Since Amazon Prime launched in 2005, it's been the most popular membership in the world, expanding from free shipping to Prime Day deals, Video, grocery delivery, Twitch streaming, and much more. Now, Walmart is coming for its 150 million members with the new Walmart Plus membership, which launched on September 15th.
We're diving into the nitty-gritty details of Walmart's new service to help you decide if it's worth considering over Prime, or in addition to Prime. We'll compare price, membership benefits, regional access, delivery times, in-store perks, and everything else you need to know.
- Walmart Black Friday 2020: what to expect
Free trial: 15-day free trial to Walmart Plus
For anyone who regularly shops at Walmart, signing up for Walmart+ gives you free delivery and one-hour delivery windows, plus faster checkouts in-store. And luckily, there's a 15-day free trial available if you want to test out the benefits for yourself.
Both membership services fall into the same price ballpark, though Walmart's plan wins the battle if you pay annually.
Subscribe to Walmart Plus, and you get a 15-day free trial followed by either a $98/year or $12.95/month plan. With Amazon Prime, you can enjoy a 30-day free trial followed by a $119/year or $12.99/month membership.
Put plainly, if you're willing to pay upfront, Walmart will save you money, but if you prefer month-to-month the two services are comparable.
Amazon also has more flexible pricing for certain groups of people. EBT or Medicaid card holders can get Prime for $5.99/month, while students can get a six-month free trial followed by an offer for half off a standard Prime membership.
Walmart Plus offers a few perks, but its main benefit is the option to receive unlimited deliveries from participating Walmart stores on orders over $35. Out of the 5,300 or so Walmart or Walmart-owned locations in the US, 2,700 offer same-day shipping speeds.
You'll need to be in the vicinity of a valid Walmart store to take advantage. Enter your street address on this page to find out whether you can take advantage of a membership.
Walmart also lets you save 5 cents per gallon at participating Walmart and Murphy gas stations in the United States. We've included a screenshot of the map of locations above, showing most of these stations are concentrated in the South, Midwest and East. You can also check out this list of participating gas stations.
As for your Prime membership, you can get free two-day shipping on Amazon.com items anywhere in the continental United States (no $35 cart requirement), and sometimes free one-day or same-day shipping on specific items depending on your location, though some orders at this level also require your cart to be over $35.
For deliveries from Amazon Fresh or Prime Now, you'll also need to be located near one of the 470 US Whole Foods stores or an Amazon fulfillment center. Go to the Prime Now home page or Amazon Fresh home page and enter your zip code or check the list of cities. For Now, we counted over 100 eligible city or county areas as of publication, whereas with Fresh, there appears to be a wider range of nationwide coverage.
Delivery windows, available items and minimum orders
Walmart claims its new Walmart Plus service will have more than 160,000 items available. In reality, your product selection at Walmart Plus is entirely dependent on what's available at your local store.
Walmart Plus should have a full selection of produce and brand-name groceries, but any non-grocery items that aren't in stock at your nearby store will need to be bought from a separate Walmart.com order.
Walmart promises that there will be no online markup, so you'll pay the same price for groceries that you'd pay in store.
Once you've filled your Walmart Plus cart, you can select any available delivery or pickup window. Windows are available first-come, first-serve and vary by store, but Walmart Plus will offer one-hour delivery windows, so buyers don't have to wait around too long.
To be eligible for free Walmart Plus delivery, your cart must equal $35 or more. For comparison, with standard Prime purchases, you have no minimum price to receive free shipping. But for Prime grocery deliveries, you'll have the same $35 minimum.
Prime grocery orders come from one of three services: Prime Now, Amazon Fresh or Amazon Pantry. Fresh offers a wide range of grocery items, Pantry sells household goods you'd find in a drug store, and Now gives you access to a selection of goods from nearby Whole Foods stores. All three are included with your Prime membership, but you'd have to place separate orders to get products from both Now and Fresh, for example. And, for each service, you must order a minimum of $35 or you will be charged a flat $4.99 or $9.99 fee.
