Love it or hate it, the Seattle-based company has made online shopping mainstream. Amazon sells almost everything, delivers your goods fast (especially if you’re a member of Amazon Prime), offers services like streaming video and music, and makes an entire line of tablets, e-book readers, and smart speakers and displays. Its web and app options make it possible to shop on any platform, while AWS powers at least a third of the web. It also owns plenty of brick-and-mortar stores now, including Whole Foods.
We’re closing in on Amazon’s version of Black Friday; Prime Day runs from June 21-22, so check out the tips below to help you get the most out of your shopping experience.
Get Amazon Prime for Free (or Cheaper)
Amazon Prime comes with a free 30-day trial. Use it during the holidays, or on Prime Day, to get free shipping, then cancel before you’re charged. Note that you only get one free trial per Amazon account, so you can’t do this over and over again. Amazon is pretty sure you’ll be so dazzled by all the extras a Prime membership offers that you won’t want to let it go, but that really depends on how much you shop.
You don’t have to shell out $119, though. With Prime Student, you get Prime for free for six months, and half price thereafter ($59 per year or $6.49 per month if you plan to cancel early).
Adult Prime members who become parents can sign up for Amazon Family (previously called Amazon Mom). There are no specific major savings on the price of Prime this way, but parents get exclusives, such as 20% off diapers and baby food subscriptions.
Those on government assistance, meanwhile, can get Prime for $5.99 a month. It applies to programs like WIC and SNAP (here’s the full list); you just need to re-up every 12 months.
Smile for Charity
Give back when you shop with AmazonSmile. Once activated, 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products you buy will go to the charity of your choice. (AmazonSmile supports over a million 501(c)(3) public organizations.) You get zero tax benefit, but you still get what you purchased, and your favorite charity benefits. Change your charity anytime.
When you shop, navigate to smile.amazon.com instead of Amazon.com, on desktop and mobile browsers. On the desktop, the AmazonAssistant extension for Chrome or Firefox can also remind/force you to use Smile when you surf to Amazon. On the mobile app, tap the hamburger menu on the bottom right, select AmazonSmile and follow the setup instructions. (The downside on mobile is you need to activate notifications for AmazonSmile for some reason, but maybe you’re already getting alerts about shipments anyway.)
As of February 2021, charities worldwide have received over $266 million from the program.
Prime With a Partner
If you’re paying for Amazon Prime, the cost can be shared with one other adult member of your household, plus up to four kids under the same roof. The kids don’t even need Amazon accounts. This is a smart way to shop for holiday presents while keeping them secret from your partner or kids while still saving on free shipping.
To set it up, go to the Amazon Household website and click Add Adult/Teen/Child. You’ll need their email address as used on Amazon, and it will require the adults to share credit or debit card information. Keep it organized at Manage Your Content and DevicesManage Your Content and Devices > Preferences tab > Households and Family Library > Manage Your Household.
Amazon Prime sharing includes Amazon Video with all the linked members, not to mention Prime Early Access (which offers 30-minute early access to time-limited Lightning Deals), and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. All adults get access to the $2.99 per month (to start) Amazon Kids+ parental controls to make sure kids don’t get into anything they shouldn’t.
Amazon Teen, a part of Amazon Household, gives kids aged 13-17 a little more freedom to shop, but allows parents or guardians to approve their purchases before it’s charged to their card.
You’ve Got to Filter
Amazon has hundreds of thousands of products. Searching with a barebones term will get you quickly lost in the weeds, with far too many options to choose from. Turn to the left on your desktop and start clicking the boxes to filter the choices. Start, of course, with Prime so you know that you’ll get the unit with (hopefully) the best shipping options and definitely the best return options (like making a quick trip to Kohl’s—they’ll even pack it and ship it for you).
Then keep narrowing things down, looking for daily deals, but also by rating (if you trust them), by brand, and even more specific depending on the product category. Searching “laptops,” I was able to narrow down the RAM capacity, graphics processor, type of display, weight, and even new versus used (you can get some good deals with a refurb).
Also this helps you skip the “featured” listings, which are really just ads.
If your most beloved family-member-turned-Amazon-addict isn’t part of the immediate household, give Prime as a gift in one-year ($119) or three-month ($39) increments to anyone with an email address. The gift membership comes with all the benefits—two-day shipping, streaming video and music, borrowing books on Kindle, etc. If the person is already a Prime member, they can exchange what you paid for an Amazon gift card.
