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If you plan to return an online order by mail, it may cost you.

Main points:

  • Free returns entice more shoppers to order products online because they don’t have to worry about spending money if they need to make a return.
  • However, some retailers are ending free returns and now charge fees to customers who return by mail.
  • See if you can return the items to the store location, as this is usually free.

When shopping online at your favorite retailers, getting free shipping can be a big win for your wallet. Another service that some retailers offer is free returns. This service makes online shopping convenient as you don’t have to worry about wasting money if you need to return the purchase. But could free returns be a thing of the past? It is possible.

Some retailers are saying goodbye to free returns

If you’re like me, the word free of charge it is tempting. I love shopping with retailers that offer free shipping. Because I’m picky about clothes, I also try to always order from companies that offer free returns. That way there’s no stress if an item doesn’t fit or I don’t like what I ordered.

But some retailers are changing their policies and no longer allow customers to return items by mail for free. Instead, there may be a higher minimum order limit to qualify for a free return, or you may have to pay to ship the items back. If you are not aware of these changes, you may be in for a surprise.

Here are some retailers and the return fees they charge:

  • Abercrombie & Fitch. $7 fee for free returns by mail or in store
  • American Eagle. $5 return by mail or free in-store return on non-returnable items
  • H&M. $5.99 fee for free returns via USPS or in-store
  • JCPenney. $8 fee for free returns by mail or in store
  • J.Crew. $7.50 for free returns by mail or in store
  • Zara: $3.95 fee for free returns by mail or in-store

If you do not return to the store, the fee will be deducted from the amount you owe. If your budget doesn’t have much wiggle room, you should review each retailer’s return policy before placing an online order.

My last attempt at returning an online order

A few months ago I made a large purchase from an online retailer that I order from at least a few times a year. Since I was spending a significant amount of money, I didn’t think to review their current return policy. I was used to being offered free returns on my orders.

Turns out they had updated their policy and my return would no longer be free. When I went to start the return process I was told it would cost me $5. Sure, $5 isn’t a huge deal, but it will affect my bank account balance. Luckily, I was offered a free return from the store, so I did that to save myself some money.

How to avoid return fees

It’s possible to avoid such surcharges if you shop strategically. Most retailers offer free returns if you return items in-store. While this isn’t as convenient as dropping your return in the mailbox, it can save you money. Of course, this option will only be available to you if you have a local store nearby.

To avoid any unwanted surprises, it’s a good idea to review each retailer’s return policy before placing an order so you know what to expect. There may have been policy changes since your last order. Being aware can help you keep more money in your wallet.

Looking for ways to improve your finances? Check out these personal finance resources for helpful guidance.

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