The days of free shipping on orders of $35 or more have quietly ended at Amazon.
Now, non-Prime members will have to purchase a minimum of $49 of qualifying merchandise to receive courtesy fulfillment, although the $25 minimum for book orders remains unchanged.
The unheralded hike is seen as a further inducement for Amazon customers to join the company’s $99/year membership program, which includes two-day shipping for millions of items and access to music and video content — much of it exclusive — at no additional charge.
The higher free-shipping minimums also reflect the rising cost of fulfillment: In the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2015, Amazon’s fulfillment costs rose 33 percent to nearly $4.6 billion, the e-tailer reported, as it continued to build new distribution centers and focus on same-day delivery.
By way of comparison, Target cut its minimum free-shipping basket from $50 to $25 this time last year; Best Buy, Sears and Jet.com still require a $35 spend; and Walmart’s minimum qualifying order size remains at $50.
Many retailers suspend their free-shipping minimums during the holiday selling season.