Saving Money on Amazon

Save Money on Amazon, or Help Your Favorite Charity. Potential Savings: $100+. Difficulty Level: Low

Welcome to Saving Money with Andrew!

If you’re like me, or really anyone these days, at least 25% of your online shopping is from Amazon. For us it’s over 60% of our total shopping, including household items, groceries, electronics, TV shows and movies, and almost everything else except books.[1] At this volume, finding ways to save even a couple percent is very worthwhile. Most of these tips only make sense if you are a very frequent Amazon shopper, but with more than 100 million US households subscribing to Amazon Prime, that is probably true of at least half of the readers of this newsletter.

Some of the ways we’ve saved over the years include:

  • Amazon Prime Chase Visa (5% rewards on Amazon purchases, no annual fee) - In the Maximize Credit Card Rewards issue, I mentioned that for most people, a single 2% cash rewards card made the most sense, and most other cards are not worth your time. This card is the exception, if you are a very frequent Amazon shopper, and use this card only at Amazon. If a large percentage of your spending is at Amazon, the extra 3% of rewards will add up very quickly and justify the responsibility of maintaining a second credit card.

  • Cashback on Amazon Purchases - Surprisingly, Amazon offers cashback in several shopping categories, ranging from 2% to as much as 10%. Read the Cashback Shopping for Beginners issue if you are new to the subject, or see a comparison of the cashback offers for Amazon shopping here.[2]

  • Amazon Smile - If you are not using cashback for Amazon, I urge you to start shopping through Amazon Smile, which donates 0.5% of your Amazon purchases to the charity of your choice, at no added cost to you (it’s just another way of accessing Amazon’s site). Not quite a savings tip, but good karma. We sometimes forget to use this, and often use cashback instead because the cashback rates are meaningfully higher, but it still has yielded about $35 in donations to one of our favorite charities (JDRF, which has received almost $440k in Amazon Smile donations to date). My wife is great about doing this, I try my best but sometimes forget. Just go to smile.amazon.com instead of amazon.com every time you shop at Amazon, the site and prices will be exactly the same except 0.5% of your purchase will go to charity.

  • Subscribe & Save - Amazon offers anywhere from 5% to 20% off if you set up an item for recurring shipments, often with larger discounts on your first delivery. We use this for household staples like paper towels, toilet paper, detergent, etc. We generally use the Amazon brands (for example, Solimo, Sparkle, and Basic Care), which after discount are generally cheaper than you could buy the item anywhere else. But be careful - it is very easy to forget to cancel/adjust deliveries and end up with way too much of an item, which defeats the purpose.[3]

  • See if You Can Buy Direct - Many Amazon products sold by third parties are often sold elsewhere on the internet on the seller’s own website. Because Amazon charges hefty commissions (as much as 20% or more in certain major categories), sellers can often offer better deals on their own website than selling through Amazon. So, make sure to do a little bit of comparison shopping first by searching for the product name in your favorite search engine.

An additional note on Amazon product safety. Over the past several months, the media has covered increasingly unsettling stories about low-quality products with fake reviews flooding Amazon, often from Chinese manufacturers. To try to protect ourselves, we generally try to only buy products that state “Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.” on the product page, and if we are going to buy from a third-party seller, we carefully read both the seller’s feedback and the product reviews. Even this is not perfect, since according to reports, Amazon increasingly “commingles” inventory across multiple vendors (so you could end up with a product from a less-than-reputable seller even if you buy from a reputable one), but these tips will help reduce your risk.

I hope this post has been helpful. If you liked it, please share it with a friend! Also, please send me your feedback, requests, and success stories. If you have any other money-saving tips on Amazon, I’d love to hear them.

[1] Your local library is a great deal!

[2] A moment of silence for one Amazon savings program that is no longer with us. From 2004 to 2008, Amazon entered the search engine business with a product called A9. Users of the A9 search engine received an additional 1.57% off their orders, which often stacked with several other Amazon promotions at the time for pretty incredible savings. Internet users of a certain age might remember this.

[3] We set a monthly calendar reminder to check our order and make sure to skip or cancel the shipments we don’t need.