Here’s What Happens When You Return Something to Costco

A number of things make Costco unique as a retailer. One is the fact that it costs money just to be able to shop at the store. A basic Costco membership costs $60 a year, while an Executive membership offering 2% cash back on purchases costs $120 a year.

Another thing that makes Costco stand out is its flexible return policy. Costco will take back almost any item that doesn’t meet your satisfaction as a customer. But still, it’s important to know how Costco’s return policy actually works in detail. Let’s review.

You don’t need your receipt

Many Costco members wonder whether they can get refunded for an unwanted item in the absence of having a receipt. And the answer is, absolutely.

When you return something to Costco, a customer service representative can look up the purchase based on your membership ID number. From there, they can issue a refund to your credit card or give you cash.

There’s no specific returns time frame — for the most part

One really nice thing about Costco’s return policy is that most items can be brought back at any time if they don’t meet your needs. If you buy summer clothing for your kids in April and those items still have their tags on them come October, go ahead and return them to Costco. It shouldn’t be a problem.

That said, certain electronics need to be returned within 90 days for a full refund. These include TVs, major appliances, laptops, tablets, cameras, and cellphones.

You can’t return everything

If you want to return cigarettes or alcohol purchased at Costco, you’re out of luck. These specific items are ones Costco will not take back.

Certain products with a limited life expectancy, like batteries, may also be subject to a limited return window. And you can’t return event tickets, gift cards, gold bars, and silver coins.

Surprisingly, Costco also won’t give you a refund if you buy a Shop Card (the store’s version of a gift card) and then change your mind. But since Shop Cards can be redeemed for any type of store merchandise, using one up really shouldn’t be such a problem.

You can return perishable or half-eaten food

If you try to return perishable or partially eaten food to Costco, guess what? You won’t be laughed at.

Costco will take back any item that doesn’t meet your needs or expectations. So if you purchase six packages of ground beef for a weekend barbecue and only end up needing three packs, you can technically return the other three if it’s ahead of the expiration date. (To be clear, Costco might frown on this practice, but if it’s a one-off thing, you can generally get away with it.)

What’s more, if you buy a giant Costco cake and the taste is off, you can return it and get your money back — even if a number of slices have already been dished out. You can’t, however, return a cake that’s 75% eaten on the basis of poor quality. You have to show that you’re bringing back at least 50% of the food item at hand.

Will too many Costco returns compromise your membership?

As you can see, you have a lot of leeway when it comes to making Costco returns. But will taking advantage of Costco’s generous return policy put your membership at risk?

The quick answer is, it shouldn’t. But abusing Costco’s return policy could cause your membership to be revoked, the same way making too many Amazon returns might cause you to lose your Prime membership.

If you’re someone who repeatedly tries to return food that’s largely been eaten or products that have clearly been used, then yes, you may end up banned from Costco. But that won’t happen for returning a small pile of kids’ clothes in good condition with the tags still on several months after the fact.

All told, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with Costco’s return policy. But your takeaway should be that most of the time, when you return something to Costco, the process should be pretty smooth from start to finish.

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