21 Amazon Buying Tips
Free delivery loopholes & more
Take 20 secs to check Amazon is REALLY cheapest
Amazon* aims to be a one-stop shop, and while it's tempting to do all your shopping in one easy sweep, you can often undercut it.
In the same time it takes to search Amazon, comparison sites whizz through scores of internet retailers to find the cheapest price.
We find Google Shopping is the most consistent at tracking down the cheapest price – the MSE Deals team even use it as a starting point when checking out deals. But there are more options – for full help, plus more tips to slash the cost of buying anything and everything online, see our Cheap Online Shopping guide.
Check if you're buying from Amazon or its Marketplace
If goods say "sold by" someone other than Amazon, then they're on its Marketplace – ie, listed by a trader selling via Amazon.
Delivery can cost more, so always check. Many items bought from Amazon Marketplace aren't eligible for Amazon's free delivery offer (which you normally get on items costing £20+). However, they will be eligible if they're sold by Marketplace sellers, but dispatched by Amazon.
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).
Marketplace purchases are also covered by Amazon's buying guarantee. It reimburses you if goods don't arrive or aren't as described (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 money then passes it onto the retailer means you don't get that protection.
Tool finds cheap items to help you hit £20 for free delivery
If an item costs under £20 and is sold and dispatched by Amazon itself, this trick can help you get free delivery. It doesn't work for Marketplace items, unless they're dispatched by Amazon.
Standard delivery can be anything from 99p to £4.49. So it may be worth buying something small you need that costs less than that to take you over the £20 free delivery threshold. (The threshold drops if your order includes £10 or more of books from Amazon – all other items from Amazon in the order will be delivered free too.)
To help, a cunning 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 £19.63 hairdryer – she'd face £4.49 delivery, a total of £24.12. The tool reveals she could add a 45p birthday candle, so she'd only pay £20.08.
Items bought from third parties on Amazon's Marketplace 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 tool checks Amazon's price history – it is really cheap now?
Just because Amazon lists a price 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 a Philips iron at "44% off" costing £44.99, but the tool showed it was actually £40 three months ago, so the deal wasn't all that.
Results can be fascinating. Use the tick-boxes to add and remove different seller types or drag the slider to adjust the date range.
Beat delivery charges with a free Prime trial
Amazon used to give free delivery if you spent £10 – now it's a £20 minimum (unless your order includes £10 of books, which will get you free delivery).
If you don't qualify for free delivery, the standard charge varies between 99p and £4.49, depending on the type of item. But you can get free delivery via Amazon Prime. (If spending under £20, also see the tool above 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 (or £7.99 if you selected monthly billing).
You can grab a free one-month Amazon Prime Trial* (usually £79/year) if you're a Prime newbie, though a few previous triallists may be offered another trial. To check, log into your Amazon account, click on 'Prime' and see if you're offered a 30-day free Prime trial.
Prime only works on products sold by Amazon.co.uk itself, not Marketplace sellers. If you're unsure, add the product to your basket and make sure delivery's free before checking out.
How to cancel
To cancel, go to Your Account, then Prime Settings and click 'Manage Membership', then 'End Membership'.
Is it worth paying for Prime?
Unless you're subscribing for the TV and film/music streaming services or are a mega-shopper, Amazon Prime is not worth your dough. Better to be organised, order early or wait until you need £20 worth of goods.
Important! If you don't cancel before the trial ends, Amazon will take £79 (or £7.99 if you selected monthly billing) from your account. Check your bank statement once you've cancelled, because mistakes happen. See below for how to get a refund if you forget to cancel your Amazon Prime subscription before your free trial's up.
Been hit by a £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 Reclaim unwanted Amazon Prime guide.
Forumite Tianna is just one of the successes: "I followed instructions from your weekly email and got £79, thanks."
Get Kindle books and Amazon Prime benefits on two devices for the price of one
If you pay for Amazon Prime or buy e-books from Amazon, it's possible to share your benefits and purchases with another adult (and up to four kids) in your home for free, via Amazon Household.
You may think that's obvious in some cases, as you can play a film on your TV for all to watch. But we're talking about being able to take advantage of your Prime benefits or read an e-book on more than one phone, Kindle etc.
This is a great way of splitting the cost of purchases or a Prime subscription without having to share login details.
What you can share with the household:
- If you have Amazon Prime: one-day delivery; Prime video streaming; early access to lightning deals; Kindle owners' Lending Library; selected Amazon Family discounts.
- If you make digital purchases: Kindle e-books; apps and games downloaded from Amazon Appstore.
What you can't share:
- Digital films, TV shows, music or audiobooks bought or rented from Amazon.
- Amazon Prime Student members can't share their benefits.
How to do it
- Start by creating your Amazon Household, and linking the adult Amazon account you want to share with.
- Both adult account holders will need to authorise the other to use the existing payment cards on the two accounts (doesn't apply to kids' profiles).
- You can choose what digital content you do or don't want to share – see the Amazon website for detailed info on sharing and accessing shared content.
'Is it cheaper on Amazon?’ fun checker app
Whether you've spotted some trainers on a blog or seen a playhouse in a shop, we've a nifty trick to check if similar items are available on Amazon for less. (Though of course, be mindful that feeding the giant can threaten smaller businesses.)
It works online or in stores, although many shops are currently closed due to lockdown restrictions, so this will mainly be a tool to use online until they reopen.
The best way to try this is to download the free Amazon app and have a play. Tap the search bar followed by the camera symbol, point your phone's camera at an item and hit 'Start'. The app will search Amazon for matching objects and list lookalike items for sale.
When we tried it, the app found similar items with varying degrees of success. Products it worked well on included a leather handbag, pink piggybank, electronic calculator and yellow cushion – on other items though, including a pair of shoes, it failed to find a match.
