Costco Return Policy: 5 Things You Need To Know

Costco return policy is the best in the industry and a lot of consumers can attest to that. Consumers will always feel confident shopping at Costco knowing that if they are not satisfied, they can always return the merchandise for a full refund even without a receipt.

In fact, I tried it myself to see if they will honor the return without a receipt on the vitamin that I bought a few weeks before – and they did. My membership card was scanned first and then the merchandise second. The sales clerk was able to look up my purchase in the system and verified that I did purchase the item.

However, there has been a lot of changes made on Costco’s return policy, especially for electronics, because of the abuse Costco has endured. As an example, before the year 2007, computers had a six month return policy but now it is down to just 90 days.

5 Things You Should Know About The Costco Return Policy

1. Costco Membership Fee Return Policy

Costco has really been very generous in ensuring that the customers are satisfied with their membership. As stated in the Costco return policy, Costco will refund your membership fee in full at any time if you are not satisfied with it. This is a win win situation for consumers.

  • Getting Free Costco Membership – I have heard people recommending this to other consumers as one way to get a free membership: Shop at Costco for 364 days and enjoy the savings and then cancel the membership o the 365th day and receive a refund. Although unethical in nature, it is actually legal. Of course, Costco will get you one way or another if you try to sign up again in just a couple of months.

2. Costco Return Policy on Merchandise

As mentioned earlier, Costco guarantees your satisfaction on every product with a full refund. If you return the merchandise within a reasonable time, Costco will accept those returns and provide you a full refund. I heard consumers returning items even after two or three years of use but that was back in the days when the Costco return policy was still very generous. However, I’m not sure if you can do this on electronic items since the store has implemented the 90 day return policy in order to get a full refund for the following electronic items: computers,projectors, televisions, MP3 players, camcorders, touch screen tablets, cameras and cellular phones. After the 90 days, the electronics will still be covered by the 2 year warranty for defects.

For members returning diamonds over 1  carat or larger, they must also present all original paperwork (IGI and/or GIA certificates) at which time they will receive a Jewelry Credit Memo. Within 48 hours, a Costco Graduate Gemologist will inspect the diamonds for authenticity.

For alcohol and cigarettes, Costco does not accept returns of these products where prohibited by law.

  • Warning – You Can Be Flagged For Returning Too Many Items  – Because of the abuse of the Costco return policy, some consumers who have a very high merchandise returns may be flagged by Costco. When this happens, Costco may not accept those returns anymore.  As good as this is, some consumers have really a legitimate reason for returning the items especially if they are defective.

3. Costco Trade In Policy On Electronics

If you don’t know it yet, Costco offers a Trade In Program for electronics merchandise bought at Costco. The program is administered through Gazelle. You can receive a Costco Cash Card for the current value of your used electronics. The process is really simple as you can go to the website  to find the value of your electronics such as computers,projectors, televisions, MP3 players, camcorders, touch screen tablets, cameras and cellular phones and then ship in your items (shipping is free or paid for by Costco). Costco will then send you a Costco Cash Card for the total value of your used electronics.

4. Special Costco Return Policy on Items Delivered (Ordered Online)

If you order your merchandise online, you can return those items at any Costco store. However, if your ordered items are delivered to you, here are the procedures that you have to follow when returning those items:

  • If you request an item be picked up for return, the item must be packaged and available for pick up in the same manner as it was delivered.
  • If your order was delivered “curb side”, it will need to be available for curb side pick up.
  • If the item arrived to you in a box, it will need to be in a box at the time of pick up.

5. Costco’s Lifetime Return Policy Only Applies To Actual Members

Although you can shop at Costco without a membership, one of the drawbacks in doing so is that the lifetime Costco return policy only applies to members. A good example is an article at Consumerist where a consumer was trying to return a ten year old luggage with a lifetime warranty but the warranty was not granted since he was not a member.

  • Just my two cents: So you need to think twice if you are buying gifts to your family and friends who are non-Costco members. If the merchandise has a lifetime warranty, they cannot avail of that warranty themselves even if they kept the receipt. You may be better off buying it at a non-membership stores and provide the receipt to the recipient so they can avail of the lifetime warranty on the product.

So what about you? What can you say about the Costco return policy? Do you think it is really the best and you are getting a good deal? Please share us your experiences when you return items at Costco!

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7 thoughts on “Costco Return Policy: 5 Things You Need To Know”

  1. I’ve been a long-time Costco shopper although I buy much less than I used to partly because so much went to waste. Also sometimes the Costco price isn’t the cheapest; it just seems that way because you think you’re getting a good price because items are in bulk. For stuff that won’t spoil, like toilet tissue, trash bags and detergent that is OK.

    And where we live, the gas is anywhere from 5 to 15 cents a gallon cheaper, as are the prices for contact lenses.
    I have had problems returning some items. Once they wouldn’t take back a cereal because they said it was past the expiration date (like they’re going to resell opened food) and another time it was a mattress pad with a 5 year warranty. I didn’t keep the original packaging or receipt as it was more than 3 years so they wouldn’t credit me.

  2. Don't believe their return policy

    I paid over $16,000 for a solar system (25 year warranty) which failed five years later. $11,000 of which was for the materials. Costco ignored my numerous calls until I was finally told that they refused to refund my money. IMO I don’t believe in their 100% customer satisfaction return policy otherwise they wouldn’t have hassled me with the run around and they would have given me my money. They ‘may’ return items they “choose to take back,” even though they say so otherwise on the signs they have posted.

  3. I was looking for more information on the costco return policy and found this site. Thank you for summarzing and explaining them clearly. One thing to add is a recall policy. A friend of m8nd once told me that she had returned a Kirkland peanut butter that was being recalled. She said that the container is nearly empty and she returned it and got a full refund. I said what? I told her that this is probbably a food safety issue and the full refund is a nice gesture for screwing up although Costco claims that this is just a precaution. Anyways, my friend seem ok healthwise so nothing to be concerned with

  4. Over the years, Costco has adjusted their policy on big ticket items such as electronics, television, computers and diamonds due to the abuse of a lot of customers. So on these expensive items, they have put a lid on the returns. Diamonds are a little trickier since these are much more expensive. There are some diamonds that are sold at $40, 000 and I’ve stories on how customers will purchase them to get a hefty rebate on their edit cards rewards program and then return them in a few months.

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