Shopping online can help you compare prices and find a better deal. But shipping costs can quickly cancel out your savings.
So do any credit cards have free shipping as a benefit? Unfortunately, most cards don’t – but here are some potential options.
American Express: ShopRunner
If you have a card issued by American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner), you can get free shipping services for no additional cost:
ShopRunner: U.S. consumer and small business credit cards can enroll for free in ShopRunner, which gets you unlimited free two-day shipping. Usually, this service would cost $79 per year.
ShopRunner is a network of retailers and brands. Toys R Us, Neiman Marcus, Drugstore.com, GNC and many others are currently participating. If you buy an eligible item, you can then choose ShopRunner at checkout for the free shipping. Not every item you buy at a participating retailer is eligible — those that are will be clearly labeled with the ShopRunner logo.
So, if you have an American Express charge card or one of their popular credit cards like the Blue Cash Preferred card, the Blue Cash Everyday card, the EveryDay card or the EveryDay Preferred, you can enroll in the ShopRunner service at no cost.
Free shipping promotions from your card’s rewards portal
Some cards have rewards portals that allow you to get extra points and cash back through partner merchants. These portals will often offer free shipping promotions as well. Keep in mind, these promotions each last for only a limited time, but large retailers are usually well represented. For example, check out some of the free shipping options from Barclaycard’s RewardsBoost (screen shot taken Feb. 3, 2015):
Various store credit cards
Retailers want to give you an incentive to choose them, so they’ll sometimes waive shipping costs for those who have their branded credit cards.
Policies vary, however. Some retail cards make you earn this benefit. The Banana Republic card and the Limited Credit Card, for example, require you to spend $800 per calendar year with them or their affiliated brands before the free shipping perk kicks in. The Express Next card, meanwhile, requires you to earn 7,500 loyalty points in a calendar year.
Other cards require a per-purchase minimum. For example, the My Best Buy card gets you free shipping only on purchases of $35 or more.
A few retailer cards, however, offer free shipping for online orders right off the bat. Keep in mind, you generally get free shipping only on purchases shipped within the U.S. –- and are limited to standard (not expedited) shipping. Some retail cards with this benefit include:
- Target REDcard (the credit cards and the debit card)
- SaksFirst card
- Staples credit account
A worthwhile benefit?
If free shipping is important to you, check the card’s terms before applying. The American Express cards above have the most flexible free-shipping benefits, since you can use them for free shipping at all the retailers taking part in ShopRunner. However, if you buy most of your clothes, food and house supplies from Target, the REDcard alone could be enough for your online shopping needs.
Free shipping benefits, however, aren’t always enough on their own to justify getting a card. If you frequently rely on two-day shipping (perhaps you buy all your gifts last minute), cards that offer quick shipping for free are a must have. Take a look at the sample two-day shipping order to the right – The shipping costs are more than half the original total. You might look at that as a 50 percent cash-back rebate.
So before you even consider extras like free shipping (which may be offered only for a limited time), make sure you’ll benefit from the card’s rewards, too, since those could end up saving you more money in the long run. The Discover it, for example, doesn’t offer free shipping, but you might get more out of the 5 cash percent back in certain categories, plus the up to 20 percent back you get with certain partner retailers.
Best-case scenario: Find a card that gets you free shipping and elevated cash back in categories that match your spending.
Updated February 3, 2015