If you hate paying shipping charges when you order online or by phone, you're going to be happy this year: Nine out of 10 retailers are offering free shipping during the holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. But choose carefully — some free-shipping deals are better than others.
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A few retailers such as LL Bean, Nordstrom and Zappos allow free returns, too, and have no minimum spending requirements, though there are some restrictions. But most stores require you to spend a certain amount to qualify for the offer. For example, you must spend at least $150 at Bloomingdale's to qualify, at least $99 at Macy's, $50 at the Gap, $45 at Walmart and $25 at Barnes & Noble.
Gratis delivery will reach its peak on Dec. 16, Free Shipping Day, when close to 2,000 online merchants, from Kohl's and Lands' End to boutiques and artisan shops, will ship for zip with a guarantee your package will arrive by Christmas Eve. Last year, this was the third-heaviest day of online shopping in history. For more information, go to freeshippingday.com.
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Joan Rattner Heilman writes about health and consumer issues.