In an effort to drive up Prime subscriptions, Amazon recently increased its free shipping threshold from $35 to $49, a jump of nearly 30%. While book buyers can still avoid delivery charges on orders of $25 or more, most other products sold on Amazon will fall under the new shipping minimum.
This is a bold move for the online retailer who is often credited with driving the demand for free shipping when it originally offered its Super Saving Shipping rate of $25. With the current shipping threshold nearly double that, you may be wondering if Amazon is still the best place to shop.
Read on for seven ways in which Amazon isn’t the best deal:
1. Limited price-matching policy
In response to Amazon’s popularity with consumers, stores like Best Buy, Target and even Walmart will price match Amazon, making it easy for in-store shoppers to get a better price and have the product immediately. Amazon does offer a TV Low Price Guarantee for select television purchases, but otherwise they don’t price match their competitors on anything else.
2. Higher free shipping minimums
While Amazon was once known as offering one of the lowest shipping minimums of online retailers, that story is quickly changing. Target offers free shipping on orders of $25 or more, while retailers like Zappos, LL Bean and Nordstrom offer free shipping year-round. Many retailers waive shipping fees during holiday weekends and shoppers increasingly turn to deal sites like CouponSherpa.com for coupon codes to save on delivery charges.
3. Mirage of better prices
Despite popular belief, Amazon does not have the best prices all around. An article in TIME last year found Jet.com had better prices on select brands of laundry detergent, paper towels and gourmet coffee compared to Amazon. Jet’s shipping threshold remains at $35, making this relative newbie a better value than veteran Amazon on select products. What’s more, a 2014 report from Wells Fargo found Target and Walmart have better prices on shoes, home goods, health products and even electronics.
4. Slower shipping
Orders that meet or exceed the $49 threshold will still take the longest to arrive, with Amazon estimating 5-8 business days for free delivery. This again puts them at a competitive disadvantage with Jet, which promotes free 2-5 day shipping once the order threshold is met. Barnes & Noble promises delivery in 2-6 days. Other retailers like Target and Home Depot do their best to fulfill online orders from local stores to deliver faster.
5. Pricier membership costs
Though an Amazon Prime offers more than just free two-day shipping, most members value the delivery perk over access to music and streaming content. ShopRunner offers its two-day shipping membership for $79 per year (or free for AMEX cardholders) which is $20 less than Amazon and works with popular retailers like Toys ‘R Us, Staples and American Eagle. Even Barnes & Noble offers a shipping membership for just $25 which offers free 1-3 day delivery on all orders, plus 40-percent off hardcover best sellers and 10% storewide discounts.
6. Return shipping fees
Online shoppers are increasingly asking for free return shipping, a perk not offered by Amazon Prime despite the $99 annual fee. Target, however, offers free return shipping on all online purchases, no membership required. Plus, stores like Best Buy and Home Depot offer free in-store returns on online orders, making it less expensive in some cases for shoppers to order online from these retailers.
7. Dynamic pricing tricks
Like other online retailers, Amazon adjusts prices on popular items several times in a single day to maximize profitability, a practice commonly referred to as dynamic pricing. Buy at the wrong time and you could spend more than triple the lowest listed price without knowing it. Luckily, several online tools exist to help you combat these ever-changing prices. InvisibleHand is a browser extension which notifies you when something you’re shopping for is better priced elsewhere, while The Traktor checks price histories instantly so you know the best time to buy without leaving the site.