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Amazon Buying Tips
Amazon's the biggest name in online shopping. Some may gnash their teeth because they think the company's tax structure means it avoids paying its fair share of the UK tax bill. Yet, for many, it's a one-stop convenience store and the first place they look.
This guide has 22 tricks to help slash prices, as well as the Amazon Discount Finder Tool (above), which finds secret 75%+ off bargains on electronics, clothes, beauty and more. You can also track price reductions and beat delivery charges.
The Amazon* business model is that it's a one-stop shop. It's tempting to do all your shopping in one easy sweep, but you can often undercut it.
In the same time it takes to search Amazon, shopbots (shopping robots) whizz through scores of internet retailers to find the cheapest price. Our MegaShopBot.com tool searches the best of these for each category.
For a full guide to slashing the cost of buying anything and everything online, see the 40+ Online Shopping Tricks guide.
If goods say "sold by" someone other than Amazon, then they're Marketplace – a trader selling via Amazon.
Delivery can cost more. Items bought from Amazon Marketplace aren't eligible for free Super Saver Delivery (normally you get this on items costing more than £20). Delivery charges vary sharply, so always check.
Know your rights. If there's a problem with the item or you want to return it, you need to go to the seller first, not Amazon. Items must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, and as described though. See the Consumer Rights guide for more.
If there are any problems, Marketplace purchases are covered by Amazon's buying guarantee. It reimburses you if goods don't arrive or aren't as described (up to £2,500 in value, including delivery).
But you won't be covered under Section 75, which usually covers items worth between £100 and £30,000 which are paid for with a credit card. The fact Amazon takes the money then passes it onto the retailer means you don't get that protection.
Amazon often offers 75% and better discounts, yet it directs people to other, higher profit margin products instead.
There's a geeky way to manipulate Amazon's web links to display all heavily-reduced bargains. All you need to do is fiddle with Amazon web addresses to bring up lists of knock-down prices.
The problem is these are a faff to make yourself. So we built the Amazon Hidden Discount Finder tool (above). It creates your own bespoke pages in seconds, where you choose the discount and department.
Top tips for using the Amazon Discount Tool
When searching for treasure, don't just look at the first page of bargains, try a few. Try higher percentage discounts for cheaper, smaller items and lower percentages for niche, expensive ones.
Just because something's listed with a huge discount, it doesn't make it a bargain or worth buying.
Before you try the tool, here are some top discount links we made earlier:
Popular hidden Amazon discount pages
|SECTION AND DISCOUNT||SECTION AND DISCOUNT|
|Fragrance*||75%+ off||Jewellery*||80%+ off|
|Fashion accessories*||75%+ off||Shoes*||80%+ off|
|Watches*||50%+ off||Digital cameras*||50%+ off|
|Electronics*||90%+ off||White goods*||15%+ off|
|TVs*||25%+ off||Undies*||80%+ off|
|Power tools*||55%+ off||Gardening*||55%+ off|
|Clothing*||85%+ off||Beauty*||70%+ off|
If an item costs under £20 and is from Amazon itself (not a Marketplace seller), check the delivery cost. It can be anything from £1.49 to £6. So it may be worth buying something small you need that costs less than that to take you over the £20 free delivery threshold.
To help, a cunning new Super Saver Delivery tool (developed by ex-MSE team member Adam) scours Amazon for small filler items to bump up your order to £20. Simply enter your basket total and it displays a list of items with prices close to the cost of the difference. For example:
Imagine Lois Price wanted a £19.73 hairdryer – she'd face £6.01 delivery, a total of £25.74. The tool reveals she could add a 29p paint brush, so she’d only pay £20.02 – saving £5.72 and getting a brush into the bargain.
Do the maths. If the total price you pay getting the extra item is less than your original price plus delivery, it's worth it. As a rule of thumb, always check if you're spending £14-£19.99. The tool just shows a selection of items in the relevant price bracket, so tap in a few basket totals close to yours for more options.
Items bought from third parties on Amazon's Marketplace do count towards the £20 free delivery threshold if they are marked as "fulfilled by Amazon".
Also see how to beat delivery charges with a free Prime trial below.
Free price-drop alerts monitor when it's cheapest
Our hidden discount finder's proved hugely popular. Yet, as we've warned, just because Amazon lists it as reduced, it doesn't make it cheap. Before you buy, plonk any item's Amazon URL (its web address) into CamelCamelCamel, which charts Amazon price changes, to show if the 'was' price is realistic.
