We all live incredibly busy lives — work, family responsibilities, exercise, trying to keep up with the near infinite amount of TV shows that seem to be released every month.
Getting to your grocery store and waiting in line at the end of a long work day is just one of those things that can often be a bit too much to handle.
Luckily, there is help for such things.
Instacart is one of the largest and most popular apps which connects you with a personal shopper, who will not only find your items at local stores but deliver them right to your door, often in the same day.
For many people the question is: That sounds great, but what does it cost?
Instacart’s fee system can be a little tricky to navigate, as they not only have a delivery fee but a service fee as well, and have now introduced a membership that allows you to avoid all fees altogether.
In this article we’ll give a brief rundown of Instacart, explain the differences between their types of fees, talk about the benefits of an Express Membership, and answer some frequently asked questions about the service.
A Brief Guide to Instacart
Instacart was founded by an ex-Amazon employee who wanted to take their model of home delivery of books and goods and bring it to the world of grocery shopping.
What’s funny is that while he brought the Amazon ethos to groceries, Amazon has since gotten into the same-day delivery grocery game with Amazon Prime Now.
The grocery delivery service works as a personal shopper and delivery service all in one.
Instacart customers can browse grocery items at a variety of local stores through the app or Instacart.com, then shop as one would normally…just on a digital screen.
When the customer has found found what he or she needs, one can review the order total at a checkout screen, pay via Apple Pay, Paypal, or a credit card, and then the shopper is off and running.
Instacart shoppers receive customers’ orders through an app, then find them and scan them to ensure a delivery is fulfilled.
Customers can give preferences for produce type, what to replace an item with if it’s out of stock, and make a special request of shoppers or warn them of any allergies or things to watch out for.
(Shoppers and customers can even communicate directly through the app if there are questions about an order.)
Once an order is complete, shoppers pay for the order with an Instacart credit card, and then, depending on market, the food can either be picked up by the customer or delivered straight to the customer’s door by a trusted delivery person.
In many cities, Instacart offers a two-hour delivery window, which can even be one-hour delivery, though home delivery time varies vastly by market.
(Bigger cities with higher demand tend to be able to guarantee faster delivery, while smaller markets often have to schedule delivery a bit farther out.)
What Is the Difference Between Service Fee and Delivery Fee?
When calculating the delivery cost of a service like Instacart, it’s important to take into account all of the grocery delivery fees, and how they affect each order.
Instacart has both a standard delivery fee and an Instacart service charge for every order.
- For orders of $35 or more, the standard delivery fee is $3.99 for each each order.
- Every order also has a 5 percent service fee.
For a $120 grocery order, then, you would still just pay $3.99 for the delivery fee, but the service fee would go to around $6, leaving you with a $9.99 fee for the entire order.
This number doesn’t change based on what you choose for your delivery options with regards to timing, unless you want rushed one-hour delivery, which can be an additional surcharge.
The delivery fee is waived if you select pickup, though not every market offers delivery.
This fee structure represents a change to the way that Instacart used to do things.
In a November 28, 2018 email, Instacart told its customers that they were lowering delivery fees from $5.99 to $3.99 on orders of $35 or more.
They also lowered the price of their Instacart Express membership from $149 annually to $99 annually.
This membership allows members to miss paying delivery fees entirely.
How Does Express Membership Work?
The Instacart Express membership fee can be paid annually (for a fee of $99) or monthly ($9.99 a month) and allows for free delivery on all orders over $35.
You can sign up at the Instacart website, and they currently offer a 14-day free trial to see how you like it.
Again, orders have to be over $35, but the trial is completely free and easy to cancel as long as you do it in that two-week window.
(You only get to take the trial once, unfortunately.)
After the 14-day trial, you are automatically entered into an annual contract and are charged with an annual fee, though you can tweak that to a monthly billing cycle in that 14-day window.
Instacart Express members can save on grocery delivery as long as they use the Instacart service enough, more or less.
For occasional shoppers who use the app a few times a year, the $99 delivery fee doesn’t make a lot of sense.
But if you use Instacart to do your weekly shopping, the Express Membership will pay for itself in a little over six months.
Use it more than once a week (to get to Petco for dog food, CVS for pharmacy items, etc.) and it can pay for itself even quicker than that.
For those who do a lot of shopping and truly hate going to the store, the Express Membership can be a nice way to avoid delivery fees altogether.
It should be noted that service fees can still apply to orders, even with Express Membership.
Frequently Asked Questions
What stores work with Instacart?
A lot of stores work with Instacart including Costco, CVS, Giant, Walmart (but only in Canada), Target (though not for much longer, as Target has acquired an Instacart competitor named Shipt), Kroger, Publix, Petco, and Whole Foods stores.
Stores vary by city and state location, however, so to find out if Instacart is available at your favorite stores, it’s easiest to check out their site.
Where is Instacart located?
Instacart is currently available in 1,200 cities and towns across 25 states and Canada.
Its biggest markets (New York, Chicago, San Francisco) may have more options than smaller markets, but the brand is rapidly expanding and forming new partnerships with retailers across the country.
How do shoppers know what produce to get?
When it comes to many grocery items, it’s easy to trust someone to get what you need.
If it’s prepackaged, they grab a box, toss it in the cart, and they’re on their way.
Produce can be a little trickier.
Luckily the app allows you to provide special instructions to the shopper so they know exactly what to look for.
Making guacamole today and want avocados that are already ripe?
Let them know.
Like bananas on the greener side?
Just tell them.
You also have to remember that these Instacart shoppers do this professionally.
All day they are examining produce and finding the best stuff.
Not only that, they know the grocery stores better than you do, and know where to look for additional stock of certain items, or how to find the freshest produce.
What is the best way to reach Customer Support?
When you need to contact Instacart, you have options.
Instacart has an online help center that can answer all your questions on delivery times, fees, how to place an order, app issues, and more.
Can’t find what you’re looking for?
You can always call them toll free at 1 (888) 246-7822.
Groceries Delivered to Your Door
The delivery of groceries can be a huge time saver, and can be not a huge cost burden if you understand the fees that are associated with the product.
If you trust Instacart delivery people to do your shopping, and are smart about taking advantage of an Express Membership, it can be a way to save on delivery fees.
And with exclusive coupons offered to Instacart customers, it can also save you cash and time.
It’s just about knowing how the service works and shopping smart.