Holiday shipping roundup: Free shipping, deadlines and more
By Brittany Anas
In the true spirit of the holiday season, shipping should be free, right? Just ask Santa Clause himself — he doesn’t charge for expedited delivery or extra fees for hauling heavy gifts on his sleigh. (Unless, of course, you count those courtesy cookies and milk).
If you’re shipping gifts this holiday season, here’s everything you need to know — from deadlines, to how to avoid the crowded post offices and, of course, how to have your packages shipped to you for free!
Deadlines for the U.S. Postal Service: Every holiday season, the Postal Service gives Santa a run for his money. Did you know the service processes roughly 545 million pieces of mail every day throughout the holiday season, totaling nearly 15 billion pieces of mail delivered between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve?
To ensure your gifts and holiday cards arrive before Christmas Day, the U.S. Post Office offers these holiday 2013 shipping deadlines for domestic packages and mail.
- First-Class Mail Service: Dec. 20
- Priority Mail Service: Dec. 21
- Priority Mail Express Service 1: Dec. 23
- Standard Post Service: Dec. 14
- Destination Network Distribution Center Drop Shop: Dec. 19
- Destination Deliver Unit Drop Ship: Dec. 21
Shipping overseas? Check out the USPS chart for international deadlines. Depending on the region, you can still use global express guaranteed service between Dec. 16 and 19 to get your gifts overseas.
(Tip: Did Christmas sneak up on you this year? After all,the time between Thanksgiving and Dec. 25 was shorter than usual in 2013, so, if you’re not going to make the deadline for holiday cards — no sweat. Start the New Year on top of things, and send out Happy New Year cards instead).
Deadlines for FedEx: The folks at FedEx know there’s nothing like the last minute to get us motivated. They’ve prepared a handy shipping deadline chart to help you figure out the absolute deadline for getting your holiday packages delivered. FedEx offers same-day delivery on Christmas Day. You’ll need to get your overnight packages out by Dec. 23, though. Two-day delivery needs to ship out on Dec. 21. FedEx Express Saver packages need to be out by Dec. 19. FedEx ground and home delivery need to be out by Dec. 17.
Store deadlines: Every store has different shipping deadlines, so it’s best to check their websites. However, a good rule of thumb is to allow one to two days for your order to process online and to buy by Dec. 18 or 19 for standard shipping. If you wait to the last minute you might incur extra fees for priority or overnight shipping.
How to avoid the post office: Avoid the holiday rush and visit www.usps.com — the Postal Service’s site that will make mailing and shipping easier. You can skip the trip to the Post Office altogether with Click-N-Ship which allows online customers to print shipping labels, order free Priority Mail boxes, purchase postage and request free next-day package pickup.
How to score free shipping: Get free shipping codes to more than 50 stores, courtesy of ShopAtHome.com. You’ll also earn Cash Back on your purchases and who doesn’t love to get paid for shopping? Your future self will thank you come the New Year when you get a Cash Back check in the mail.
Here are the shipping deals at some of our favorite stores this holiday season.
- JC Penney: Free shipping on your purchases over $49, plus 11 percent Cash Back.
- Walmart: Free shipping on your purchases over $35, plus 5 percent Cash Back.
- QVC: You’ll find free standard shipping on nearly 2,200 products and on clearance items. Plus, earn 8 percent Cash Back.
- Sears: Free shipping on your purchases of $59 or more, plus 4 percent Cash Back and $5 off purchases of $50 or more. (Also, you can order online and do same day pick up in the store).
- Macy’s: Free shipping on purchases of $99 or more, plus 7 percent Cash Back.
- Kohl’s: Free shipping on purchases $50 or more, plus 6 percent Cash Back.
- HSN: Free shipping on your next purchase, plus 4 percent Cash Back.
- Lowe’s: Free shipping on qualifying items $49 or more, plus 2.5 percent Cash Back.
- Nordstrom: Free shipping plus free returns, in addition to 11 percent Cash Back.
Some other great free shipping deals courtesy of ShopAtHome.com:
- Free shipping on select gifts at Meijer between now and Christmas
- Free shipping when you spend $49 or more at Petco
- Free 2-day shipping when you spend $50 or more at Backcountry
- Free shipping on orders of $50 or more at Overstock.com
- Free shipping on all orders at Lenovo
- Free shipping on orders of $50 or more at Gap, Old Navy, Piperlime, Banana Republic and Athleta
(Tip: Some stores require a minimum purchase before they’ll offer free shipping. If you are close to hitting that minimum and it’s a store you shop at frequently — like Walmart or Target — buy a gift card to move you to the free shipping minimum, and use it on future purchases).
Track your packages (and Santa): To track your packages this season, just enter your UPS tracking number here. For the United States Postal Service, track your packages here. Oh, and if your kids are curious when Santa will be in your neighborhood, you can track the jolly guy’s route with the help of NORAD here on Christmas Eve.
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