With well over a third of all our online spending passing through Amazon's electronic tell, we thought it high time we took a look at the best ways to save money when buying from the ‘rainforest'
Retail is dead. At least as far as bricks and mortar stores go, as savvy shoppers turn their backs on the high street, and instead hop online. In fact, the UK leads the world in online spending with an estimate spend of over £3,000 per person. Hardly surprising considering that in 2018 a staggering 87 per cent of all retail purchases were made online.
Of course we can't talk about online spending without mentioning the 500lb gorrilla in the room. Amazon. In fact, scratch that. This internet behemoth is less 500lb gorrilla and more king kong and godzilla combined. A staggering 40 per cent of all online spending goes through the internet giant, and whilst the experience is more transactional rather than inspirational, designed to extract as much money from you as possible, there are a lot of tips, tricks and hidden features that can boost your spending power.
Here's what we've uncovered so far
Resellers – know your apples
Shopping on Amazon can be a minefield. It's unique in that as well as selling goods itself, Amazon is also a marketplace for others to sell their goods, many of which compete with Amazon's own.
Before you buy you need to be aware of who's selling the actual item. Is it sold and distributed by a reseller, sold by a reseller but fulfilled by Amazon, or sold and fulfilled by Amazon. It's important know because your ‘rights' vary in each instance.
Right, with that out of the way let's get to the good stuff.
Avoid Amazon delivery charges
Years ago all Amazon orders qualified for free standard delivery. As you can imagine, this was extremely popular, but also extremely expensive for the retailer. Now you have to spend at least £20 to qualify for free carriage, but there is a nifty little trick to get around this.
Amazon Prime (normally £79 per year) entitles subscribers to free delivery on all orders regardless of cost. The good news is that Amazon frequently offers a month's free trial of Prime, which includes free delivery. Perfect for when you need something in a hurry, but don't want to fork out for shipping.
To check if you're eligible for a trial log into your account, follow this link and see if it says “try Amazon Prime free”.
Make sure you cancel Prime within the month otherwise you'll be charged £79. Though even if you forget, and cancel later, Amazon will usually issue a pro-rata refund.
Another trick for free delivery is to use the Super Saver Delivery tool. This tool finds ‘addon' items to take your basket total to £20 to qualify for free delivery. It's pretty simple to use. Say your basket total is currently £19.26. At this point you wouldn't qualify for free delivery. Head on over to the Super Saver Delivery Tool and enter the amount you need to spend to hit the magic £20 mark. In this case 74p. It will then suggest items as close to that price as possible. In this instance it was a set of birthday candles for 79p, saving over £4 on delivery.
Get the cheapest price
Free price drop alerts
Amazon loves to play yo-yo with its pricing, and discounted items can sell out fast. Of course, just because something has been discounted doesn't mean it's at it's cheapest possible price. CamelCamelCamel is a neat website tool that charts Amazon prices, and shows you what you should realistically expect to pay for an item.
To use the tool you simply enter the URL of the Amazon item you are interesting in, then enter the maximum price you are prepared to pay (use the price chart to help guide you). The tool will then email you if the price of the item falls to your maximum or lower.
Is it cheaper aboard?
Amazon operates at least 13 country specific sites, including Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. Often prices vary from site to site, and the UK isn't always the cheapest. That's where Curiua comes in. This nifty little tool checks Amazon's other EU sites for the product you want and compares the price (in pounds) to the UK.
Often it's big ticket electrical items have the largest price discrepancies, but I've found tools, camping gear, and other miscellaneous items at much cheaper prices than in the UK.
There are a few things to beware before buying. Firstly, shipping. This may not be free if buying from aboard, so ensure that any price difference is greater than the cost of shipping to make it worth while. Secondly, the exchange rate. Curiuna does take into account the exchange rate when making comparisons, but currency markets fluctuate, so always best to double check. And finally, since you'll be paying in Euros, you need make sure you're getting the best rate from your credit/debit card provider. See our guide for the best cards to use for overseas spending.
Does it have to be new? – Amazon warehouse deals
Amazon warehouse deals are deeply discounted returned, open-box, or refurbished items. These can also include items superficially damaged whilst in stock, or lost stock that has later been recovered. Many items will simply be customer returns, opened once and never used.
The warehouse deals range covers most Amazon departments. Naturally prices vary according to condition, but Amazon is pretty good at accurately detailing the condition of the item(s) you are buying. Ratings range from ‘Acceptable', ‘Good', ‘Very Good' or ‘Like New', and are accompanied by detailed descriptions of any specific damage or imperfections for each specific product. The products are also tested by Amazon staff to make sure they are fit for resale.
All the deals are fulfilled by Amazon, and come with the standard 30 day returns policy, but the manufacturers warranty might not apply, so think long and hard before buying a big ticket item.
Simply follow this link to access the Amazon warehouse. Bear in mind that stock changes quickly so it pays to check back frequently if there's a particular item you're looking for.
Get cashback on spending at Amazon
In our 2013 article ‘Your guide to cashback websites‘, we explain the ins and outs of how cashback websites work. In short, cashback websites get paid when you click through to retailers via the links on the cashback website, and buy a product or service. The cashback sites then hand some or all of the money they get paid over to you.
The two main cashback websites are Topcashback and Quidco. Both offer similar levels of cash back and cover the same retailers, but if you sign up to Quidco via this link both of us (you and Money Saving Answers) will be given £5 for free, just as soon as you've earned at least that amount in cash back.
Subscribe & save – 15%
No, we're not trying to sign you up to a Money Saving Answers newsletter. There's enough of that junk going around as it is. Instead Subscribe & Save is an Amazon service that allows you to set up repeat orders for items you need/use frequently. Think toilet tissue, nappies, washing up liquid, or food items from the Amazon Pantry.
Apart from the convenience of having these items delivered to your door, the service offers discounts ranging between 5 – 15 per cent when you sign up for five or more regular orders.
That just about wraps it up (bad Christmas joke there), but the nature of Amazon's business means new offers and incentives pop up regularly. From flash sales to discount codes, be sure to visit our Facebook page we'll list any time sensitive offers.