Pennsylvania – There’s a good chance at least one of the gifts you got for Christmas will have to be returned… and the sooner you go, the better.

Consumer expert Janice Lieberman says a gift receipt really helps. She suggests taping the receipt to the box inside, so the person opening it has the gift receipt in a handy place. This also keeps the receipt from falling on the floor with the rest of the wrapping paper.

Don’t have a receipt? The best you may be able to do is merchandise credit.


Tips for returning or exchanging items:

Know the policies and deadlines: Check the store’s specific policy on their website, on store signs, or on the back of your receipt

Avoid after-Christmas crowds: Because shoppers are going to be taking advantage of post-Christmas sales at the end of the year, you might want to wait a few days. Early in the morning or late in the evening can be a slower time in the store.

Receipts: Having the original or gift receipt is going to make the process a lot easier. It also improves your chances of getting a full refund.

No receipt: If you don’t have a receipt, you’ll usually be able to return the item for the lowest recent sale price. You will possibly only get to exchange the gift for in-store credit, or you might not be able to return it at all.

Exchanges: If you like the gift but need it in another size or color, it could be even easier than returning it. If it’s not in your size or preference at one particular store, you can ask a store associate to see if it’s available at one of their other locations.

Not sure where the gift came from: If a gift still has its barcode on it, you can scan it with a smartphone app like ShopSavvy or even try typing to barcode numbers into Google to find out where the product came from.

Bring ID: Even if you have a receipt, the store might need your ID.

Restocking fee: If you’re returning electronics or anything that has been opening, you might have to pay a restocking fee.

Be nice: Sometimes returns are granted as a “one time only” circumstance. Patience and kindness are virtues.


Tips for using gift cards:

Read the fine print: Check the card’s terms and conditions. Sometimes cards can only be used at certain locations.

Fees: Some state laws forbid companies from having service fees or expiration dates on store gift cards. Rules on cards that are branded with the name of a credit card company (such as Visa gift cards) are more strict. These cards cannot expire for at least five years and cannot have a service fee deducted unless it has not been used in 12 months. That is why these cards often have a “service fee” that the original gift card buyer must pay along with the card.

Bonus cards: Around the holidays, some stores and restaurants might reward shoppers for buying gift cards by giving the purchaser an extra bonus gift card to use for themselves. This might have a different expiration date than the other card.

Protecting your gift card: Take a photo of the front and back of your card, or write down card details. Some companies will replace lost or stolen cards if you are able to provide the specific details. Save receipts with card information.