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Your holiday shipping deadline cheat sheet

Whether you're mailing a package or buying online, here's your cheat sheet to make sure everything arrives on time.
Image: U.S. Postal Service workers scan parcels at the Los Angeles Processing and Distribution Center on Dec. 11, 2019.
U.S. Postal Service workers scan parcels at the Los Angeles Processing and Distribution Center on Dec. 11, 2019.David McNew / Getty Images

If it feels like the holiday shopping season has flown by this year, that’s because it actually has.

The shopping season, marked from Thanksgiving to Christmas, is six days shorter than it was last year. Thankfully, there’s still enough time to place online orders with some retailers — but time is ticking.

Here’s what you need to know in order to make sure those all-important presents arrive before Dec. 25.


The last day for customers to get free delivery on orders of $25 or more is Wednesday, Dec. 18. Prime members have until Dec. 19 to order items eligible for free standard shipping and get them delivered by Christmas Eve.

Getting closer to Christmas is when the $119 per year/$12.99 per month Amazon Prime membership fee comes in handy. Prime members have until Sunday, Dec. 22 for ordering tens of millions of items that are delivered for free. The selection of items shrinks to “more than 10 million” items on Monday, Dec. 23, which is the last day to order for coast-to-coast, free one-day delivery.

On Christmas Eve, Amazon Prime members can browse “millions” of items eligible for same-day delivery, as long as they live in an eligible area, spend at least $35, and order by 9:30 a.m. local time.


Walmart’s big deadline for most holiday online orders is Sunday, Dec. 22 at 11 a.m. PT. The retailer is sweetening the deal for last-minute shoppers by offering free two-day delivery on eligible items, with a minimum spend of $35. Next-day delivery is available in some locations, but procrastinators also have the option of ordering an item that is already available in their local Walmart by 4 p.m. and picking the item up that same day, without ever having to brave a traffic jam in the aisles or wasting time waiting in line.


Target recommends that customers order by Friday at 12 p.m. CT to receive free, guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve. Shoppers should look for the “guaranteed by Christmas" icon on eligible items. The retailer also offers free, two-day shipping for customers who spend at least $35.

If for some reason the item doesn’t show up by Christmas Eve, Target will send a gift card based on a percentage of a customer’s spending as a way to make amends.

Target also offers same-day delivery on select items through its Shipt service. Eligible items can be found using the Target app. Shipt, which Target acquired in 2017 as a way to take on Amazon Prime, costs $99 per year, or customers can choose to pay a per-order fee.

If all else fails, Target also offers free in-store pick-up. Download the Target app and choose the “drive up” option. A Target employee will bring your purchases to you, without you ever having to leave the warmth of your car.

If for some reason the item doesn’t show up by Christmas Eve, Target will send a gift card based on a percentage of a customer’s spending as a way to make amends.


The department store recommends people order by Dec. 19 if they want to receive their items by Christmas Eve. JCPenney is also offering free shipping on most purchases over $49. While free shipping excludes truck-delivered and manufacturer shipped items, the retailer is offering a steal for anyone looking to give the gift of a new bed. Delivery is free for mattresses and foundation sets costing $599 or more.


Kohl’s shoppers have until Dec. 18 at 11:59 p.m. CT to place their online orders. The retailer is also offering free shipping on orders exceeding $50. If all else fails, Kohl’s locations are currently offering free in-store pickup for same-day orders placed before 7 pm. The option is being advertised as “get it in two hours or less!”


First, the bad news: The deadline for standard FedEx ground shipping with a guaranteed arrival before Christmas has passed. However, there are still a few options. The deadline for FedEx Express Saver is on Thursday, Dec. 19. The FedEx 2Day option deadline is Friday, Dec. 20. However, procrastinators have one final opportunity to get a package to its destination in another state before Christmas if they choose overnight shipping on Monday, Dec. 23.


Dec. 13 was the last day to ship normal ground packages that will arrive by Christmas Eve. This Thursday is the last day to ship packages using UPS 3 Day Select, while Friday is the cut-off for two-day shipping. For last-minute packages, UPS also offers UPS Next Day Air for packages sent on Monday, Dec. 23.

United States Postal Service

For those who want to send gifts, cookies, or whatever else to a loved one in another state, the deadline for sending Priority Mail packages from the post office is Saturday, Dec. 21. Express Mail, which will cost a little more to get a package to a destination quickly, has a recommended cut-off of December 23. For anything being sent to Alaska and Hawaii, shave two days off those deadlines. As for those holiday cards? The deadline for them to arrive before Christmas is Dec. 20, but thankfully those have much more of a grace period than Santa.