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What is Postmates and How Does it Work? Get Food Delivered the Easy Way

By: // Updated: September 23, 2020

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What is Postmates? Our definitive guide shows you what you need to know about the on-demand service. Pricing, delivery types, tipping policy, and more.


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Whether you’re lazing at home or busy at work, choosing food delivery is often the obvious choice.

Our world is being transformed by technology and the gig economy. It’s easier than ever to get whatever you want at the click of a button — whether it’s a freelance contractor, a ride from a company like Uber, or a hot meal delivered to your door.

With apps like Postmates readily available for you to use, you can submit your next order in just a few taps, at any time of the day. So how does Postmates work?

Postmates has actively connected users to local restaurants and drivers since 2012, when CEO Bastian Lehmann launched the company alongside co-founders Sam Street and Sean Plaice. While this basic concept may be simple, you may still be wondering about the order options, prices, and more features you should expect on the Postmates app.

What exactly makes customers choose Postmates when the big three food delivery giants — DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats — could just as easily get food to your door?


Jump to:


What Is Postmates?

Postmates is a goods and food delivery service that allows customers to order almost anything they want, including personal items, groceries, and restaurant meals. The idea is that these things will be delivered to the client’s door in less than an hour.

Almost anything can be delivered through Postmates, whether you’re looking for a fresh shirt for a big date, a new set of headphones, or a meal. We’ll be honest, the most common orders are for places like McDonald’s. But Postmates differentiates itself from competitors like DoorDash by claiming you can order “anything.”

The items that will not be delivered by Postmates couriers include:

  • Gift cards
  • Live animals
  • Guns
  • Explosives
  • Any controlled or illegal substances

It’s a simple concept, but this $400 million startup is a huge success. It’s grown from its beginnings in San Francisco in 2011 to become one of the major cornerstones of the on-demand delivery economy.

Postmates taps into the gig-economy, much like Uber and Lyft, to hire delivery drivers, known as couriers. Couriers are independent contractors who use their own vehicles (or even bikes and scooters in some cities) to complete deliveries.

If you’re curious about the details of the Postmates revolution, read on to discover everything you need to know about this innovative app, and how you can get involved with everything the job has to offer.


How Does Postmates Work?

As a Postmates user, you can get food from your favorite restaurants delivered to your door, just by jumping on the company’s mobile app or website.

Postmates helps you skip the traditional delivery request process — which often involves Google searches, website visits, and phone calls — and get a complete catalog of local eateries and their menus all on one platform. Once you select the meal you want, all it takes is a few taps for your order to get sent straight to the restaurant.

Your Postmates app allows you to track every part of the delivery process. You’ll see when your selected restaurant starts preparing your order. When your order is just about ready for pick-up, you’ll also see the Postmates courier you’re matched with and their location in real-time. Couriers are typically assigned based on their proximity to the pick-up location, so you don’t have to worry about major delays to your order.

Once your order drop-off is complete, you can immediately dig into your meal, rate your restaurant, and tip your Postmates driver (in any order). Tips are processed 24 hours after your delivery.


Postmates Order Options

While Postmates delivery is the primary service offered on the app, you do have a few additional order options that you can take advantage of.

Here are three order options you can choose from:

  • Delivery: When selecting a standard delivery, you can choose for your driver to bring your meal straight to you, meet you outside, or leave the order at your door for a no-contact delivery. You can even schedule a delivery on your checkout page, if you don’t want it delivered right away.
  • Pickup: If you want to avoid delivery fees and tips, you can order from Postmates’ “Pickup” tab instead. Instead of being assigned to a driver, you’ll need to pick up your order yourself, but you can relax at home until the app tells you your takeout is ready.
  • Party: Another way to save is by ordering from Postmates’ “Party” tab. A Postmates Party groups your order with that of other customers who chose the same restaurant. Your order may take a bit longer, since your driver may make a few stops before you, but you’ll get your delivery fee waived. Party orders must be $15 or more and be submitted within a five-minute time frame.

What makes Postmates particularly unique is the fact that it offers more than food. In addition to offering delivery from thousands of restaurant partners nationwide, Postmates also delivers office supplies, alcohol, pet supplies, convenience store goods, and other household essentials. Though not at the same scale as Instacart, Postmates does offer grocery delivery in some markets, too.

