MONEY deals

Free ‘Transparent’ Streaming, Cheap Amazon Prime on Saturday

Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent
Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent Beth Dubber—© Amazon/Courtesy Everett Colle

Amazon already has tens of millions of subscribers to Amazon Prime. But Amazon wants more, and it's using a Transparent-Golden Globes-themed promotion on Saturday to win them over.

A report surfaced last autumn estimating that as many as 50 million people were members of Amazon Prime, the $99-per-year subscription service that includes two-day shipping on most purchases and unlimited streaming of video and music content. Mind you, that was before the 2014 holiday shopping season, during which Amazon reported some 10 million new members had signed up for Prime.

Previous studies have indicated that Amazon actually loses money on Prime due to all the shipping costs incurred by frequent shoppers. Yet Prime is undeniably a powerful revenue driver for the world’s largest retailer, because of the tendency of subscribers to make nearly all of their online purchases at Amazon once they’ve paid for a membership. Hence Amazon’s relentless push to boost Prime subscriptions at any and every opportunity.

And hence the latest Amazon promotion, which on Saturday grants everyone with an Internet connection free streaming of Transparent, the ground-breaking Golden Globe-winning comedy normally only available to Prime subscribers. Besides celebrating the success of Transparent and lead actor Jeffrey Tambor at the Golden Globes, the idea of airing the show for all to see is surely also a pitch to snag more Prime members. The implicit sales pitch being: Just look at the kinds of things you’d get to watch regularly if you were a Prime member!

What’s more, Amazon is giving Prime extra appeal by knocking the usual $99 price of a subscription down to $72 on Saturday, January 24. Why 72? Again, it has to do with the Golden Globes—the most recent awards were the 72nd in history.

MONEY

275,000+ Free Tickets to Selma Available for Students

SELMA, from left: Colman Domingo, David Oyelowo, as Martin Luther King Jr., Andre Holland, Stephan James, 2014.
From left: Colman Domingo, David Oyelowo (as Martin Luther King, Jr.), Andre Holland and Stephan James in a scene from Selma. Atsushi Nishijima—Paramount Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

A "Selma for Students" campaign has raised enough money to allow hundreds of thousands of American middle and high school students to see the Martin Luther King, Jr., biopic Selma for free.

The critically acclaimed civil rights drama Selma may not have gotten quite the recognition some feel it deserved by the Academy of Motion Pictures, but a nationwide movement called “Selma for Students” is ensuring that the movie isn’t overlooked at theaters.

The program allows 7th, 8th, and 9th graders to receive free tickets to Selma at participating theaters around the country, including four apiece in cities like Baltimore, Nashville, and New Orleans, and at 11 movie houses in the San Francisco Bay area. The requirements differ slightly from city to city—some give free admission for high school students no matter what the grade—but in general, all you need to do to get a complimentary ticket is to show a student ID, report card, or some other proof of being a student at a participating theater’s box office.

As the Washington Post reported, the idea for “Selma for Students” was born in New York City, where African-American business leaders joined together in early January to create a fund allowing some 27,000 students in the city to view Selma for free. Roughly two dozen other cities have since joined the cause.

In St. Louis, for instance, local efforts are making it possible for some 6,250 teenagers to see the film for free. “It is important that St. Louis students are informed about this moment in history and its connections to the challenges they face today,” Reverend Starsky Wilson, president and CEO of Deaconess Foundation, a partner in the “Selma for Students” campaign in the city, said via press release. “We believe this experience will nurture civic engagement among young people and give them hope that systemic change is possible through cooperative, intentional, and well-planned efforts.”

Altogether, it’s being estimated that more than 275,000 American students around the country will be able to get free admission to the movie, with most attending over the long Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday weekend.

A limited number of tickets are being given away for each theater, and as of Friday afternoon several locations were already “sold out,” including all of New York City and Philadelphia, and all but a few of the participating Regal Cinemas around the country. All who watch the movie are encouraged to share images and responses on social media using the hashtag #SelmaforStudents.

MONEY deals

Two-for-One Ice Cream Promo Encourages You to Ditch New Year Resolutions

Ice Cream cone filled with Maple Ice Cream Graham Crackers Skor Bar in Dark Chocolate and Skor Cone at Marble Slab Creamery.
A cone at Marble Slab Creamery, which is offering two-for-one ice cream on National Ditch Your New Year's Resolutions Day . Rick Eglinton—The Toronto Star via Getty Image

Marble Slab and MaggieMoo's are offering a special buy one, get one free ice cream deal on Saturday, January 17, which happens to be National Ditch Your New Year's Resolutions Day.

