When it comes to online shopping, you likely have more options than ever before. There are grocery delivery services, libraries of movies and TV shows available for streaming and free shipping is basically the e-commerce industry norm. But for a long time, the only place to find all of those things in one place was Amazon via its Amazon Prime membership.
Finally, there is a competitor that aims to steal back some of the Prime market: Walmart. Walmart Plus is the newest service (launched in 2020) from the retail behemoth that has many similar benefits to Prime, but, as you can imagine, there are some key differences. As we head into Prime Day (happening July 12-13), it's smart to understand the pros and cons of each service in case you are looking to make a switch.
Walmart has slowly built up its e-commerce wing over the past half-decade or so, to the point where it has an inventory that would rival Amazon, offering products both from Walmart directly and through its third-party seller network. In terms of brick-and-mortar stores, the retailer far outshines Amazon in its ubiquity — there are over 5,000 Walmart locations in the US (3,500+ of which are Supercenters with groceries).
Much like Amazon Prime, the Walmart Plus membership gives you free next-day and two-day shipping on a huge selection of items from Walmart.com along with free same-day grocery delivery from Walmart stores. Grocery deliveries require a $35 minimum per order, unless you want to pay a $6 fee. Online orders don't have a minimum amount that needs to be met, but only items that say "shipped by Walmart" will actually ship for free. Additionally, larger items may not qualify for free shipping either.
Food and Grocery
What differentiates Walmart Plus from Prime is the focus on the in-person shopping experience and benefits. And two of the biggest benefits that you cannot find with Amazon Prime are gas savings and mobile scan and go for in-store shopping. Mobile Scan & Go is a feature within the Walmart app that allows in-person shoppers to move throughout the store and scan items as they're shopping then checkout at self-checkout without having to scan everything again. This saves a huge amount of time in the checkout queue and, if you ask us, might be worth it in itself.
As far as filling up your gas tank goes, wherever there is a Walmart or Murphy's gas station, Walmart Plus members get $.10 off per gallon. Plus, you can get member pricing access at all Sam's Club fuel stations, which is a pretty big perk especially as gas prices continue to hit historic highs this summer. Walmart Plus also benefits pharmacy users — select prescriptions are $0 and thousands of others can be purchased for up to 85 percent off.
The lack of a streaming service is a glaring difference between Walmart Plus and Amazon Prime. While Amazon offers a huge library of TV and film content alongside a native music service, Walmart has yet to dip its toes into the programming department and it's tough to envision them getting into producing original content anytime soon.
Sales and Deals
Members are allowed early access to sales, including Black Friday, and can take advantage of member-exclusive offers. For example, right now Walmart Plus members can get six months of Spotify Premium for free. And in June of this year, Walmart even had a members-only sale weekend with deals on select electronics, appliances and more. Although the hype surrounding the event doesn't necessarily rival Amazon's annual Prime Day, Walmart does have an annual competing Deals for Days event. It's unclear right now whether Plus members will have early access to the sale, but regardless that free shipping will surely come in handy during the big event.
Walmart Plus costs $13/month or $98/year, and right now you can get a 30-day free trial to test it out. If you pay by the year, you'd save $41 on Walmart Plus vs. Amazon Prime's yearly payment cost.
Being the lone one-stop-shop online service for years, Prime has gained a leg up in that it already has 154+ million members in the US alone. Although primarily still an online experience for most people, Amazon does now have several storefronts across the country that offer food, groceries and clothing.
Members get free shipping on all qualifying purchases (just look for the little Prime logo). Prime shipping used to be of the biggest draws to the service but it essentially set the standard and is now rivaled by Walmart and lots of other retailers. That doesn't mean Prime shipping has lapsed, it's that others have caught up. It is worth noting, however, that Prime also now includes free same-day shipping on select items to combat its competitors' two-day shipping. Additionally, you can pick up and return packages at an Amazon Hub location.
Food and Grocery
Amazon Fresh is another huge benefit to Prime membership — you can find just about anything you need around the home through the Amazon Fresh hub from meat, seafood, fresh vegetables and fruits to pantry items and household goods like cleaners and personal care items. Once you decide what you need and you spend at least $35 (or $50 in NYC), you can get free two-hour delivery, straight to your door (although the available windows fill up pretty quickly sometimes).
Prime members are also given a discount on many products at Whole Foods Market, which can be shopped online or in person. Free delivery from the grocery store is a huge plus — it saves you time, which in some ways is just as valuable as money. The catch is that you need to live near a Whole Foods, which outside of urban centers can be difficult to find — there are over 500 locations, much more sparse than Walmart's footprint throughout the US. Another note is that goods from Whole Foods do generally cost more than Walmart groceries; however, you will find a large selection of organic and health-conscious items that aren't always found at Walmart.
Where Amazon has really separated itself is with its online programming and music service that is included with Prime. There are thousands of films and television shows available for free through Prime Video, including old favorites and a ton of excellent original content (a new $450 million Lord of the Rings series is on the way). You also gain access to Amazon Music, which is akin to Apple Music or Spotify, and you can upgrade to an even deeper library of music, podcasts and more for a fee. This investment in entertainment is probably the biggest benefit of Amazon Prime — it is just something we don't see Walmart ever being able to offer.
Sales and Deals
Now is a great time to remind that Prime Day is coming up July 12-13. The exclusive shopping holiday created by Amazon gives its members (and only its members) the chance to get some of the biggest deals of the year. Although, in recent years Walmart (and many other retailers) have run similar closeout deals during the two-day sale.
Amazon Prime costs $15/month or $139/year for full access, plus right now you can get started with a 30-day free trial. Current students get a 50 percent discount on the monthly rate and a six-month free trial. Those who qualify for government assistance, including EBT cardholders and others in select government programs, can get Prime for only $7/month starting with a 30-day free trial (with the caveat that they re-qualify for the plan every year). Additionally, if you're only interested in an Amazon Prime Video subscription, then that will cost you $9/month.
Ultimately, the biggest decision you're making here is which membership will be most convenient for you. They both offer the same quick fulfillment and shipping and both have a grocery delivery service that is ultra-convenient. Walmart Plus is about $2 less than Amazon month-to-month, but there's a $41 difference if you pay by the year, making it the more budget-friendly pick. Another factor you'll need to consider is location. Proximity to a Walmart (or two) vs a Whole Foods could seal the deal in terms of which membership you would use more often.
In the end, both services offer great value and serve similar purposes. If you're still struggling to decide, consider the bonus benefits of each membership. Would you prefer a streamlined in-person shopping experience and gas discounts? If so, Walmart Plus is a great play. If you love television and movies but also want to have two-day shipping on nearly everything, Amazon Prime might be your better bet. As long as you pick the service that is right for you and your shopping habits, you can't go wrong.