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Free Online Shipping
According to internet analytics company ComScore, more than 4 in 10 e-commerce transactions in the second quarter of 2012 came with free shipping. Many vendors offer free online shipping with a minimum spend, which could be as low as $10 or well above $50.
Free Amazon Shipping.Amazon offers free Super Saver Shipping on purchases of eligible items totaling at least $25. This popular offer has even given rise to "filler item finders" that help consumers reach the threshold for free Amazon shipping.
If you find yourself frequently buying things you don't need in order to push your shopping cart past the $25 mark, an alternative is to sign up for Amazon Prime membership. For $79 a year, members qualify for free two-day shipping on many items, free standard shipping on some products, and the option of choosing one-day shipping (or same-day delivery in select cities) for $3.99 per item within the continental U.S. If you select a slower shipping option, you may get credit to use in Amazon's MP3 Store or Instant Video Store.
So, is Amazon Prime worth it? With two-day shipping starting at $5.99 per shipment, plus an additional charge per item, it may not take long to break even if you frequently require expedited shipping. For many consumers, though, free Amazon shipping is not the primary draw. Amazon Prime membership includes access to Amazon's Netflix-like streaming-video service, which comprises more than 22,000 movies and TV shows, including many new releases.
Amazon offers a one-month free trial and recently began giving customers the option to pay $7.99 per month for Amazon Prime membership (the same amount Netflix charges) instead of paying for a full year up front. That means savvy consumers could join only for the holiday season, when they may be most likely to benefit from free Amazon shipping. Just be aware that a full year of membership at $7.99 per month costs $16.88 more than the $79 full-year rate.
Competitor ShopRunner offers free two-day shipping for online purchases from retailers such as GNC, Toys R Us, Drugstore.com, and PetSmart. As with Amazon Prime, membership costs $79 a year, there are no minimum orders, and you can share the service with up to four household members. However, ShopRunner lacks additional services such as streaming video and free book rentals for Kindle owners.
Free Walmart Shipping.Online shoppers must spend at least $45 to get free Walmart shipping. The retailer marks eligible items with a Home Free logo. Another free Walmart shipping option, Site to Store, lets consumers pick up online orders from a nearby Walmart store or FedEx Office location in select cities. Walmart notifies customers by email or text when their orders are ready for pickup -- generally within five to 10 business days, or the same day if the item is in stock.
Same-Day Delivery.The same-day service offered to Amazon Prime members in select cities for $3.99 per item is also available to nonmembers for $8.99 per shipment, plus 99 cents per item. Several other companies are experimenting with same-day delivery as well. Walmart is charging $10 for its new ToGo service regardless of the purchase total. This same-day delivery option is available in several cities through the holidays. After that the company will determine whether to continue, expand, or drop it.
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