If you're an Amazon Prime member, you're one of about 142 million Americans who belong to the program, according to the research firm eMarketer. That's more than half the adult population!
It's no wonder. Prime members get shipping that's quick and free, special discounts and lots of other perks, including free streaming video and music services. Whether or not you're a Prime member, though, it's easy to overspend at the online superstore. Here are do's and don'ts to help stretch your Amazon dollars to the max.
1. Don't pay the first price you see.
Instead, scroll down below the price on the far right side of the product page to check for “Other Sellers on Amazon.” If you find a better deal, check seller and product reviews, shipping rates and return policies to avoid fees and other gotchas. Keep in mind that some lower-cost options may not qualify for fast, free delivery but still will come out cheaper in the end.
2. Don't always buy new.
When you scroll down to view other sellers, you may find used items through Amazon's Warehouse and Renewed programs, both of which offer heavily discounted open-box deals.
3. Do check out Amazon Handmade.
Similar to Etsy, it's a great source of handcrafted and personalized presents, and it's easy to find items for less than $25. Also check Amazon Launchpad, which is loaded with nicely priced, innovative products, like the Cube Key Finder Smart Tracker, useful for locating dogs, kids and, of course, keys.
4. Do browse discount sections.
The Outlet section is updated daily with clearance items in a range of categories. The Under $10 section is another place to bargain-surf.
5. Do get colorful.
Whatever you're buying, check the prices of different color options. You could save a bundle — not just on clothes but on earphones, yoga mats and more. Last fall, for example, I found a single model of women's running shoes in 21 different color combos that ranged from $109.95 to $228.62!
6. Don't rush to buy a protection plan.
Like other retailers, Amazon offers extended warranties, but they usually aren't worth it, says Consumer Reports reporter Octavio Blanco. Also, you may already have a free extended warranty through the credit card you use for the purchase, Blanco says.
7. Do get credit for your castoffs.
The company's trade-in program makes it easy to get Amazon gift cards for your old electronics, especially Amazon devices, such as Kindle e-readers and Echo smart speakers. On eligible trade-ins, you can also get discounts on certain new Amazon devices.
8. Don't forget coupons.
On Amazon search for “Amazon coupons” if you don't see a link near the search box. Some of those coupons can save you $20 or more. Amazon also attaches coupons to certain items on product pages; click on the box to get the deal.
9. Do look at reward cards.
Prime members can get 5 percent cash back at the site and at Whole Foods, plus a sign-up bonus, with the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card. Nonmembers can get 3 percent cash back with the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature card.
10. Do pay for Prime — maybe.
To me, the video service included with Prime is enough to make its $119 annual fee worth it. And that's only one of its many perks. But if all you want is free shipping, you can get that by spending just $25 on eligible items per order.
Lisa Lee Freeman, a consumer and shopping expert, was founder and editor in chief of ShopSmart magazine from Consumer Reports.