The Top 11 Ways to Save on Shipping that Retailers Don’t Want you to Know

Shipping charges can add quite a bit of money to your purchases, especially when the item is large. Most stores only offer free shipping if you spend a certain amount, but that’s not the only way to save on shipping.

We’ve uncovered the top 11 ways to save on shipping that retailers don’t want you to know. Check out these tips to see how easy it is to save on the products you want when you don’t want to pay hefty shipping charges.

1. Use Free Ship to Store

Most retailers offer the option to ship an item free to the store. Say for example you’re shopping at Kohl’s. You find something you want online but don’t want to pay the shipping charges. If no stores in your area have the item in stock, you can have the item shipped to the store for free.

While you have to drive to the store to pick it up which is more inconvenient than having it on your doorstep, you won’t pay any shipping charges. This only works if you’re shopping at a store that is local to you, though.

2. Meet the Minimum Spending Threshold

Like we said earlier, most stores offer free shipping when you spend a certain amount. Amazon is a good example of this. Even if you aren’t an Amazon Prime member, you can score free shipping on most items if you spend at least $25. 

Other stores offer the same option. For some, it’s a promotion, and the amount you must spend changes, while for others it’s the same threshold throughout the year. Always check the store’s promos on their promo page or at the top of the website to determine the spending threshold.

3. Look for Promo Codes

If the retailer’s website doesn’t show free shipping anywhere, consider looking on reputable third-party websites. You can often find codes for free shipping or other savings opportunities on these sites.

Koopy is a good example. You can get free shipping codes for some of the most popular retailers and you don’t have to worry about how much you spend. Always search for a free shipping code before checking out at any store.

4. Join the Loyalty Program or Become a Member

Some retailers offer free shipping to their members. To be a member sometimes you have to pay, like with Amazon Prime, but others are free memberships that still give you free shipping. 

If you have to pay for a membership, decide if it’s somewhere you shop often enough to make it worth it. If you’ll use the membership often enough, then the cost will likely pay for itself. If it’s somewhere you shop infrequently, though, it may not be worth it.

5. Apply for a Store Credit Card

Some stores offer free shipping to their cardholders. Target is a great example and you don’t even need a credit card if you don’t want one. Target has the Red Card which is a debit card that you link to your checking account.

All Red Card holders, whether credit or debit, get free standard shipping. You don’t have to pay shipping charges for anything you buy at Target no matter its cost and you don’t have to pay to have a membership.

6. Only Shop During Sales

Most stores offer free shipping promotions at some point. If you don’t need the items you are buying right away, wait until the store offers a free shipping promotion. It’s best to sign up for the retailer’s emails so you always know when there are free shipping opportunities.

Pro tip: If you’re worried about sales emails taking over your important emails, open a separate email account just for advertisements so you don’t have to worry about it.

7. Choose Standard Shipping

If you can’t get free shipping, at least minimize your shipping costs by choosing standard shipping. It might take a few extra days, but today most packages are taking a few extra days even if you pay for expedited shipping.

Don’t pay for it. Plan your purchases accordingly so you have enough time to wait for standard shipping and save the extra money.

8. Combine Purchases

Rather than buying individual items or making small purchases, try to buy everything you need at once. You will likely pay the same shipping charges no matter what you buy (unless it’s large) but get all your items in one shipment rather than paying shipping multiple times.

9. Shop Around

You can usually find a product you want at multiple retailers unless you’re buying something unique. If you can’t get free shipping at the first store, shop around to see what other retailers offer. You might find the same product for less money just by shopping around a little bit and since you can do it from the comfort of your own home, it’s easy to do.

10. Ask a Retailer for Free Shipping if an Item is out of Stock

If you’re shopping in a store and an item you want is out of stock, you can often get it shipped for free to your home. 

Not all stores advertise this option, so always ask. You can look at the store’s website on your phone to see if the product is in stock online and if it is, ask for free shipping to make up for the inconvenience of it not being in stock at your store.

11. Pay Attention to Return Shipping Fees

Don’t focus only on shipping fees to get the product. Assume you don’t like the product and look at the return policy. Some stores require you to pay the full shipping charges to send a product back while others charge a flat fee of $5.

Stores like Amazon have in-person free returns. You can return your product at a UPS store or a local Kohl’s store. You don’t pay any return shipping fees and you don’t even need the box the item was shipped in – you just need the QR code you get by completing the return form on Amazon and the product itself. 

FAQs – Ways to Save on Shipping

Do all stores offer free ship to store?

Not all stores offer free ship-to-store mostly because not all stores have a brick-and-mortar location. You’ll find this option with your larger stores like Walmart, Target, Kohl’s and JcPenney. But it never hurts to ask a retailer if they offer the option.

You can also try free buy online pick up in-store. Many retailers have this option. You pick your items online and the employees do the shopping. All you have to do is pick the items up either curbside or at the counter.

Is free shipping standard shipping?

Most stores that offer free shipping send it the standard way. Typically, standard shipping takes 3 to 5 business days, but sometimes they come faster. Amazon, for example, sometimes ships as soon as the next business day especially if you are a Prime member. Amazon even has thousands of items that ship the same day for Prime members.

Is free shipping really free?

It seems like a catch to get free shipping, right? In most cases, it’s just a way to get you to spend more money. For example, if the threshold to get free shipping is $50 but you only planned to buy something for $30, chances are you will spend the extra $20 and get another item rather than pay for shipping.

So is it a scam? Not really, it’s just a marketing technique to get you to spend more money.

How do you pay for shipping?

If you have to pay for shipping, you pay for it when you buy the item. The retailer adds the shipping costs onto your total after you are done shopping. Some states charge tax on shipping charges while others don’t. Where you live and where the items are being shipped determine if you pay taxes on it or not.

Final Thoughts – Saving on Shipping

It’s possible to save on shipping costs and if you do this regularly, you can save quite a bit of money. Even if you pay for Prime membership to save on shipping at Amazon, if you use it often, it makes sense to do so.

Free shipping can save you as much as $5 – $10 per order. If you order online often, these amounts can really add up. Even if you can’t find free shipping, find ways to save money on your shipping charges so you save more money overall.

Kim Pinnelli is a personal finance freelance writer and contributor. She lives in the Chicago suburbs, writing from home for the last 13 years. Kim enjoys helping people understand personal finances and writes on topics about saving money, investing, planning for retirement, and ways to increase income. In her free time, Kim enjoys hanging out with her 3 children, reading, crocheting, and spending time outdoors.

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