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Can anyone compete with Amazon Prime?

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Mark Lennihan/AP/File

(Read caption) Bags with Amazon Prime goods are seen in a fulfillment facility in New York.

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Since its introduction in 2005, Amazon Prime has arguably set the high watermark for online shipping: pay a flat annual fee, and you get everything shipped within two days for free. We've pointed out its perks, jeered its occasional pitfalls, and guided you through Prime Day. So the only real surprise is that it's taken this long for other big stores to try to compete. Enter Walmart and Best Buy.

What Does Walmart's ShippingPass Offer?

In late June of this year, Walmart refined its ShippingPass program. Like Prime, it now offers no-minimum free 2-day shipping on many items sitewide for a flat annual fee. ShippingPass' fee is a solid 50% cheaper though, costing $49 per year compared to Prime's $99. It also matches Prime's offer of a free 30-day trial.

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If you're placing a lot of smaller orders via Walmart's site, it's certainly an attractive alternative to their usual $4.97 flat-fee shipping; it would only take 10 small orders to justify the annual expense, although most items are also available via in-store pickup.

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It's also worth noting that, unlike Prime, ShippingPass doesn't appear to offer any guarantees on its 2-day shipping. Its FAQ section recommends you order before 2 pm ET to ensure same-day shipping, but doesn't give any indication of what recourse you have if it doesn't arrive on time. It also explains that while 2-day shipping is available on many best-selling items, other items may only qualify for free value shipping, which can take up to six days.

Is My Best Buy Any Better?

Now Best Buy plans on getting into the thick of things. Starting August 28, their My Best Buy program will grant its members free 2-day shipping on orders of $35 or more. No, Best Buy isn't matching Amazon's and Walmart's no-minimum perk, but it makes up for that by being completely free.

Members can also avail themselves of their My Best Buy Phone Rewards scheme, which bags you a $25 My Best Buy credit every time you buy and activate a new smartphone after your first phone purchase. All told, it's not as significant a shift as Walmart's move — Best Buy offers free standard shipping when you spend $35 as a matter of course — but it's a free upgrade for those who like their electronics delivered promptly.

So How Do They Stack Up?

As of this minute, it's tough to beat Amazon Prime's smorgasboard of delights. Even if you completely ignored their shipping guarantee, you've still got Amazon Video, Amazon Music, Kindle Library, Amazon Family, Amazon Pantry... the list does go on.

On account of this, Yahoo Finance remained resolutely unimpressed with Walmart's overtures, stating "Amazon Prime is arguably the best online shopping option for consumers today. It will be a long time before ShippingPass even comes close to Prime’s power and influence."

This article first appeared at Dealnews.com.