|by Jason Steele|
Credit cards are filled with little known and little used benefits. Rental car insurance is the best known of these “hidden benefits”. All Visa, Mastercard, and Amex cards include this, but a sizable percentage of people are still unaware of this and will purchase the optional insurance. This is often aided and abetted by the scare tactics of the highly incentivized staff at the rental car counter.
One of the least known benefits that some cards offer is return protection. I was only vaguely aware of such a benefit when I found myself just a couple days outside of the return window for a child seat I had purchased for my bicycle. I thought this innovative design would work great, but my 3 year old was terrified.
My Experience With Return Protection
I went to Amex’s site for return protection and looked over the details. As expected, there were a ton of exclusions for everything from wear items to anything related to motor vehicles. My bicycle being non-motorized, I am fairly confident that this product is eligible for return protection. The product cost me $85, well within the $300 maximum per return. There is also a $1,000 annual maximum.
First, I filled out there online claims form. That was surprisingly simple. There were five yes or no questions followed by a couple short answer type questions about why you are returning the product and why it the retailer would not take it back. I then received a confirmation and a claim number, along with a request for documentation, specifically my receipt. Unfortunately, you are only given the option of faxing or mailing the documentation. While I was re-learning how to use my office’s fax machine, I thought it was pretty weird that you can file a claim online, but you couldn’t submit an attachment with the receipt. I have been told that I will need to wait up to 30 days until my case is decided. If they determine I am eligible, I will have to return the item to Amex, presumably at my own expense. Even if it costs me $10 to ship it back, I am probably still better off than eating the $85 or attempting to sell the item on E-Bay or Craigslist.
How Can They Do This?
I really can’t claim to fully understand the business logic behind this and other programs. I suppose someone thought that consumers would find this to be a valuable service, and they would choose to make more purchases with their credit card if they knew they had this coverage. Nevertheless, I am pretty sure the vast majority of card holders are not aware of this benefit, and they can only continue to offer it for that reason. I imagine that administering the benefit is not cheap, and they probably hire some third party to do so. I have no idea what they do with the product that are returned. Somewhere, there is an awfully big garage sale going on, I can tell you that. It wouldn’t even surprise me if they end up being sold by some third party on E-Bay.