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The Amazon Books store in Manhattan's Time Warner Center.
TIMOTHY A. CLARY—AFP via Getty Images

If holiday shopping is stressing you out, you’ll be relieved to hear that the new Amazon return policy can save you time and money.

The e-commerce giant just announced it is expanding its free return options. Generally speaking, select only clothing, shoes and bedding qualify for free returns with Amazon. But now, you won't have to pay for shipping on returns for millions of other items purchased at Amazon during the 2019 holiday season.

You'll be able return many Amazon purchases — including electronics, household items, pet supplies, kitchen appliances and more — at more than 18,000 drop-off locations across the country, for free. Not all Amazon purchases qualify for free return shipping or drop-off, however; Amazon is simply promising that "return-eligible items, weighing under 50 lbs. and sold and fulfilled by Amazon, have at least one free return option."

Drop-off locations for free returns include Amazon Books, Amazon 4-Star stores, Amazon Hub locations, Kohl’s stores and select Whole Foods Markets and UPS stores. Amazon is also adding label-free and box-free returns to more than 5,800 drop-off points, where you can use the QR code generated by your return to drop off your item at a participating location instead.

So how do free Amazon returns actually work?

To start your free return, head to the "Your Orders" page on or the Amazon app. Select the item you want to return, and then click on the reason you’re returning it (any reason qualifies for free returns).

After that, choose a location convenient for you -- but here’s where you need to pay attention. Not all locations offer free returns, so you must select a location that actually offers free return shipping. If you choose a location that doesn't qualify for free returns, when you get there you’ll have to pay up. Take note also that free Amazon return shipping is only available at locations within five miles of the item’s delivery address. Among the other fine print, if you drop off your return at a physical Amazon store, the item must be in the original manufacturer’s packaging to get a full refund.

Normally, Amazon's free returns are available for a full refund within 30 days of delivery, but the online retail behemoth is giving customers a little extra time to return things this holiday season. Items shipped and fulfilled by the company between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 are eligible for returns until Jan. 31, 2020.

The refund process at Amazon is speedier than usual. Most returns are credited to your account within two hours of when the return was generated, according to Amazon. And that's pretty impressive: credits for regular free return shipping usually take about three to five days to show up in your account.

No matter how sweet a deal Amazon is offering this holiday season, it's always a good idea to examine the fine print. Double check the specific return policy for the item you’re sending back, and make sure it’s truly eligible for the free return shipping option to avoid an expensive surprise at your drop-off location.