10 secrets Amazon shoppers should know

Odds are decent that if you're reading this, you at least occasionally do your online shopping with Amazon.com. In fact, shortly after the holidays ended, Earnest Research, a data innovation company in New York, reported that Amazon captured 89 percent of last year's holiday online spending among the big name brand retailers.

So if you're an Amazon regular, you may be looking for ways to save when shopping with the online giant. If so, consider giving these tips a try.

[See: 12 Shopping Tricks to Keep You Under Budget.]

Hardly a secret, but it needs to be said: Become an Amazon Prime member. Not everyone lives on the internet, and not everyone shops a lot online. So, no, becoming a member isn't for everyone. But if you do shop at Amazon a lot, the $99 yearly membership (or $12.99 a month, if you prefer to pay that way) can be pretty attractive.

For starters, there's the free (well, once you pay $99) two-day shipping. There are other benefits as well, like receiving Prime Video, where you can view unlimited streaming of movies and TV episodes. You also get Prime Music (unlimited access to music) and Prime Reading (unlimited free access to, well, not all books, but a lot). There are many other benefits, too numerous to mention here (for instance, you can get exclusive discounts on new video games).

If you're a college student, incidentally, you can be an Amazon Prime member for $49 a year or $6.49 a month (which comes to about $78 a year). Before you would do that, though, take advantage of their six-month free trial period.

And another thing to consider. If you only really shop and use Amazon for your holiday shopping and hate the idea of spending that $99, you could sign up to be an Amazon Prime member for the month of December and pay $12.99 and do a ton of holiday shopping – and then cancel it before you're charged for the next month. 

RELATED: Check out the cities that made Amazon's shortlist for its new headquarters:

Cities on Amazon's shortlist for HQ2
See Gallery
Cities on Amazon's shortlist for HQ2
Los Angeles, California 
New York, New York
Washington, D.C.
Toronto, Canada
Raleigh, North Carolina
Columbus, Ohio
Atlanta, Georgia
Boston, Massachusetts
Austin, Texas
Chicago, Illinois 
Dallas, Texas
Colorado, Denver
Indianapolis, Indiana

Montgomery County, Maryland 

(Photo: Bethesda)

Nashville, Tennessee
Newark, New Jersey

Northern Virginia

(Photo: Arlington) 

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Miami, Florida


If you want free shipping without paying $99. As you likely know, you'll get free shipping if you spend at least $25 on merchandise. Now if you just bought a $10 book and don't feel like trying to figure out what else you could buy for $15, Amazon sells gift cards. You may be able to find a gift card to a place like a restaurant you frequent, or a coffeehouse like Starbucks – and then you buy that (just make sure you buy a gift card that takes you to or over $25 in merchandise). If you absolutely know you'll use the gift card, that approach may work out well for you.

[See: 10 Money-Saving Websites to Check Before Shopping.]

Get an Amazon store card. If you have drunk the Amazon Kool-Aid and found it to your liking (in other words, you're an Amazon Prime member and suspect you'll remain one), you may want to apply for its credit card. If you're approved and get the card, you'll get 5 percent cash back on Amazon purchases. But this is only a good idea if you pay back your credit card every month. Otherwise, the money you save on your purchases will just go to interest you're paying on your credit card.

Try Amazon's Subscribe & Save feature. Almost everyone has certain products that they buy over and over, like paper towels and toilet paper and toothpaste. Well, if you sign up to have five items set up to be automatically delivered to you, you'll receive a 15 percent discount. You don't have to be a Prime member, and you won't be charged for shipping. That said, if you are a Prime member, you will get 20 percent off on certain other items you subscribe to, like diapers and baby food.

For deals on used items, try Amazon Warehouse. If you go to Amazon Warehouse, you'll find what the website calls "quality used products" for fairly steep discounts – 30, 40 and even 50 percent. When people return a product that they bought at Amazon, this is where those products wind up.

Or check out Amazon Outlet. It's the same concept as the warehouse in that it's cheaper stuff than the rest of the store. Here's where overstock and items marked on clearance go to be sold.

[See: 12 Ways to Save Money on Food.]

If you want to find a book that is cheaper than what Amazon is selling, try Amazon instead. No, that isn't a typo. Amazon is available in numerous countries, and the price something is being sold at on the American site may not be what the going price is at the German Amazon site. That's where CheapRiver.com comes in, comparing the books at the American site to four other countries. Type in the book you're looking for, and it'll show you how much it costs at the German, Canadian, French and English Amazons, but also what that translates to in your American dollars. Worried about shipping? CheapRiver.com factors that in as well. If you buy a lot of books through Amazon – or maybe you're a college student who has to purchase a lot of textbooks – this is a website that is worth taking a look at.

Hoping to buy something on Amazon when the price goes down? You may want to visit CamelCamelCamel.com, where, once you set up an account with them, you can tell them what product or products you're monitoring. The website will send you alerts once the price drops.

Amazon has coupons. If you buy things like paper towels, toilet paper or groceries, check this page out – Amazon.com/coupons.

And don't forget about cash-back sites. If you go to a cash-back site like Ebates.com and use its website to reach Amazon, on top of whatever deals you get today, you'll get a little cash back, often about 3 percent, in the coming months. And that's something to consider over the long term.

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