With Pantry, Fresh or Now, you fill your cart and then select a two-hour delivery window. Or, you can sometimes pay extra for a one-hour window.
While both services offer "free" delivery, you are highly encouraged to tip your driver, which essentially means delivery isn't free. "100%" of your tip will go to the Prime or Walmart Plus delivery driver; however, Amazon is notorious for using your tips to pay its drivers' base wages instead of adding it on top of their wages.
Walmart Plus helps you order groceries from home, but it also makes shopping in stores and self-checkouts so much more convenient.
Members get access to Mobile Scan & Go functionality in the Walmart app on iOS or Android. With it, you can scan the barcode of items when you place them in your cart, and check your current cart total. Then, when you reach self-checkout, you simply scan your in-app QR code, and you will instantly see your full list of groceries, without having to swipe them one by one.
Using the connected debit or credit card information in the Walmart app, you'll have the option to instantly pay as well. The only thing that will take any time is bagging your items in self-checkout.
With Prime, you can receive Prime member discounts on select items in Whole Foods, or get online prices for books in Amazon bookstores.
Other membership perks
While Walmart promises there's "more to come" for Walmart Plus members, as of now the benefits are confined to free delivery on grocery orders, Mobile Scan & Go, and 5 cents per gallon at participating gas stations. That's a fairly limited benefit list, geared mostly towards frequent Walmart shoppers.
With Prime, you get free deliveries on grocery or non-grocery orders, and a very long list of other varied benefits:
- Access to Prime Video, specifically Included with Prime and Amazon Originals
- Exclusive Prime deals and 30-minute early access to Lightning deals
- Complementary access to Fresh, Now and Pantry
- 2 million Amazon Music songs (but not Amazon Music Unlimited)
- Prime Gaming, which includes free PC games every month and a Twitch Prime subscription
- 20% off diapers and 15% off baby registries with Amazon Family (included)
- Prime Reading access to free eBooks and Amazon First Reads
Will Walmart Plus add equivalent features to its service to compete with Amazon? We can only speculate, but signs currently point to "no", at least in the short term.
Walmart recently sold its streaming service Vudu to Fandango. If it had meant to go toe-to-toe with Amazon, it could have rebranded it as Walmart Video and started adding original content, rather than selling this asset. It did invest in Tiktok, but we believe this is more about e-commerce than a traditional streaming service.
The company plans to team up with Zipline to built a fleet of drones that can deliver in a 50-mile radius around a store. This will compete directly with Amazon Prime Air, which recently received approval from the US FAA to begin operations. However, Amazon has been building up to this for years, so Walmart has some catching up to do.
Walmart always has an excellent selection of Black Friday deals, and it's possible that Walmart Plus subscribers will get access to better discounts in the future. But for now, the service is truly focused on local grocery deliveries.
Walmart Plus, Amazon Prime, or both?
We ranked Amazon Fresh our #1 choice for grocery delivery services, with Walmart Grocery falling to #4 mainly because you could only pick up orders, not get them delivered. Rest assured that Walmart Plus will put up more of a fight when we update our list.
As it stands, Walmart Plus doesn't compete with Prime in most non-grocery categories. If you gave up Prime, you'd lose access to Prime Day 2020, free shipping on orders below $35, and other useful advantages.
However, as a separate service for frequent Walmart shoppers looking for cheap groceries, Walmart Plus offers plenty of value, especially for people looking to social distance or shorten their trips to the store. Walmart groceries will certainly save you money compared to Whole Foods fare, and arguably compared to Fresh prices as well.
If you can afford it, subscribing to both wouldn't be a bad decision.
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Michael Hicks began his freelance writing career with TechRadar in 2016, covering emerging tech like VR and self-driving cars. Nowadays, he works as a staff editor for Android Central, but still writes occasional TR reviews, how-tos and explainers on phones, tablets, smart home devices, and other tech.