How to Make Money as an Instacart Shopper

Those looking for a side gig that offers plenty of flexibility have a good option in Instacart.

Kelsey SheehyMay 19, 2020

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Grocery shopping usually means taking money out of your bank account. For Instacart shoppers, it’s a chance to cash in. Workers make money by shopping for groceries at local stores the company has partnered with and delivering those items to customers’ homes.

Demand for Instacart shoppers has skyrocketed as people stay at home to avoid becoming infected with the coronavirus, but those picking and delivering groceries face risks to their health, too. Be sure to weigh the risks along with the benefits — extra cash and flexible hours — before signing up.

Here’s what you need to know to get started as an Instacart shopper and what to expect.

Snapshot

  • Work as an in-store shopper or a full-service shopper (the latter includes making deliveries).

  • Get paid a commission or by the hour, depending on employment type.

  • Set your own schedule.

  • Instantly cash out (available for many shoppers).

  • Download the Instacart Shopper app to sign up.

What is Instacart?

Instacart is a grocery delivery service that partners with local stores to deliver items directly to customers’ homes. The service relies on independent contractors and part-time workers to fulfill and transport orders.

The hours are flexible and the orders come through Instacart’s Shopper app. The key details, like job responsibilities and the way you earn money, depend on whether you’re a full-service or in-store shopper.

Full-service shopper:

  • Independent contractor.

  • Shop and deliver groceries.

  • Able to work an unlimited number of hours per week.

  • Role is available wherever Instacart operates.

In-store shopper:

  • Part-time employee of Instacart.

  • In-store shopping only (no delivery, so a car isn't required).

  • Work at least 15 to 20 hours per week, including Sundays or Mondays.

  • Get benefits, including 401(k) savings.

  • Temporary in-store shopper jobs are available in many areas to help meet increased demand. These positions are expected to last 90 days.

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Where you can work

Instacart operates in more than 5,500 cities across the U.S. and Canada. Locations range from large urban areas such as San Francisco and New York to smaller communities such as Spring Creek, Nevada, and Lannon, Wisconsin.

To see whether there are full-service or in-store shopper openings in your area, download the Shopper app and enter your ZIP code.

What you need

There are a handful of basic requirements you have to meet if you want to make money with Instacart:

  • Be at least 18 years old. If you want to deliver alcohol, which often results in larger tips, you have to be at least 21 in some states.

  • Be able to lift 30-plus pounds. Workers should be able to lift at least 30 pounds, and as much as 50 pounds, "with or without assistance" or accommodation.

  • Have a smartphone. Your smartphone must be an iPhone (with iOS 9 or later) or Android (5.0 or later).

  • Pass a background check. Instacart says most shoppers are cleared within 10 business days, but this varies by location.

  • Have a checking or savings account. Instacart shoppers are paid via direct deposit, so you'll need a bank account to collect your earnings.

Full-service shoppers also must have the following:

  • A valid driver’s license and access to a car. You also need insurance coverage that meets state requirements.

  • A set of insulated bags. You'll need enough thermal-insulated bags to hold three standard-sized paper grocery bags. Your insulated bags must close completely and be safe for food contact (no harmful chemicals). Instacart sells preapproved options that cost $26.99 for four bags. You can also use coolers to transport groceries.

How to sign up for an Instacart job

Getting started on Instacart is a simple process:

  • Download the Shopper app. You’ll provide basic information, like your name and location, and give the company permission to perform the background check. Later, you’ll use the app to set your availability, pick up gigs, track your earnings and communicate with Instacart’s help team if you encounter any issues.

  • Attend an in-person orientation (in-store shoppers only). Choose a session in the app. This is part of the onboarding process.

  • Fill out the paperwork. Independent contractors have to sign a contractor agreement and W-9 tax form. Part-time employees sign an offer letter and W-4 tax form.

  • Register your Instacart payment card. Instacart shoppers use a preloaded payment card when they check out with a customer's order. New shoppers can expect to receive their card within 5 to 7 business days. Shoppers may have the option to pick up a card, depending on their location.

Start taking gigs

In-store shoppers are assigned shifts each week. You can drop shifts and pick up additional ones via the Shopper app. An in-store shopper can expect to work up to 29 hours per week.

Full-service shoppers dictate their own schedule and can pick up gigs two ways:

  • Set your availability in the Shopper app. You’ll be notified of open delivery opportunities shortly before your period of availability starts. It’s up to you to promptly accept or reject each offer. If you accept, you'll go to the designated partner store selected by the customer and start shopping to fulfill the order.

  • Pick up on-demand shopping opportunities. Shoppers can set their app to notify them whenever an order is available in their area. Then, they review the details — store location, number of items and estimated payment — and accept the order.

In-store and full-service shoppers are required to update their progress, noting any changes or refunded items, through the shopper app so that customers can track their orders. When shoppers are done filling the order, they check out with a preloaded debit card provided by Instacart. Full-service shoppers might also be responsible for delivering the order to a customer’s home.

Getting paid

The way you earn money is determined by the work you do. In-store shoppers are paid a fixed, hourly wage that varies by location. Full-service shoppers’ pay depends on the order. Instacart provides an estimate of potential earnings for every order and guarantees shoppers will earn at least $5 for each delivery-only order and $7 to $10 for each full-service (shop and deliver) order.

What you are paid for a given batch or orders depends on "the number of items, type of items, driving distance, and effort involved in shopping and delivering," according to Instacart’s Shopper app.

Full-service shoppers can also earn tips when making deliveries.

A larger order, which tends to be heavier, will likely result in more compensation than a small shopping job. And the earning potential is usually higher when customer demand spikes, so working on Sundays and during popular events, like the Super Bowl, can mean more money.

Full-service shoppers can also earn tips when making deliveries.

In-store and full-service shoppers are paid weekly via direct deposit to a checking or savings account.

Full-service shoppers can use Instant Cashout to access their earnings more quickly. You can use Instant Cashout for the first time after completing five batches. After that, you can cash out at any time, as often as five times per day, as long as you have at least $5 in earnings. Tips aren't eligible for Instant Cashout.

Since full-service shoppers are considered independent contractors, they may have to make estimated quarterly tax payments. That’s because Instacart doesn’t withhold taxes from earnings like it does for part-time employees.

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