Walmart+ or Amazon Prime: Which is the better subscription service? Here's what each one brings to the table, from free shipping and video streaming to grocery delivery.
Amazon is synonymous with online shopping; as of October 2021, it had 41% share of the US retail e-commerce market, according to Statista, thanks in large part to its popular Amazon Prime subscription service, which now has more than 200 million members.
In the No. 2 spot is Walmart with 6.6% of the market. Its Prime rival, Walmart+, launched in 2020 after the expensive failure of its $3 billion investment in Jet.com. But while it’s the market share underdog, Walmart is a retail behemoth in its own right, and attracted an estimated 32 million Walmart+ members in one year.
If you’re a regular online shopper, from home goods to groceries, which service is best for you? Here’s a rundown of the differences between Amazon Prime and Walmart+.
Walmart+ will run you $12.95 per month or $98 per year. Amazon Prime costs $14.99 per month or $139 per year. Prime just got a price hike—its first in four years—from $12.99 per month and $119 per year. Both services offer a 30-day free trial.
Amazon has several discount versions of Prime, like Amazon Student, which offers a free six-month trial, after which it’s $59 per year or $6.49 per month for four years or until graduation, whatever comes first. Amazon Student perks are much the same as Prime, and Amazon recently threw in discounts to services like Grubhub+ Student, Calm, StudentUniverse, and Course Hero.
Those with a valid Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) or Medicaid card, can also sign up for Amazon Prime for $5.99 per month for up to four years. And Amazon lets you share Prime benefits with one other adult member of your household, plus up to four kids under the same roof.
Walmart+ does not currently have any special student or family pricing plans.
Initially, the main draw of Amazon Prime was free, two-day delivery. Free is relative given that you’re now paying at least $139 per year (up from $79 back in the day), but over the years, Amazon has added a number of delivery-related perks to Prime.
Amazon now offers one-day delivery on over 10 million items, for example. Filter by “Get it tomorrow” when shopping and it’ll arrive by 9 p.m. the next day. Depending on where you live, orders over $35 also qualify for free, same-day delivery. And if you’re ordering groceries from Amazon Fresh (or Whole Foods), Prime members can choose a free, two-hour delivery window. Ordering multiple things every week? Amazon lets Prime members pick a “delivery day” to get your packages delivered all at once.
Walmart offers free, two-day shipping on orders of $35 or more for all customers. With Walmart+, there’s no $35 minimum on next-day, two-day, and standard shipping. The catch: This does not apply to third-party sellers, so look for the Sold and shipped by Walmart.com label on product pages. (Click All Filters > Retailer on a results page and check the box next to Walmart.)
If you live near a Walmart store, you can have groceries and other items delivered to your home in a one-hour window. Here, there is a $35 minimum for free delivery ($5.99 if it’s under $35).
If grocery or same-day delivery is the deciding factor when choosing between Walmart and Amazon, go to each company’s website and make sure they deliver to your home. (Select Reserve pickup or delivery on Walmart.com or click Deliver to on the top-left of Amazon.com.) Walmart, for example, doesn’t currently do grocery delivery in New York City, but Amazon Fresh does. And Walmart+ supports grocery delivery in Beaumont, Texas, but Amazon Fresh does not.
Every year, Amazon hosts a two-day deals extravaganza known as Prime Day. It was largely conceived as a way to gin up Amazon Prime subscriptions, but the quality of the deals has improved over the years. You have to be a Prime member to save, but it works even if you’re on a free trial. Amazon hasn’t announced Prime Day 2022, but last year’s event was on June 21-22.
Amazon also owns Whole Foods, where Prime members save an extra 10% on in-store deals, in addition to two-hour delivery or one-hour pickup in select cities.
Walmart typically offers Prime Day counterprogramming, dubbed “Deals for Days,” for all shoppers. But Walmart+ offers early access to special promotions and events, from Black Friday deals to game console restocks.
Walmart+ members who sign on at the appointed time can potentially snag a discounted must-have item or gadgets that have been in short supply, like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. One caveat: You must be a paying customer, not on a free trial. To take advantage of a promotion or event immediately, scroll down to Early Access on the Walmart+ sign-up page, and click the Start Paid Membership button. Enter your payment info, click Start Walmart+ membership, and you’ll bypass the 30-day free trial.
Amazon offers a robust video-streaming service with Prime Video. Its original programming dates back to 2013 and now includes award winners like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Amazon has plenty of money to throw around, as evidenced by the reported $250 million it spent to acquire the rights to several Lord of the Rings prequel series, the first of which—The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power—debuts in September. Last year, Amazon also signed a 10-year deal with the NFL to broadcast 15 Thursday Night Football games on Prime Video.
