PhotoAmazon and Walmart are trying to wring every last minute out of this year's holiday shopping season, extending their deadlines for online purchases to be delivered by Christmas.

United Parcel Service (ups) Dec. 16, 2014, 2:13 p.m.
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Amazon says its customers can order with free shipping by Dec. 19 and receive items before the Christmas holiday. Prime members can order by Dec. 22 and, for the truly last-minute shoppers, customers in 12 major metro areas can choose from as many as a million eligible items for same-day delivery, order as late as 10:00 a.m. on Dec. 24 and have items delivered before Santa arrives.

Walmart last week said it would guarantee Christmas Eve delivery for packages ordered with standard shipping by Dec. 19.

Last year was something of a nightmare for FedEx, UPS, the Postal Service and other delivery companies and this year, they've issued what they say are firm guidelines for consumers to follow. Big corporate clients get more flexible deadlines, however. They also pre-sort packages and otherwise accommodate the couriers' needs.

The weather, of course, is always the potential spoiler. An ice storm in Memphis or a blizzard in the East or Midwest can throw a wrench into the best-engineered plans.

Without much fanfare, UPS and FedEx have suspended their money-back guarantees for ground deliveries until after Christmas, something they do every year. 

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