Does Instacart Charge More? (Yes, But Not What You Think)

Getting groceries through Instacart has changed the way a lot of North Americans can structure their lives and schedules.

But it has also changed how some manage their budgets. This is because, on the whole, getting your groceries through Instacart is more expensive than going in-store yourself.

Does Instacart charge more to use their service? what you need to know before you use Instacart again, and it might not be what you think.

Does Instacart Charge More In 2022?

Instacart’s retailers set their own prices on the marketplace and may charge higher-than-in-store prices to offset their operational costs. Further, Instacart places a temporary charge on the customer’s card that is higher than their order total to cover any overages that occur during shopping, such has a heavier item weight or a more expensive replacement.

What does that mean and what does it look like when Instacart charges more than the total? And how much more can you expect your groceries to cost on the app? I’ve got the information you seek, just keep reading below.

Why is Your Instacart Charging More Than The Total?

If you have noticed at Instacart check-out that little message at the bottom which reads: Your card will be temporarily authorized for $XX…”

And then it’s usually $10 to $15 more than the grand total you have been presented with.

It can be alarming, especially if you’re on a stricter budget or use EBT SNAP to shop for groceries.

Never fear; it’s just Instacart’s authorization hold in case individual items in your cart end up coming out to more than the estimate given.

If your order’s final cost doesn’t change, you obviously get the full difference back, all $10 or $15 or however much.

But for example, let’s say bananas are 39 cents per pound and you mark that you want 1.5 lbs.

Your shopper gets close – they grab a bunch that comes to 1.65 lbs. of banana.

The price that was estimated at 58 cents is now 64 cents. Instead of having to ask you to pay more, they can just deduct the six cents off what they’d give back.

It can occur on more expensive swaps, too. If you asked for a bag of regular spinach, but all the store has is organic, which is $2 more.

You approve the replacement, and you get $2 less from the extra charge back.

Or, what if you remember you need something mid-shop and ask your shopper if they can grab it?

Again, it’s easier for Instacart if they’ve already “charged” you more to give less back, versus charging you again for an extra item.

Again, although Instacart does charge more initially at check-out, based on your cart’s total, unless you make some massive change to your order, you will get the difference back.

Are Instacart Prices Different?

Instacart’s prices certainly can be different than in-store prices, but that is not always the case.

There’s an easy way to tell if you’re paying more than in-store or if it’s about the same.

Check the wording under the main logo on any given retailer’s Instacart “storefront.”

It will say either:

  • Higher than in-store prices, meaning that you can expect all items to be marked up
  • See pricing policy, which means that some items are marked up, but not all
  • Everyday store prices, which indicates that the prices you see on Instacart are the same as you would find in-store, in your region

Note the words “in your region” for the last bullet; that means that if you live in an area with a higher cost of living in general, you can expect the “everyday store prices” to reflect that.

You won’t see prices that are consistent with a store in a small city that isn’t as expensive.

Do Things Cost More On Instacart?

Do Things Cost More On Instacart?

Things cost more on Instacart, and for many retailers, that starts with groceries.

If the store you have chosen marks up their prices, you can expect to pay 15 to 25 percent more than in their brick-and-mortar locations.

But if you want to have your groceries delivered to your front door, that will also add to your order total.

Most Instacart’s deliveries start at $3.99, but that can be higher depending on whether or not it’s peak shopping hours or based on your geographic location.

Then there are also service fees. These account for about five percent of your grocery total, so the more expensive (or heavy) your grocery haul, the bigger your service fee.

Finally, the tip for your shopper tacks on one last expense.

Instacart recommends at least $2 for an order, but I think a fairer minimum is $5.

If you have a huge order with many bags (or heavy bags), if you live more than few miles from the grocery store or if you live on the fifth floor of a building with no elevator…tip well.

Tip generously, as generously as you can afford. Ten to 15 percent is good, but 20 percent or higher is fantastic if you have received truly premium service from your shopper.

How Do You Avoid Instacart Fees?

There are a few ways to avoid Instacart fees or lessen their severity on your wallet.

First, you can opt for pick-up instead of delivery.

It does require you to leave your house (though not your car), but pick-up fees are cheaper (starting at $1.99) and there are no service fees for pick-up orders!

Second, if your household uses Instacart more than twice a month for groceries, consider getting an Instacart Express membership.

For $10 per month (or a $99 lump sum annually), you get unlimited free delivery on orders over $35, free pick-up and reduced service fees.

I am an uncompensated yet unwavering fan of Instacart Express, as it has saved my households hundreds of dollars over the years.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on what is Instacart Express, does Instacart markup prices, and what are demo orders on Instacart.

Conclusion

Instacart charges more in two ways: more than you would pay for in-store grocery shopping on your own; and more at check-out than your actual order total.

Both overages cover operational costs and keep the service running, and while the sticker shock gets to some, many people have proven willing to pay the premium and get back hours of their lives.

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Cara Suppa

Cara Suppa has been freelance writing for over a decade and holds a BA in English and an MS in Integrated Marketing Communications. Outside of work, she is an avid cook, gardener, and discount shopper.

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