How to Get Free Shipping Courtesy Of Your Credit Card

How to Get Free Shipping with Your Credit CardDo you feel like you shouldn’t need to pay for shipping when you shop online? If so, you aren’t alone. Forrester Research’s recent “US Online Holiday Retail Forecast, 2013” found that consumers have come to expect free shipping, particularly during the holidays, and many will leave a site if it’s not offered.

Given that more and more spending has shifted online–according to ComScore, online sales grew by an astounding 20% on Cyber Monday–it’s not surprising then, that some payment providers have begun experimenting with offering free shipping to differentiate their service and attract that spending.

American Express via ShopRunner
American Express currently offers free, 2-day shipping at over 80 online merchants, including Neiman Marcus, Calvin Klein, Toys R Us, and PetSmart through its partnership with ShopRunner, a service similar to Amazon Prime. ShopRunner normally charges a subscription fee of $79/year for unlimited, free 2-day shipping at any of the 80+ merchants within its network. With the American Express partnership, however, all ShopRunner subscription fees are waived for customers who register an American Express card as their primary form of payment in their ShopRunner account.

While American Express has had a relationship with ShopRunner that dates back a few years, each company is now aggressively cross-promoting one another on their websites. So this appears to be a cardmember benefit that should stick around for a while.

MasterCard just announced that it is now offering a complimentary service to provide free, two-day shipping from five leading online retailers: Best Buy, QVC, Macy’s, Kohl’s and Walmart. The “Free Shipping by MasterCard” service allows MasterCard cardmembers to receive a statement credit for the cost of two-day shipping up to $20 per order and up to a maximum of $500 per 6-month subscription.

In addition, MasterCard is offering a premium service for an annual fee of $69 that allows access to a broader set of participating merchants–which include Nordstrom, JCpenney, GameStop, Home Depot, Sephora and Shutterfly–as well as credits of up to $20 per 2-day shipping charge and $1,500 per year.

While it no longer runs the promotion, in early October, PayPal also dipped its toes into the free shipping arena. It ran a trial promotion that gave customers free, two-day shipping on internet purchases with no minimum purchase, as long as they checked out using PayPal. Participating merchants included Sports Authority, Aeropostale, Levi’s and a few other retailers.

Comparing Amex/ShopRunner to Free Shipping by MasterCard
As of now, participating in the Free Shipping by MasterCard program is quite a bit more cumbersome than the Amex/ShopRunner integration. Whereas ShopRunner is integrated into the check out pages of participating merchants and consumers are never actually charged for shipping, MasterCard requires customers to email their order confirmation showing the shipping charge and then receiving their statement credit after the order has been confirmed. Amex/ShopRunner also currently boast far more participating merchants.

The MasterCard program is very new, however, so one should reasonably expect changes to eventually come.

All in all, though, more choices are good to have. Especially when they’re being offered for free.

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