Sister ice cream franchises Marble Slab Creamery and Maggie Moo’s are “celebrating” National Ditch Your Resolutions Day—one of the many fake holidays that fill up the calendar nowadays, this one supposedly based on the premise that January 17 is the most common day for people to give up on resolutions—with a special two-for-one ice cream promotion. To participate, just go into a MaggieMoo’s or Marble Slab on Saturday, and humbly (or proudly) announce that you’re too weak to keep your resolve for more than a couple of weeks into the new year.

“All customers who declare ‘I’m ditching my New Year’s resolution’ will receive the offer,” a press release from the ice cream chains explains.

The shops have periodically been promoting the “Ditch” deal on social media since the new year began, with photos of banana splits and phrases such as “MAKE THIS YOUR YEAR TO EAT MORE CHOCOLATE.” The posts have prompted comments like these on Facebook:

I gained a pound just looking at this!

There goes my diet…lol

cheat night?!?!?

For those who aspire to be strong-willed enough to make their resolutions stick, we’ve offered plenty of tips to help the cause, no matter if you’re resolving to save more money or ease off the sweets. If you’re aiming to do the latter, one obvious strategy is to stay away from ice cream shops, especially when they’re hosting two-for-one promotions.

One common piece of advice for keeping resolutions is to enlist a friend, either by asking them to pledge to reach the same goals as you or simply by making them aware of your goals, with the hope that they’ll help keep you on track.

On the other hand, hey, if you’re going to cave on your resolution by digging into some ice cream on Saturday—with unlimited mix-ins, by the way—this too is an opportunity to involve a buddy. That way, at least you won’t eat both of the two-for-one ice creams yourself.

MONEY Fast Food

Fast Food Is Going to War Over These Three Menu Items

Burger King, Las Vegas airport, Nevada
Kumar Sriskandan—Alamy

Chicken nugget deals are incredibly cheap at fast food restaurants right now, and coffee promotions are cheaper still. Competition over breakfast sandwiches is white hot too.

Fast food’s biggest players will always compete over burgers, low-price value menu deals, and limited-time-only items that pop up seasonally. (Speaking of which, it’s getting close to Shamrock Shake time at McDonald’s.) Lately, though, the competition has gotten particularly focused, and particularly tough, concerning these three menu categories.

Chicken Nuggets
This week, Burger King kicked off a fierce nugget competition, offering a 10-piece chicken nugget order for just $1.49, roughly half the usual menu price. Or rather, it reintroduced the deal, which it also launched onto the scene for a limited period last fall. At the time, Burger King described the 15¢ nugget promotion “an aggressive deal rivaling anything our competition has ever done.”

That competition notably includes McDonald’s, which periodically offers a promotional deal at most locations of 20 nuggets for $4.99 and 50 for $9.99. The latter breaks down to a cost of 20¢ per nugget.

(NOTE: 20-piece and 50-piece nugget orders are intended to be shared, not consumed by a single customer in one sitting. One 40-year-old Daily Beast writer can attest to this after voluntarily taking on the highly inadvisable, 2,375-calorie challenge of eating 50 McDonald’s nuggets by himself. Inevitably, the task involved a run for the bathroom mid-challenge, perhaps because “digestive enzymes may be making me hallucinate, or maybe the salt and fat overload is draining my endorphins dry.”)

Coffee
Most fast-food promotional offers are created with the purpose of driving traffic into restaurants early and often. So it especially makes sense for quick-serve restaurants to pump up promotions on items that customers crave at all hours of the day. In today’s world, there’s no better item than coffee, which people will drink morning, afternoon, and night, and which comes with the added bonus of being pretty darn cheap to brew. Hence, the ongoing free coffee promotions at McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts dueling for customers in certain parts of the country.

Coffee deals are hot right now at convenience stores for largely the same reasons: They draw in customers, which is a much tougher sell in the winter because it’s cold and folks tend to want to stay home or at least not get out of their cars. Cumberland Farms, for instance, is heavily promoting its coffee, which sells for 99¢ in any size, while 7-Eleven has a changing roster of deals including two donuts and a coffee for $2 and buy six coffees and the seventh is free for customers using its app.

Breakfast Sandwiches
The battle for fast food breakfast customers got heated in early 2014 with the introduction of Taco Bell’s Waffle Taco, and it hasn’t really cooled off. A big reason why fast food giants are duking it out over breakfast with particular ferocity is that for years breakfast has been the only meal time that has experienced regular growth at quick-serve restaurants, which offer convenient, on-the-go foods to help on-the-go Americans start their day.

