Becky Worley and Brad Marshland report:
The bad news: The cut-off for free shipping on most online sites was Tuesday, Dec. 18.
The good news: We've got some sneaky ways to finagle free rush shipping and a list of sites still offering free shipping guaranteed to arrive before Dec. 25.
Free Rush Shipping
Some of the biggest online retailers are still offering free last-minute shipping:
Barnes & Noble - free shipping on Nook HD through Dec. 22
MacMall - free 2-day shipping on orders over $299 and under 25 lbs - through 6 p.m. PST Dec. 22
Macy's - free shipping on orders over $99; order needs to be placed by 11:59 p.m. EST Dec. 20
The Northface - free 2-day shipping on everything through 11:59 p.m. Dec. 19.
Walmart.com has extended free shipping through Dec. 19 on some items (check product page for eligibility)
Overstock.com - free shipping through the end of the month, but must place order by Dec. 22 to receive by Christmas
Target - free shipping on Daily Deals
Victoria's Secret - free shipping on orders over $100 using code "SHIP12." Order by 5 p.m. EST on Dec. 20
Zappos - free shipping for all items with guaranteed Christmas delivery if ordered by 11:59 p.m. PST Dec. 22.
And the biggest of the big online retailers, Amazon has a limited set of items available for free expedited shipping. The items include jewelry, watches, clothing, video games, laptops, headphones and kitchen items. But if you need something that's not on this limited list, consider Amazon Prime.
How to Get Free 2-Day Shipping on Just About Everything
Amazon Prime is a yearly subscription service. In exchange for a $79 fee, you get free 2-day shipping all year long. And yes, that also applies at Christmas (must order by 3 p.m. EST Dec. 22 to receive on time). Best deal is that you can get a free 6-month trial.
And here's the real sneaky surprise: Do you have a family member who already belongs to Prime? They can nominate up to four people for the same free shipping benefits. Prime members nominate someone by going to their account, clicking "settings" and "manage Prime membership."
Also, Amazon Student is a free 6-month membership to Prime with all the benefits, providing you have an email address that ends in .edu.
But you don't have to limit yourself to Amazon. Shoprunner.com also offers free 2-day shipping, though the membership service costs $8.95 a month - so not entirely free, but if you have numerous items still to buy, you could save a bundle. And Shoprunner has tons of participating online retailers like ToysRUs, Sports Authority, Claire's, PetSmart and EMS. Say you want to buy something from PetSmart.com. If you sign in with Shoprunner, many of the items on the site will be eligible for free 2-day shipping. One thing to try: I was able to sign up for a free 1-year membership to shoprunner using the promo code RUNNER. It inferred you had to be an American Express member, but it never asked for my details about the credit card and now I have a membership. Good luck.
Ship to Store
Finally, the best last-minute option for many is to ship to store. You peruse all the options from home, pay online, and then pick up your selection at your local store. Tons of big retailers offer this service, and it guarantees your item will be in stock and waiting for you at customer service. Major retailers offering free Ship to Store include:
Toys R Us
Paid Last Minute Shipping Deadlines
If you absolutely have to have something from an online site and you're willing to pay for the shipping, offers.com put together a great list of final mailing deadlines for many online retailers.
Last Minute Deals
*Walmart is rolling back prices on Apple products. The iPhone 5, for instance: normally the 16GB model is $199 with a 2-year contract but they're offering it in-store for $127.
Walmart.com also has $50 iTunes gift cards for sale for $40 (these are email delivery, meaning you get a redemption code via email instead of a physical card).
*The Dell store has a Verizon Samsung Galaxy S III Android phone for $99 (w/ 2- year contract), plus you get a free $100 Dell gift card.
*Michaels has a printable coupon for 20 percent off your entire purchase.
*Both Sears and JC Penney have up to 50 percent off almost all their Christmas decorations.