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5 creative ways to get free shipping

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By Melissa Neiman/MoneyTalksNews

Every year, more and more consumers do their shopping online. And it’s no wonder. Online shopping sites like Amazon make it easy to find the best prices in minutes. Shop at cash-back sites such as Ebates, and you’ll get cash back on most of the purchases you make.

However, one of the biggest drawbacks to shopping online are those pesky shipping fees. Fortunately, you can avoid such costs with a little ingenuity.

Following are five great ways to score free shipping on your online purchases:

Check out alerts you to free and reduced shipping policies as they become available. If a code is required to land the deal, you will also find that here.

This is a great site to check before you make a purchase at your favorite online store. For instance, a recent search for “Target” turned up 29 offers of discounts and free shipping.

If you like, you can also ask to email you every time any of your favorite retailers add a new deal.

Use the “ship to store” option

This is one of the best ways to cut your shipping costs. Let’s say you’re shopping at and find a great price on a paper shredder. Unfortunately, the item’s cost is far less than the minimum $50 required to get free shipping. What’s a shopper to do?

Simple -- just ask Walmart to ship the item to one of its nearby stores. There is no cost to you, and you can simply pick up the item the next time you shop at Walmart. This strategy works especially well if you are a regular Walmart shopper who frequents the store at least weekly, as Walmart will only hold items for seven days.

And remember, Walmart is just one of many retailers that offer this option. Check with your favorite retailer about its policy. (Or check out our story “18 Retailers That Offer Free Store Pickup for Online Orders.”)

Pay a little for your free shipping

Yes, this sounds like a contradiction — paying to get free shipping. But if you shop online a lot, it may make sense to pony up for a one-time fee that will get you free shipping the rest of the year.  

Amazon Prime is the most famous example of this type of service. Sign up for Prime — $99 for one year — and you will get free two-day shipping on most items. You’ll also get access to free videos music and e-books.

ShopRunner is another similar service. The site partners with hundreds of major retailers to offer free two-day shipping. It costs $79 for one year, but you can also sign up for a free 30-day trial.

Note that a handful of ShopRunner partners require you to purchase a minimum number of goods to get free shipping. But returns to all stores won’t cost you a penny.

Should around holidays

A little patience goes a long way toward getting free shipping. Many retailers offer free shipping around holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas are big holidays for free shipping offers, but don’t overlook Memorial Day, Labor Day and even Valentine’s Day and July Fourth.

The mother of all free-shipping holidays is probably Free Shipping Day, which falls on Dec. 16 this year. First scheduled in 2007, thousands of retailers now participate in the holiday.

Ask for free shipping

Sometimes, the best way to get free shipping is simply to ask for it. Andrea Woroch writes at The Muse:  

“Shipping charges are the number one reason online shopping carts are abandoned. Retailers know this, and if you get all the way to checkout and hesitate before clicking “Buy,” they’re sometimes willing to throw in a discount in order to make … the sale.” 

Woroch recommends opening a chat window at checkout to make your request. Even if you don’t get free shipping, the retailer may throw in a coupon or other goodie.  

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