Since I just did the work on this for my setup, I figure I share it with anyone who might be interested.
Many US sellers offer free shipping to contiguous United States (“Continental USA” / “Lower 48 States”) over a certain order total threshold. However, many US sellers also have the problem of Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, APO, FPO, etc. addresses requiring additional postage. In the example tutorial on how to configure the MatrixRates extension, Matt and Dave touch on this slightly by using a fixed price and shipping method (HI was their example). However, if you are selling products with many different weights, you probably can’t rely on this fixed price method. So I created a method that uses the live rates from USPS in conjunction with MatrixRates to get the trick done. If you are not familiar with USPS live rates, you can find information here:
So the key is that I use MatrixRates to configure the contiguous United States locations with 3 different options:
1. Order total $0.00 – $24.99: $12.95 flat rate for shipping
2. Order total $25.00 – $49.99: $7.95 flat rate for shipping
3. Order total $50 and up: Free shipping
Those are my thresholds for shipping prices. For simplicity I sort by by the threshold value in the file (ie: $0.00 – $24.99) and that makes it easy to add or subtract sections threshold/flat rate sections.
If the customer is located outside the contiguous United Stated, the MatrixRates will not kick in and that customer will only see live rates from USPS (and other shipping carriers you may have setup).
I decided to use states instead of zip codes for determining addresses as contiguous US. Note that DC (District of Columbia) is included as a “state” in this file as shipments to DC are the same as any other state. So that is why you see 49 states listed per section in the CSV file. I chose states as that makes it a bit easier to play with the configuration. For example, you may want to offer different flat rates to different states based on distance by just looking at the CSV file. If you used zip code ranges you would need the secret USPS decoder ring to figure out the zip code ranges. :)
The attached zip file includes the CSV and a screen shot on how you need to configure MatrixRates to best work with this MatrixRates CSV file. It also includes a master file of all US States/Region abbreviations used by Magento.
Really important! This shipping method really works best if you offer USPS live rates. You can add other live rates as well, but remember that this CSV file excludes military addresses. So in essence it assume that if your customer is a APO/FPO type address that USPS live rates will provide a shipping charge. If for example you only used UPS or Fedex live rates and do not include USPS live rates, those carriers will ship to Alaska, Hawaii, and all other US territories (at significantly higher rates than USPS), but at least the customer will get a shipping rate. A military address could end up with free shipping if no USPS live rates are included.
And it is also important that you do not use the Free Shipping method as outlined in the tutorial or as maybe available in other shipping carrier options. All the live rate carrier modules also include free shipping options, so you do not want to create confusion by using them as well as they could override the MatrixRates method.
Ideas and possibilities for expansion of this method.
1. Over the next few weeks I am going to try to find a reliable PO Box zip code list and going to try to incorporate PO Box addresses to be handled the same way. For us this has some minor significance as we drop ship some products and we just do not have the option to use USPS directly from drop ship warehouses. In those cases we have to bring the item to us first. My goal on our site is to not offer any free shipping to PO Box addresses.
2. You could take the master US Regions file in the zip file I included and add additional sections with order thresholds for offering discounted flat rate or free shipping to currently excluded regions. For example, if you want to offer free shipping to any military address over a specified order total threshold, you could add that rule into the CSV file.
I hope this helps someone and if you got any questions, just ask.
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