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Today in our Coffee Break section, I’ve got you covered for alternatives to Amazon Prime. Without Prime, free shipping is slow and requires a fairly high order minimum. That’s not all: recently Amazon wouldn’t even let me put two items I wanted in my cart because the items were available to Prime customers only! (One of these was a fairly recent Blu-Ray release; the other was a board game.) This seems to be a new trend where Amazon is trying harder than ever to persuade people to shell out cash for Amazon Prime. The good news: there are plenty of other well-known online stores who are thrilled to serve your needs, regardless of whether or not you are paying the $$ per year for Prime.
Plenty of people find the Prime perks are worth the cost in their busy lives. Still, paying a membership fee just for the privilege of getting free 2-day shipping just in case you order something isn’t always cheapest. On the rare occasions I’ve actually needed fast shipping from Amazon, I’ve simply paid the 2-day shipping fee, and it has saved me a lot per year than if I’d paid for a Prime membership. (The remainder of the time I just save up my orders until I have enough items to qualify for the slower free shipping).
Let’s get right to it: here is my personal tried-and-tested list of go-to well-known stores that are ideal as Amazon Prime alternatives. If you’re seeking an item that Amazon won’t sell you because you’re not a Prime member – or if you just want some alternative choices, you’re in good hands with any of these recommendations:
For Blu-Rays, DVD’s and other digital media:
My top choice for Blu-Rays is Best Buy. This is because shipping charges are very low: in fact the item plus shipping at Best Buy may be even cheaper than on Amazon, even with free shipping on Amazon. Gift wrapping is available for a small cost at Best Buy – this is ideal if you’re buying a gift for someone else that you are shipping direct to their address. Likewise you can include a gift message, and they will ensure prices are not displayed to the recipient.
I recently bought a Blu-Ray as a gift for my father-in-law from Best Buy and had it shipped to his address. I was able to get it gift-wrapped and with a personalized gift message included. Shipping was prompt and cheap.
Two other great options are Target and Walmart online. They also have good prices, low shipping and an excellent selection of Blu-Rays and DVD’s. I usually find it convenient to compare the specific movie title at Best Buy, Target and Walmart to see which works out cheapest or fastest to ship, depending on my needs at the time.
Housewares, board games, and entertaining
My top choice for fast and cheap shipping for board games is Walmart. I had looked in-store at Toys R US for a specific board game (which they didn’t have at all), then tried Target online (which they had but wasn’t in stock). Amazon had it in stock but wouldn’t sell it to me because I wasn’t a Prime member! Finally I was able to get it at Walmart online at a cheap price point and with free 2-day shipping to my home. Wow!
My top choice for most housewares is Target online (although Walmart also stocks that category). It can be worth it to shop around between both of these online stores if you’re looking for housewares.
What I like better than Amazon is the fact that you don’t get overwhelmed with product selection at Target or Walmart online. Almost anyone can sell on Amazon (after going through a seller approval process). This results in sometimes just way too much choice of products on Amazon, especially in housewares. At first this sounds like a good thing, but I noticed in actual fact it takes much longer to go through and find the item that suits your needs. By contrast, Target and Walmart have teams of buyers who do the legwork and cherry-pick which products they’re going to sell so that you get a decent but not overwhelming selection to go through. You also get great bang for your buck this way. So, even compared to Amazon Prime, I’d still recommend Target or Walmart for housewares because of the better curation of their selections. This way you wind up with a great item without having to spend forever going through the results or applying refinements.
For books, my hands-down top alternative to Amazon Prime is Book Depository. This is because it has FREE SHIPPING WORLDWIDE with no order minimums! You heard it! Yes, anywhere in the world. So, not only can I ship to my own address here in the US, it is also exactly the same price for me to send a book as a gift direct to friends or family overseas. They’re very reliable; I’ve ordered from there multiple times shipping both domestically and internationally, and I’ve never had a problem. The only downside to Book Depository is that it can take a fairly long time to ship (timeframes are displayed clearly on their website). The timeframe is often even longer than Amazon non-prime, so I usually order at least 2 weeks before I need the item to arrive.
If you want a faster option for books or just want to do some comparison shopping, then I recommend Target online. It’s not everyone’s first thought when thinking of books, but as an avid reader I’ve found that in fact they have a surprisingly good selection of books in their online store. You can find many more titles at Target than you might think. You also typically get very much faster shipping with Target than you do with Book Depository.
Here are my top Amazon Prime alternatives all together in one list:
- Best all-around alternative to Amazon Prime: Walmart, because of free 2-day shipping on qualifying orders (yes!) and low order minimums for the free 2-day shipping.
- Best curated: Target, because you can almost always find what you need at a decent quality level and at an affordable price point. Free shipping is fairly fast (still slower than 2-day shipping though); order minimums for free shipping are fairly low.
- Best for books: Book Depository because of their huge selection of titles and free worldwide shipping with no order minimums.
- Best for Blu-Rays and DVD’s: Best Buy, because of their very low shipping charges, fast shipping, and the bells and whistles like gift wrapping.