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The best Amazon Prime alternatives: Cheaper options, just as fast

What are the best Amazon Prime alternatives? Our top picks include cheaper options from brands like Walmart, Target, and Instacart, as well as Amazon Prime video alternatives.

Last month, we saw Amazon's stock soar 17% after reporting its quarterly earnings and, with it, the North American price for Prime membership. Previously costing $119 for an annual subscription (or $12.99 per month), new Prime users will now pay $139 yearly, and existing users' rates will see an increase on March 25. 

While Amazon Prime has become an essential service for many -- including myself -- who order household items and gadgets by the week, the inevitable price hike is not as easily justifiable for those who shop less frequently. That's why we've dug through the membership catalogs of virtually every retailer to find the best Amazon Prime alternatives. These services will not only cost less but also offer delivery speeds and benefits that match Amazon's. Check them out below.

More: How to cancel your Amazon Prime membership

Walmart+

Free delivery, early sales access, most variety

Walmart+
Image: Walmart

The best one-to-one alternative to Amazon Prime is Walmart+. The superstore's subscription plan offers fast, free shipping on its bounty of groceries, household products, tech, and even medical prescriptions. With thousands of physical locations across the US, Walmart+ sources your local store to deliver the freshest products, with real-time inventory statuses. Those features are particularly handy if you typically have your groceries delivered.

For shipping, Walmart+ guarantees that all items that are "Shipped by Walmart" will arrive within two days -- no order minimum required. To compete against Amazon's Prime Day sales, Walmart+ members gain early access to special promotions and events, all year long. That includes Black Friday deals, new product releases, and more.

A Walmart+ plan costs $12.95 per month or $98 a year. We recommend the latter subscription plan for the best value. If you're a newcomer and want to test the waters first, you can also opt for a 30-day free trial. 

Pros

  • Annual subscription is $40 cheaper than Amazon Prime
  • Groceries and products are sourced from your closest Walmart stores for fast and fresh deliveries
  • VIP access to sales promotions and shopping events
  • Save up on prescriptions from over 4,000 Walmart pharmacies

Cons

  • Membership does not include streaming and entertainment benefits
  • Walmart's Marketplace, items sold by third-party sellers, do not guarantee two-day shipping
  • Less variety of items than Amazon

Target RedCard

5% off every purchase, additional return time, in-store pickup

Target RedCard
Image: Target

Target is another big-box store with an exclusive shopping program. But instead of the monthly and annual subscription plans, shoppers can register for a RedCard -- debit or credit -- that rewards 5% back for every purchase made in-stores and online. That's on top of the free shipping, special access to sales and discounts, and an additional 30-day period for returns and exchanges (60 days in total) that come with RedCard members.

Applying for a RedCard is free and so is the same-day shipping service for a plethora of Target-sold products. Like Walmart, Target sources your local stores when delivering produce and you can expect real-time inventory updates on hot items. With that information, it's also possible to place orders for pickup. The 5% discount that comes with the RedCard will still apply.

Pros

  • No monthly or annual subscriptions needed
  • Get a 5% discount for online and in-store purchases with RedCard
  • 60-day return and exchange window for Target-sold items
  • Free same-day shipping via Shipt for RedCard members

Cons

  • Not for those who don't want another credit or debit card to pay off
  • Less variety of items than Amazon

ShopRunner

Free for most credit card holders, two-day shipping

ShopRunner
Image: Samsung

ShopRunner can be thought of as the Uber Eats of online shopping. By partnering with more than a hundred retailers including Saks Fifth Avenue, Lenovo, Fanatics, and more, members can get free two-day shipping when they shop online and select the ShopRunner delivery option.

A yearly subscription costs $79, but PayPal members, MasterCard World and World Elite holders, Chase, and American Express cardholders can register to ShopRunner for free. If you're not in any of those groups, you can still opt for a three-month trial at no cost. Maybe wait until peak-shopping seasons if you plan on doing so.

Pros

  • Complimentary ShopRunner subscription for most credit cardholders
  • Free two-day shipping
  • Exclusive offers and discounts at partner stores

Cons

  • Catalog of retail partners may not include your preferred stores

Instacart

No subscriptions, great variety to shop from

Instacart
Image: Instacart

Instacart is best known for its grocery delivery services, but has since expanded to cover a wider base of goods and products. Today, you can use the Instacart app (or website) to place an order from a catalog of grocery stores, warehouse clubs, and consumer brands, and a shopper will physically shop and deliver them to your house.

A subscription plan is not required to use Instacart; You only need to pay a delivery fee, which starts at $3.99 for same-day orders over $35, a service fee, and a recommended tip to your driver. That said, the fees will vary based on where you're shopping from, and do add up. But for its convenience and centralized shopping, we think Instacart is worth considering for the less-frequent shoppers.

  • Pros
  • No subscription plan needed to use the service
  • Great selection of local grocery stores, warehouse clubs, and consumer brands to shop from
  • Same-day shipping on orders over $35

Cons

  • Delivery fee, service fee, and tip vary based on where you shop

Best Amazon Prime Video alternative

Hulu

Cheap streaming service with TV favorites

Hulu
AFM Visuals/Shutterstock

Going without Amazon Prime also means leaving behind Prime Video. Fortunately, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives that offer just as much, if not more, variety in the TV shows and movies that you can watch on demand. Our best pick is Hulu, which can be subscribed to for as low as $6.99 per month.

With the basic tier plan, you will have access to all of Hulu's exclusive shows, hit movies, Originals, kids shows, and more. The only caveat to the cheaper price is the addition of pre-roll ads, which is also prevalent on Amazon Prime Video. Still, Hulu costs less than the $8.99 that Amazon charges monthly and will keep switchers entertained. 

A free one-month trial is available for first time customers of Hulu.

Also: Best video streaming services: More Amazon Prime alternatives

Pros

  • Affordable on-demand streaming
  • Vast assortment of popular TV shows and movies
  • Hulu Originals are exclusive from Prime Video

Cons

  • Basic tier is ad-supported

What are the best Amazon Prime alternatives?

The best Amazon Prime alternatives include Walmart+, Target Redcard, Instacart, and ShopRunner. Hulu is a great alternative to Amazon Prime video.

How did we choose the best Amazon Prime alternatives?

When it comes to online shopping, Amazon Prime has set the tone for convenience and speed. So when picking out the best alternatives, we not only sought out options that matched the two factors, but more.

Our picks provide delivery options as quickly as the day of, carry a similar catalog of products and services as Amazon, and also offer unique value propositions that you never knew you needed.

Lastly, with the Amazon Prime price hike, our picks are more affordable and value-driven.

Is there a cheaper way for me to get Amazon Prime?

While that friendly Amazon customer service associate will honor your returns and exchanges, they won't be able to exempt you from the new prices. However, there are some methods to help you get the same experience for less.

  • Amazon Prime Student: If you're a student, you can enroll into an Amazon Prime Student membership using your .edu email and reap the same benefits as a regular member for half off. That brings the monthly cost down to $7.49, or $69 per year.
  • Government assistance recipients and people who rely on EBT or Medicaid can qualify for a discounted Prime membership -- as low as $6.99 per month. 
  • Have a friend or family who's also looking to pay less? Share an Amazon Prime account via Amazon Household and split the cost in two!

Can I get Prime shipping without a Prime membership?

If you're like me and have been using Amazon Prime for as long as you can remember. You can actually still qualify for Amazon's fast shipping services without a membership. The only requirement is that you have to order at least $25 worth of eligible items, typically with a "FREE Shipping" signage on the product page.

Are there more alternatives worth considering?

Here are a few more top-rated services to fulfill your shopping needs: