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Holiday shipping guide: Deadlines for Amazon, Target, UPS and more

Time is running out to make sure your holidays gifts get where they need to be and don't arrive in 2020.

WASHINGTON — We don’t want you to stress, but we are stressing to you that you need to get familiar with these holiday shipping deadlines if you want your gifts to friends, family and others to arrive by December 25. 

What once we knew as busy days for the United States Postal Service is now essentially a thing of the past. These days the USPS now experiences its busiest time about two weeks before Christmas, beginning on Dec. 9. The busiest part of that time for mailing, shipping and deliveries you ask? That is said to be Dec.  16 – 22.

So be sure to heed these deadlines and be kind to your delivery drivers. They are working hard this holiday season to make sure your gifts get to where they need to be this time of year. 


If you're not a Prime member, the deadline for free standard shipping through Amazon has already passed. But assuming you ARE a Prime member, you've got until Dec. 22 to get free delivery. 

The company is advising customers that Sunday, Dec. 22 is the last day that prime members can get free two-day shipping and get their items before Christmas Day. If you need another day of last-minute shopping, Monday, Dec. 23 would be the last day for free one-day delivery from among the eligible tens of millions of items. 

And if you're really on a time crunch, Tuesday, Dec. 24 would be the last day for free same-day delivery "on qualifying orders over $35." 


Target says to get free shipping in time for Christmas you'll need to place an online order by noon Central Time on Friday, Dec. 20 and be sure to select items tagged "Guaranteed by Christmas." 

If you happen to be shopping after Dec. 20, you can still pick up eligible online orders for free at a store through Dec. 24 or pay for same-day delivery. 


Walmart says it's offering free two-day delivery on eligible items with a $35 minimum order up until 11 a.m. Pacific time on Dec. 22. There's also an option for free same-day pickup on eligible items

Best Buy 

For delivery by Christmas Eve, most Best Buy orders need to be placed by Dec. 20 at 10:30 a.m. CT for free shipping. Another option in select areas is to take advantage of same-day delivery up until Tuesday, Dec. 24 before noon local time. 

Online shipments

USPS offers options to get your shipments started online, or to complete the entire process from home depending on your situation. Dec. 16 is expected to be the USPS’ busiest day for online shipments with millions of customer visits expected. Hundreds of thousands of packages are expected to be shipped using the USPS Click-N-Ship feature, so get started early. Free next-day package pickup is possible. 

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New stamped package drop off guidelines for USPS

Click-N-Ship customers will not be affected by new changes to how stamped packaged are handled.

The USPS is citing safety reasons and says that as of October, USPS customers can no longer drop off boxes that have postal stamps on them if they are either over 1/2-inch thick or weigh more than 10 ounces, or a combination of both. These drop off scenarios include placing these items in blue USPS collection boxes, putting them in building mail chutes or in post office mail slots.

Customers must instead go in person to the post office counter and speak with a postal worker to drop off the item or use one of the self-service kiosks that the USPS offers in post offices.

If customers don’t abide by these new stamped package drop off rules, their items could be returned to sender, possibly causing your packages to arrive late.

If you’re planning to head down to the post office to get your gifts out, USPS listed the following shipping deadlines on its website.

Credit: AP
In this April 30, 2019 photograph, businesses in east Jackson, Miss., have a choice of delivery services ranging from FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

USPS says, for holiday cards and gifts for holidays like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas “or other holiday traditions,” your recommended domestic, international and military shipping deadlines are as follows:

- For service via First-Class mail you need to get your items shipping out by Dec. 20.

- For service via Priority Mail, you’ll have an extra day according to USPS: Dec. 21.

- For service via Priority Mail Express, get those items out by Dec. 23.

- But be prepared when choosing service via USPS Retail Ground. Make sure you get to the post office early as this service calls for items to be shipped out by Dec. 14.

- For Alaska and Hawaii, the dates are a bit different. Items going First Class need to be out by Dec. 18 (Alaska) and Dec. 19 (Hawaii).

- For Priority Mail service, get your items out by Dec. 19 (Alaska and Hawaii).

- For Priority Mail Express Service, get over to the post office by Dec. 21 (Alaska and Hawaii).

For Military recipients, the key USPS dates are as follows:

PO/FPO/DPO (only for ZIP code 093), if you’re choosing Priority Mail and First-Class service, get your items shipped out by Dec. 9.

APO/FPO/DPO (for all other ZIP codes), if you’re choosing Priority Mail and First-Class service, get your items shipped out by Dec. 11.

USPS Retail Ground service: Dec. 14

APO/FPO/DPO (except ZIP Code 093) USPS Priority Mail Express service: Dec. 18

First-Class Mail service (including greeting cards): Dec. 20

First-class packages (up to 15.99 ounces): Dec. 20

Priority Mail service: Dec. 21

Priority Mail Express service: Dec. 23

Credit: AP
A delivery man wheels a cart filled with packages across the snow covered streets in Boston, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018.

What about UPS?

The first rule is to not confuse UPS with USPS, it happens more than you might think.

UPS has listed the shipping deadlines on its website as well.

- UPS is suspending their “UPS Service Guarantee” on Dec. 2. This means that all UPS Ground shipments, including those to Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico will have the guarantee suspended if they are picked up or scheduled for pick up between Dec. 2 – 24.

- UPS also says that the last day to ship some packages using UPS Ground service will be Dec. 13. That is if you want the package to arrive by Dec. 24.

- Dec. 23 will be your last day to ship via UPS Next Day Air if you want your package to arrive by Dec. 24, and you can expect this late planning to cost you a pretty penny. That also goes for UPS’s Christmas Eve Limited service, which you’ll need to prearrange by Thursday, Dec. 19.

UPS will not have pickup or delivery service available on Dec. 25. If you do need to contact UPS Express Critical service for more details you can do so by calling 1-800-714-8779 or visit upsexpresscritical.com.

Choosing to use FedEx?

Credit: AP
In this April 30, 2019 photograph, businesses in east Jackson, Miss., have a choice of delivery services ranging from FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Here are the important dates that you need to stick to if you want those important packages to arrive by Dec. 25. 

For shipments made within the U.S. to destinations within the U.S. here are the FedEx shipping method options along with the dates you need to ship by:

- FedEx SmartPost: Dec. 9

- FedEx Home Delivery: Dec. 16

- FedEx Ground: Dec. 16

- FedEx Express Saver: Dec. 19

- FedEx 2Day: Dec. 20

- FedEx 2Day A.M: Dec. 20

- FedEx Standard Overnight: Dec. 23

- FedEx Priority Overnight: Dec. 23

- FedEx First Overnight: Dec. 23

- FedEx SameDay: Dec. 25

- FedEx SameDay City Priority: Dec. 25

- FedEx SameDay City Direct: Dec. 25

With a little planning and scheduling you should be able to have one less thing to stress about this holiday season. 

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