If you’re tired of battling crowds during rush or, or navigating the many aisles at the grocery store, you need to check out Instacart.
Instacart is a grocery shopping service that pairs you with a personal shopper, has them navigate your local stores for you, then packs your food and household essentials up and delivers them to your door. For some people, it’s a must-use app that saves them time and, if used wisely, money.
There are two different ways to secure free delivery from Instacart.
One is by signing up as a new user, which will get you free delivery on your first order. Like avoiding delivery fees? There’s no need to stop the fun. You can also get free delivery permanently with their Instacart Express membership.
In this article we’ll talk briefly about Instacart, explain how their pricing works, show you how to get free delivery with a new membership or with an Instacart Express membership, and answer some frequently asked questions about the service, including how much you need to use your Express membership to save money in the long haul.
Let’s jump right in.
A Brief Guide to Instacart
Instacart is a grocery delivery service that lets you shop online from your favorite local stores, then sends a personal shopper to find and pay for the items, then deliver them to your door.
The service can be used with the Instacart app or Instacart.com, and is organized by location. Different markets offer different stores, delivery times, and availability, so to find out what’s available in your area, it’s usually easiest to just download the app or head to the website to find out.
The mobile app looks like this:
The app lets you select prepackaged items but also lets you provide specific instructions for your shopper. You can tell them what to do in the event that the store is out of your item (you can tell them to find a replacement they recommend, give them specific instructions for the replacement you want, or just tell them to forget it).
You can also tell them how you like your produce. Like mushy bananas? No judgment. Just let them know.
Instacart offers delivery and pick-up from some of your favorite stores including Costco, Whole Foods, Giant, Kroger, and even Petco. (Instacart did work with Target, but that relationship is ending with Target acquiring its own grocery delivery company).
Same-day delivery is available in many markets, with larger cities guaranteeing two-hour delivery windows, and even offering rush one-hour delivery in some markets for an additional fee.
How Instacart Pricing Works
When Instacart was first founded, it charged a slight markup on every item you purchased. They had no relationships with grocery stores, and would just send a shopper to a store with your list, buy the items, then charge you a markup for everything you got.
That has since changed. With partnerships with grocery stores, Instacart now charges the same price they charge in the store for the item, but they do charge both a service fee and a delivery fee. (If your market allows pick-up, you can decline delivery service and avoid the delivery fee.)
The Instacart delivery fee is a flat rate of $3.99 per order. The service fee used to be 10 percent and was optional, but that proved unpopular with users, so it is now 5 percent and fixed.
There is also a 5 percent delivery tip that is added to your order, so the old 10 percent service fee that used to only go to Instacart is now split between Instacart and the delivery person.
So, for example, if you have a $100 grocery bill, your final price would be $113.99:
- $100 for groceries
- $5 for service fee
- $5 for delivery tip
- $3.99 for delivery fee
While the service fee and tip are set, you can avoid paying the delivery fee, which may not seem like too much, but can add up for people who use the service a lot.
You can avoid the delivery fee on your first purchase by signing up with this referral link, which will go above and beyond that and get you $10 off your first order.
The $10-off first order deal only works once for new users, however, so if you want to save on delivery fees moving forward, you’ll have to try out (or commit to) an Instacart Express membership.
How to Sign Up for Instacart Express
Instacart Express is Instacart’s premium membership service which gives you unlimited free delivery off every Instacart order over $35.
The company recently reduced the annual membership fee from $149 to $99, though they do offer a 14-day trial for new customers that is totally free.
The Express membership trial gives you all the benefits of the membership, all for free, but if you aren’t committed, make sure to cancel in your last week unless you want it to automatically charge for an annual membership.
(Express membership can also be paid monthly for $9.99 a month, but you need to sign up directly for that. If you take the free trial, you will be charged the annual fee at the conclusion of the two weeks.)
Sign up for your Instacart Express trial at their website.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often do I need to use Instacart Express for it to save me money?
This is the big question and comes down to how often you use the service. For people who commit totally to Instacart and use it for their weekly shopping, the Express membership will pay for itself in around six months.
For people who use Instacart infrequently, it may be better just paying the $3.99 fee. But if you use it any more than twice monthly, and know you want to commit to Instacart, it makes sense to get the Express membership.
Is there an Instacart promo code I can use to save money?
Promotional codes are infrequent with Instacart. The company offers $10 off the first order for referrals, and gives you plenty of ways to save with coupons within the app, but when it comes to specific promo codes, they aren’t around very often, and tend to be sent to you directly within the app or via a marketing email.
How do Instacart coupons work?
What’s nice about coupons with Instacart is that they are right in the app, and applied as you shop. You don’t need an Instacart coupon code, and if used wisely, these coupons can save you a lot on orders without you having to do any clipping.
This might be Instacart’s most unheralded money-saver and its greatest feature: It allows you to directly apply coupons without having to save pieces of paper or scan them directly yourself.
How do I find my own referral code?
If you want to refer friends to the app and give them $10 off their first order, and get $10 off your next order, go to the top left corner in the app where there is a little person icon.
Once you click on that, you’ll see a menu which has an option to “Invite Friends.”
Click on that, and you’ll be given the option to invite your contacts, or share your link directly via text or Facebook.
For every friend who signs up and uses the app, you’ll get $10 off your next order, up to five times.
How fast can delivery come?
Some markets guarantee two-hour delivery, some even offer one-hour delivery, but this is all dependent on where you are located. There must be enough Instacart shoppers in the area to fulfill the demand for the service.
Major cities tend to offer faster delivery times, because the supply and demand are both higher and they can allocate resources there. Smaller markets tend to not guarantee as fast delivery times, but many offer same-day delivery.
Where is Instacart available?
Instacart is available in over 1,200 cities across 25 states, and is now available in Canada.
Get Grocery Delivery Free With Instacart
Instacart is a useful tool for people who are low on time and don’t like spending what time they do have in grocery stores. While there are service fees and driver tips, you can save on delivery fees by signing up as a new member with a special referral code, or by signing up for an Express membership trial.
While the Express membership might not be for everyone, people who do use the service more than twice a month can find that it will save them in the long run on delivery fees using Instacart. If you’re ready to make grocery delivery part of your life, it’s a wise option.