As the holiday season wraps up, retailers are prepping for a busy post-holiday shopping rush as consumers line up at stores and shipping carriers to return and exchange unwanted items.

In fact, there will be roughly $280 billion worth of returns from this holiday season, according to Salesforce estimates. Considering a big portion of purchases were made online, this could pose a problem for both retailers and consumers when trying to process returns via mail at the same time. With return deadlines looming, online retailers have come up with clever return options to ease the return burden.

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Money-saving expert, Andrea Woroch, shares 5 hassle-free holiday return tips to help you save time and get more bang for your exchange and gift card bucks after Christmas.

1. Find Local In-Person Returns to Avoid Fees and Delays. You can avoid return shipping fees and delays by bringing unwanted gifts to a physical store within driving distance. Meanwhile, some retailers are making it even easier to return online orders by offering local in-person return options.

  • Mall owner Simon Property Group is working with the returns technology platform Narvar to accept customers’ returns from brands like Levi’s, Gap, Dockers, Vera Bradley and more at the concierge desks at some of its malls.  Just initiate a return online to see which nearby Simon malls offer local in-person return options, getting a QR code to use at Simon’s guest services desk, where an employee will handle the rest of the returns process.
  • Amazon has partnered with Kohl’s to accept returns at hundreds of its department stores, package free. Just show your return barcode found in the Amazon app to a Kohl’s customer service rep and they handle the rest.
  • Walmart just announced a new service, called Carrier Pickup by FedEx, that allows customers to return items purchased online without ever having to leave their home.

2. Plus-Size Your Exchange.  The best post-holiday sales will be on clothing such as sweaters and pajamas, holiday decor and winter gear, but don’t stop at the sale price. You can get more from your exchange by adding a coupon and cash back to maximize savings. You can find coupons through sites like CouponFollow.com or download the Cently savings tool to your browser which automatically adds coupons and cashback at check out. When you’re done exchanging, snap a picture of your receipt and upload it to Fetch Rewards to earn points good toward free gift cards to stores like Walmart, Target or Amazon.

3. Stay Organized to Dodge Restocking Fees.  Some retailers charge restocking fees for gadgets and kitchen appliances so make sure you read the fine print and hold on to all packaging which is often necessary for getting any money back. Snap pictures of all your receipts as these are required to get the full purchase value for any return or exchange, and tap paper receipts to packages so you don’t lose them.

4.  Plan Your Exchange Thoughtfully. Many stores extend return deadlines for holiday purchases which hit around mid-January and gives you time to avoid long lines right after the Christmas return rush. However, that time will fly once the New Year is past so make sure you’re tracking the date so you don’t get stuck with the unwanted gift.  Waiting also means you run the risk of limited inventory and sales options. Ultimately, plan ahead and think about upcoming celebrations or seasonal needs when choosing items to purchase with a gift card or exchange.

5. Sell Items You Can’t Return. If you’re stuck with a gift you can’t return or for less than it’s worth because you lost the receipt, you may be able to get more cash by selling those items online through sites like OfferUp or eBay. You can even sell gift cards for cash to sites like GiftCardGranny.com, or trade clothing your kids don’t like at SwoondleSociety.com for items they like more.

Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized money-saving expert, writer, speaker and frequent on-air contributor who is passionate about helping American families find simple ways to save more without radically changing their lifestyle. Andrea has appeared on hundreds of popular shows across the country including Today, Good Morning America, Dr. Oz, CNN, Inside Edition and ABC World News, plus hundreds of regional shows across the country. Her advice and articles have been featured in New York Times, Time, Money, Cosmopolitan, Forbes, Huffington Post and many more. When Andrea is sharing advice on budgeting or smart shopping, she’s busy chasing after her two young daughters. Read more about Andrea at www.andreaworoch.com and follow her on Instagram for daily money tips. 

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