This is why Taco Bell jumped into the breakfast scene nationally last year, and why other players such as Chick-fil-A, Taco John’s, and White Castle expanded or began exploring breakfast menus too. In almost all cases, breakfast items focus on the sandwich because it is hand-held and can be eaten easily behind the wheel—a feature that’s especially important during breakfast hours, when the typical customer is trying to get somewhere while fueling up for the day. The latest entrant into the breakfast sandwich wars is the French Toaster, an egg-cheese-and-meat mix bookended by two pieces of French toast from Sonic. A MarketWatch story declared that “the new battleground in the world of fast food is the breakfast sandwich,” and that the portability of the French Toaster and other breakfast sandwiches is essential for their success.

MONEY Leisure

Right Now Is the Best—and Cheapest!—Time to Learn to Ski

A male snowboarder ripping powder in Idaho.
Patrick Orton—Getty Images

In January, ski resorts around the country offer incredibly cheap packages for lessons and rentals—often under $30 per day, occasionally totally free. And sometimes you wind up with a free season pass.

If you’ve ever considered getting into skiing or snowboarding, then you should especially consider doing so in January. With the exception of the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, January is generally a slow time for skiing, as there’s a lull in between the busy Christmas and Spring Break periods. So it’s a perfect time for mom-and-pop ski hills and huge destination resorts alike to roll out their very best promotions to entice novices into picking up skiing or snowboarding (or maybe both). And that’s just what they do, as the industry has collectively dubbed January the official Ski and Snowboard Month.

Click on that link for a long list of ski lesson specials around the country in January. So long as you live somewhere remotely hilly and snowy (sorry Florida), there’s probably a good offer within proximity to your neck of the woods.

The offers are literally and figuratively all over the map. One of the best values and most comprehensive programs is coordinated by Ski Vermont. Nearly all member resorts that belong to the state ski association, including big industry players like Killington, Mount Snow, Stratton, and Stowe, offer a beginner package with lessons, lift ticket, and rentals for just $29 on most days (not available over the holiday weekend). What’s more, Bromley Mountain in southern Vermont has a special granting lessons, rentals, and a lift ticket for the beginner area totally for free on Monday, January 19.

Likewise, ski mountains all over New Hampshire offer a similar lessons-lift-ticket-rental package for $29 in January, while the standard January promotion price for beginners in world-class Utah is $45. Then there are dozens and dozens of individual resorts around the country offering their own special deal, like a $29 beginner package from Sunday River in Maine and a $69 deal for Mammoth Mountain in California. The latter may not seem quite as good a bargain as other offers, but bear in mind that what’s included—one-day lift ticket plus a beginner group lesson and rentals—normally costs $190. So participants are saving $121.

There are other freebies too. Many resorts, including Bromley, Killington, Sunday River, Sugarloaf (Maine), Schweitzer (Idaho), Liberty Mountain (Pennsylvania), and Wachusett (Massachusetts) have special “bring a friend” promotions, in which one or more lift tickets is provided free when a newbie signs up for a lessons package.

Finally, there are resorts like Mt. Spokane in Washington and Brian Head in Utah, which offer bonuses after the basic lesson package is completed. At the former, after buying a $99 three-day package, skiers and boarders can purchase a pass valid for the entire rest of the season for another $99. At the latter, beginners who finish a three-day learning package (price: $199) receive a lift pass good for the rest of the season at no extra charge, plus the option of buying a pass for the 2015-2016 season at 50% off.

MONEY freebies

Free Coffee on Mondays at McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts

McCafe coffee
Mark Lennihan—AP

Case of the Mondays? At least there's free coffee to perk up your day.

In select parts of the country, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts are trying to draw in customers and boost business by promising a free caffeine fix on the dreariest day of the work week. Both fast food chains have kicked off the new year with promotions giving away free coffee on Mondays. They’re limited-time offers, and the deal isn’t available in all markets, but in the case of many McDonald’s locations, customers can expect free coffee every single Monday throughout the entirety of 2015.

