Amazon makes free shipping a little harder to get

It’s only been about two and a half years but if you remember at that time Amazon increased the minimum purchase threshold from $25 to $35 for customers to qualify for free “Super Saver Shipping,” maybe not the end of the world but seriously a dent in your online shopping plans. But now the world’s largest e-retailer is hiking the minimum purchase requirement again—this time to $49. Yep, if you want it to ship for free you are going to have to hit a minimum that’s basically $50.

Most did not notice the change. The change was made quietly, without any official announcement or press release. If you happened to shop this weekend you, like other customers just noticed it over the weekend, and commenters immediately began lamenting on sites like Reddit about how quickly Amazon’s minimum purchase requirement has increased, and how it is totally obvious that this is a ploy to get even more online shoppers to sign up for Amazon Prime. This is not the best bet if you are making small purchases because just as long as it says “Prime” in the shipping area, you’ll get free shipping.

Prime has proven to be a very powerful and profitable service for Amazon. As a “Prime” subscriber you just pay $99 per year, and in addition to free streaming videos and music and other services, they are entitled to unlimited, free two-day shipping on most purchases made at Plus there are often other perks like free music during the holidays.

An estimated 54 million Amazon Prime members in the U.S., up from roughly 10 million as recently as 2013 according to Amazon. Amazon is cashing in on all of those annual subscription fees too, but, more important, Prime memberships are directly correlated with dramatically increased spending at Amazon.

So what does that mean? Well once people sign up for Prime, they want to make the most of the annual subscription fee, and wind up shopping more at Amazon. That’s right, they take full advantage of getting things shipped right to your door for free by shopping even more. Amazon couldn’t be happier because t’s a tremendous win-win for Amazon.

In the past, the only factors holding many would-be Prime subscribers back from signing up, though, is that it’s been pretty easy to get free shipping on Amazon orders even if you weren’t a Prime member.

Most Amazon orders of $35 (or $25 back in the day) or more qualified for free shipping for non-Prime members. So it did not really matter if you paid for Prime. The shipping was slower than with Prime—five to eight business days, as opposed to two—but in many cases this was fine. People honestly are used to shipping taking that long.

The important thing is that the shipping was genuinely free, not “free” only for customers who paid $99 (or $79 back in the day) per year for the privilege.

However by increasing the minimum requirement for free shipping from $35 to $49, Amazon will make it a little more difficult for shoppers to secure free shipping—and, likely, a little more tempting for some to bite the bullet and sign up for Amazon Prime. If you are a regular shopper on Amazon, Prime is going to make much more sense now.

Then again, the move could prove a turnoff for other shoppers, especially in light of free shipping alternatives to Prime. The change could wind up boosting interest in supposed “Amazon killer”, which has been shown to have cheaper prices than Amazon in many cases, and which has no annual fee and a minimum purchase requirement of only $35 for free two-day shipping. has been getting huge press lately and people are genuinely impressed with their service.

Amazon’s new shipping policies and prices are explained here.  While most book orders at Amazon have a minimum purchase threshold of only $25, other purchases must be $49 or more in order to qualify for free shipping. That’s assuming, of course, you’re not a Prime member. So keep this in mind as you shop till you drop on Amazon.

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