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How Does Instacart Work and How Much Does It Cost?

Instacart delivery is one of the easiest ways to save time running errands. Instead of driving to the grocery store and scouring the shelves, you can have your groceries delivered straight to your door.

Key Takeaways

  • Instacart offers 24/7 delivery, depending on store hours and shopper availability.
  • For same-day delivery orders over $35, Instacart delivery fees start at $3.99. For orders under $35, or one-hour deliveries, costs will be higher.
  • Instacart accepts debit and credit cards, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and EBT cards.

Keep reading to learn more about Instacart delivery, including how it works, how much it costs, and how to place an order.

How Does Instacart Delivery Work?

Instacart delivery allows you to place an order on the Instacart website or app, schedule a delivery time, communicate with your shopper, and get your order delivered to your door.

If you’ve never placed an Instacart order before, you will want to visit the Instacart website and confirm that delivery is available in your area.

You can do this by entering your address into the search bar on the homepage or allowing Instacart to geolocate you.

Once you’ve confirmed that Instacart is available in your area, you can place your order.

First, select the store that you want to order from. Then, you can browse that store’s offerings by category and add items to your cart.

Once you’ve added all your items to your cart, click the shopping cart icon to view your cart, then proceed to checkout.

At checkout, make sure that you’ve opted for a delivery order and not for Instacart pickup.

You’ll be prompted to enter your delivery address, select a delivery time, provide any delivery instructions, and offer your contact information so that your shopper can communicate with you.

Finally, you’ll be asked to pay for your order.

After placing your order, an Instacart shopper will start putting together your order.

You’ll be able to communicate with your shopper to ask questions, get updates, and authorize any substitutions of items out of stock at the store.

When your order is on the way to you, you’ll receive a notification.

You’ll receive another notification when the delivery has arrived at your address.

If your driver has trouble finding your location, they will message or call you.

Unless you specify otherwise, Instacart shoppers are instructed not to leave your order unattended.

However, if you don’t respond to your driver and they cannot find your location for an extended time, your order may be canceled.

If you can’t receive your delivery personally, you can ask a friend or neighbor to receive your order.

Just leave a note for your driver on the Instacart website or app and let them know if you do this.

Alternatively, you can tell your Instacart driver to drop off your order unattended at a specific location.

However, if your order contains alcoholic items, your driver will not be allowed to leave it unattended.

Finally, if you’ve accidentally entered the wrong address on your Instacart order, you can contact Instacart customer service.  

Alcohol Delivery With Instacart

If you’ve added any alcohol items to your order, you’ll be asked to show a photo ID confirming that you are over 21 at the time of delivery.

Instacart policy forbids Instacart shoppers from delivering alcohol to visibly intoxicated people, nor can they leave alcohol items unattended.

If you are unable to meet all these requirements for alcohol delivery, you cannot receive your order.

However, you will be refunded for the alcohol items, which will be returned to the store.

This refund will cover the cost of the alcohol items, but your delivery fee, bottle fee, and tip may not be refunded.

What Stores Does Instacart Deliver From?

Stores that Instacart delivers from vary by geographic region, but many major and local grocery stores offer delivery through Instacart.

The stores Instacart delivers from include:

For a full list of the Instacart-eligible stores near you, you can enter your address into the Instacart homepage on the app or website.

This will allow you to see all grocery stores that Instacart delivers from in your area.

Does Instacart Deliver 24/7?

Instacart offers 24/7 delivery, but this may be impacted by individual store hours and the availability of Instacart shoppers in your area.  

Instacart delivery is a 24/7 service, but you cannot get an order delivered if the store itself isn’t open.

If it’s very late at night or early in the morning, you’ll likely only be able to place orders from stores that are open 24 hours.

Also, if there aren’t enough Instacart shoppers available to meet demand at a certain time of day, your order may take longer to get delivered.

Instacart is available in over 5,000 cities and towns across the United States and Canada and is expanding its availability.

To find out if Instacart delivers to your area, you can visit their locations page and enter your zip code.

How Much Does Instacart Delivery Cost?

Instacart charges delivery and service fees that vary by order. For same-day delivery orders over $35, Instacart delivery fees start at $3.99. If your order is under $35, or you request a one-hour delivery, your fees will be higher.