For instance, McDonald’s restaurants in the greater Washington, D.C., region, which includes parts of Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia, are giving away one free small coffee per customer—hot or iced, no purchase required, even for drive-thru visits—on every Monday this year. A spokesperson for McDonald’s told us the company is aware of locations in the following areas that are giving away free coffee on Mondays:

Washington, D.C.
Johnstown-Altoona, Pennsylvania
Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, Virginia
Indianapolis/Lafayette, Indiana
South Bend/Ft. Wayne, Indiana
Cincinnati, Ohio
Austin, Texas

Each region determines the particulars of its coffee giveaway, and not all are making the promotion available for a full 12 months. In central Indiana, for instance, free coffee Mondays extend only through June 1.

And why isn’t the free coffee promotion available nationwide, like McDonald’s did for two-week stints a couple of times in 2014? Apparently McDonald’s in many parts of the country feel like it’s not in their best interests to give away coffee. “The markets determine what is best for their customers and customize their offers accordingly,” the McDonald’s spokesperson explained.

Likewise, Dunkin’ Donuts appears to be strategically limiting its coffee giveaway to areas where business could use a bump locally—specifically, the Midwest. Understandably, customers in the Northeast, where DD blankets the landscape, are out of luck and must continue paying for their coffee.

A representative for Dunkin’ Donuts confirmed that, among other locations, DDs in the following cities are giving away one free coffee per customer on Mondays, through January 19 only:

Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Des Moines, Iowa
Topeka, Kansas
Wichita, Kansas
Rochester, Minnesota
Kansas City, Missouri
Lincoln, Nebraska
Omaha, Nebraska
Green Bay, Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

MONEY freebies

Start Off the Year with a Free Doritos Locos Taco at Taco Bell

Doritos Locos tacos at a Taco Bell restaurant
Doritos Locos tacos at a Taco Bell restaurant Bloomberg via Getty Images

So much for your New Year's resolution to stay away from fast food in 2015.

Taco Bell introduced a new mobile ordering app in October, making it easier for customers to satisfy their cravings by allowing them to order and pay for food with a few taps and swipes of a smartphone.

Now, the fast food giant is making a big push to get the masses to download and start using the new tool, via a special promotion. Throughout January, anyone who makes a purchase with the new Taco Bell mobile app will receive a free Doritos Locos Taco as a reward.

The Doritos Locos taco has been called the “biggest launch in Taco Bell’s history,” reaching the 100 million sold mark just ten weeks after being added to the menu. The runaway success of the original nacho cheese shelled product has since spawned sibling Doritos Locos Taco flavors Cool Ranch and Fiery Doritos. The bonus free taco provided in exchange for a Taco Bell mobile purchase app can come in any Doritos Locos flavor of your choosing.

The editors of Nation’s Restaurant News, by the way, gave Taco Bells mobile-ordering app mostly glowing reviews after several tried it out a month ago. “Taco Bell’s mobile app does what it is suppose to do – accept and customize food and beverage orders, handle payments and permit users to skip the ordering line inside the restaurant – and does it pretty well,” they summed up.

As for the idea that Taco Bell could be sabotaging the New Year’s resolutions of countless Americans with such a promotion at the very start of the year, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time this has happened. In fact, fast food chains have a history of rolling out cheap, tempting deals in January—which, coming on the heels of the budget-and diet-ruining holiday season, is peak time for consumers to try to eat better and spend less, and is generally a slow month for restaurants. So the timing might not be entirely random for, say, the Triple Chocolate Threat Donut just introduced by Krispy Kreme on a limited-time basis.

MONEY freebies

Free Rides and Coffee to Keep New Year’s Eve Safe

The Blue Line, Chicago, Illinois.
The Blue Line, Chicago, Illinois. CTA Web via Flickr Creative Commons License

It's New Year's Eve! Let's kick off 2015 in the best way—safely, and without spending a dime.

It goes without saying that roads are safer when drivers are awake and alert, and when people who shouldn’t be behind the wheel can find cheap and easy alternate ways home. That’s why these freebie programs available around the country are so brilliant.

Free Public Transportation
It’s become a tradition for cities such as Boston and Chicago to get potentially drunk drivers off the roads by providing free public transportation in their respective metropolitan areas on New Year’s Eve. The MBTA in Boston, for instance, won’t collect fares after 8 p.m. tonight, and will be running extra trains until roughly 2 a.m. Likewise, Chicago’s CTA has expanded service tonight, and thanks to a partnership with MillerCoors is offering free rides on all trains and buses from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. The company’s Miller Lite brand is also the official sponsor of a program providing free bus rides tonight in cities in Minnesota and Wisconsin, including Minneapolis-St. Paul, Duluth, Milwaukee, and Madison.

