Return policies are important to understand

Even before you buy, you should look for a store with a good return policy. Target is among the better stores on Shopsmart magazine's list. But plenty of others have return policies that aren't so great.

Judy Rohlena from Consumer Reports says that there are some return policies that you will want to know while shopping over the holidays.

"Ones that won't give you a full refund," she said. "Or that only give you a small window of time to return something."

Home depot allows you to return many items within 90 days, but the store reserves the right to limit or refuse to accept the return of merchandise at any time and for any reason.

"Another restrictive policy, Office Depot," Rohlena said. "You only have 14 days to return furniture and electronics."

And if you've bought an electronics item at one of their stores and opened it, even something as basic as a phone, the company will offer an exchange only, not a refund or store credit.

When it comes to electronics you should be careful to check the return policy wherever you shop.

"Very often you cannot return a laptop," Rohlena said. "But TVs and camcorders may not be returnable either."

Here are some return policy gotchas: Restocking fees that can be up to 25 percent of the cost of the item. You pay the return postage. And you get store credit only and no cash refund.

To be sure someone gets the amount you paid for that perfect gift and not the post-holiday sale price remember to include a gift receipt in your package.

Return policies vary significantly, but many retailers do relax their policies around the holidays.

Shopsmart says some of the best companies for returns are Nordstrom, Kmart, and Kohl's.

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