As an example, we found Kraken rum '25% off' at £24.65, but the tool showed it was £23 two months ago, so the deal ain't all that.
Results can be fascinating. Hit the buttons to remove different seller types or drag the timeline to adjust the date range.
Get alerts when prices drop
Amazon prices often yo-yo up and down, and when they're cheap, things sell out quickly. CamelCamelCamel lets you enter your desired price and fires off an email when Amazon hits it.
Simply pop an item's URL into it, and enter the maximum price you want to pay. It will e-mail when the price falls to that amount or lower.
Alternatively, Zeezaw works in a similar way. Sign up, create a list with the max price you want to pay for Amazon items, and it sends emails when the price drops.
Buying from Amazon's European sites rather than Amazon UK can be much cheaper – particularly given the strong pound at the moment. Clever tool Curiua checks prices across Amazon's sites in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, converts them into pounds and compares them to the UK.
Forumite deanos used it in Feb 2016: "I bought a Philips sound system for £230 delivered from Amazon Germany. Was selling for £450 over here."
The best deals tend to be on high-end electricals. Prices jump up and down, so always double-check.
When is it worth it?
As a rough rule of thumb, it can be worth buying from Amazon's EU sites if you'll save more than £10. Delivery varies, but it's usually £5 to £10. In the UK, you get free Super Saver delivery when spending over £20 on Amazon (usually not Marketplace sellers).
Curiua can be glitchy and didn't always display every result when we checked. So if you're buying something expensive, it's worth checking the EU sites individually too.
Here are the key tips for buying from Europe:
- Translate the page. Most web browsers (including Chrome, Explorer and Firefox) do it at the click of a button. Voila!
- Shipping costs vary. They aren't included in the comparison.
- If you change your mind... You've got 14 days after receipt to change your mind, and another 14 days to send the item back. You've got a bit more time with Amazon – its returns policy usually gives 30 days on the EU sites above too.
- If it's faulty... You should be able to get a refund, replacement, repair or reduction in the cost with similar rules to buying in the UK.
- Beat exchange rates. Pay in euros using a specialist overseas card and you get the same near perfect exchange rate that banks do.
- Use a credit card for £100+ purchases. Then, under Section 75 laws, the credit card is jointly liable if things go wrong (excluding Marketplace sellers).
- You can't buy some things. Amazon blocks you from buying some products, such as Kindles, from abroad. Amazon Marketplace sellers may not ship abroad either.
- Don't forget about European plugs. Adapters cost as little as £1.
- Try Amazon Austria and Amazon Netherlands too. They're not on Curiua.
You can buy from Amazon's sites outside Europe (Priceonline.eu works like Curiua but compares Amazon US too), but you may need to pay customs, plus consumer rights vary.
It's possible to get over 2,000 Android mobile apps and games totally free, including free in-app 'purchases', via theAmazon Underground* app.
Big-name freebies include Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (usually £8), OfficeSuite Pro (usually £12) and Goat Simulator (£4 – yes, you do play the goat). And the extras can be worth more than the apps themselves – eg, in Frozen Free Fall, you could spend a total of £18 unlocking bonus features, but these are free via Underground.
Warning. Underground apps are free with no in-app purchase costs. Yet the app also has a tab for Amazon's standard app store too, where some charge. To be safe, look for the 'Actually Free' banner.
Why does Amazon do this?
This is a pretty decent deal given you can get lots of paid-for apps and games totally free – but there are a few things in it for Amazon too:
- The Underground app's basically the same as Amazon's shopping app, with an Underground tab. So they hope you'll buy more products/apps while you're there.
- Amazon says you'll sometimes see ads when the app starts.
- Like many apps, you'll have to give Amazon permission to track app usage, text messages, location and contacts. Yet it goes further – Amazon can also send/receive texts, take photos and make videos. So you need to decide if it's worth it.
Some folk think this is excessive, eg, business technology website Information Week says: "The list of permissions for Underground is daunting. The cost of free looks a lot like privacy." See a full list of permissions and what it does with them.
How to get it
If you have an Android mobile, follow the steps below. (It's already preloaded on Fire tablets.)
- Download the Amazon Underground app to your Android mobile directly from the Amazon Underground page*. (You won't find it on Google Play.)