Instacart delivery orders are subject to service fees to cover Instacart’s operating costs.

 The service fee varies from order to order.

If your order contains alcoholic drinks, you will be charged an alcohol service fee, which covers the cost of providing compliant delivery and ID verification.

If you place an order at a store between 30 and 60 minutes away from your location or require your driver to pay for tolls, you will also be charged a long-distance service fee.

If you opt for a priority delivery, which helps your order gets delivered faster, you will be charged a priority service fee.

The priority service fee is usually between $2 to $4.

Finally, if you order a heavy item, like a bag of pet food or a case of beverages, you may be charged a heavy fee.

Heavy fees apply to orders that are estimated to weigh over 50 pounds.

When you place your Instacart order, you will be notified if any of your items will have a heavy fee.

In addition to delivery and service fees, prices of individual items may be higher when purchased through Instacart than in-store prices.

Item prices vary from store to store, but many retailers set their prices on Instacart higher than in-store prices.

However, each store will list its pricing policy under its logo on the Instacart website or app.

Therefore, you can see pricing information before placing your order.

Some stores charge “everyday store prices,” which means that the prices of most items on Instacart are the same as in-store.

Other stores charge “higher than in-store item prices,” which means that individual items on Instacart are more expensive than in-store.

Finally, some stores will say that “prices vary from in-store,” which means some items may be more expensive on Instacart than in-store, but other items may be the same as their in-store price.

How to Get Free Delivery on Instacart

Instacart delivery fees on orders over $35 can be waived with an Instacart Express membership.

In addition, if you follow Instacart’s social media accounts, you can occasionally find promo codes for free delivery.

Typically, Instacart delivery fees start at $3.99 for orders over $35.

However, if you plan to use Instacart frequently, you may want to check out the free Instacart Express trial.

Instacart Express allows you to waive delivery fees for all orders over $35.

Plus, Instacart Express comes with a bunch of other perks that are unavailable for non-Express members.  

As an Instacart Express member, you pay reduced service fees, get an automatic 5% credit on eligible pickup orders, and access promotions with companies like GrubHub, Mastercard, and Delta Airlines.

If you’re not ready to commit to Instacart Express yet, there are still a few ways to get free delivery.

Instacart usually offers free delivery on your first order if you’re a brand new customer.

Instacart also occasionally emails promotion codes to customers, which you can apply to future orders.

Finally, you can share your Instacart referral code with new shoppers.

For every new shopper who uses your referral code, you’ll both receive a $10 credit on their first order.

You can find your referral code in the Instacart website or app settings under the “Invite friends” tab.  

To share it with friends and family, you can send the code via text, email, or even post it on social media.

Can You Use Coupons With Instacart Delivery?

You can only use coupons listed on the Instacart website or app with your delivery order. Unfortunately, if a coupon is not listed on the Instacart website or app, you cannot use it.

Instacart offers manufacturer’s coupons, including some that are exclusive to Instacart.

To find them, go to the “Deals” tab on the Instacart homepage or app.

Instacart coupons include discount coupons, Buy One Get One (BOGO) coupons, and Stock Up and Save coupons.

While you’re browsing, you’ll be able to see if individual items are eligible for coupons.

You can also view your shopping cart to see which items are eligible for coupons.

To apply a coupon, just click on the item you’re purchasing and add the coupon.

Unfortunately, if a coupon is not listed on the Instacart website or app, there’s no way to use it on Instacart orders.

Read our article to learn more tips about saving money on Instacart delivery orders.

How to Order Instacart Delivery

You can place an Instacart delivery order on the Instacart website or app. Once you sign in to your account, pick the store you want to order from, add your items to your cart, select a delivery window, and pay for your order.

Below are the detailed steps for placing a delivery order using the Instacart app.

Step 1. Log into your Instacart account or create a new one.

Step 2. Under the header that says “Start a new order,” select the store you want to order from.

Step 3. Make sure that your order is toggled to “Delivery,” not “Pickup.” Then, add your items to your cart.

Step 4. Once you’ve added all your items, tap the green shopping cart icon to view your cart and proceed to checkout.

