Pushing shoppers towards Prime

Amazon

Are you planning to build or upgrade a PC to handle the glut of VR games that will no doubt follow the release of HTC’s Vive and Oculus’ Rift headsets? If you’re buying your parts from Amazon and aren’t a Prime member, you now need to spend a minimum of $49 to qualify for free shipping.

Hey, no problem if you’re upgrading or a building a VR-capable PC from scratch, you’ll blow past that amount in no time. But for less pricey orders, like buying a USB flash drive or some play toys to for your cat, you’ll need to fill your cart with $49 worth of qualifying items to get free shipping—that’s a lot of catnip for little Whiskers.

Prior to the price hike, the minimum order amount for free shipping was $35. And prior to 2013, it was $25, so Amazon’s effectively doubled the minimum amount in three years.

There are two exceptions. First, Prime members still benefit from free shipping on millions of qualified items (plus a host of other beneifts), and secondly, the minimum order when buying books is $25.

Why the hike? Simple put, Amazon’s cost of doing business is going up, particularly related to shipping—Amazon’s shipping costs jumped more than a third to $4.17 billion in the last quarter of 2015. And as a percentage of sales, shipping costs rose to 12.5 percent, up from 10.9 percent a year earlier, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The minimum order hike can be avoided with a Prime membership, which runs $99 per year after a 30-day free trial. If you’re a student, Amazon cuts the price in half and bumps the free trial period to 6 months.

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