When Amazon debuted its Amazon Prime subscription service in 2005, it had only one feature: free two-day delivery. In the years since, it has added perks like streaming video and music, online photo storage, next-day delivery, and access to exclusive deals for members. Its membership grew along with its benefits, reaching millions of people across the world.
But in 2020, a competitor emerged. Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer, introduced its own membership program called Walmart+. It upgraded Walmart’s existing grocery delivery service, adding free shipping on a wider variety of merchandise and tools to make shopping easier for the store’s customers.
Its similarities to Amazon Prime are obvious. It’s only natural for consumers to look at the two and wonder: Which one is really a better deal?
Key Features of Walmart+ & Amazon Prime
Walmart’s chief customer officer, Janey Whiteside, called Walmart’s new service “the ultimate life hack” for its customers, according to CNET. However, it’s not clear Walmart+ lives up to that title.
It’s more like Amazon Prime in the beginning — a basic delivery service — than what Prime is today. It has some practical benefits, but it’s definitely not as full-featured as Amazon Prime.
Both Amazon Prime and Walmart+ offer a choice of a monthly or a yearly subscription.
Amazon Prime Subscription
An Amazon Prime membership costs either $14.99 per month or $139 per year. Students pay a reduced rate of $7.49 per month. People receiving certain forms of government aid, such as SNAP, pay just $6.99 per month.
You can also pay $8.99 per month for a Prime Video subscription that offers access to Amazon’s video streaming features without the other perks of Prime.
Most plans come with a 30-day free trial. However, for Prime Student, the free trial period is six months.
Members of a household can share a single Amazon Prime subscription. Through Amazon Household, you can link accounts for up to two adults and up to four teens. Children cannot shop on Amazon, but up to four children in the household can share streaming content.
Walmart+ membership is slightly cheaper than Amazon Prime. It costs either $12.95 per month or $98 per year. Like Amazon Prime, it has a 30-day free trial period.
Free delivery has always been the primary feature of Amazon Prime’s service, and it’s the same for Walmart+. However, even in this area, the benefits of the two services aren’t identical.
Amazon Prime Delivery
Amazon Prime offers a wide range of delivery options, including:
- Two-Day Shipping. Prime members get free two-day shipping on all Prime-eligible products. Other Amazon shoppers can get free shipping on many items, but only on orders of $25 or more and only with standard delivery. As a Prime shopper, you have no minimum order size, and you get your purchases faster.
- One-Day Shipping. On select products, you can get your order in less than one day. Amazon offers one-day shipping on more than 15 million products marked with the Prime logo and the words “FREE One-Day.”
- Same-Day Delivery. In thousands of cities across the U.S., Amazon can deliver qualifying orders of $25 or more placed before noon by 9pm the same day. And in Dallas, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Phoenix, it can deliver goods ordered before 5pm within five hours.
- Amazon Day. If you prefer to receive fewer deliveries, you can choose to have all your Prime merchandise delivered on a certain day each week. Add Prime-eligible goods to your cart all week long, select “Amazon Day” at checkout, and all your products will arrive on the day of your choice.
- Release-Date Delivery. You can preorder certain products and have them shipped as soon as they’re released. This service is unavailable in Alaska or Hawaii.
- Two-Hour Delivery. In some major cities, Amazon offers a free grocery delivery service. You can order groceries from Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, and receive them within two hours. However, there’s a minimum order amount that varies by location.
- Amazon Key. With Amazon Key, you can have purchases delivered to your garage when you’re out. This service is available only in certain cities. You must install a special smart garage kit to let delivery people in when you’re not home.
- Amazon Hub. You can have eligible goods shipped to an Amazon Hub location for pickup. These are secure lockers you access by scanning a bar code.
The central feature of Walmart+ is unlimited free delivery. However, its delivery options aren’t as varied as Amazon Prime’s. Currently, it offers:
- W+ Shipping. Joining Walmart+ gives you either two-day or next-day shipping on online shopping orders for free with no order minimum. This offer applies to all products marked “shipped by Walmart.” Other Walmart.com shoppers can also get free two-day shipping or, in certain zip codes, next-day shipping, but only on orders over $35.
- Store Delivery. You can order over $35 worth of merchandise from your local store through the Walmart+ app and have it delivered to your doorstep — sometimes that very day. You can set the delivery time within a one-hour window, track your order in the app, and receive contact-free delivery. This offer applies to over 180,000 products, including fresh groceries. However, smaller orders come with a delivery charge of $5.99. (Nonmembers can also receive store delivery from Walmart, but they pay a delivery fee ranging from $7.95 to $9.95.)