- The app will prompt you to change your settings to install from unknown sources. (If not, go to Settings, Security and scroll to Unknown Sources.) This can leave phones more open to viruses – so only download it if you're happy with that.
- Open the app and scroll to Underground Apps on the menu to download freebies – check out bestsellers for inspiration.
If you have trouble downloading it, go to Amazon's help page. Underground's available on Amazon's Fire HD and Fire HDX tablets, but not other tablets or iPhones.
Beat delivery charges with a free Prime trial
Amazon used to give free delivery if you spent £10, now it’s a £20-minimum. The exception's books, which still have a minimum free delivery threshold of £10.
If you don't qualify for free delivery, the charge depends on the category, and is usually £1.49 to £6. (If spending under £20, also see the new tool below that helps you find small filler items to hit the threshold.)
How to get a free Prime trial
Prime gets you unlimited free one-day delivery, and Amazon* offers newbies a free one-month trial of the service. The beauty is you can sign up, order, then just cancel the trial before Amazon charges you.
Only do this if you are super-organised and will remember to cancel though, otherwise £79 will be taken from your account.
Read more on how to grab a free Prime trial.
Been hit by an £79 charge for unwanted Amazon Prime? How to get a refund
We're swamped with complaints from people who unwittingly paid £79 for Amazon Prime membership, so we wrote a How to get your £79 back guide.
Forumite Tianna is just one of the successes: "I followed instructions from your weekly email and got £79, thanks."
Prime members can currently grab £1 digital credit (for movie streaming, Kindle ebooks, etc) EVERY TIME they spend £3 or more on Amazon*. You just need to opt for three-to-five day No Rush Delivery, instead of Prime members’ usual free one-day delivery, at checkout.
You get one £1 credit per transaction, so split orders and buy each thing over £3 separately.
Amazon adds the credit to your account when the order’s dispatched - it's then applied automatically when you buy from the Instant Video, Kindle, App or Digital Music stores. You can stack the £1s, eg, use three to bag a £3 eBook. The credit has an expiry date though (click 'Details' next to the delivery option to see when).
Amazon is staying tight-lipped on the specifics, including when the deal ends.
Double-check the delivery option so you don't pay more by default
While Amazon lists free delivery on some products, you must select the 'free super saver delivery' box at checkout. If not, the default delivery option is first class.
If you are willing to pay for first class, you can collect your item from selected local Post Office branches. See Amazon to deliver to Post Offices MSE news story.
If you've bought CDs or vinyl, you're entitled to the downloads for nowt back to 1999.
To recover 17 years of lost music, just login to your Amazon Music library to see if you’ve any past tracks available. As forumite JHL1959 told us: "Crikey, it's given me 182 albums, that's 2,367 tracks. Amazingly, I still like a lot of them - cheered me up."
It’s not always such a success though. GingerJuice says:: "Thought it was brilliant then realised I'd bought the mother-in-law a Susan Boyle CD last year... ugh."
Amazon recently announced that soon all UK customers will be able to opt for a monthly subscription of its one-day delivery service (plus other benefits – see below for what it gets you) for £7.99/month, instead of the £79 annual fee.
While this means paying less upfront, it'll cost you more over the course of a year – £95.88 compared to £79 upfront.
This is still a lot of money though, so consider whether you really want Prime; a recent Twitter poll of ours indicated the majority don't. You may find it encourages you to spend more online (precisely what Amazon wants you to do).
Of course if you just want to try it out for a bit or want it for the run-up to Christmas (and you've already used the free trial), paying monthly might be a better option, especially as you cancel at any time.
What do I actually get with Amazon Prime?
I want to pay for it monthly but haven't been offered this – how can I?
Get free Amazon vouchers with credit cards or charge cards
A few credit cards reward spending with loyalty points that can be swapped for Amazon vouchers.
The Amex Gold* charge card gives you 20,000 reward points if you spend £2,000+ on it within three months, enough for a £100 Amazon gift card. There's normally a £140 annual fee, but it's waived in year one, so if you don't want to pay, cancel before year two.
A warning – this is a charge card, so you must repay IN FULL every month, else you'll face a £12 charge and a credit file default. Amex will do a credit check when you apply. See Credit Card Freebies for more.
Earn Amazon vouchers with online surveys and competitions
If you're willing to give your views on things like drinking habits, celebrities, lingerie or the latest moisturiser, you could earn Amazon and other gift vouchers by doing online surveys. All you have to do is put the hours in filling in surveys online.
