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Amazon Ups Free-Shipping Minimum For Non-Prime Customers

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 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.