When it does work, it can be a handy way of finding a visually similar item. For example, we snapped a £595 John Lewis chandelier, and it produced a similar one for sale at £53, including delivery – though of course, there's no guarantee of quality.
Use your phone as a barcode scanner
You can also use the app to scan barcodes, which can be a more reliable way of getting a closer match. So if you've seen something with a barcode, such as a game or a coffee machine, scan that instead.
To do it, open the Amazon app, tap the camera icon in the search bar, then scroll right until it says 'Scan barcodes'. Your mobile now becomes a barcode scanner, via its camera.
Point your phone's camera at the code and you'll see it on screen – the app will scan the code and then list identical items for sale.
Don't just check Amazon – other tools can price-check too
Never assume Amazon will be cheapest, so while this is a fun tool for a quick check, if you're doing a serious price comparison, look elsewhere too.
It's also worth searching Google Shopping to see if you can find an item cheaper elsewhere.
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 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 (though you may be less inclined to do this during the current lockdown). See Amazon to deliver to post offices MSE News story.
Never pay full price for audiobooks on Amazon
Buying one-off audiobooks can be costly, sometimes £30+ per book. Amazon's audiobook seller Audible tries to push you to subscribe, which can cut the cost to £7.99 per book. Yet we've tricks to slash the price even further...
Never had an Audible subscription? Get one book totally free
If new to Audible, you can take advantage of its 30-day free trial* to get a free audiobook (which you can keep). You'll need to give payment details to sign up, so make sure you remember to cancel if you don't want to continue with your subscription, otherwise you'll be charged £7.99/mth.
Reclaim 21 YEARS of lost music
If you've bought CDs or vinyl, you're entitled to the downloads of most of them for nowt back to 1999. Amazon's Autorip service* lets you stream or download the MP3 version for free.
You can potentially recover 21 years of forgotten music – from CDs you've lost, damaged or thrown away, and MP3s you downloaded that have since been wiped from your devices.
Check your Amazon Music* library to see if you've any past albums available to stream and download. Bear in mind it can take a while for Autorip to locate your music. It's also worth noting only CDs and vinyl which were sold and dispatched by Amazon, and have the Autorip logo displayed alongside them are eligible to be reclaimed.
Many Forumites have discovered thousands of tracks, as 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... ugh."
You can pay monthly for Prime – but it'll cost you more
You're now able to opt for a monthly subscription of its one-day Prime delivery service (plus other benefits – see above for more) 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 Twitter poll we did in 2016 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.
Get free Amazon vouchers with credit cards
A couple of credit cards reward spending with loyalty points that can be swapped for Amazon vouchers. These aren't necessarily our top-pick rewards cards though – see Credit Card Rewards for full details.
The Amex Gold* credit card gives you 20,000 reward points if you spend £3,000+ on it within six 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.
Make sure you repay IN FULL every month or you'll pay 22.9% interest (56.6% rep APR incl fee), which'll quickly wipe out the rewards gain. The easiest way to do this is to set up a direct debit to repay in full. You'll be subject to a credit check when you apply.
How to grab 'free' Amazon gift cards
There are loads of ways to earn free Amazon vouchers, and even better, most don't take much effort. If you're saving up for something big (and it's cheapest on Amazon), this can be a great way to nab a discount, or even get it completely free.
MSE Sarah's Eight ways to grab 'free' Amazon vouchers blog includes doing quick online tasks and signing up to survey sites.
If you're feeling lucky, another potentially rewarding hobby is to enter free online competitions to win Amazon vouchers. Read our Comping Tips guide for full details on how to do it.
Students can get six months' free one-day delivery and video streaming
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, photo storage and Kindle lending library.
It costs £3.99 a month or £39 a year for membership (compared with £7.99 or £79 normally), but students can get a six-month trial free.
You need to sign up with a valid .ac.uk email address or other form of student ID. Don't forget to cancel if you don't want to be charged £39 (or £3.99 a month if you selected that option). Go to Manage Your Prime Membership to do that.
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.
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 Cashback Credit Cards guide.
Grab more discounts with Amazon vouchers
A clever bit of retail spin, this. Amazon's 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.
Combine Subscribe and Save with Amazon Family for 20% off nappies
You can combine two Amazon discounts to grab a big saving on nappies and baby food, when you have five or more subscriptions delivered on the same day to the same address. Don't assume Amazon's cheapest though – compare first.
- Step 1: Get 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%, but you need to subscribe to five items and get them delivered on the same day.
Amazon Prime* members (costs £79) can sign up 'free' to the Amazon Family* club. It's aimed at parents, though is open to all.
Confusingly, Amazon Prime and Family are essentially the same thing. The difference is Family members get Prime automatically, while Prime customers can get Family membership by clicking to sign up free to the club.
- How much can I save? Amazon sells a jumbo pack of 174 Pampers Baby Dry Size 4 nappies for £20.23 full price. With Subscribe and Save and Amazon Family discounts, it drops to £16.18.
Get Amazon to give to charity as you shop
OK so it's not a MoneySaving 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 at least 1% of your purchase in cash.
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 Epilepsy Action.
If you work for a registered UK charity, add it to the Amazon Charity Clicks forum thread, so MoneySavers can help their favourite causes.
Donate 0.5% with Amazon Smile
Alternatively, you can sign up at Amazon Smile and select a charity to donate to. Then when you do your shopping through that URL rather than the normal co.uk site, it donates 0.5% when you purchase eligible items. You will see eligible products marked "Eligible for Amazon Smile" on their product detail pages.
It excludes VAT, returns and shipping fees, as well as subscribe and save items.
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