Some of the major food and retail chains that you can order from include Starbucks, Chipotle, Subway, McDonald’s, Papa John’s Pizza, Walgreens, 7-Eleven, Staples, and PetSmart.


How Much Does Postmates Cost?

The Postmates pricing strategy is simple enough to understand.

Anything can be delivered from any location for a cost of $5.99-$9.99, however, that doesn’t cover the price for the item that your Postmate is picking up if you’re a customer. Postmates also offers special deals to clients from partners to their brand, where it’s possible to get a pickup for $1.99-$3.99.

A variable percentage-based service fee is also applied to the price of the items that are ordered, and during the peak times of the day, the delivery prices for certain items might increase. This is called “Blitz” pricing.

For a standard Postmates delivery, you can expect the following factors to impact the price of your order, before tax:

  • Order selection: The cost of your meal (or products) may be the same as or slightly higher than in-store, depending on the prices your merchant sets.
  • Delivery fee: You’ll pay $0.99-$3.99 when ordering from official Postmates Partner Merchants and $5.99-$9.99 when ordering from other restaurants.
  • Service fee: A percentage-based fee, which may vary depending on where you’re ordering from, is charged on all orders.
  • Small cart fee: If you don’t reach your market’s minimum order total (usually $12), you’ll be charged a $1.99 fee.
  • Blitz pricing: Fees may be higher during peak hours, which usually occur during lunchtime and dinnertime.
  • Tip: Tipping your driver at least 15% is custom on the Postmates app.

Let’s break down some of these pricing variables more.

Blitz Pricing

At peak times throughout the day, there can be changes in the pricing patterns for Postmates customers, depending on the popularity of the app, and how many people are making requests. This is a form of surge pricing that Postmates refers to as Blitz pricing.

Customers are informed on the checkout screen whether they’ll need to pay a higher price for their delivery before they request a Postmate.

People who have signed up as an “Unlimited subscriber” will not pay a Blitz price on their order.

Blitz pricing is very similar to Uber’s SURGE pricing. It’s used when the amount of demand in the app outweighs the couriers that are available. Usually, the Blitz algorithm means that the amount that a courier can charge for a delivery can go up to 1.25 times, 1.5 times, or 1.75 times the original price. However, it rarely goes above this level for most couriers.

For people who are willing to make deliveries at any time of the day or night, Blitz pricing can be a huge incentive.

Usually, Blitz pricing happens most organically on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. In certain areas, it can happen during the lunch hours on a weekday, but this is more common when offers are available or events are taking place.

Calculating Postmates Prices

In the past, Postmates has faced some scrutiny from customers who claim that the “estimated” quote for what they should expect to pay from a delivery is actually very different from the amount that they need to pay when their courier arrives at their home or office.

After a customer uses the Postmates app to place an order, the company provides an estimate for what that order will cost. It’s worth noting that these estimates aren’t always entirely accurate.

The quotes are calculated by adding up the total cost of the items that are ordered, before adding a service fee (varies according to the delivery) and a price for the delivery. In some cases, changing menu prices means that if someone uses Postmates to order a food item for delivery, they may need to pay more when it arrives at their home than the amount suggested by the app.

If you decide to cancel your order after your restaurant has already started preparing it, you will be charged the price of your meal plus a small cancellation fee. You may also be charged the delivery and service fee if your delivery person has already been dispatched to the restaurant.

Reducing Costs

Luckily, there are a handful of ways to reduce costs. First-time users can get $100 in free delivery by using Postmates promo codes. Current users can get $25 Postmates credit by referring new users. The platform also always has a “Daily Deals” section, where you can find deals offered directly from restaurants.

Frequent customers can also sign up for Postmates Unlimited, a subscription program that can offer huge savings. By subscribing for $9.99 per month or $99 per year, you get free delivery on orders over a set minimum (usually $10-$15), waived Blitz pricing, and access to special offers, giveaways, and events.


How to Order Food on the Postmates App

Once you download the Postmates app on your iPhone or Android and complete the simple sign-up prompts, ordering food on the Postmates app is easy.

