Advertiser Disclosure

Many of the credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which we receive financial compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). However, the credit card information that we publish has been written and evaluated by experts who know these products inside out. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse. This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers that are on the market. See our advertising policy here where we list advertisers that we work with, and how we make money. You can also review our credit card rating methodology.

Analyzing Return Habits When Online Shopping [Survey]

Alex Miller's image
Alex Miller
Alex Miller's image

Alex Miller

Founder & CEO

295 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 34U.S. States Visited: 29

Founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, Alex is a leader in the industry and has earned and redeemed millions of points and miles. He frequently discusses the award travel industry with CNBC, Fox Business...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
Keri Stooksbury's image

Keri Stooksbury


35 Published Articles 3211 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 47U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now editor-in-chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

We may be compensated when you click on product links, such as credit cards, from one or more of our advertising partners. Terms apply to the offers below. See our Advertising Policy for more about our partners, how we make money, and our rating methodology. Opinions and recommendations are ours alone.

In today’s 21st-century shopping landscape, consumers enjoy unparalleled access to a vast array of products — all just a click away. This remarkable convenience, however, occasionally collides with the inconvenience of returns when a purchased item doesn’t quite match expectations. From the chore of printing a return label to the intricacies of repackaging and finally making that trip to the store or local shipping center — the return process can sometimes feel like a daunting ordeal.

Whether it’s an ill-fitting shirt, a broken item, or a product that didn’t quite match its online allure, the temptation to seek a refund or exchange is real, especially with many online retailers now offering hassle-free return policies. But this raises an intriguing question: Just how frequently do online shoppers opt for returns? To unravel this mystery, we surveyed 1,000 online shoppers to delve into the fascinating habits and tendencies that govern Americans’ online shopping experiences and their approaches to returns. Keep reading to discover the number of gifts expected to be returned this holiday season.

Key Findings

  • In 2023, just 14% of Americans claim to be primarily in-store shoppers, 52% claim to be primarily online shoppers, and 34% are split between both camps.
  • Nearly 9 in every 10 shoppers (87%) will not return an item if they have to pay for the return shipping.
  • Shoppers find themselves making more holiday returns after the winter gift-giving holiday season (Christmas, Hanukkah, etc.) (59%) than to Black Friday (17%), Cyber Monday (8%), and Amazon Prime Day (16%) combined. 
  • On average, 78% of Americans say that Amazon is the online retailer they most regularly use, with more males (78%) claiming to be more avid Amazon shoppers than females (70%).
  • Online shoppers are most regularly making returns during January (51%), December (28%), and November (14%) in the year.

Americans’ Online Shopping Return Habits

Infographic showcasing Americans' online shopping return habits
Image Credit: Upgraded Points

As the number of malls in the U.S. dwindles from 700 to a projected 150 within a decade, it’s evident that online shopping is reshaping the retail landscape. Our survey delved into various aspects of Americans’ online shopping habits, from holiday returns to instances of claiming items as damaged for a return. 

On Americans Shopping Habits: 

  • As of 2023, 52% of individuals identify as primarily online shoppers, whereas a mere 14% consider themselves predominantly in-store shoppers. A notable 34% fall into the category of mixed shoppers, utilizing both online and in-store avenues.

On Returning Online Orders:

  • In a head-to-head comparison, females exhibit a higher average rate of returning online orders than males.
  • Regarding returning online orders, Gen Zers lead the pack, surpassing all other generations in their return frequency.
  • We’ve all been there — ordering an item only to discover it’s non-returnable, leading us to become more cautious with subsequent purchases. 72.4% of Americans now make it a practice to always check the return policy before making an online purchase.
  • Interestingly, despite being the generation most active in online shopping, Gen Zers are the least likely to check return policies before purchasing. Gen Z appears to prioritize sustainable retail practices and is more likely to buy based on an influencer’s recommendation.
  • When assistance is needed, the most common methods of customer service that online shoppers use when returning items include chatting with a chatbot (40%), chatting with a live representative (35%), or speaking with customer service over the phone (14%). 

On Making the Decision To Return an Item: 

We’ve all experienced the anticipation of ordering that stylish sweater or a new piece of furniture, only to find it doesn’t quite meet our expectations. The decision to return such items frequently hinges on 1 crucial factor: free shipping

  • A whopping 87% of shoppers state that they won’t bother returning an item if they have to cover the cost of return shipping.

On Using an Item Before Returning It: 

You might find yourself using certain items like books or shoes and then deciding they’re not quite what you wanted. 

  • Surprisingly, approximately 1 in 5 Americans (22%) admit to using an item and still returning it.
  • Gen Z stands out as the group with the highest numbers among these individuals. Shockingly, about 2 in 5 Gen Zers (41%) confess to using or wearing an item and subsequently returning it. In comparison, only 22% of millennials and 17% of Gen Xers report doing the same.

On Claiming an Item Was Damaged To Complete a Return:

Some Americans also resort to bending the truth to facilitate their return process.

