Amazon Raises Minimum Purchase Requirement for Free Shipping in Some Zip Codes
Last updated August 29, 2023
How much do you need to order from Amazon, if you’re not a Prime member, to get free shipping? It now depends on where you live. The minimum purchase used to be $25 everywhere in the U.S.; now, it’s $25 in some zip codes and $35 in others.
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Amazon told Checkbook that it’s randomly testing the free shipping threshold in different regions, grouped by zip code.
“We continually evaluate our offerings and make adjustments based on those assessments,” said Kristina Pressentin, an Amazon spokesperson. “We’re currently testing a $35 minimum for non-Prime customers to qualify for free shipping. Prime members continue to enjoy free delivery on over 300 million items, with tens of millions of items available for free same or one-day delivery.”
David Bookbinder, an Amazon customer in Massachusetts, was surprised to see his minimum purchase requirement jump from $25 to $35 recently. Even though he hadn’t seen any notice about a policy change, he assumed it applied to all non-Prime customers.
After Bookbinder contacted ConsumerWorld.org, he discovered that this wasn’t an across-the-board policy change.
“It makes me a little annoyed,” Bookbinder told Checkbook. “They seem to do this a lot where select customers are treated differently. And how do they pick and choose who gets what and who pays what? I think it’s unfair.”
It didn’t take long for Edgar Dworsky, Consumer World’s founder and publisher, to discover the two-tiered shipping policy.
“Amazon customers even in the same geographic area could be subject to different shipping charges if their zip codes are different,” Dworsky said. “If you live in Manhattan, you get free shipping with a $25 purchase, but reside in Brooklyn and you have to meet a $35 minimum. That’s crazy!”
Dworsky found other examples of nearby cities with different minimum purchase requirements: The minimum purchase is $25 for shoppers in Seattle, but $35 a few miles away in Bellevue. In Bethesda and Chevy Chase, Md., the minimum is still $25, but now it’s $35 for the Dupont Circle neighborhood in D.C. Metro Boston towns are $25 while adjacent North Shore communities like Salem or Lynn are $35. In downtown Chicago, the minimum is $25, but over in Oak Park it’s $35.
Amazon has not formally announced its new market test. The shopper won’t discover the new minimum threshold (if it applies to their zip code) until they check the fine print on the side of the page when they click on a product.
“It is unfortunate while consumers are still struggling with inflation and higher product prices that Amazon has chosen to pile on and charge for shipping that previously was free,” Dworsky said.
TIP: Because the minimum varies by zip code, you may score free shipping by having a $25 order shipped to a different address, maybe where you work or where you live, or even a friend or relative’s house. Just change the zip code in the delivery location box at the top left side of the home page.
Contributing editor Herb Weisbaum (“The ConsumerMan”) is an Emmy award-winning broadcaster and one of America's top consumer experts. He has been protecting consumers for more than 40 years, having covered the consumer beat for CBS News, The Today Show, and NBCNews.com. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and at ConsumerMan.com.