An experience with credit card return protection

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One of the advantages of being active in this hobby of miles and points is that many of the premium and ultra-premium credit cards we carry come with a multitude of benefits that can save us time or money or come to the rescue when something goes wrong. Last year, I wrote about my experience with Chase cell phone insurance when I broke a phone screen and then I had occasion to test out Amex purchase protection when I….broke another phone screen. I’ve recently had the opportunity to test out yet another credit card consumer protection: Return protection on my Chase Ritz-Carlton Visa Infinite card. Unfortunately, this experience didn’t work out well: my claim for return protection was denied based on the item being damaged / not working (though it certainly was working and was not damaged when I returned it). I intend to appeal, though I don’t know how I’ll prove that the item is indeed working. Overall, I am underwhelmed with the experience and intend to stick with Amex for purchase protection benefits in the future.

My purchase

I bought a piece of exercise equipment from Amazon in April. A few days later, Amazon put the same item on sale for about 10% less. I contacted customer service to see if they would offer a price adjustment, but I knew that Amazon did not offer price adjustments and they did not bend on that. I ultimately placed a second order intending to return the first order. Unfortunately, I lost track of time and missed the Amazon 30-day return window.

However, knowing that I had purchased this item with my Chase Ritz-Carlton card, I figured this would be the right opportunity to try out return protection. I had purchased this item on the Chase Ritz card on purpose, knowing that Amazon would only accept a return for 30 days and being unsure as to whether I would have my mind made up on keeping it by that point. I thought I might not like it and didn’t want to get locked into a ~$400 decoration, so I accepted a poor return on spend by purchasing with my Ritz card in exchange for the extended return period.

Claim process

The easiest way to start a claim is to go to cardbenefitservices.com and create an account there for your card number. This is the same claims administrator that handled my Chase cell phone insurance claim a few months ago. Just like with my broken phone screen, I had to start with “file a claim”. Note that neither that broken phone nor this return item was registered before making a claim (you don’t need to start with “register a product”, just go right ahead to file a claim).

This time around, I chose to file a claim for something else.

On the next page, I had to select that I was dissatisfied with the product for it to determine that the right fit was return protection.

At the end of the claim process, it prompts you to upload supporting documentation. Note that based on my read of the requirements, I initially only sent a sales receipt.

The fine print under “credit card statement” says that you need the statement “if sales receipt does not reflect last 4 digits of account”. However, my Amazon receipt (printed from my order history) did show the last 4 digits of the Visa card I had used to pay.

It further has a section to upload a copy of the retailer return policy “if within 30 days of purchase”. Since I was making my claim more than 30 days after purchase, I didn’t bother including this. It would have only taken a second to take a screen shot of the Amazon.com return policy, but I figured I’d stick to the way things are written for the purposes of writing this post afterward. My assumption was that Card Benefit Services expects most retailers to have a 30-day return policy, so they only need you to prove that the retailer has a tighter return policy if you’re trying to make a claim sooner than 30 days from purchase.

However, I was wrong. A few days after submitting my claim, I received a request asking for me to provide a copy of the merchant’s return policy. That felt designed to cause breakage since the claims adjustor could obviously easily go to Amazon.com to find the return policy (and you can’t tell me there is someone in this line of work who doesn’t already know that Amazon has a 30-day return policy). I took the screen shot immediately on my phone and uploaded it within an hour of receiving the email. Next time I’d just submit that at the beginning and save a few extra days of waiting.

A couple of days later, I received an email alerting me to the fact that my claim had moved to adjudication and that I should have an outcome within 5 business days of uploading documentation (at this point, it had already been a couple of business days since uploading the return policy).

Sending in my item

A few days after my claim moved to adjudication, I received an email requesting that I send my item to the Card Benefit Services warehouse. That’s certainly fair — if they were going to refund me for the item, it makes sense that they would ask for it back (card issuers apparently don’t always ask for the item to be returned, but it makes sense that they sometimes do). Unfortunately, it was at my expense. Again, that’s not unfair, but it certainly made me wish that I hadn’t missed the Amazon return window.

Somewhat oddly, the email instructions sent me to www.returnmyitem.com/CardBenefitServices to enter my claim number and print a label but then the email also went on to give me a shipping address. While the address itself was the same both in the email and at that site, the email said to send it to Card Benefit Services at an address in Irving, TX and the address label generated by my claim number addressed the return to “Anew Business Solutions” at the same address. Based on a quick Google, it looks like Anew collects returns from various companies (it looks like mostly tools) and sells them by the pallet to resellers (some Google reviews of Anew mention buying pallets of used tools. There is another company operating at the same physical address that lists tools individually and by the pallet as well).

I was instructed to send the entire package in like-new or working condition. They would then evaluate it and get back to me.

Upon receipt at the warehouse, our team will inspect the item to ensure that it meets the terms and conditions of the benefit. If your product meets all terms and conditions you will receive a check within 7-10 business days after inspection. If your product is not eligible, we will contact you within 5 business days of inspection and return the item to you.