Step 5. After you’ve reviewed all the items in your cart, tap the green “Go to Checkout” button at the bottom.

Step 6. First, enter or confirm your delivery address.

Step 7. Next, choose a delivery time.

Step 8. Next, you can leave delivery instructions. This step is optional.

Step 9. Next, enter your phone number. This allows your Instacart shopper to communicate with you about your order.

Step 10. Next, enter your name.

Step 11. Next, enter your payment information. You can use Apple Pay, PayPal, credit or debit card, or EBT SNAP card to pay for your Instacart order.

Step 12. Next, you may be asked if you want to share your contact information and order details with the grocery store so that they can send you more personalized promotions. (You can opt out if you prefer not to.)

Step 13. You’ll have one last chance to review the items in your cart and view your delivery fee, service fee, and estimated taxes.

Step 14. Next, you’ll be asked to tip your Instacart shopper. Tips are optional, but we recommend tipping 15 to 20%.

Step 15. If you have a gift card or promo code, you can enter it at the very bottom of the screen.

Step 16. Finally, pay for your order.

Placing an order on the Instacart website is pretty much the same, so you can use the above instructions.

Do You Tip Instacart Delivery?

Tips are optional on Instacart, but we recommend tipping your Instacart delivery driver 15-20% of your order total.

Instacart shoppers are independent contractors who heavily rely on tips for their income.

Instacart’s service and delivery fees do not go to your Instacart shopper.

This means that it’s important to tip your Instacart driver, and they keep 100% of the tips they receive.  

We recommend tipping Instacart drivers 15 to 20%, especially if you’ve received exemplary service.

Can You Use EBT With Instacart Delivery?

If you have an EBT SNAP card, you can link it to your Instacart account and use it to pay for eligible items in select states from participating retailers.

Instacart allows you to use your EBT SNAP card to pay for eligible food items from participating retailers in select states.  

You can use your EBT SNAP card both on Instacart delivery and pickup orders.

To link your EBT SNAP card to your Instacart account, go to the Account Settings tab and add your EBT card as a payment method.

There are limitations to the Instacart EBT policy, though.

Not all retailers allow you to pay using your EBT card, and not all items are SNAP EBT- eligible.

Also, note that you cannot pay using your EBT card in all US states.

To see a full list of states and retailers that allow you to pay using your EBT card, visit the Instacart website.

If you want to see which food items are eligible for EBT, go to your Account Settings.

Tap the slider to turn on “Show EBT” eligibility, which will allow you to see which items and retailers are eligible for EBT as you browse.

After you’re done shopping, you can also see which items in your shopping cart are eligible for EBT.

They will say “EBT” under the name of each eligible item.

To pay for your Instacart Delivery order using your EBT SNAP card, link it to your account and select your EBT card as your payment method when checking out.

What Payment Methods Does Instacart Accept?

Instacart accepts various payment methods, including debit and credit cards, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and EBT SNAP cards.

Instacart accepts the following payment methods:

  • Major US and Canada credit and debit cards
  • EBT cards
  • Apple Pay
  • Google Pay
  • China UnionPay
  • PayPal
  • Instacart gift cards

Conclusion

Instacart delivery is a convenient way to save time running errands. To place a delivery order, visit the Instacart website or app, select a store, add items to your cart, choose a delivery window, and check out.

An Instacart shopper will go to the store for you, prepare all your items, and drop them off at your door.

If you’re interested in learning more tips about Instacart, check out the articles below.

Related Articles:

Instacart Tipping Guide: How Much Should You Tip Instacart Shoppers?

Can You Order From Multiple Stores on Instacart? (Yes, Here’s How)

How to Get a Refund on Instacart (Including Express Membership)

Can You Choose Your Instacart Shopper?

Can You Use Instacart to Deliver to Someone Else? (Yes, Here’s How)

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Last Updated: April 12, 2022

About the Author

Eril Eti is the founder of Shopfood.com. He has over a decade of experience in the consumer goods industry. He launched many successful products for major brands sold at retailers like Walmart, Costco, Amazon, Target, Kroger, Publix, and more.

He loves food and sharing his experience with others. Outside of work, you can find him at a hiking trail in New England or playing soccer with his kids.

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