Amazon offers Prime Video as a standalone service for $8.99 per month, but it’s also included with the price of Amazon Prime, whether you have the monthly or yearly subscription.
Walmart tried its hand at video services in 2010 when it purchased Vudu. Streaming was still in its infancy at that point, so it largely focused on letting customers buy or rent movies via broadband-connected TVs and Blu-ray players, or accessing their physical media in digital form via the now-defunct Ultraviolet. There were rumors about a Walmart video-streaming service in 2018, but amid the onslaught of big-name streaming service launches—from Disney+ to HBO Max—Walmart threw in the towel and sold Vudu to Fandango in 2020.
Walmart and Amazon both offer prescription savings. Neither Walmart+ Rx or Amazon Prime Rx are insurance; they’re discount programs primarily geared toward those without insurance or patients who will save more by using the discount programs versus their own insurance plans.
Amazon Prime customers get free two-day shipping on meds. They can save up to 80% when paying without insurance at over 60,000 pharmacies; select prescriptions start at $1 per month, Amazon says. (Anyone can purchase meds for delivery via Amazon Pharmacy, with or without Prime, if they have a prescription.)
“You can use Prime Rx if your insurance co-pay is higher than your Prime member price, your medication is not covered by insurance, your deductible is higher than the prime member price, or if you do not have insurance,” Amazon says.
Fine print: Prime prescription savings for Amazon Pharmacy are not available in Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, or Minnesota.
Prescription discounts work similarly for Walmart+ members. The company promises savings of up to 85%—and some prescriptions for free—from over 4,000 Walmart pharmacies. It’s also not an insurance program and can’t be combined with insurance. Once your Walmart+ free trial is up, you’ll get a digital pharmacy savings card you can present while paying for your meds.
Fine print: Walmart+ RX pricing is not available in Puerto Rico, North Dakota, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Arizona, or Vermont. You also can’t get $0 meds in California, but Walmart says those drugs are available for $2 for a 30-day supply or $6 for a 90-day supply.
If the cost of gas is stressing you out, Walmart+ customers can save $0.05 per gallon at Walmart, Murphy, and Sam’s Club stations. (Here’s an interactive map of participating locations.) How you get the gas discount depends on which retailer you’re at; Walmart’s fuel website has step-by-step instructions for each one, but for Walmart and Sam’s Club locations, you scan a QR code at the pump; Murphy stations require you to enter a code.
Walmart’s version of Amazon’s Just Walk Out tech is scan & go. Connect a card to Walmart Pay in the store’s mobile app, and tap Services > Scan & go to scan items when you’re in a store. Head to a self-checkout register to weigh any items sold by the pound, and scan a QR code to finalize payment.
Prime Gaming (formerly Twitch Prime) offers in-game loot, free games, and other perks each month. Keep tabs on those free games here.
Prime Reading offers free access to over 2,000 books, magazines, and more each month.
With Google Photos ditching free, unlimited storage last year, Amazon Photos is a good alternative for backing up your image library on the cheap. As long as you have Prime, you have unlimited photo storage and up to 5GB of free video storage.
The base version of Amazon Music that comes with Prime offers streaming access to more than 2 million songs. Upgrade to Amazon Music Unlimited for $7.99 per month after a three-month trial and bump that up to 75 million tunes.
The downside of online shopping is not being able to try things on, but with Prime Try Before You Buy, you can load up your cart with select brands, try things on at home and return what you don’t want. Amazon won’t charge you until seven days after you receive your package.
As you can see, there are a number of things to consider. If price is your main concern, Walmart is obviously cheaper; you’ll save $41 per year going with Walmart+ over Amazon Prime. If you’re already a regular Walmart shopper and have Walmart stores in your area, Walmart+ is probably worth your while for free shipping and one-hour grocery delivery windows.
But if you don’t live near a Walmart store and are interested in grocery delivery, Amazon and its Fresh or Whole Foods deliveries may work out better for you. Not to mention the various “free” delivery options Amazon offers, depending on your location. And if you’re a streaming fan, Amazon Video is a pretty nice Prime perk.
Still undecided? Don’t forget that both services offer 30-day free trials, so you can try before you commit. Just don’t forget to cancel one or both before those recurring charges kick in.
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Chloe has led PCMag’s news coverage for more than 10 years, editing and writing stories about the innovations that have shaped the last decade and the companies behind them. She also oversees the site’s how-to coverage. Before joining PCMag.com, Chloe was a reporter covering tech policy on Capitol Hill for The National Journal’s Technology Daily and financial IT for Incisive Media in NYC. She’s held internships at NBC’s Meet the Press, washingtonpost.com, the Tate Gallery press office in London, Roll Call, and Congressional Quarterly. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from American University in Washington, D.C.
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