Magento Tip: Setting Up Free Shipping

Magento has several built-in options to facilitate free shipping promotions.  In this post, we’ll review each type of setup, as well as their pros and cons.

Step 1: Enable a free shipping option

Free Shipping as a standalone shipping method (Option 1)

Stores configured to use Flat Rate or Table Rates as shipping methods can set up a free shipping option by enabling the Free Shipping method.  This is a standalone shipping method set up under  System -> Configuration -> Sales -> Shipping Methods -> Free Shipping.


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The Free Shipping method is displayed separate from other enabled shipping options.  Below is an example of how the option is presented when used in conjunction with a flat rate shipping method.  A similar display should also be expected for stores using table based rates.


While the standalone free shipping method can be used in stores leveraging real-time carrier API’s (e.g. USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc…), it’s often not the best fit (see option 2 below).


  • Easy to setup, all configuration settings are managed from Free Shipping method screen
  • Standalone option, does not impact any other shipping methods


  • Limited qualifying criteria, promotion based solely on meeting minimum cart amount and allowed destinations

Free Shipping with a real-time carrier (option 2)

Stores configured to use a real-time carrier (e.g. UPS, USPS, FedEx, etc…) can offer free shipping using the settings provided on the carriers configuration screen.   As with the standalone Free Shipping method, the options are limited to choosing a Free Method (e.g. Ground, Next Day, 3 Day Select, etc…), minimum cart amount and allowed countries.

System -> Configuration -> Sales -> Shipping Methods -> (UPS, USPS, FedEx, etc…)

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When a customer meets the minimum amount specified, the chosen “Free Method” will be displayed at a rate of $0.00 (see below).

Note, that it is possible to enable a free shipping option for each active shipping method.  This would likely be valid only in cases where the store is configured to use different domestic and international carriers (and free shipping applies to both).


  • Easy to setup, all configuration settings are managed from the carrier configuration screen
  • Ability to designate a free shipping service (e.g. Ground, Next Day, 3 Day, etc…)
  • Free and paid shipping quotes are grouped together for a better UX


  • Free shipping based solely on meeting the minimum cart amount and allowed destinations for selected shipping service

Step 2: Configure Shopping Cart Price Rules (optional)

The free shipping methods configured above provide the basis for a basic free shipping promotion.  They also serve as the foundation for more complicated free shipping promotions.  When a free shipping promotion requires more elaborate conditions, such as  only applying to specific categories, individual products or  destinations, we need to use Shopping Cart Price Rules.

For those who are not familiar with how Shopping Cart Price Rules work, this tutorial provides a detailed overview:

At a high-level, Shopping Cart Price Rules are used to trigger discounts in the cart.  In addition to being used for free shipping promotions, they are also used for Coupons and other structured discounts (e.g. BOGO’s, % Off, etc…).

Pricing rules are highly flexible.  Product and cart attributes can be used to build simple or complex conditional statements.  As an example, a free shipping promotion could be set up to only apply when certain items (or items from a category) have been added to the cart.  Below is an example of how conditions might look when set up under Promotions -> Shopping Cart Price Rules -> Conditions.

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We can further require the cart meet a set minimum amount or add restrictions for specific geographic regions.  Many cart attributes are also available to use in conditional statements (e.g. weight, subtotal, total, destination, etc…).  Note, that shopping cart rules trump the settings defined within our shipping methods.  In other words, a cart can qualify for free shipping even if it does not meet the minimum order total set on the shipping method configuration screen.

Ultimately, the display at checkout is the same as the other free shipping setups.


  • Highly flexible, allows free shipping to be determined based on any attribute eligible for use with promotions (e.g. category/product specific, destination restrictions, order total/subtotal, etc…)
  • Ability to designate a free shipping service (e.g. Ground, Next Day, 3 Day, etc…)
  • Free and paid shipping quotes are grouped together for a better UX


  • Setup can be complicated (depends on the requirements of the promotion)
  • Requires that either the Free Shipping method be enabled, or a Free Method enabled for a real-time carrier

If you are currently hosting your Magento store with LexiConn and are having difficulty with shipping options, let us know and we can assist you! :)


  1. Here’s a great list of 25 examples of Magento Shopping Cart Price Rules that compliments this post:

  2. Luca says:

    Hi, I have a site with magento where I try to set a free shipping method based on cart pricing rules because I want to block free shipping for certain category.
    The system set all my method to 0, but I want that only one method go to 0.

    There is some solution for this problem?

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