Free Rides & Car Tows
In the Washington, D.C, area, a local program known as SoberRide has been giving free taxi rides (up to $30 fare) from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily during the holidays, and the offer extends into New Year’s Day. AAA’s Holiday Safe Ride Program, meanwhile, helps keep those under the influence off the roads via auto clubs around the country that provide free rides—and often tows for vehicles as well—on major party holidays, including New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl Sunday. As you might expect, these free ride services are in high demand, and the wait for a pickup could take hours. To get home quicker while still being safe, consider using one of these apps for hailing rides from Uber or Lyft, or for getting a taxi at a flat $10 fare on the West Coast cities of Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Free Coffee
To keep drivers who are on the roads tonight awake behind the wheel, rest stops on major highways such as the New York Thruway, the Ohio Turnpike, and several arteries in Illinois and Massachusetts are giving away free coffee starting late tonight and stretching into early Friday morning. The Cumberland Farms convenience store chain is also handing out free coffee (iced or hot), hot chocolate, tea, and cappuccino from 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve through 5 a.m. on New Year’s Day.

Be safe and have a happy new year!

MONEY deals

Free Shipping Day Deals: Better Than Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

shipping box with confetti and styrofoam peanuts coming out of it
Sverre Haugland—Getty Images

Thursday, December 18, is Free Shipping Day, when more than 1,000 retailers are offering free shipping on all orders—and sometimes an extra 50% off on top of that.

Let’s be honest: Free shipping isn’t all that hard to come by. E-retailers are well aware of how exorbitant (or, for that matter, any) shipping costs are likely to cause online shoppers to abandon their virtual shopping carts before completing transactions, so nearly all merchants offer some form of free shipping—typically, when a minimum purchase threshold of $50 or $75 is met.

On Free Shipping Day, however, participating retailers agree to offer free shipping with no minimum purchase required, and the event is held one week before Christmas so that orders can be delivered by December 24. Still, let’s have another reality check: Many Free Shipping Day participants have offered free, no-minimum-purchase shipping on plenty of other days in the holiday season. Target has been doing this for two months, and stores such as REI are offering free, no-minimum shipping guaranteed to arrive by Christmas Eve on orders placed as late as 10 a.m. on December 23.

The point is that free shipping, while nice and all, is hardly the most unique and dazzling deal in today’s promotion-heavy marketplace. And free shipping alone shouldn’t make you pull the trigger on any old purchase.

The best deals for online shoppers combine free shipping with substantial discounts. Many retailers are pairing up across-the-board markdowns with Free Shipping Day promotions, and they’re presenting them as amazing, can’t-pass-up bargains. But are they? Below, we’re listing some seemingly impressive Free Shipping Day deals, and we’re comparing them with what these same retailers were offering on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other times during the holidays. Indeed, many are truly good deals—on par or better with what we’ve seen on other big sales days—but others just aren’t that special.

Here’s just a sample of today’s offers. As you’ll see, before biting on any Free Shipping Day deal, it’s wise to do some clicking around to investigate whether the promotions you see today are the same, better, or worse than what these retailers were offering days or weeks ago—and may offer again tomorrow.

Abercrombie & Fitch: Use code 15588 for 50% off everything plus free shipping—the same exact deal the retailer offered on Cyber Monday. Abercrombie offered across-the-board sales of “only” 40% off on Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

American Eagle: Use code HOLIDAZE for 40% off everything and free shipping on all orders—the same exact offer promoted on Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday.

Children’s Place: Use code 25OFFER3 for free shipping on all orders, plus an extra 25% off sitewide—on top of sales marking down all merchandise by 40% to 60%; on Black Friday, by contrast, Children’s Place offered free shipping and a flat 50% off all merchandise.

Hollister: 50% off everything in store and online (use code: 35588), plus free shipping on all orders; Hollister also knocked 50% off everything on Black Friday, but shipping cost extra for customers who didn’t meet a minimum purchase threshold.

Lane Bryant: Free shipping and 50% off select merchandise such as pants, jeans, skirts, shoes, and boots (use code: SNOWMANLB), compared with free shipping and 50% off absolutely everything on Cyber Monday.

Levi’s: 30% off everything (through December 21) and free shipping (on December 18 only); occasionally, the Levi’s site is known for discounting all purchases by 40% off, but only on orders of $250 or more.

Sports Authority: Customers get 15% off nearly all merchandise and free two-day shipping for orders placed on Free Shipping Day; from time to time earlier in the season, this sports retailer has offered 25% off and free (standard) shipping on all orders.

