Bad news, Amazon fans: The site is making it a little harder to score free shipping.
For the first time in over a decade, Amazon (AMZN) is raising the minimum purchase necessary to get your order shipped for free. The usual $25 threshold for free "Super Saver" shipping is going up to $35, effective immediately.
"Amazon's minimum order size for free shipping has changed to $35," the company said in a brief announcement on its site. "This is the first time in more than a decade that Amazon has altered the minimum order for free shipping in the US. During that time, we have expanded free shipping selection by millions of items across all 40 product categories."
Luke Knowles of FreeShipping.org told us he was surprised by the move, noting that it's difficult to raise a free-shipping threshold once customers have gotten used to it.
"I guess it's probably just that they're not making enough money," he says. "They think they've already got the customer locked in to shopping with them."
%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%That makes sense. Amazon's profit margins are notoriously thin, and shipping isn't cheap; raising the minimum allows the company to stop paying for shipping on small purchases, and may encourage some shoppers to add more to their carts, boosting sales figures.
When we reached out to Amazon to see if we could find out more about the change, a spokesperson simply emphasized that the minimum has been set at $25 for more than a decade. That's fair: It makes sense that the cutoff for free shipping should rise with inflation. Still, the change comes as competitors like Barnes and Noble have set their own free-shipping cutoff at $25 and others have ditched minimum purchase requirements altogether; if these companies don't follow suit, that's a competitive advantage over Amazon that they're sure to emphasize to shoppers during the holiday season.
There is perhaps one other reason why this move makes sense for Amazon. In its announcement, Amazon noted that "Millions of Amazon customers have already made the choice of faster shipping by becoming Amazon Prime members." Prime, it emphasized, carries no such minimum purchase requirements.
That little aside is significant. By making it a little tougher for people to get free shipping, Amazon might convince more of them to pony up the $79 a year to sign up for Prime -- a plan which gives them even more reason to shop loyally at Amazon.
Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.