Dedicated survey do-ers earn £200ish a year from home, and several sites pay you in Amazon vouchers. For a full list of the top paying online survey sites, see theEarn from Survey Sites guide.
If you're feeling lucky, another potentially rewarding hobby is to enter free online competitions to win Amazon vouchers. Read our Comping guide to find out how.
Students can get six months' free one-day delivery (plus 5% off with NUS cards)
The Amazon Student* club is a version of Prime specifically for, well, students. It gives those aged 18+ who are in higher education access to free one-day delivery, Amazon's video and music streaming services, its Kindle lending library and photo storage - plus some student-specific discounts.
It costs £39 a year for membership (compared with £79 (or soon £7.99/month) normally), but students can get a six-month trial free (excludes Kindle lending library).
Amazon Student members who have a National Union of Students Extra card can get 5% off many products (excludes Kindle devices, MP3 and Amazon Instant Video). Just log onto NUS for a personal code to paste into the promo code box on Amazon every time you order. The reusable code's valid for 12 months.
Tap into free cash with Amazon Associates
If you've a blog or website, set up a free account with Amazon Associates, a scheme where you earn Amazon vouchers or cash for linking to the site. Just follow the steps to add links and banners to your website.
When someone clicks on Amazon from your site and makes a transaction, it's recorded and you’re paid different rates of commission depending what products you sell and what categories they're in. See a full list of payments.
Get up to 15% off household products
For regular household product purchases, there’s an easy way to get 5% off - and it's possible to boost this to 15%.
From loo roll to vacuum cleaner bags, pet food to bin liners, Amazon's Subscribe & Save* service covers a host of items that you might order regularly.
The service is free - simply select the item and how regularly you want it delivered. Amazon will automatically send it out and apply the 5% discount when it charges you. You do need to save your payment details to your account.
If you have five or more subscriptions, Amazon boosts the discount to 15% on all your regular deliveries. There is no minimum subscription length, so you can set up your order, get the discount, then cancel.
Use a cashback credit card
You can earn up to 5% every time you spend by using a cashback credit card, although always ensure you pay it off in full to avoid interest charges. For the current top payers, see the full Best Cashback Cards guide.
Grab more discounts with Amazon vouchers
A clever bit of retail spin, this. Amazon’s new voucher page* lists scores of discount vouchers, which you click on to collect (they’re then applied at check out).
When we checked, many of these ‘vouchers’ were similar to its bog-standard online discounts, for example, 5% off a wicker pet basket or 10% off a doormat.
Yet dig through the list and some deals are quite decent. For example, in the past it had a 74-pack of Finish All-in-One Max Dishwasher Tablets for £5 when you used Subscribe and Save. The next cheapest was Morrisons, on offer at £10.
So it’s worth checking – sign in to your account to see all available vouchers, as some are specifically targeted at different users.
You can combine two Amazon discounts to grab a big saving on nappies and wipes. Don’t assume Amazon's cheapest though – compare first.
- Step 1: Save 5% off with Subscribe & Save*. Amazon's Subscribe and Save service gives 5% off selected household items when you place a repeat order, including nappies and wipes. There's no minimum commitment, so if you want, you can simply cancel after your first delivery.
- Step 2: Extra 15% off with Amazon Family*. This'll boost savings to 20%.
Join this paid club and you get an extra 15% off nappies and wipes when you subscribe, boosting the discount to 20%. It normally costs £79/year, but there's currently a free 30-day trial (it’s free for Prime customers though).
Remember – don't forget to cancel your trial before the 30 days are up to avoid being charged, plus stop your subscription once you've got all you need.
- How much can I save? Amazon sells a jumbo pack of 174 Pampers Baby Dry Size 4 nappies for £20.08 full price. With Subscribe and Save and Amazon Family discounts, it drops to £16.06 which works out at 9p per nappy. We found the next best price at Asda for 13p per nappy.
OK so it's not a money saving tip exactly, but it is possible to give charities a boost at no extra cost to you. Simply click through to Amazon from a charity's special link, log in and click on the product you want.
When you grab something, it's recorded and Amazon pays the charity 5% of your purchase in cash – no small beer.
Click through to Amazon from there BEFORE you put anything in your basket, otherwise the charities won't get the money. Charities doing this include Macmillan Cancer Support, Royal National Lifeboat Institution and Epilepsy Action.