How to Make Sure You Get Your Money Back on Returned Online Purchases

how to make sure you get your money back on returned online purchasesMy own system needs a little work, so today I’m asking a question for advice as much as discussion: how do you make sure you’re getting your money back on returned online purchases? Have you found any good apps or systems?

If you’re like me, odds are you do a lot of online shopping these days, and part of the appeal is easy returns by mail. But keeping track of whether I’ve actually gotten the refund or credit is becoming more and more difficult. For example, sometimes when I’m returning items bought online  I have absolutely no idea how much I’m going to be getting back — for example, I remember returning stuff to Banana Republic/Gap/Old Navy once where I had purchased the items using their “super cash” and possibly had gotten an additional “buy $X and get 40% off” tiered deal — so I had no idea how returning some items from the order would affect the equation.  Other times, the store tells you clearly how much to expect back when you print out your return slips — but then returns trickle in on your credit card in smaller amounts, at different times.

My old system was to a) put items in the mail with a rough idea of how much I would get back, b) make a note using a reminder/to-do list app like Remember the Milk to keep an eye out in 3-6 weeks for the return to hit my credit card bill, and c) then go in and check to make sure I got it. But I have, er, gotten a bit behind — and now I have like 6 months to go through and check, so I just downloaded all of my transactions from Mint and will have to go spend an hour or so on it, matching account credits back to various notes on my reminder list. Yay!

What’s your system for tracking returned items and refunds/credits, ladies? How do you make sure you’re getting your money back on returned items?how to make sure you get your money back on returned items

Picture via Stencil.

It seems like it's getting increasingly difficult to track refunds and credits when returning items bought online. So we're discussing systems -- how to make sure sure you get your money back on returned items.



  1. I don’t usually have a lot of returns all at once, so I’ve gone with a pretty low-tech method. I just mark the email about the return marked unread in my personal email, and when my usual bill paying/checkbook day rolls around, I take a look at the hand full of emails and see if there are corresponding credits. If not, I mark them unread again and repeat next time (2 or 3 weeks). After they appear as credits, I delete the message. If it’s still unread after the second check up, I know I need to follow up on it.

  2. I use a spreadsheet. I started out just including things I bought online, but eventually expanded it to everything I buy, which helps me keep track of how much I’m spending on what types of items. I enter every item I purchase, with column for whether I’ve decided to keep it or not, whether it’s been shipped back, and whether I’ve received credit for it. I track package returns separately, but that could also be entered in the spreadsheet. I buy pretty much everything online (nonstandard size, so hard to find clothes in stores) and unfortunately have to return a lot, so this really comes in handy for keeping track of everything. Stores are actually pretty bad at correctly crediting returns, but if I email them with all of the details (including package tracking numbers), I haven’t had trouble getting them to issue credits. Speaking of which, I need to do this with Nordstrom, which omitted two items from one of my NAS returns. I’ve given it a week or so since I got notice of the other items, so I probably need to see what’s going on. They’ve been pretty bad about missing items and taking forever to issue credits, but at least they’re generally responsive when I complain.

    • I have had issues on refund’s from on line merchant’s , so after consulting with Dad, I have decided that rather then going thruough all the trouble, that if I do NOT like something, I will just DONATE it. This way, someone else can have something STYLEISH, and I can get a tax DEDUCTION for donating something that I do NOT want to waste time trying to return. When I buy something in Person, at Lord & Taylor’s or at NORDSTRM’s, I just bring it back and they credit my account or give me another size/color or whatever. That is why I have a personal shopper. She does all the dirty work for me, so that I am free to shop, and wear whatever I want, so long as my credit card is not over due. YAY for Personal Shopper’s! YAY!!!!

    • Anon prof :

      Nordstrom is really to process returns. I love the free shipping and free returns, but Amazon Prime is eating their lunch on this.

  3. Marshmallow :

    I’m guilty of occasionally being surprised when I get a return confirmation email, because I sent the thing back two months ago and completely forgot to check.

    But one helpful thing I stumbled on is that the website Finery keeps track of your return windows and sends you reminders when time is running out to return stuff. This would be annoying if I shopped a lot and was getting tons of reminder emails, but if you tend to forget about actually sending the return in, could be useful.

  4. Anonymous :

    I use YNAB to track my expenses. When I return something, I enter the amount into YNAB as a refund right away. That reminds me to keep an eye out for it and ensure it gets reconciled correctly

  5. Second the spreadsheet. Other than Nordstrom being slow, the only problem that comes to mind is eShakti. I got a confirmation of package receipt, was told refund would process in two weeks, and waited 3 1/2 before emailing them. The refund was issued that day, with a request for confirmation (!).

  6. I keep the physical receipt of the returned item pinned next to my laptop until the return is fully credited.

  7. Anonymous :

    Had an experience with Nordstrom where I noticed several months later that they never received my return. Customer service took a while to fix the issue after pinging them a few times, but it’s also a good idea to record the tracking number of the returned package, especially in cases where the store provides a return label. I noticed that the “past orders” info on the Nordstrom site is not always accurate since some items that I’ve returned don’t show up as returned although I did get the credit.

  8. Hello! I think what you are asking is how to actually calculate the amount. The price should be listed for each item should be on the receipt, less any penalty per store policy (such as a late return). If it is a BOGO item, or other items like buy one, get 50% off the lesser item, it varies by store policy, but generally, items are funded at the purchase price.
    If you are still unsure, you may want to chat online with an agent and then save the transcript.

    As for follow up, it depends on your personal style.
    For ladies that use hand written planners jot down a note to remind yourself to check up on it, along with pertinent info.
    If you use an online organizer like Evernote, snap a picture of the receipt and shipping info, and add to an online calendar.

    Same with returns, snap a pic of the return label, often with prepaid labels, you don’t get any other kind of “insurance”.
    Hope that helps!

  9. My most used credit card (Capital One Quicksilver) sends me email notifications whenever I get a credit. I keep the online order receipt or RMA confirmation in my inbox until I have received the credit notification, then I archive both. Works great if you’re a my-inbox-is-my-to-do-list person.

    • This sounds like the perfect system for me. I’m going to see if my credit card will do something similar for me.

  10. I’m having a similar issue right now with one of my go-to websites. They process a couple returns quickly but others I have yet to receive. However, as far as knowing the amount that you’re going to get back, just know that you will get back what you paid for it minus shipping costs (if you paid a shipping fee). And if you miss the “return by” deadline, you will only get a credit. That’s the rule for most stores.

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