The Shopper's Secret to Free Shipping

Doing holiday shopping online? You might want to wait. Free shipping has become such a selling point among retailers that a slew of companies have set aside an special day in December devoted to it.

Doing most of your holiday shopping online this year? You might want to wait. Free shipping has become such a selling point among retailers that a slew of companies have set aside an special day in December devoted to it.

For the third year in a row, Freeshipping.org will host "Free Shipping Day" on Dec. 17. The event will feature a variety of free-shipping deals from more than 1,000 merchants. Since delivery by Dec. 24 is guaranteed, it’s a great chance for online shoppers to buy almost-last-minute gifts, while stretching the holiday shopping season for online retailers.

For retailers, the special day attracts shoppers who otherwise might worry that gifts they order online may not arrive on time. For shoppers, Free Shipping Day gives them extra days to shop online and eliminates the need to battle crowds at brick-and-mortar stores.

The list of merchants that have signed on to Free Shipping Day include big-name department stores such as Macy’s Inc., J.C. Penney Co. Inc., and Lord & Taylor, as well as specialty retailers such as Barnes & Noble Inc., Crate & Barrel, and Cabela’s Inc. Computer makers, including computer makers Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc., have also jumped on the free-shipping bandwagon. More than a third of the participating merchants on FreeShipping.org are expected to offer free shipping on all orders.

Often, however, you don’t need a special shopping day to land a free-shipping deal from your favorite retailer. Some companies ask for a minimum order before they’ll ship the goods for free, but others, such as L.L. Bean Inc., will forgo shipping fees on any order during the holiday season. Others offer free shipping on a select basket of items. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., for example, will forgive shipping charges on almost 60,000 eligible items, including toys and electronics, from now until Dec. 20.

Some retailers will also ship merchandise free to a store near you where you can pick it up. Other online merchants don’t limit their free-shipping offers to the holidays. At Amazon.com Inc., for example, you can get free shipping on most orders of $25 or more year round. (Be careful to check that you’re buying from Amazon, and not a third-party retailer which markets goods through Amazon’s website but is not bound by the company’s free-shipping policy.)

If you can’t track down a promotional code expressly for free shipping, don’t give up the search. Discount code websites such as CouponCabin.com, NaughtyCodes.com, and RetailMeNot.com often have seasonal percent-off discount codes for most major retailers that will help to trim — and, in a few cases, more than offset -- free-shipping charges.