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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

How to Save Money on Amazon Purchases

Amazon is my go-to online store because of their great selection and competitive prices. But even though Amazon isn't accessible through any cash back portals (like Ebates or Mr. Rebates), I was convinced that there must be a way to save money on my purchases there. Here's what I figured out:

Use gift certificates. Amazon gift cards and e-certificates are the main way I save money every day at Amazon.
  • My favorite way to get Amazon gift certificates is through Swagbucks. I use Swagbucks' search engine and redeem my Swagbucks for Amazon gift certificates - a $5 gift certificate is only 450 Swagbucks and should take less than a month to earn if you use Swagbucks often. Learn more about Swagbucks here.

  • The other way I get Amazon credit is by buying gift cards at Ralphs. My credit card gives me 5% back on grocery purchases, and it doesn't know that I'm not buying groceries when I buy a gift card. So I get 5% of the face value of the gift card back from my credit card issuer. Plus, Ralphs also gives me 1% back each quarter through the Ralphs Rewards program - and sometimes there's a promotion that gives me back even more. So I can save at least 6% by buying gift cards at Ralphs before I shop at Amazon.
Use price tracking sites or extensions. If there's something you've had your eye on but are able to wait for the price to go down further, you can track Amazon's price with sites like Price Protectr or a Firefox add-on like PriceDrop. For example, I've been tracking the DVD set for the ninth season of JAG for a couple years now, waiting for it to hit a rock bottom price. (I missed most of the season when it aired and USA has pretty much stopped showing repeats.) It's something I'd like to have, but am in no rush for, so I'm letting PriceDrop keep an eye on the price for me.

Ask for refunds when warranted. I like to buy groceries from Amazon when they have really great deals but on two occasions now, I've been less than satisfied with my purchase because some of the inner packages were damaged. You can't return food to Amazon, but I've successfully requested refunds for the damaged products.

Take advantage of special programs and promotions. Amazon has different programs and promotions that can help you maximize your dollars.
  • My boys are getting older, but I love the Amazon Mom program. I'm sure I would have purchased many diapers through it if it had been around five years ago. As it is, I've still purchased enough wipes and other items to extend my free Prime shipping benefits to almost the twelve month maximum. And I loved having Prime benefits during the holidays, when I bought several items priced below $25 and got free two-day shipping.

  • When items are eligible for a special deal, Amazon puts a "Special Offer" link on the item page, so keep an eye out for it. For instance, there's often a Buy 3, Get 1 Item Free offer in the kitchen utensils and gadgets section.
Lots of freebies. Of course, Amazon offers lots of free downloads in the form of MP3s, Kindle books, computer games, and Android apps. I post most of them here, but I do suggest you be somewhat selective in what you download or you'll be overwhelmed. Amazon also sometimes offers credits for MP3s and Instant Videos, and I post those for you as well.

What's your favorite way to save at Amazon?

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  • At 5/3/11, 1:38 PM, Blogger ~dab said…

    You forgot to mention sales tax savings. In my state it's almost 8% (I think 3% on food items though) so that's automatic savings every time I purchase from Amazon.

  • At 5/3/11, 2:24 PM, Blogger Camille said…

    I still pay sales tax when I order through Amazon so that may be different by state (I'm in NV).

    My Amazon Prime has expired and I miss it! I was buying off of Amazon at least twice a month when I had free shipping. I'm trying to determine if it is cost effective to purchase the Prime membership.

  • At 5/3/11, 7:57 PM, Blogger Rebecca said…

    Sales tax is a biggie: we bought our TV and our elliptical machine from amazon, both pricey items, so we saved several hundred in sales tax that way. Plus, we got free shipping on the elliptical machine... it is HUGE, and if we had bought it at the store we would have had to pay for delivery.

    I like the idea of buying gift cards at Ralphs. I don't know why I haven't thought of that sooner though... my husband just bought the books for his last quarter at Fuller Seminary, but we have spent a small fortune on books every quarter for the past 3 years!

  • At 5/4/11, 5:44 AM, Anonymous Susa T said…

    Hey, give me a heads up about a credit card that pays 5% cash back on groceries. That might be something that would work for me but I dont' know what card pays that much back.

  • At 5/4/11, 6:34 AM, Blogger Chief Family Officer said…

    @dab - Thanks for pointing that out, although as Camille mentioned, it varies by area!

    @Camille - Someone said that you can split the cost of Prime with others so if you have family members that want Prime too, you could reduce the cost.

    @Rebecca - The gift card thing was a recent revelation for me too, less than a year ago!

    @Susa - I have an American Express Blue Cash card. It gives 1.5% (I think) on the first $6,500 purchases per year on grocery, gas and drugstore purchases. After that, you get 5% of your purchases back. Plus you get a lesser amount on all other purchases. I love it, but I think there are other cards that also give cash back on groceries. I'll do a post for you on that :)

  • At 5/4/11, 12:56 PM, Blogger Dawn said…

    I can see your Ralphs write up on my RSS feed but can't pull up the link. is it still live?
    thanks for all your hard work!!! :)

  • At 5/4/11, 3:59 PM, Blogger Chief Family Officer said…

    @Dawn - Try going to the homepage - - and it should be the top post until this evening.


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