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The fine print of a retailer’s return policy may appear on the bottom or back of a receipt, but more often than not we don’t take the time to read it. So what happens when you gift or finally use an item weeks after purchasing only to find it may be defective or no longer wanted or needed? (Think: That shirt looked so much better in the dressing room last month or that TV’s color quality doesn’t match the in-store display.) The answer: Rely on your credit card’s Return Protection.

Though many merchants may limit returns to the first 30 days after purchase (and electronics typically have their own cryptic set of return rules), if you have an elite credit card, you may be able to soften the blow. Each elite credit card comes with a form of Return Protection, which provides reimbursement of a personal item if you are dissatisfied with it and the retailer won’t accept the return within 90 days of purchase. Essentially, Return Protection extends the return policy of your purchase threefold in many cases.

Return Protection is another shopping benefit that’s implicit with purchases on your elite credit card. And much like the other shopping benefits we have covered—Purchase Protection/Purchase Security, Extended Warranty Protection, and Price Protection—there are differences in claim payouts and items covered depending on the credit card used.

In the most general sense, each credit card excludes Return Protection for specific items such as living plants, motorized vehicles, perishables, formal attire, jewelry, art, real estate items, antiques, tickets, medical equipment, computer software, and seasonal items like decorations. Specifics vary by credit card, but note that all purchases must be made within the United States and the returned item must be in like-new or good working condition to be eligible for Return Protection.

When utilizing Return Protection, you’ll have to file a claim with your credit card’s Benefit Administrator. Expect to provide the original itemized store receipts, your card record of purchase, a copy of the store’s return policy, and documentation from the store that it will not accept the return. With the exception of American Express, you’ll be responsible for the shipping and handling (S&H) costs to return the item to the Benefit Administrator.

It’s quite the process, but at least you can rest easy knowing that you’re extending the return life of most of your new purchases. Here’s the short on how our core cards stack up.

BEST Citi Prestige®Card

When you charge your purchase to the Citi Prestige Card or use ThankYou points, you are automatically entitled to Return Protection.
Coverage time:90 days from date of purchase.
Max coverage per item: $500
Max coverage per year: $2,500
S&H covered: No

Chase Sapphire Preferred®and Chase Sapphire Reserve®

When you buy an item entirely on your Chase Sapphire Reserve Card or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or use Ultimate Rewards points, you are automatically entitled to Return Protection.
Coverage time:90 days from date of purchase.
Max coverage per item: $500
Max coverage per year: $1,000
S&H covered: No

Luxury Cards: Mastercard®Black Card™, Mastercard®Gold Card™, Mastercard®Titanium Card™

When you charge your purchase entirely to your Luxury Card or use the card’s reward points, you are automatically entitled to Return Protection. Note:There is a maximum of two claims per year with any Luxury Card.
Coverage time:90 days from date of purchase.
Max coverage per item: $500
Max coverage per year: $1,000
S&H covered: No

The Platinum Card®and Gold Card from American Express

When you charge your purchase entirely to your American Express Card, you are automatically entitled to Return Protection.
Coverage time:90 days from date of purchase.
Max coverage per item: $300
Max coverage per year: $1,000
S&H covered:Yes

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite®Card

When you charge your purchase entirely to your U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card and/or use reward points obtained from the card, you are automatically entitled to Return Protection.
Coverage time:90 days from date of purchase.
Max coverage per item: $300
Max coverage per year: $1,000
S&H covered:No

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Award-winning travel writer and economist Paul Rubio is a credit card enthusiast, whose sophisticated use of points and rewards has helped him travel to 132 countries for free. Paul is a Harvard graduate with a master’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in economics. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University with a double major in economics and environmental policy and a minor in conservation biology. He attended both undergraduate and graduate schools on full scholarships. Paul worked in the field of wildlife conservation before embracing his writing talents full-time in 2008. Since then, he has won more than two dozen national awards for his exemplary work in travel journalism. The prolific writer contributes to a number of top-tier international, national, and regional publications including Condé Nast Traveler, Florida Design, Fodors.com, Palm Beach Illustrated, and Robb Report.