Amazon vs. Target: Which Subscription Service Is Best?

Many household essentials -- toothpaste, laundry detergent, toilet paper, and the like -- must be replenished regularly, which means frequent trips to the supermarket or pharmacy. For products like this, subscribing to home delivery through Amazon or Target can save time and money. In a head-to-head comparison of the two subscription services, Amazon Subscribe & Save bests Target Subscriptions on price and variety, but Target offers more flexibility and guaranteed prices.

In an order containing the same seven brand-name products, from snack bars and coffee to contact solution and razor blades, three items were cheaper on Amazon, two were cheaper from Target, and two were the same price (or within a few cents). Prices include a minimum 5 percent discount from both retailers. Applying the maximum discounts available on this initial order, plus relevant coupons, made Amazon the clear winner on price, with a total of $92.13 versus $98.89 at Target. (Prices given here were posted in early March.)

Amazon Subscribe & Save.

Consumers can choose among more than 75,000 items in Amazon's Subscribe & Save program -- from soap and toilet paper to foam earplugs and duct tape. A 15 percent discount is applied to the entire order when at least five products are included. Smaller subscriptions qualify for discounts of 5 percent; coupons often are available.

Diapers are excluded from the discount calculations but count toward the five-item threshold. Families with Prime membership can sign up for Amazon Family and a separate diaper subscription that's worth 20 percent off.

Shipping is free on all subscriptions. Orders are delivered in intervals from monthly to every six months, and all items on the subscriber's list ship on the same day. Schedule changes are possible, but extra orders in between regular deliveries don't qualify for a discount or free shipping.

As any Amazon shopper knows, prices vary from one day to the next. For subscribers, the company sends a reminder email with estimated prices several days before each scheduled shipment. The final price subscribers pay is the posted price when the order is processed. Subscribers may decline or delay shipment of some or all of the items after email notification.

Target Subscriptions.

The Subscriptions program at Target includes products from the grocery, baby, health, beauty, personal care, household essentials, and pet departments. Shipping is free and subscribers receive a 5 percent discount on each order. Promotions and sales -- but not promo codes -- are applied automatically to eligible products. Target RedCard holders receive an additional 5 percent off when paying with the card.

Subscribers can choose any of eight delivery frequencies, from every four weeks to every 26 weeks. They can add products to a current subscription for delivery in the box with the regular order or create a new subscription with a different delivery schedule, resulting in multiple shipments over a given period of time.

Target sends a reminder email about 10 days before the scheduled shipping day that shows guaranteed prices for the upcoming order. Subscribers may skip an order, cancel items, or change the delivery frequency without penalty.

Bottom Line.

Consumers are likely to get the best deal and find the widest product variety with Amazon Subscribe & Save. The breadth of Amazon's inventory is unparalleled and the subscriber discount can reach 15 percent, although a minimum subscription to five products is required. Subscribers may need items such as laundry detergent or eyeliner only every few months, making this threshold sometimes difficult to reach.

Target Subscriptions is better suited to consumers who value flexibility and guaranteed prices. There is no minimum order for the maximum 10 percent discount (with RedCard) and it's possible to arrange more than one order during a given time period. Target applies sales and promotional prices automatically and locks in prices before order processing. At Amazon, prices generally are lower, but they can change between the time consumers are notified about prices and the day the order is processed.

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