Amazon expands free shipping to low-cost orders weighing eight ounces or less

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New shipping deals from Amazon keep rolling out. After expanding same-day delivery in late May, Amazon recently announced it would offer free shipping for ordering as little as a pair of earbuds and a USB flash drive.

The new program, dubbed Fulfillment by Amazon Small and Light, promises free shipping (arrival in 4-8 days) on orders weighing eight ounces or less. Most items will ship out of a new Amazon hub in Kentucky, according to Bloomberg Business. Before the new program, Amazon's standard free shipping offer to non-Amazon Prime customers required a minimum buy of $35.

Amazon's new program is apparently trying to fend off eBay, which is testing an Amazon Prime-like service for free shipping, along with subsidies for sellers. With Amazon's program, most of the items will come from third-party sellers who let the retailer deal with the shipping hassles. You can spot this kind of arrangement when an item from a third-party seller says it is fulfilled by Amazon. Many third-party sellers that offer items on Amazon, but handle shipping themselves, already offer free shipping.

The new program began as a trial about three months ago, Bloomberg reports. Amazon decided to roll it out officially after noticing that items with free shipping and no minimum order sold more quickly.

The new shipping program is available now, but figuring out which items qualify for the new offer is not so obvious. In our tests, a SanDisk USB stick sold by a third-party seller didn't qualify, and neither did several pairs of earbuds, but a smartphone armband did.

The impact on you at home: Amazon's new program means you don't have to add something worth an extra $5 to get free shipping on that tiny 64GB flash drive. Just watch carefully to see whether your item is covered by the new free shipping offer at checkout. If not, you can always stick with the tried-and-true method of adding more items to your cart to qualify for free shipping on orders of $35 or more.

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