Other Shopping Benefits
In addition to free delivery, both Amazon Prime and Walmart+ offer various special deals and discounts for members. However, once again, Amazon has a wider variety of benefits than its competitor.
Amazon Prime Shopping Benefits
Amazon Prime members get access to the following perks:
- Prime Deals. Amazon offers an ever-changing array of special discounts just for Prime members. These Prime-exclusive deals include multiple categories, including clothing and accessories, home goods, and electronics. Products purchased in Amazon’s physical stores qualify for the same discounted prices. A Prime membership also gets you special coupons and early access to Amazon flash sales, known as Lightning Deals.
- Prime Try Before You Buy. One of the most significant downsides of buying clothes online is that you can’t try them on. With Prime Try Before You Buy, you can order up to six garments, try them all on, keep what you like, and return the rest within seven days at no cost. You can also have a session with a personal stylist up to once per month, but that costs an extra $4.99 per session.
- Prime Day. Once a year, Amazon holds a massive two-day sale called Prime Day. There are special deals on everything from clothing to electronics — all exclusively for Prime members.
- Prime Rx. Prime membership comes with a digital prescription discount card. You can present it to get discounts of up to 80% at over 60,000 pharmacies nationwide, including Amazon Pharmacy. Use the Prime Rx site to search for the best price.
- Grocery Deals. Amazon membership gives you discounts at Whole Foods. You get an extra 10% off on sale products (except for alcohol) and special deals on selected goods in stores and online.
- Prime Rewards Card. Prime members have exclusive access to the Amazon Prime Rewards credit card from Chase. Its rewards program includes 5% cash back at Amazon and Whole Foods (plus an extra 1% back on Prime Day); 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores; 10% on a rotating selection of Amazon products; and 1% on all other purchases.
Walmart+ Shopping Benefits
Walmart+ doesn’t offer as many discounts and other shopping perks as Amazon. However, it has a few useful benefits, including:
- Faster In-Store Checkout. Walmart+ subscribers can check out faster in Walmart stores using Mobile Scan & Go. After unlocking this feature in the Walmart app, you can scan merchandise as you shop and scan a code to pay with your phone at self-checkout. This feature makes payment quick, easy, and contactless. However, you can’t use coupons.
- Fuel Discounts. Walmart+ gives you discounts of up to $0.10 per gallon on fuel at over 14,000 Walmart, Exxon, Mobil, and Murphy gas stations. You also get special member pricing at Sam’s Club fuel stations. You can search “member prices on fuel” in the Walmart app to find the nearest available station.
- Early Access. Walmart+ members get early access to various special events and promotions. That includes new product releases and Walmart’s online Black Friday deals.
What really sets Amazon Prime apart from Walmart+ is its entertainment benefits. It offers a wide array of digital media, including videos, music, books, and games, that Walmart+ doesn’t have — at least, not yet.
Amazon Prime Entertainment
When you spend $139 on an Amazon Prime subscription, you gain access to a vast digital media library, including:
- Videos. Amazon Prime is one of the top video streaming services in the U.S. It has thousands of movies and TV shows available on demand, including Amazon Originals you can’t watch anywhere else. It’s so popular that Amazon offers a video-only subscription, as noted above, for those who want access to Prime Video on its own.
- Gaming. A Prime subscription offers free computer games for download each month. Prime Gaming also gives you free in-game gear, such as weapons and outfits for your characters. Also, Prime includes a free subscription to a Twitch.tv stream of your choice to watch live streams of your favorite gamers.
- Music. Prime comes with unlimited music streaming from Amazon Music. It includes over 2 million songs, with thousands of playlists and stations, all available without ads. You can also listen offline with unlimited song skips. (For an additional $8.99 per month, you can gain access to 90 million songs through Amazon Music Unlimited.)
- Reading. Amazon Prime Reading includes all-you-can-read access to a rotating library of over 3,000 e-books, magazines, comics, and audiobooks. You also get early access to editors’ picks on Kindle.
- Photo Storage. All Prime accounts come with unlimited photo storage on Amazon Photos, plus 5GB of video storage. (Other Amazon customers get only 5GB total for both photos and videos, though they can pay for more.) You also get free shipping on prints.
At this time, Walmart+ has only one entertainment perk: six free months of Spotify Premium. That’s roughly $60 worth of music streaming, but you only get it once. Also, the offer is only open to people who haven’t tried Spotify Premium before.
The lack of entertainment features is probably the most significant downside of Walmart+ compared to Amazon Prime. Of course, Prime didn’t come with entertainment features when it first started, either, so there’s a possibility Walmart+ will add more of these offerings in the future.
