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Amazon Raises Free Shipping Minimum for Most Orders to $49 as Regular Customers Foot the Bill for Prime Members

Thanks, Amazon Prime.

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Amazon’s shipping costs spiked last year as the company pushed faster delivery times for its Prime membership customers. Now it looks as though non-Prime members will foot some of the bill.

The company has quietly increased its free-shipping threshold for non-Prime orders from $35 to $49. One exception: Orders that contain $25 of books may now ship for free.

The move comes as Amazon continues to prioritize perks and fast delivery speeds for members of its Prime program, who pay $99 a year in the U.S. for unlimited two-day shipping on millions of products, as well as free two-hour delivery in a growing list of cities that now numbers at least 20.

As a result, Amazon’s shipping costs in the holiday quarter rose to 12.5 percent of sales, up from 10.9 percent in the same quarter last year. At least 46 million households globally are Prime subscribers.

While the increase will undoubtedly be used to help offset some of the shipping cost increases, it could also be part of a strategy to push more customers into subscribing to Prime.

In explaining the change, an Amazon spokeswoman said simply, “From time to time, we review our shipping options.”

As recently as 2013, Amazon’s free shipping minimum was just $25. In late 2013, it increased to $35. Those relatively low minimums, in combination with free shipping for Prime members, pushed others in the industry to drop their minimums. Target’s free-shipping threshold now sits at $25, while Best Buy and e-commerce startup offer free delivery on orders of $35 or more.

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