I sent my item in a couple of weeks ago and have been waiting for reimbursement.

Claim Denied

A month after starting the process and about a week after they received my item, I received an email indicating that they had received my “documentation” and that my claim had been assigned to a Claims Adjustor who would begin adjudication. A few business days later came the denial email. Here is the meat of it:

Dear Nicholas Reyes:

Thank you for submitting your completed Return Protection program claim application. Unfortunately, we are unable to honor your claim due to the following:

  • Damaged, or non-working, items are not covered.

Although this particular claim is ineligible for payment, we thank you for taking the time to file your claim and hope you will continue to take advantage of the Return Protection Program.

Your feedback is an important part of our continuing efforts to provide excellent customer service. If you have provided your email address to us during the claims process, a survey will be sent to your inbox and will arrive shortly. Please take a moment to complete the survey.

If you would like this claim decision reviewed by our internal appeals panel, please submit your request in writing to: bsg@eclaimbenefits.com or to Card Benefit Services, P.O. Box 110889 Nashville, TN 37222. Please explain your reason(s) for appeal and provide any additional documentation you may have for consideration. Should you wish to take this matter up with the New York State Department of Financial Services, you may file with the Department either on its website at http://www.dfs.ny.gov/consumer/fileacomplaint.htm or you may write to or visit the Consumer Assistance Unit, Financial Frauds and Consumer Protection Division, New York State Department of Financial Services, at: One State Street, New York, NY 10004; One Commerce Plaza, Albany, NY 12257; 1399 Franklin Avenue, Garden City, NY 11530; or Walter J. Mahoney Office Building, 65 Court Street, Buffalo, NY 14202.

If you have any questions regarding your claim or the Return Protection Program, please call our Customer Service Department at 1-888-565-8472. Representatives are available to assist you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For customers with hearing or speech disabilities, we accept telecommunications relay service calls.

Oddly, I received the same email twice (about 12 hours apart and dated on consecutive days). Guess they wanted to be thorough in telling me “no return protection for you!”.

Since the item I returned certainly wasn’t damaged, I intend to follow up. The earlier email requesting that I mail the item to their warehouse indicated that the item would be returned to me if it were found to be ineligible, but nothing in the denial email addressed returning it to me. At the very least I’d like to get it back. However, I would obviously prefer to get this sorted with return protection and be done with it.

The difficulty here is how they would test it. The item in question is a smart bicycle trainer that connects to a an app or software on your computer. It essentially turns a regular bicycle into an exercise bike with a motor that provides resistance on the rear wheel. I’m not sure it would be clear to someone that it works without putting it together and placing a bicycle on it and connecting it to something like Rouvy or Zwift where the trainer will automatically adjust resistance with the course you’re riding (yes, I’ve essentially turned my bicycle into a Peloton). I could certainly imagine being confused if I received it as a warehouse employee and didn’t really know what it was and I wouldn’t be shocked if they didn’t happen to have a bicycle and laptop lying around with which to test it. I don’t think there was any malicious intent in denying my claim by saying that it wasn’t working, I just think the person checking it likely wasn’t familiar with it (neither had I been before researching it and buying one). Unfortunately, explaining that and getting this resolved seems challenging at best. I intend to push back and hope I can get this resolved (or at least returned, hopefully not at my expense again), but I expect that I’m fighting an uphill battle at this point. To large extent, that’s my fault: I should have just returned this to Amazon within the 30-day window. However, I did buy it using the Chase Ritz card in case I wanted to return it after 30 days and I had hoped this process would be more seamless than it has been.

Bottom line

I filed a claim using Chase Ritz-Carlton Visa Infinite Return Protection and my claim was denied. I think this is likely a case of the warehouse staff being unfamiliar with how the item works and being unable to easily verify that it does work / is undamaged. I intend to push back, but ultimately I am disappointed that this process wasn’t more seamless. I’ve always read about positive experiences with Amex return protection (which it is worth noting is only available on some cards) and at this point I am wishing that I had used an Amex card for this purchase. I don’t know for sure that the outcome would be different, but based on my previous purchase protection claim with Amex I wouldn’t be surprised to find a smoother claims process. I believe that Amex handles its insurance services in-house rather than contracting out and that might make a difference in getting something like this resolved. At the end of the day, I might use my Ritz card for purchase protection in the future, but I’d stick to using it for items that wouldn’t require any effort to test if I needed to send them in. I’ll probably use Amex for purchase and return protection on anything remotely technical and probably on more expensive items in general rather than take my chances with the Chase protection in the future. This might have been a smooth experience if I were returning a shirt or blender or something easier to verify, but I am nonetheless disappointed that the coverage didn’t work when I needed it. Hopefully I can at least get the item back and it arrives in the same (undamaged) condition in which I sent it.

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