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Life Hacks

5 Expert Tips for Hassle-Free Holiday Gift Returns

In gift-giving, it’s the thought that counts — the actual item is less important than the fact that someone thought about you. So if you got a holiday gift that you have neither space nor use for, there’s no shame in exchanging it for something you’ll actually use. Many of us don’t return gifts because we feel guilty or we dread the hassle of going to the mall to make the exchange. If the latter’s the issue, there are things you can do to speed up and simplify your holiday gift returns. Check out these tips from experts who share how to navigate the “give back” season with your wallet — and sanity — intact.

Avoid long return lines.

Time your return strategically. This year, many stores, including Walmart and Target, are taking a cue from Amazon, which allows you to return items until January 31, 2023, if they were purchased between October 11 and December 25, 2022 — an extension on their 30-day post-purchase policy. To avoid the return crowds, which peak from December 26 to 30, just pick a midweek day in January, when fewer people hit the mall.

Snag a cash refund.

Wait for 30 days. Stores are more lenient about returns if you’re willing to accept store credit —but in some cases you can secure cash, says Colin Palfrey, CMO of personal finance site Crediful. “If within 30 days you can’t find something at the store that you want to buy with the credit — and there are no visible warnings on the receipt or a sign at the returns desk saying credit will not be converted into cash — the store must offer a cash refund.”

Sidestep restocking fees.

Share quality concerns. In most states, stores waive restocking fees (about 10-25 percent of the cost of an item just to take it back) if an item was damaged, arrived late, or the wrong one was sent to you. But, says consumer expert Andrea Woroch, most customer service departments will also work with you if the issue has to do with product quality — it didn’t live up to its expectation or description.

Outwit a lost receipt.

Pick the longer line. Lost a receipt? If you paid with a credit card, use your statement as proof of purchase, says consumer expert Paul Mallory. Paid in cash? Aim for when the lines are long (from Christmas to New Year’s). Cashiers are more likely to give you the cash back just to keep the lines moving.

Redeem unwanted credit.

Trade in your credit for gift cards. If you wound up with credit for a return to a store you never shop at, use it to buy a gift card via, or These sites will offer you either a gift card to another store where you’re more likely to use it, or give you a cash refund worth up to 90 percent or more of the amount on the card.

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