Where’s the Warehouse?
What happens to all those products that inevitably get returned to Amazon? Those gems that are no longer “new,” but good enough? They are typically found on the Amazon Warehouse Deals site, which offers “deep discounts on open-box, like-new, and pre-owned products”—aka refurbished. Best of all, they are typically still eligible for Amazon Prime shipping and returns. Similarly, you can find deals at the almost-hidden Amazon Outlet store.
Today’s Deals on Amazon
Amazon’s best deals for new products are found in the Today’s DealsToday’s Deals link on the top of any Amazon page. The section offers several Deals of the Day, and time-limited Lightning Deals (where you only get hours or just minutes to snag a product on sale). There isn’t always a lot of notice, but if you use the Amazon mobile apps, tap the hamburger menu and select Today’s Deals to see discounts on the go.
Clip Some Coupons
Amazon has an ongoing set of coupon offers on its Coupons page. Clip any and all you might want to use; they’re mostly household goods and electronics, but you can search under categories like Toys and Jewelry for other things. The savings of around 5-15% will automatically be applied when you make the purchase. If you don’t make the purchase, the coupon doesn’t get used, and eventually, it’ll expire.
Track Amazon Prices
Amazon’s not going to go out of its way to inform you when a product you love is super cheap (though if you check your Wish List a lot, it does indicate how much the price has dropped since you added it). Luckily, there are plenty of third-party options to track prices, usually via a browser extension. For example, CamelCamelCamel tracks tons of products and provides info via email and Twitter. Set it up in your browser with the Camelizer add-on tool for Chrome, Edge, Opera, Safari, and Firefox. Honey, CapitalOne Shopping, and RetailMeNot’s Deal Finder all offer browser add-ons that display deals on Amazon before you buy—right in the Amazon window. They also surface deals on most other online stores.
(Editors’ Note: RetailMeNot is owned by Ziff Davis, the publisher of PCMag.)
Same-Day Delivery = Joy
In certain cities, you can get same-day delivery of select items. Prime members in those areas receive free same-day delivery on qualifying orders over $35. Order by noon and your package will be delivered by 10 p.m., seven days a week. Order in the afternoon or evening, and it turns into free one-day delivery. Amazon also offers one-hour pickup or two-hour grocery delivery via Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods.
Whole Foods Discounts
Love shopping at Whole Foods, but hate the prices? The chain, owned by Amazon, comes with a Prime perk: you can get 10% off sale items, plus other weekly discounts. Use the Whole Foods Market app at checkout to get the deals; the app will also show what’s on sale. If you have the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card, get 5% back on Whole Foods Market purchases.
The Card(s) That Pay You Back
Amazon has a lot of cards that make it worth your while to shop. The aforementioned Prime Rewards Visa Card will give you a $150 Amazon gift card upon approval, after which Prime members get 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% at restaurants, drugstores, and gas stations; and 1% on all other purchases. (If you’re not a Prime member, you can still get the card, but get only 3% back for purchases on Amazon or at Whole Foods.)
Traveling overseas? There are no foreign transaction fees. There’s no annual fee either. The latest cards are contactless, so if you see the symbol on a point-of-sale terminal at checkout that looks like a Wi-Fi antenna symbol turned on its side, simply tap the card; no swiping or inserting or even using your phone is required.
Because a “purchase” on Amazon made with the money you’ve earned doesn’t earn you more money, the best practice is to redeem them for gift cards or as cashback via Chase so you don’t lose out on even a measly percentage.
You can also link other credit cards—like American Express, Discover, CapitalOne, Citi, and more—to your Amazon account and Shop With Points.
Subscribe to Products
You probably think a subscription is for something entertaining, like a magazine or for streaming video services, where you get new and different things, regularly. With Amazon’s Subscribe & Save, you get the same items over and over, but they are items you always need: detergent, cat litter, dog food, razor blades, toilet paper, and real essentials, like Slim Jims.
Get as much as 15% off products that fit the bill if you buy five or more products per month. You can cancel whenever you want; there’s no year-long commitment that will force you to get, say, the same size diapers for a year. Check out the page of every eligible item.
Ask Alexa to Place an Order
These days, people deep into the Amazon ecosystem probably have a smart speaker, so it’s easiest to use Echo device(s) to order or re-order items via voice. Say “Alexa, re-order [product name]” and she’ll walk you through the proecess. Set up a confirmation code in your Alexa app to prevent family, friends, and frenemies from abusing the purchase-by-voice feature.
