Money

Amazon, Walmart and Target are competing to deliver your groceries—here's how their offers stack up

A Walmart Pickup-Grocery employee waits next to a truck.
Rick Wilking | Reuters
A Walmart Pickup-Grocery employee waits next to a truck.

Walmart has announced that by the end of the year 800 stores will be offering a same-day grocery delivery service that will reach 100 metropolitan areas and 40 percent of households across the U.S. The retailer will charge a flat fee of $9.95 for delivery of fresh produce, meat, seafood and non-perishables on orders of $30 or more.

Here's how that compares to what other retail giants are charging for similar services.

Amazon Fresh

In certain cities, Amazon Fresh delivers a wide array of foods for $14.99 per month added to your Prime membership, which itself costs either $12.99 per month or $99 a year. With the subscription, orders over $50 are free. Anything less costs an extra $9.99.

If your orders always meet that threshold, the delivery service comes out to an add-on of about $180 a year, equal to the cost of 18 deliveries from Walmart.

So if you live in a participating region and you get your groceries delivered even once every two weeks, Amazon's offer may be cheaper, but if you use the service infrequently or Fresh isn't available, Walmart delivery may be the better option.

Last month, Amazon announced an even better deal. It will be delivering Whole Foods groceries to its Prime members in select cities: Austin, Cincinnati, Dallas, Virginia Beach and now Atlanta and San Francisco. That means free two-hour delivery on orders of $35 or more for Prime members, or $7.99 if you want your free-range organic chicken in an hour.

Target

In December, Target announced a plan to buy the grocery delivery service Shipt for $550 million. For now, shoppers who want to participate have to pay the Shipt annual membership fee of $49 for the first year and $99 per year thereafter. Target is expected to alter pricing models as it more fully integrates the service.

Under their current model, Shipt delivers for free on orders of more than $35, though surcharges for certain items can add up. "When ordering from select retailers, a small service fee will be added at checkout. For example, a loaf of Wonderbread costs $2.29 in the store and $2.59 to have it delivered to your door using Shipt," the company notes.

Third-party services

Like Shipt, most third-party delivery companies tack on a small fee for certain items. That's the case for Instacart, which has partnered with a number of major grocers throughout the country, such as Costco. Instacart offers two-hour delivery for $5.99, one-hour for $7.99 or free on orders of $35 or more with an annual fee of $149.

Another popular service available only in certain regions, FreshDirect, delivers food directly from food suppliers. Its fee varies by location but is usually between $5.99 and $7.99 on orders of at least $30. Annual membership, which includes access to free deliveries, costs $129.

FreshDirect's competitor Peapod has a different pricing model. It sets a $60 minimum and charges $6.95 for deliveries over $100 and up to $9.95 for cheaper orders. It also offers free delivery when you purchase the PodPass, which costs $119 a year, but only for orders over $100.

All things considered, it appears shoppers in the six cities offered the new Amazon Prime plus Whole Foods grocery delivery service could be getting the best deal.

For everyone else, the smartest option might depend on how frequently you get your groceries delivered. At the moment, Walmart's service doesn't require an annual fee at all, while, among those that require annual memberships, Target's service powered by Shipt offers the lowest annual fee.

For one-time delivery fees, meanwhile, FreshDirect and Instacart seem to offer the most competitive rates.

Of course, none of these services compare to the cheapest option: Going out and buying your groceries yourself. Paying for convenience traps like a delivery service can add up. That said, if you're paying for something that saves you time to do things that you enjoy more, research shows the added expense might be worth it.

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