Start by selecting “Delivery,” “Pickup,” or “Party” from the tabs at the top of your screen.

Then, start browsing your merchant options by scrolling down or filtering your results. Once you find a place you want to order from, tap the merchant.

Once you see the restaurant’s menu, tap on the items you want to order, customizing or adding notes as needed, and add them to your cart. When you’re done selecting menu items, tap “View Order” at the bottom of your screen.

Make sure your order and order total — including taxes, fees, and any discounts — are correct on the checkout page. Then, tap “Review Order” to confirm or edit your delivery address, delivery time, and payment method. Tap “Order Delivery” to submit your request.


Frequently Asked Questions

When you understand how Postmates works, you can navigate the app easily right from the start. These answers to frequently asked questions will help you get to know the food delivery service even better before you sign up:

1. Where is Postmates available?

Postmates is currently available in all 50 U.S. states, including major cities like San Francisco and New York City, as well as Washington, D.C. You can see a complete list of Postmates markets on this cities page.

2. How quickly should I expect my Postmates order to arrive?

Your estimated delivery time will always depend on how far away your selected restaurant is and how long the restaurant estimates it will take to finish preparing each order. This is usually around 30 to 50 minutes, give or take.

3. What payment methods does Postmates accept?

Postmates accepts credit card, debit card, and Google Pay. If you ever need to update your payment method, just head to the settings section of your app and tap “Payment” to add your new card or account details.

4. Is there a minimum age for users to use Postmates?

All Postmates users must be at least 18 years old. If you want to order alcohol on the platform, you must be 21 years old with a government-issued ID, as your delivery driver will request to verify your age upon arrival.

5. Can I change my order after I’ve placed it on the Postmates app?

The Postmates app gives you the ability to contact your courier. If you want to change something on your order, contact your courier as soon as you can. Just note that if your change involves the courier needing to meet additional tasks, the delivery may take longer than the time stated when you ordered.

6. Does Postmates pricing change at peak times of high demand?

Yes. Blitz pricing is put in place when delivery demands are higher than normal, such as during peak times. The increased pricing is aimed to encourage Postmates couriers to be available, helping ensure delivery time frames gets met. You’ll be informed on the app when you place your order that Blitz pricing is in place, and you will have a chance to delay or cancel your order if you are uncomfortable with the premium cost.

7. What are the most common Postmates deliveries?

While Postmates can deliver anything from an iPad to groceries, the most common delivery is for takeout food.

8. How Long Do Postmates Deliveries Take?

When an order is accepted on Postmates, an “estimated delivery time” will be displayed to the customer. The calculation takes a number of different factors into consideration when assessing your order, such as the:

  • Location of the Postmate
  • Food preparation time
  • Amount of traffic
  • Distance from the pickup location

Of course, countless elements can have an impact on delivery time.

9. Does Postmates Offer Free Delivery?

Many people often wonder if there’s a way to waive the delivery charge involved when using Postmates. In general, the Postmates delivery fee ranges from $3.99 to $5.99, depending on the required travel distance and whether or not it’s during peak hours. The delivery fee is also capped with certain Postmates partners, such as Chipotle.

During peak hours, the delivery prices can end up surging. However, before confirming your order, you will always be notified of your total delivery price.

Postmates also offers a subscription service known as Postmates Unlimited. The cost is usually $9.99 per month, billed one time annually. Quite often however, Postmates will run a special discount where they offer the service at 30% off, or $6.99 per month.

Here is what’s included with a Postmates Unlimited subscription:

  • $0 delivery fee on all orders over $20
  • All merchants are included with no exceptions
  • No surge pricing during peak hours at any time
  • Alcohol and groceries delivered in under 30 minutes for free, no matter your order size

If you are going to make regular use of the Postmates service, this subscription model provides fantastic value.


Navigate Postmates With Ease

Now that we’ve answered your biggest question — “How does Postmates work?” — you can easily take advantage of the platform for your convenience. The food delivery app and all of its options are incredibly simple to navigate. With Postmates, ordering from any local store or restaurant can be done in just a few taps, with whatever device you want to use.

If you want to compare your options before selecting your go-to food delivery platform, start by reading our Postmates vs. Grubhub breakdown.

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