier and Costco refund him. Cheapo…

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