In 2005, Amazon first introduced its subscription service, Amazon Prime. When it debuted, 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, same-day and next-day delivery, and access to exclusive deals for members. As its benefits increased, so did its membership. At the end of 2018, a survey by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated that Amazon Prime had 101 million members in the United States — nearly 1 out of every 3 people in the entire country.
Now Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer, is rolling out its own membership service, called Walmart+. It will replace Walmart’s existing grocery delivery service, called Delivery Unlimited. The new, expanded version will offer free shipping on a wider variety of items and other tools to make shopping easier for the store’s customers.
Walmart’s chief customer officer, Janey Whiteside, told CNET in a press call that the company is launching Walmart+ “to meet the needs of our customers,” not to compete with any other service.
However, the similarities between Walmart+ and Amazon Prime are obvious. It’s only natural for consumers to look at the two and wonder: Which one is really a better deal?
Walmart is calling its new service “the ultimate life hack” for its customers. However, it’s not clear that 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. An Amazon Prime subscription costs either $12.99 per month or $119 per year.
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. All three plans come with a 30-day free trial.
Walmart+ is slightly cheaper than Amazon Prime. It costs either $12.95 per month or $98 per year. However, its free trial period is only 15 days.
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 Delivery. Prime members get free two-day delivery on millions of items marked as prime eligible (denoted by a yellow check mark followed by the word “prime” next to the product’s price). Other Amazon shoppers can also get free shipping on many items, but only on orders of $35 or more and only with standard delivery. Prime shoppers have no minimum order size, and they get their purchases faster.
- One-Day and Same-Day Delivery. On select items, members can get their orders in less than one day. Amazon offers one-day shipping on more than 10 million products marked with the Prime logo and the words “FREE One-Day.” In certain cities, Amazon can deliver qualifying orders of $35 or more placed before noon by 9pm the same day.
- Release-Date Delivery. Prime members who preorder much-anticipated releases, including books, movies, and video games, can jump to the front of the line for delivery and receive it the day it releases.
- Prime Now. In some major cities, Amazon offers a grocery delivery service called Prime Now. Members can order groceries from Whole Foods, an Amazon subsidiary, and receive them within two hours.
- Key by Amazon. With Key by Amazon, Prime members have their purchases delivered to their homes while they’re not in. This service is available only in certain cities. Users must install a special Amazon smart lock to let delivery people in when they’re not home.
The central feature of Walmart+ is unlimited free delivery. However, its delivery options aren’t as varied or as robust as Amazon Prime’s.
Walmart+ members can get shipping “as fast as same day” on more than 160,000 products, including groceries, household essentials, toys, and tech. It’s the same service formerly known as Delivery Unlimited. Walmart is switching all current Delivery Unlimited subscribers to Walmart+ as soon as it’s available.
However, this free, fast shipping is only available on orders of $35 or more. Compared to Amazon Prime’s service, that’s not very tempting — especially considering that nonmembers are already entitled to free two-day delivery on orders this size for millions of products. In some areas, it’s even possible to get next-day delivery on orders of $35 and up without a membership.
Walmart+ members can still choose from Walmart’s other delivery options, such as free curbside pickup, two-day delivery, or next-day delivery. They can also choose to pay extra for fast delivery on merchandise that doesn’t provide it for free. However, that hardly qualifies as a perk of the service.
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 new 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 deals include clothing and accessories, home goods, cellphones and cellphone plans, magazine subscriptions, and Kindle e-books. Prime members also gain early access to Amazon flash sales, known as Lightning Deals. And Prime members who shop with Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa, get additional discounts on selected deals.
- Prime Wardrobe. One of the most significant downsides of buying clothes online is that you can’t try them on. With Prime Wardrobe, Amazon Prime members can order up to eight garments, try them all on, keep what they like, and return the rest at no cost.
- 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.
- Grocery Deals. Amazon members enjoy special discounts on select items at Whole Foods. They also get to waive the $5.99 shipping fee on grocery orders over $35 through Amazon Pantry.
- Amazon Family. With Amazon Family, Prime members get discounts of up to 20% (which is a higher savings than available to customers who aren’t Amazon Family members) on diapers, baby food, and other necessities for young children. To get this discount, members must set up five monthly subscriptions with Amazon Subscribe & Save (note: You must sign up for Family separately from your Prime account). Amazon Family also gives parents a 15% discount on the total when they complete an Amazon baby registry and an email newsletter with even more exclusive deals.
Walmart+ Shopping Benefits
The main feature Walmart+ has that Amazon lacks is its improved in-store checkout. The service’s subscribers can check out faster in Walmart stores using Scan & Go.
Walmart+ members also get discounts of up to $0.05 per gallon on fuel at nearly 2,000 Walmart, Murphy USA, and Murphy Express locations. Walmart says this discount will also be available at Sam’s Club gas stations soon, but it has not given a date.
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 $120 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. Additionally, members can pay extra for Prime Video channels that provide access to content from HBO, Showtime, and Starz.
- Gaming. A Prime subscription offers free computer games for download each month. It also gives users free in-game gear, such as weapons and outfits for their characters. Also, all Prime members get a free subscription to a Twitch.tv stream of their choice to watch live streams of their favorite gamers.
- Music. Prime members get unlimited music streaming from Amazon Music. It includes over 2 million songs, with thousands of playlists and stations, all available without ads.
- Reading. Amazon Prime includes all-you-can-read access to a library of over 1,000 e-books, magazines, comics, and audiobooks. Members also get early access to editors’ picks on Kindle each month.
- Photo Storage. All Prime accounts come with unlimited storage on Amazon Photos. Members can share their pictures with family, create slideshows, and use custom printing options.
At this time, Walmart+ does not offer any entertainment features. That’s probably its most significant downside 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 these offerings in the future. But for now, subscribers to the service gain shopping and delivery benefits and nothing else.
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, in-house, and in-car 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 Make Frequent Small Purchases. Unlike Walmart+, Amazon Prime offers fast, free shipping on all orders regardless of size. That makes it a better deal if you like to pick things up when you need them rather than making one big order of $35 or more all at once.
- You Want the Widest Selection. Amazon Prime offers same-day and next-day shipping on millions of products. With Walmart+, this perk is only available for 160,000.
- 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 items 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’re a (New) Parent. The discounts available from Amazon Family are a nice perk for parents who regularly need to stock up on products like diapers and baby food. However, they’re only available if you regularly receive at least five separate items in a single shipment.
- 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 $119-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 $70 a year for iDrive 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 so long as you buy at least $35 worth of goods and costs 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. It’s especially useful during times when you’d rather keep your distance from others, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic or cold-and-flu season, when contactless payment can be a literal lifesaver.
- 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 $0.05-per-gallon discount on gas 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, that small per-gallon savings comes to $50 per year — roughly half the price of your 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, your total cost for both services is less than $22 per month.
If you don’t shop at either Amazon or Walmart very often, you could be better off just waiting to place an order until you’re ready to buy $35 worth of goods at once. That puts you over the threshold to get free delivery from either site at no extra cost.
And 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.
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.