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Most households in America have Prime, but how can you make it worth it?

5 minute read

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Amazon Prime has its perks — like free two-day shipping — and its drawbacks. It costs $119 a year for an account, but you can get your money’s worth with these tips.

But be careful, Amazon knew what it was doing here. Studies show that once you’re a member, your spending increases. So the first question to ask yourself: “Do I shop enough — and fork out enough in shipping — that spending $119 will save me money?”

From binging free movies and TV shows to buying your groceries, here are all the services to take advantage of with Amazon Prime.

1. Amazon coupons and discounts

Much like your local grocery store, Amazon has screens full of coupons to click — a buck off paper towels, a quarter off dish-washing soap. Coupons add up.

Keep in mind: Amazon’s coupons might not always make products cheaper than what you can get in the store down the street. But consider this: If you order it online, you won’t have to walk into the store, and if you don’t walk into the store, all of those impulse buys won’t land in your cart. Just stick to your shopping list while online.

2. Subscribe to save on essentials

Get non-perishables, toiletries, and cleaning supplies delivered to your door. Gather at least five of these items and put them on a subscriber list that arrives at the same address at least once a month, and Amazon gives you a 15 percent discount. Prime members also save 20 percent on diapers and baby food on those subscriber lists.

3. Take advantage of lightning deals

Prime Day is like Black Friday for Prime members. It comes around once a year, but the company runs “lightning deals” year-round when a certain item goes on sale for a limited time until time’s up or they run out of inventory. Some discounts are north of 50 percent.

Keep in mind: You can find these on the Today’s Deals page, aka The Gold Box. Sign up for a daily deals email, and when you see something you want, you can have Amazon send alerts to your phone or desktop.

Speaking of Prime Day…

4. Amazon Prime Day: Do it wrong, and it’ll cost you

Amazon Prime Day is a holiday unlike any other. For starters, you never know when it will happen. Unlike Black Friday, which is always the day after Thanksgiving, this shopping holiday moves according to the whims of Amazon’s executives.

Last year, Prime Day fell on July 17. [1] So what happens on that day? If you’re an Amazon Prime member — which means you pay $119 a year for Amazon perks and privileges — you get one day of incredible deals.

For last year’s Prime Day, nearly 400 items were ordered per second. Sounds like a wonderful 24 hours of savings, doesn’t it?

It is, and it isn’t. Like every other sale, how you use it determines whether you’ve actually succeeded. Let’s break it down.

Everything you need to know about Amazon Prime Day this year.

We all love the hustle and bustle of Black Friday. But historically, Amazon’s new summer shopping holiday actually beats Black Friday’s deals.

For Prime members, the sale starts on July 16. Not a member? Snag a 30-day trial to get the deals. To take full advantage of the sales, you need to do four things:

  1. Watch Amazon’s Prime Day Hub online. It’s a one-stop shop with updates all day.
  2. Keep tabs on your watchlist for product comparisons, and get notifications for price drops with the browser plugin or mobile app.
  3. With Alexa, get deals exclusive only to voice shoppers. Some lucky voice shoppers also get a two-hour head start on the sales.
  4. Prime Day is so big, other brands can’t help but get in on the action. Target, Best Buy, and Newegg are a few that will also be offering sales that week. Don’t forget, check out Debt.com on Prime Day for great deals too.

5. Use CamelCamelCamel

Not sure if what you’re seeing is a deal? Check out the camelcamelcamel website to track product price history — not just on Amazon, but eBay and everywhere else.

Keep in mind: Create a free account on camelcamelcamel and tell them the item you want to buy. They’ll send you an email or Tweet when the price drops.

6. Amazon price matches

If you buy something from Amazon — not a third party — and the price drops within 30 days, contact Amazon and they’ll credit you the difference.

Keep in mind: Some credit cards will do this too, no matter where you shop and for a longer stretch after purchase. So if your 30 is up, it may not be too late. Use your camelcamelcamel to track those prices even after you buy. [2]

7. Request free Prime extensions

If your purchase lands on your doorstep after the guaranteed delivery date, you can ask for a one-month free extension to your Prime membership. Don’t have a membership? Get your shipping fee refunded.

Keep in mind: You can request a Prime extension up to 12 times a year.

8. Get free shipping without a Prime membership

Some items will ship for free with a minimum $25 purchase and a bit of patience — typically 5-8 business days.

Keep in mind: You can use a pre-order item to qualify for the minimum purchase.

9. Buy used or refurbished

In Amazon’s world, these are items from Amazon Warehouse. Or if you’re eyeballing electronics it’s Amazon Renewed. Typically, if you’re searching for something on Amazon, these cheaper alternatives pop up somewhere. But if you don’t see them, seek them out.

10. Prime movies, music, and books

A Prime membership opens the door to buying a monthly selection of Kindle books for up to 80 percent off — under $3. You can also tap Kindle Unlimited for $9.99 a month and get access to a million electronic books, magazines, and audiobooks.

The Prime membership also gives you a wide range of free movies, TV shows, and music with Amazon Video and Amazon Music.

Keep in mind: Many public libraries offer their membership movies music and eBooks for free. Check your library to compare selections.

11. Part-time Prime

Maybe you don’t need Prime year-round, but that free shipping could come in handy when the holidays roll around, or in a month filled with birthdays and anniversaries. Consider paying by the month and only for the months when you shop a lot.

Monthly Prime members pay $12.99 in the U.S. So, it’s still a deal if you’re in for only a month or two, but if you stick with it all year it’ll add up to nearly $156 a year.

Prime for college students is $6.49 a month, and they can renew at $59 per year.

Keep in mind: If you fail to cancel, you could wind up paying a lot more for what you could’ve gotten for $119.

12. Discounted Prime

If your income is so low you qualify for federal assistance, you also qualify for a discounted Prime membership. [3] If you’re a  college student, you qualify for free service for six months. Amazon also launches college graduates into the world for the first several months at a discount.

Keep in mind: The student membership doesn’t get free streaming until after the six-month trial.

13. Share the Prime

The rules of what’s called Amazon Household have gotten tighter — the days of flying on your dad’s Prime membership even though you’re grown and live in another city is no longer an option. But Prime will cover two adults in one home and up to four teens and four children under 13 as long as you agree to share payment methods.

Keep in mind: The sharing includes free deliveries, 2 percent rewards on Prime Reload (more about that further down), and streaming access with parental controls in play.

14. The Amazon credit card

If you’ve shopped at all on Amazon, you’ll have seen the pitch for Amazon Visa. You get $70 for signing up and 5 percent back on all Amazon purchases.

Keep in mind: How much shopping on Amazon do you really do? Some credit cards offer 1 percent back on everything, others 5 percent back on all travel. Only you know how you spend. Also, rewards won’t offset the interest if you don’t pay off the card every month.

15. Prime Reload

If you have a Prime membership and an Amazon gift card, you get 2 percent rewards every time you reload the gift card.

Keep in mind: You have to give them a debit card linked to your bank to get the points. You can reload with your Amazon Visa, but then you don’t get the 2 percent for reloading, just the 5 percent you’re spending.


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About the Author

Cameren Boatner

Cameren Boatner

Cameren Boatner is a contributing editor for Debt.com. She is currently working toward her bachelor's degree in multimedia journalism from FAU, where she serves as editor of the student-run newspaper.

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