  • Surprisingly, about 1 in 10 Americans (13%) have admitted to falsely claiming that an item was damaged to complete a return, with Gen Zers emerging as the primary culprits.
  • 20% of Gen Zers confess to having made false claims about an item being damaged to facilitate a return. In contrast, only 17% of millennials and 10% of Gen Xers admit similar behavior.

On Incentivising Shoppers: 

Online shopping has become as simple as adding items to your cart, and the most effective way to encourage consumers to spend more is by offering free returns.

  • Our survey revealed that online shoppers are twice as likely to add extra items to their order when free returns are offered compared to when only 2-day shipping is provided.

On When Most Returns Are Made: 

Returns tend to peak during specific months, and these patterns differ between genders.

  • Male online shoppers report making more returns after Black Friday and Cyber Monday than their female counterparts. 
  • Notably, the top 3 months for male online shoppers to make returns are January (49%), December (28%), and November (16%). Meanwhile, female online shoppers tend to make the most returns in January (53%), December (29%), and July (12%).
  • Overall, retailers can expect a surge in returns from online shoppers during January (51%), December (28%), and November (14%).

On Returning a Gift: 

As the holiday season approaches, the question of gift etiquette inevitably arises. Is it considered impolite to return gifts, or is there an unspoken expectation to keep them for a certain duration before returning them?

  • Interestingly, our survey revealed that more than one-third of Americans (36%) have returned an item given to them as a gift. Gen Xers and millennials are the most likely groups to return gifts. 
  • The data shows a gender divide in gift returns, with females (45%) being nearly twice as likely to return a gift as their male counterparts (27%). 

On Using Credit Cards for Returns: 

  • When it comes to making purchases that they anticipate might be returned, the majority of Americans (53%) choose to use credit cards for these transactions.
  • Interestingly, males (56%) are more inclined to do this than females (51%). One possible reason for this trend could be the added security and dispute resolution options that credit cards offer — providing consumers with an extra layer of confidence when making such purchases.

Online Shopping Return Habits for Amazon Customers

Infographic showcasing Americans’ Amazon return habits
Image Credit: Upgraded Points

Imagine this scenario: It’s the week before Christmas, and you’ve ordered matching PJ sets for your family. However, upon their arrival, you discover the quality is less than stellar. No worries— you ordered on Amazon. That means you initiated the return process, received a convenient QR code, and simply dropped off your items at the nearest The UPS Store for a hassle-free full refund. 

It’s no secret that this retail giant is revolutionizing how we shop for gifts and handle returns, which is why we decided to delve into the opinions and experiences of Americans regarding all things Amazon and its return process.

On Reasons To Return an Amazon Order: 

When it comes to Amazon shoppers and their reasons for making returns, 5 categories stand out as the most common choices:

  • Item defective or doesn’t work — 54.7%
  • Missing or broken parts — 37.8%
  • Too large/long or too small/short — 34.3%
  • No longer needed — 24.2%
  • Style not as expected or color/pattern not as expected — 22.5%

On the Ease of Use of Amazon’s Return Process: 

  • On average, 78% of Americans state that Amazon is the online retailer they most frequently use, with males (78%) claiming to be more dedicated Amazon shoppers than females (70%).
  • About three-quarters of Americans (72%) express positive feelings toward Amazon’s return process.
  • Interestingly, despite baby boomers engaging in the least amount of online shopping, they are the generation with the most satisfied customers regarding Amazon’s return process. Conversely, Gen Zers, who claim to do the most online shopping, are the generation most dissatisfied with Amazon’s return process.


We conducted a survey involving 1,000 online shoppers, defined as individuals who reported online shopping at least once a month on average. This survey aimed to reveal Americans’ habits and tendencies regarding online shopping and managing returns. The questionnaire covered various aspects, including the frequency of returns, return locations, and pre-purchase practices, such as reviewing return policies. Our survey was administered from October 30 to 31, 2023, capturing valuable insights into online shopping behaviors.

Final Thoughts

Americans value the convenience of online shopping and returns, with over half of the population primarily relying on online shopping. Across demographics, we concluded that women tend to make more returns than men, and Gen Zers lead the pack regarding returns across all generations. Our survey also revealed that 78% of Americans turn to Amazon for most of their online shopping returns. With our findings that November, December, and January are Americans’ busiest months for returns, it’s safe to expect the foot traffic at your local The UPS Store is skyrocketing this time of year.

If you’re eager to kickstart your holiday shopping online, look at which credit cards offer the best return protection and which are most suitable for online shopping this holiday season. These credit cards can help you make the most of your online shopping experience and ensure hassle-free returns if needed.

Alex Miller's image

About Alex Miller

Founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, Alex is a leader in the industry and has earned and redeemed millions of points and miles. He frequently discusses the award travel industry with CNBC, Fox Business, The New York Times, and more.


Deluxe Travel Provided by UP Pulse

Get the latest travel tips, crucial news, flight & hotel deal alerts...

Plus — expert strategies to maximize your points & miles by joining our (free) newsletter.

We respect your privacy. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA. Google's privacy policy  and terms of service  apply.

Deluxe Travel Provided by UP Pulse Protection Status