How To

How To Squeeze The Most Out Of Amazon Prime

Paying $79 a year for free two-day shipping may not be a great deal if you don’t shop much, but Amazon Prime, a premium membership program by the web’s largest retailer, offers more than just shipping upgrades.

Catering to the subset of online shoppers who buy often and want their goods delivered ASAP, Amazon launched its Prime service in 2005. As well as the all-important free two-day shipping, Prime provides its members with one-day shipping for $3.99 and free streaming movies and TV. Millions of people currently reap the benefits of Prime. If you’re one of them, or you’re considering signing up, the following tips will help you maximize the rewards:

Bookmark the daily deals

Every day, Amazon offers Gold Box and Lightning deals. Prices are slashed on everything from digital cameras to lawnmowers, but you need to act fast to grab the discounts. Add the deals page to your bookmarks, or go one step further and install the Firefox or Chrome add-on that notifies you of deal additions as they happen.

Use third-party price monitoring websites

Long-time Prime user Mark Lindsey’s pick is camelcamelcamel.com, which provides price histories and sends email alerts when an item of interest is discounted. Other options include Timberfrog and Price!pinx.

Take advantage of free student or new-parent membership options

If you’re enrolled in a college or university and have a .edu email address, you can sign up for Amazon Student, which gives you all the shipping benefits of Prime, free, for a year. Expectant moms and dads–and parents with children up to toddler age–qualify for Amazon Mom. In addition to a 30 per cent discount on diapers and wipes, the program offers free Amazon Prime shipping benefits for three months. For every $25 you spend in the Baby Store during that period, you’ll get an extra month added on, for up to a year.

Recruit the whole household

Prime members can share their accounts with up to four people living at the same address, which means free priority shipping for family members or roommates. To sign them up, go to the Prime Membership management section of your Amazon account settings. The rules are different for Mom and Student accounts, though. Amazon Mom members can share their benefits with one person within or outside their household, while Amazon Student members aren’t offered a sharing option at all.

Delve into Amazon.com’s streaming video offerings

Amazon added free TV and movie streaming to its list of Prime perks in February 2011. Though the selection isn’t as extensive as dedicated services like Netflix, there are still around 5,000 titles to choose from. Amazon users who aren’t Prime members pay $2.99 per rental or $9.99 per purchase. (Unfortunately Student and Mom members don’t get access to this bonus entertainment–maybe Amazon figured their lives are too busy for Doctor Who marathons.)

Think beyond the last-minute buy

The ability to make frequent small purchases and be assured of their swift arrival is a key benefit of Prime. Many a Prime user has been saved by the fast, free expedited shipping after remembering a birthday or anniversary in the nick of time. But for household products such as cleaning supplies and toiletries, it’s often cheaper to plan ahead and buy in bulk. Amazon’s Subscribe and Save feature allows you to place a recurring order for an item and choose the frequency for its delivery. You’ll save 15 per cent off the price and won’t have to worry about stocking up. As another veteran Prime user Mark Zembrzuski notes, “Nothing says you’re living the high life like coming home to 48 rolls of toilet paper.”

If you haven’t yet signed up for Prime, Amazon is currently offering a one-month free trial. To register, visit amazon.com/prime.

Ella Morton is an Australian-turned-New-Yorker, and writes about technology via Contently.com