Get Refunds on Lost Items, Late Deliveries
Amazon Prime offers two-day shipping, and many items usually include a guaranteed delivery date if you order by a certain time. But delays happen, especially during the pandemic. If you paid extra for expedited shipping and your order doesn’t show up at the appointed time, Amazon says it will refund those extra shipping costs.
If an order is marked as delivered and you can’t find it, meanwhile, call Amazon customer service at 1-888-280-4331. An automated system will walk you through the order and offer to re-send or issue a refund, no questions asked. It’s unclear how many refunds Amazon will issue in a given time period. Frequent lost-item refund requests will likely get your account flagged, so don’t try any funny business.
Pick a Day, Any Day
Are your Amazon deliveries showing up in multiple packages every day of the week? That’s great if you need those items ASAP, but if you’d rather not monitor your front door so much, pick an Amazon Day. When you check out, you have the option to pick a single day of the week for delivery that will become your default day for Amazon packages in the future. Change it any time you check out to get faster turnaround, but otherwise, everything you ordered in the previous six days will arrive on the same day (in theory).
Trade in Tech for Amazon Money
Places to trade in old tech like phones and tablets abound, and that includes Amazon. It can be used to get money to spend on more stuff at Amazon, naturally (you get an Amazon code, not cash). The original product doesn’t have to come from Amazon to be eligible. Trade-in item categories include e-readers, tablets, streaming media players, speakers, home security devices, and wireless routers to upgrade to new Amazon-specific items, but they’ll also take cell phones and gaming equipment/titles. The page also offers info on where to find places to trade in Amazon-specific products, called the Amazon Recycling Program.
Fill the Cart With Low-Cost Items
If you don’t have Prime, the minimum is $35 for free shipping. What do you do if you only need a $20 item? Find some fillers and add-ons. Amazon lists lots of cheaper items that you can only get at a cheap price if you’ve got $25 worth of stuff in the shopping cart. Just search for “add-on items” and you’ll see things like 8-packs of batteries, lip balm, and snacks that are all priced cheap. Or visit Amazon Filler Item Finder and put in the amount you want to spend to bring the cart up to a certain amount. The search will show you a bunch of items that qualify.
Regular Reading Perks
If you have an Amazon Kindle device or Kindle app on any other device, plus a Prime account, you have access to Amazon First Reads. You get a monthly option to pre-order four to nine new, big-name, “Editors’ Pick” books, one of which you get free. (The other books are under $9.99, usually only $4.99 to pre-order, which is still pretty cheap.)
Prime members in the US can also enjoy unlimited access to a “rotating selection of books, magazines, comics, and more,” about 2,000 in total, at no additional cost via Prime Reading. It even includes some periodicals like People magazine and even some graphic novels. (Don’t confuse this with Kindle Unlimited, which sounds similar, but that costs an extra $9.99 per month. For that you get access to about 1 million titles including audiobooks, and you can “borrow” as much as you want.)
Prime Book Box delivers a box of curated books for kids every month, two months, or three months to your home for $19.99 per box, which works out to an average savings of 40%. Pick books for babies up to 2, kids 3 to 5, 6 to 8, or 9 to 12 years.
Try Free Games
If you’ve got Amazon Prime, you’ve also got Prime Gaming (formerly called Twitch Prime, as it only works if you link your Amazon and Twitch accounts). Likewise, standalone Prime Gaming subscribers (who pay $12.99 per month) get access to some Amazon Prime features, such as Prime Video. While Twitch itself is mainly for watching other people play video games and broadcasting your own gameplay, Prime Gaming kills off any ads Twitch inserts into your videos and allows channel subscriptions. Best of all, Prime Gaming includes free games every month.
Try a New Wardrobe
Taking on subscription services like Stitch Fix and Trunk Club, Prime Wardrobe helps you try things on. Order three to eight items of eligible clothing, Amazon sends them, you try on, and send back whatever doesn’t fit or you don’t like. You don’t pay until you decide to keep something. Amazon includes the return label so you’re ready to send unwanted duds back ASAP in the same box they arrived in. (Don’t destroy the box when you open it.) If you return all the clothes, no big deal: you don’t pay for anything you don’t keep.
Cancel Amazon Prime
Sometimes, you just don’t want to shop. Not even at Amazon. If you’re tired of the emails and deals and discounts, take a break. Canceling your Amazon Prime account is simple.