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The 9 do's and don'ts of returning holiday gifts

Looking to return or exchange some of the holiday gifts you received this year? Here's how to get the most bang for your buck.
/ Source: TODAY

Looking to return or exchange some of the holiday gifts you received this year? To get the most bang for your buck, you need to be aware of the specific rules by which the retailers abide.

Read on to find out the best way to successfully return items at some of the most popular stores in the country.

1. DO save the receipt

It may seem obvious, but many people forget this step!

If you're giving a gift, make sure to provide a gift receipt. If you're the gift recipient, stash that receipt away somewhere safe until you decide on whether or not you want to keep the item. While some retailers may give you store credit if you show up with no receipt, most retailers will require proof of purchase if you're looking to get cash back.

2. DO keep the item’s original packaging

Rushing to open your gift can be exciting, but if you accidentally damage the box or plastic wrapping that your item came in, you jeopardize your chances of getting a full return. Some stores offer store credit, but will charge you a re-stocking fee if the original packaging is missing or damaged. Others will charge you a small fee if you try to return an item with a dirty or missing user’s manual.

3. DON'T return used items

Having second thoughts about a pair of boots you've already worn once? Used or worn items are usually non-refundable, unless the product is defective in some way. A few stores like Nordstrom and Sephora have a more lenient policy, but in general,you won’t get a full refund if your item is used or previously worn.

4. DO be prepared to have proof of identity

In an effort to prevent retail fraud, a number of retailers are relying on refund verification systems to keep track of customers’ spending and return habits.

This means they’ll ask you for a government-issued ID every time you make a return and will keep track of your activity. Some stores, like Walmart, will allow you to make a maximum of three returns (without a receipt) in 45 days. If you try to make a fourth in that time span, they reserve the right to ban you from making any further returns. Meanwhile, has been known to suspend users’ accounts if they suspect fraudulent return habits.

5. DO return electronics in a timely manner

Most stores offer a shorter, 15-day return window for electronics versus the traditional, 30-to-60-day window for clothing and other items. Although, some retailers are extending their policies just for the holidays.

6. DON'T forget to ask about return fees

Shipping and restocking fees can add up — especially when returning online.

7. DO know which retailers are the most lenient

Most retailers have a time-sensitive return policy, but a handful of popular retailers will accept returns no matter how much time has passed. It's true!

Nordstrom is so liberal with their return policy that you can return gifts and purchases at any point for money back or store credit. At Costco, you can return most items (except some types of electronics) whenever you wish. There are also no time limits on returns at Bed, Bath & Beyond unless you purchase mattresses.

But note: If you don’t have the original packaging, proof of purchase or receipt, Bed, Bath and Beyond policy states that you’ll lose 20 percent of the original selling price.

8. DON'T make returns during peak times

Instead of going to the stores the day after Christmas, hold off a day or two. Not only will you be in a less hectic shopping environment, but chances are your salesperson will be less crazed, too. He or she might be more willing to help out if you’re trying to make a more complicated return.

9. DO practice kindness

Be nice and smile! Store clerks are facing busy times and tough customers this time of year. If you’re extra gracious, they'll be more likely to go out of their way to help you. And why not keep the holiday spirit going!