Instacart: Promo codes, food delivery and everything you need to know

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Grocery delivery services like Instacart are booming with quarantine and stay at home regulations currently in effect in many areas of the country. If you’re looking for Instacart promo codes, info about how Instacart works and what Instacart shoppers do, you’re not alone. 

Demand for the Instacart and other best grocery delivery services has surged exponentially. Instacart said in a statement that this week saw the highest customer demand for groceries in the company's history. 

And more new customers are signing up every day, with downloads of Instacart’s iPhone app quadrupling last week. To meet this increased demand, Instacart has introduced faster checkouts and canceled out-of-stock orders. It also added limits on some items, to prevent hoarding. 

Read on for details about Instacart, its pricing, delivery fees and more. 

Instacart: What is it and how does it work?

Instacart is a grocery delivery service available in 40 states plus Washington, D.C. The company uses personal shoppers to pick up items for you from local stores, so unlike other grocery delivery services, they don’t keep stock in a warehouse to fulfill your order.

Instacart’s store availability depends on where you live. When you enter your address, the site/app tells you which stores you can shop from. They include major grocery chains like Kroger, Safeway and Whole Foods, as well as big box stores like Target. In the store line-up, you can see which ones offer the same prices as you’d see in the actual store. 

You can also order from Costco and Sam’s Club without a membership, but you will pay more than members would in the store. And depending where you live, you can even order from wine shops, pet stores and pharmacies. Bummer note: Instacart does not partner with Trader Joe’s. 

Instacart can be accessed via its website or an app (iOS or Android). 

Instacart promo codes and coupons

Instacart offers free delivery on your first order, no promo code or coupon needed. 

You can also get $10 off your first order with a referral code from an Instacart user.

Instacart cost, delivery fees and Instacart Express


(Image credit: Instacart)

Instacart does not require a paid membership to place an order. However, you can sign up for Instacart Express, which costs $99 per year or $9.99 per month. With Instacart Express, you get free two-hour delivery on orders over $35. Plus, you can shop from multiple stores within the same order. 

Without the Express plan, delivery fees start at $3.99 (depending on your area). They’re higher for one and two hour delivery and there’s also a Busy Pricing fee during peak hours.

Instacart shopping: How does it work?


(Image credit: Sharaf Maksumov)

Instacart shopping works like most online shopping sites: Once you select a store, you browse through its offerings (organized into categories) and click on items to add to your cart. And Instacart helpfully notes items that are on sale or have deals. 

As you’re shopping, you can indicate which substitutes you want if any items are unavailable. Or you can choose to have the shopper contact you to ask about replacement products. 

During check out, you can choose a delivery time slot that usually starts as early as within one hour and goes up to six days. The time slots are displayed with their associated delivery fee.

After check out, you’ll receive live updates from the shopper and you track the shopper’s progress on GPS. The shopper will hand-deliver your order in person.

Instacart during the coronavirus pandemic

During the coronavirus pandemic, to observe social distancing directives, Instacart has instituted a no-contact “Leave at My Door Delivery” option. Shoppers will leave the order by your door during the delivery window.

High demand means that Instacart has fewer open delivery windows and that some products may become unavailable while your shopper fulfills the order. Make a note for your shopper if you prefer certain substitutes or if you want them to contact you with questions.

Instacart tipping: Should I tip my shopper?


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Yes, you should tip your Instacart shopper. We recommend 20 percent of your order or $5, whichever is higher. While Instacart doesn’t make it a mandatory fee, tipping is the right thing to do — especially under the quarantine and stay at home regulations. Instacart shoppers and other delivery people are crucial to society not crumbling.

Instacart shoppers: How do I become one?

There are two kinds of shoppers at Instacart: full-service shopper and in-store shopper.

Both kinds of shoppers must meet some basic requirements: you’re 18 years or older; you can lift at least 40 pounds; you have a smartphone; and you pass a background check. 

A full-service shopper shops and delivers orders, is considered an independent contractor and can work an unlimited number of hours. Full-service shoppers must have a car, have two years of driving experience and pass a vehicle check.

An in-store shopper only fulfills orders at one store, is considered a part-time worker, works up to 29 hours a week and does not need access to a car.

Instacart is still hiring new shoppers but you may be rightfully wary to put yourself at risk. Fulfilling orders will necessarily bring you into contact with more people than at home. But if you need a job and you are following precautions, Instacart has committed to paying two weeks sick leave pay to shoppers who are diagnosed with COVID-19. 

If you’re interested in becoming an Instacart shopper, head to to apply.

Kelly Woo
Streaming Editor

Kelly is the streaming channel editor for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.