Fine print, Protecting yourself

6 money-saving reasons to keep your receipts

Kelly Dilworth

Do yourself a favor as you begin holiday shopping. Take five minutes and create a system for saving your receipts. It can save you money.

A number of consumer and credit card protections work only if you hold onto your receipts.

You could need your receipt if:

  • Your gift is stolen from your car or your porch.
  • You purchase a defective item and need to return it.
  • You find a cheaper version on sale and want to take advantage of your credit card’s purchase protection benefits.

Some stores will let you return an item without a receipt, but will only give you store credit – especially if the item costs more than $25. Others will try to find evidence of your purchase by looking up your credit card information or store membership details. But if you don’t have a receipt to back up your purchase, a store could refuse to accept the return or give you a full refund.

Here are six instances in which you may need a receipt to protect your consumer and credit card rights:

1. Your recent purchase is stolen or damaged.
If your purchase is stolen or damaged soon after you bought it, you may also be able to get a refund through your card’s purchase protection program by filing a claim with your credit card company.

To be eligible for this protection, you’ll need to file supporting documentation, including a police or insurance report and original store receipt.

Hurry, though. Purchase protection guarantees typically last only for 90 days.

2. One of your purchases breaks before its warranty expires.
If one of your recent buys breaks before its warranty has expired, you can also request a refund; however, many warranty providers ask for proof of purchase that shows when you bought the item in question.

Many credit cards also offer extended warranty protection that protects you for an extended period after a product’s original warranty expires. However, to take advantage of the protection, you will need to show your issuer your receipt and proof of the original warranty.

3. You found a cheaper item elsewhere.
With holiday shopping in full swing, a number of card issuers are promoting their price protection services, which allow you to get a partial refund if you find a cheaper item elsewhere.

To get your price protection refund, you need to show proof you paid more for the item than it’s currently being sold for in stores.

4. You’ve been billed for more than you signed for on your receipt.
Occasionally, a retailer or issuer will accidentally charge your credit card more than you signed for on your receipt. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, you have the right to dispute any billing errors on your credit card statement by filing a dispute with your card company.

According to the National Consumer Law Center’s Chi Chi Wu, you don’t have to include a receipt with the dispute, but a receipt could help you prove your case and make it more likely that a card issuer will grant you a full refund.

A receipt also can help you determine whether a charge you don’t recognize was proper.

5. You need to dispute a purchase because of a defect or improper service.
The Fair Credit Billing Act also allows you to temporarily withhold payment on a product or service if you’re unhappy with a purchase.

If you’ve tried to work out your complaint with the merchant first, you can ask your credit card company to step in. Some card companies will also go beyond the requirements of the law and go out of their way to advocate on your behalf and help resolve your dispute.

If you have a receipt to show your card issuer, that could help support your case.

6. Return protection.
Some credit cards offer return protection for up to 90 days after you make a purchase and will provide you with a full refund if a merchant refuses to take back your purchase. You’ll need an itemized receipt, though, to take advantage of the protection.

Set up a receipt system
If you have trouble keeping track of receipts, set up a system now to ensure that you keep all those important slips of paper in one place.

Bring a designated envelope or pouch with you each time you go shopping so that you put your receipts in the same place on every trip. Or, consider downloading an app such as Evernote Scannable or Adobe Acrobat Mobile that lets you scan your receipts and store them electronically.

Some stores will also email you your receipt; but beware: After you sign up, you may start receiving unwanted spam from that retailer.

If you don’t have a receipt, don’t despair right away. Big retailers are relatively forgiving about store returns without a receipt. According to a 2015 survey, at least six major stores, including Best Buy, Kohl’s, Costco, Lowe’s and Dillard’s allow you to return a purchase without a receipt. Wal-Mart will refund the purchase if the item cost less than $25.

Other stores, such as Best Buy and Lowe’s, will use your card or other form of identification to look up your purchase; so if you frequently lose your receipts, be sure to use a card instead of cash.

See related: Our 2016 holiday shopping and credit guide

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