Tommy Hilfiger: Use code TOMMY100 for free shipping on all orders and $30 off if you spend $100 or more; it’s not nearly as good a deal as the Cyber Monday deal of 50% off your entire purchase.

MONEY online shopping

How to Get Fast, Free Last-Minute Shipping on Holiday Purchases

An Amazon employee packages an order to be shipped from its Coffeyville, Kan., warehouse.
An Amazon employee packages an order to be shipped from its Coffeyville, Kan., warehouse. Brian Corn—The Wichita Eagle/AP

Hey, holiday shopping procrastinators, now's the time to get your act together and take advantage of offers guaranteeing free and speedy delivery of online purchases.

Here’s everything you need to know about last-minute online holiday shopping, including how to ensure your orders will arrive in time to tuck under the Christmas tree—and how to not pay top dollar (or any money whatsoever!) for it.

The sooner you order, the better. While many retailers are guaranteeing that orders placed very late in the game—perhaps even by December 23—will arrive by Christmas Eve, it’s unwise to bank on these guarantees holding up. After last year’s debacle, in which orders from Kohl’s, Amazon, and others failed to arrive in time for Christmas, retailers have tried to push shoppers to place orders earlier to help avoid the mad rush in the few days before December 25. It shouldn’t surprise anyone, however, that many consumers are procrastinating, and that retailers are yet again guaranteeing last-minute delivery to entice desperate shoppers into placing late orders.

But there are two simple reasons why you should make online holiday purchases asap: 1) Doing so will save money, because (with the exception of Free Shipping Day—see below) the likelihood of free shipping disappears the longer you wait, and you’ll pay through the nose for expedited delivery at the very last minute; and 2) even though retailers and shipping services have taken steps to avoid a repeat of last year’s troubles, Mother Nature or sales overload could still cause shipping delays. After shoppers were burned last year, why take the risk?

More retailers are offering delivery guarantees. Heading into the 2014 holiday season, retailers seemed a little hesitant to make the sort of last-minute shipping guarantees that were commonplace in 2013. According to a survey conducted in the fall, 21% of retailers said they would set their deadlines for guaranteed December 24 delivery at December 19 or later, compared with 26% a year ago. Yet more recently, there’s been an increase in such guarantees. The consulting firm Kurt Salmon told USA Today that 25% of retailers are guaranteeing free delivery by Christmas on orders placed one to three days beforehand.

Retailers typically have a series of deadlines and varying costs for shoppers who want delivery by December 24. Target says that customers who order by December 20 are guaranteed delivery by Christmas, but only “on select items.” Target is also offering free standard shipping on all orders placed by December 20, but the policy stipulates that standard shipping is “3-5 business days.” There are only four business days between December 20 and December 24 (including both of those days), so it wouldn’t be surprising if some December 20 orders aren’t delivered by December 24.

Many news outlets have reported Amazon’s first deadline as Tuesday, December 16—that’s the last day shoppers can get free delivery via Super Saver Shipping for non-Prime members who meet the minimum purchase threshold ($35). Yet Amazon itself is now listing Friday, December 19, as the final day for free (non-Prime) shipping. Prime members, meanwhile, get two-day shipping on all orders fulfilled by Amazon, so they can order as late as December 22 for delivery by Christmas Eve.

Free Shipping Day is Thursday, December 18. As of Monday, roughly 1,000 retailers said they’d be participating in Free Shipping Day, an annual event held about a week before Christmas, in which stores offer free shipping on all orders, with no minimum purchase. While that sounds terrific, it must be noted that the many retailers offer essentially this same exact deal before and sometimes after Free Shipping Day. Target has given customers free shipping on all orders for weeks, while retailers like REI are offering free shipping guaranteed to arrive by December 24, with no minimum purchase, for orders placed as late as 10 a.m. on December 23. In select areas, Banana Republic is even offering free same-day shipping thanks to a partnership with a speedy delivery specialist, Deliv.

There are other ways to get fast—and free!—shipping. As mentioned above, Amazon Prime members get free two-day shipping on their Amazon purchases, and if you’ve never had a subscription before ($99 annually), it especially makes sense to get a free trial membership during the holiday period. Students get six months free, while everyone else can enjoy Prime benefits for 30 days. Also, the December 2014 issue of MONEY offers all sorts of tricks for saving money on online purchases, including the tip that ShopRunner, another two-day shipping service, is free for American Express customers who register a card with the site. By subscribing to either of these services, every day is Free Shipping Day.

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