Over the last two decades, Amazon has changed the way people buy things; the company, whose name is almost synonymous with e-commerce, stocks millions of items. From audio books to baby nappies and even online movies, it has spawned an ecosystem worth tens of billions of dollars in annual revenues globally.
While the online retailer often has the cheapest prices online, that is not always the case and more often than not, Amazon aficionados are guilty of not trying hard enough to get the best deal online. This short guide provides some hints on how you can squeeze even more value from your money at Amazon and provides a few tips about some of Amazon's tricks.
1. Get a student to buy stuff for you
NUS card holders get a 5% discount on millions of Amazon items and 10% off Amazon Clothing. They need to go to the NUS Extra website and grab the discount codes which has then to be used on Amazon's website. Note that codes are not stackable and some departments (like Electronics and Computers), Kindle books and Marketplace/3rd party products are excluded from the list. Students can also enrol on Amazon Student scheme to get free one-day delivery for six months and after that, 50% off Amazon Prime.
2. Subscribe and Save!
Amazon has a little known scheme called "subscribe and save", one that applies mostly for groceries and children products although you can also get discounts on office consumables. There are two saving tiers; grab 1-4 subscriptions in one month and save 5%; 5 or more subscriptions triples that saving to 15%. You can cancel subscriptions at any time. Bear in mind though that you may lose out on any price changes and 3rd party resellers may turn out to be cheaper than Amazon's (for example, this Samsung M40 ink cartridge which costs nearly twice the price on Amazon S&S).
3. The Other Sellers tab and dynamic pricing
It's worth noting that sometimes, prices listed on the "Other Sellers tab" are actually cheaper than on the main area of the page. Also, always check on the "new" section of the page for potential savings. Speaking of savings, keep an eye on fluctuating prices as Amazon practices dynamic pricing with prices going up or down depending on demand. A useful site that tracks Amazon's prices (more than 18 million products) and provides with tools to alert you when your wish list products hit a threshold is Camel Camel Camel.
4. Buy Amazon gift cards
Not surprisingly, Amazon gift cards are one of the more popular virtual reward schemes around. Even Microsoft uses them for their Bing Rewards (only in the US though) and countless companies in the UK offer gift cards to entice customers or as an alternative to cashbacks. You can buy gift cards from eBay, from Zeek (a small but growing gift voucher marketplace) or put a "want to buy" request on popular UK website Hotukdeals. For eBay, always use your credit card for purchases above £100 as your credit card company is jointly accountable should the transaction fall through.
5. Amazon does second hand as well!
Amazon has a separate warehouse deal and outlet section (not sure why they wouldn't just merge those two). The first one offers open-box customer returned, warehouse damaged merchandise while the second one deals in markdowns, clearance items, closeouts and overstocks. While the latter essentially redirects to the main website, the former provides with a list of used products, are of variable quality and stock is usually very limited. All purchases eligible for Amazon customer service and a 30-day return policy plus you should be able to use the various codes on there as well.
6. You can order from different countries
Curiua is a clever online service that compares prices for Amazon in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, converting them in pounds. The website has been named after a Portuguese explorer who was the first European to travel up the entire length of the Amazon (as in the river). Unbeknown to many you can actually get much cheaper deals (especially on smartphones) in mainland Europe. Because UK is still part of the EU, you don't need to pay extra taxes and warranty is usually upheld across the continent so that if your German-purchased Galaxy S6 breaks down, you can still get it covered here. Unlike Camel Camel Camel, the site doesn't unfortunately have a "best deals" section yet which makes it hard to find deals. As for the bargains, the LG G3 Gold (3GB/32GB) costs £255.32 in Spain or £275 in the UK. It is also advisable that you use a credit card that doesn't charge any fees for the conversion.
7. Beat Amazon at its own game
A flurry of services has emerged over the past few years that allow users to receive pitches, similar to reverse bidding. Flubit, Avast! SafePrice, Beat My Price by Barclays are UK-only ones and once you have submitted your request - usually a URL - to the wider seller community on these websites, you will start getting propositions, usually within 24 hours. You can either choose to buy from Amazon or from the three aforementioned websites. Note that the services by them do not work for contracts, downloadable material, fashion or second hand products.
8. Amazon discount finder from MSE
If you're all about serendipity, then why not try Money Saving Expert's Amazon Discount Finder which creates a bespoke result page containing deals, in a particular category, that have been discounted by as much as 80%. You can change a few parameters including pricing and the sort order. Unfortunately we couldn't get any decent deals going on but given that there's millions of product lines in Amazon's database, there's bound to be something for everyone.
9. Be wary about customer reviews
Amazon was one of the pioneers of online user-generated reviews, coming up with great schemes like Vine which allows prolific buyers to get free products for testing and reporting. Customer reviews, while mostly beneficial, can also prove to be misleading sometimes. This is especially true for products that have a long shelf-life or have been on the market for a long time and have been through a number of iterations. That's the case, for example, for products that have had firmware updates (phones or motherboards) or are available in various iterations under the same stock keeping unit (hard disk drives, laptops etc).
10. Amazon Vouchers
Amazon has just come up with a new service called Amazon Vouchers which is different from Amazon Gift cards. Add a voucher to your basket, select the associated product (from a wide range of products) and proceed to checkout where the discount is automatically applied. There are actually some interesting vouchers that can be used with the other Amazon saving schemes (S&S or student discount).
For example, there’s £15 off the Motorola MBP27T digital video baby monitor that brings down the price to £85, far cheaper than the rest of the market.