The Verdict: Is Amazon Prime or Walmart+ a Better Deal?
However, that doesn’t mean it’s a better value for everyone. To a large extent, it depends on where and how you prefer to shop.
Choose Amazon Prime If….
- You Typically Use Amazon for Online Purchases. If you buy from Amazon regularly but rarely at Walmart’s site, the free shipping from Amazon Prime could pay for itself after several shipments.
- You Need More Delivery Options. Amazon Prime offers a broader range of shipping options, including one-day, two-day, same-day, Hub locker, and in-house delivery. They’re not all available everywhere, but if you qualify, your delivery window is guaranteed. That makes it easier to predict when your package will arrive or to receive it when you’re not home.
- You Like to Buy Clothes Online. Buying clothes through Amazon Prime is a better deal than shopping with Walmart+. You can receive special discounts on some clothing from Prime Deals and get free returns on select garments that don’t fit with Prime Wardrobe.
- You’re a Regular Whole Foods Shopper. Whole Foods is notorious for its high prices, earning the nickname “Whole Paycheck.” Amazon Prime members can mitigate these costs with discounts on select purchases.
- You Want Access to Prime Day Sales. Prime Day now rivals Black Friday and Cyber Monday for the title of the year’s biggest sales event. However, all those deals are for Amazon Prime members only.
- Prime Video is Your Choice for Streaming. If you currently subscribe to Netflix or Hulu but you’re not really hooked on any of their shows, a $139-per-year Amazon Prime account could practically pay for itself by allowing you to cancel your other streaming subscription. And if you want to watch an Amazon-exclusive series, Prime Video is the only way to get it.
- You’re Paying for Photo Storage. One perk of Amazon Prime is unlimited photo storage. If you’re currently shelling out $10 or more per month for cloud storage when all you really want to back up is your photos, a Prime subscription could let you ditch that expense.
Choose Walmart+ If….
- You Frequently Shop on Walmart’s Website. If you frequently shop on Walmart’s site and seldom buy anything on Amazon, then the delivery and shopping benefits of Amazon Prime have little value for you. Walmart+ provides fast, free delivery from your preferred store and costs a bit less than Amazon Prime as well.
- You Often Shop in Walmart Stores. For regular Walmart in-store shoppers, the faster in-store checkout Walmart+ offers is a significant benefit. And the contact-free payment is especially useful at times when you’d rather keep your distance from others, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic or cold-and-flu season.
- You Don’t Need Another Streaming Service. If you’re committed to your Netflix or Hulu streaming service, the additional shows and movies available on Prime aren’t a huge added benefit. They’re also not much of a perk if you don’t need a streaming service, either because you have cable or because you don’t watch TV at all.
- You Drive a Lot. The gas discount from Walmart+ isn’t huge, but it adds up. If you drive 20,000 miles per year in a vehicle that gets 20 miles per gallon, you could save as much as $100 per year — more than the price of a yearly subscription.
Choose Both Services If…
If both Amazon Prime and Walmart+ sound useful to you, there’s nothing to stop you from signing up for both.
For example, if you’re a loyal Walmart shopper but also want access to Prime Video, you can get Walmart+ for the shopping benefits and Amazon Prime for its entertainment perks.
If you choose the cheaper Prime Video subscription and the annual Walmart+ subscription, your total monthly fee for both services could be as little as $17.15.
Even if Walmart+ isn’t a fantastic value for most shoppers right now, that doesn’t mean it never will be. After all, when Amazon Prime first got started, it offered even fewer features than Walmart+ does now.
Since then, it’s expanded to become an all-purpose shopping and entertainment service, and there’s no reason Walmart+ couldn’t do the same. So if you decide not to sign up for Walmart+ now, keep an eye on it in the future to see if its value improves.
In the meantime, don’t forget that Walmart+ and Amazon Prime aren’t the only subscription services on the block. Video streaming services like Disney+, Netflix, and Hulu offer an array of viewing options that rivals or even surpasses Prime Video. You can stream music from services like Spotify or Pandora and get cheap and free computer games on Steam.
Also, remember that you don’t need a membership to get free shipping at either Amazon or Walmart. All you need to do is wait until you’re ready to place a large order — $25 worth of goods at Amazon or $35 at Walmart — all at once. If you don’t shop at either of these retail giants very often, that’s probably a better deal than shelling out for a subscription.
In short, don’t treat Amazon Prime versus Walmart+ as an either-or decision. Think of these services as just two choices among many, and consider all the options before you decide.