How to save money on Amazon Prime Day (without overspending)

Navigate the chaos, land the hottest deals and maximize your savings with these expert tips.
Image: Amazon
By downloading the Amazon Shopping app, you can create a watch list to align with your wants and budget — and you won’t have to be glued to your browser to discover deals.Mike Segar / Reuters file
By Nicole Spector

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“On your marks, get set, shop!”

This is the message consumers are getting as Amazon preps its fourth annual Amazon Prime Day. Marketed as “a two-day parade of epic deals”, the shopping blowout, exclusive to Prime members, will span July 15 and 16.

Naturally the e-commerce giant wants to continue its year over year record-breaking success and make this the biggest Amazon Prime Day to date. As the holiday nears, Amazon’s promotional efforts are intensifying, with Jonathan Treiber, CEO of offer-management platform RevTrax, observing that Amazon is “pulling out all the stops from an advertising and marketing perspective, ranging from website call-outs, mobile app banners [and] custom packaging tape for their shipments touting Amazon Prime day.”

Amazon even aired a Prime Day concert on Amazon Music, headlined by Taylor Swift, to support its marketing efforts.

Amazon Prime Day hype is in full force and it’s a lot

It’s a lot of hype, but it’s not unprecedented. A new survey from Valassis indicates that Prime Day may be an even bigger event than November’s shopping holidays, with 46 percent of shoppers saying that Prime Day provides greater savings than both Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Part of the magic of Prime Day is Amazon’s secrecy leading up to it. The company teases deals and releases some sales in advance to whet our appetites, but consumers don’t know the full extent of the savings event until it’s underway.

The mystery and suspense of it all makes planning for Prime Day tough, which is why we’ve reached out to retail experts to figure out how to get the best deals without wasting time or money.

Get the Amazon Shopping app for previews and push notifications

By downloading the Amazon Shopping app, you can create a watch list to align with your wants and budget — and you won’t have to be glued to your browser to discover deals.

“Shoppers can download the Amazon Shopping app to preview deals this week and get a head-start on their Prime Day list,” says Kelsey Sheehy, personal finance expert for NerdWallet. “Many of the best deals sell out fast, this is especially true with Lightning Deals, so put products that pique your interest on your watch list — you’ll get push notifications when those sales start so you can hop on the deal before it disappears.”

Amazon-branded electronics are a sure bet for sales

One category that will be a sure bet for Amazon Prime Day deep price cuts is Amazon-branded electronics.

“Amazon’s own devices are often big hits during Prime Day, with Fire TV Sticks, Echo Dots and Kindle E-readers being top sellers in years past, so it’s no surprise that Amazon is promising the ‘biggest Prime Day deals ever’ on Alexa-enabled devices this year,” says Sheehy.

Rebecca Gramuglia of TopCashback.com points out that shoppers can already find some of these electronics as featured deals on the Amazon Prime homepage. We can expect more to pile on during the actual event.

Amazon is offering exclusive deals for gamers

Amazon is offering exclusive deals this year via their gaming platform, Twitch Prime.

“Prime members can get access to deals, like merch discounts, and content via the service,” says Gramuglia. “According to the Twitch blog post, Twitch Prime is hosting two separate live streams called ‘Twitch Sells Out: A Prime Day Special Event’ where streamers will feature some of their favorite items on sale. If you’re interested in gaming items, and other fan-favorite products, you may want to tune in.”

Instant Pots should be a hit again

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“Last year Amazon sold over 300k units of Instant Pots and their stock was sold out within a few hours,” says Alex Tran, digital marketing strategist at Hollingsworth. This year, Amazon Prime is already serving up some hot deals on Instant Pots and more are likely in the oven next week.

Check the price history using Honey or The Camelizer

Even if shoppers find a great deal on Amazon this Prime Day, they should do their homework to ensure it’s actually the best deal on the web.

“Retailers are notorious for inflating prices before a sale, often by advertising the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price even if the item was recently priced lower, to make the new discount appear even steeper,” says Sheehy. “Use a browser extension like Honey or The Camelizer to view the price history on an item to help decide whether the deal is truly too good to pass up.”

Celebrity partnerships are bringing exclusive savings

This year, Amazon is collaborating with a number of celebrities for Prime Day including Kristen Bell, Kobe Bryant and Hilary Duff.

“You can save 20 percent on items like This Saves Lives snacks and Mark Wahlberg’s Performance Inspired Nutrition,” says Gramuglia. “Amazon has also partnered up with JoJo Siwa who has launched exclusive merch with the website.”

Amazon has made a list of Prime Day celebrity partnership deals available here.

On items like tech, you can likely find better deals outside of Amazon

Amazon is already flaunting Apple airpods for $20 less than list price, and retail experts anticipate there will be plenty more tech deals coming to Amazon — but chances are good that you’ll find a better deal elsewhere.

“Tech products that aren’t an Amazon product, or enabled with Amazon Alexa technology can likely be found elsewhere for a better price,” says Meaghan Brophy, retail analyst for Fit Small Business. “Shoppers looking for smart TVs, iPads, Google devices and cameras should price compare at retailers like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy.”

RetailMeNot predicts over 250 retailers will participate in Prime Day-related promotions this year. “That’s a 30 percent year-over-year growth from 2018,” says Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert for RetailMeNot. Yet another reason to poke around online and not jump at every Prime Day offer.

Be wary of ‘bad actors’ and use third party extensions to gauge authenticity

“There’s been plenty of media coverage lately about counterfeit products, fake customer reviews and other abuses by bad sellers (at Amazon, we called them ‘bad actors’),” says Jon Derkits, chief product officer at 3pm Solutions and a “former Amazonian,” as he puts it, having worked at Amazon as head of category management, consumer electronics for three years. “These issues don’t just magically go away because it’s Prime Day.”

Derkits shares his top tips to ensure a safe purchase:

  • Make sure it’s sold from Amazon. “Look for the phrase ‘Ships from and sold by Amazon.com’ — it means you’re buying directly from Amazon and not a third-party seller.”
  • Learn about Amazon’s A-to-Z Guarantee. “Amazon’s A-to-Z Guarantee is a powerful mechanism to protect yourself in the event you still get a bad product. Learn how to file an A-to-Z claim, and make sure you know in advance about the types of products not covered.”
  • Use third-party extensions. “There are a number of browser extensions that provide insight into the seller, the product, and the reviews. Doing diligence on the seller, product and reviews may seem like a lot of work for a $20 purchase, but these extensions make it super easy and greatly reduce your risk of getting a bad product.”

Use an Amazon Prime credit card, but treat it like a debit card

The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card enables five percent back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with eligible Prime membership.

Using this card, or the Amazon Prime Store Card on Prime Day is a no-brainer, but be careful; five percent cash back is nice, but it’s not worth racking up debt.

“Even if you’re earning rewards, paying interest on a balance will quickly overshadow any cashback or reward you’d earn by overspending on Prime Day,” says Greg Mahnken, credit industry analyst at Credit Card Insider. “Treat your credit card like a debit card, and only buy what you can afford to pay off by the end of the month.”

Score a quick $10 here and there

Derkits says that on Amazon Prime Day, “Amazon really wants you to be aware of the benefits of being a Prime Member.”

One way they’re communicating this is by offering various $10 credits to Prime members.

“If you’re new to Prime, or have just never used the Amazon app, download it and sign in to get a $10 credit,” says Sheehy. “You’ll get another $10 credit when you make your first purchase via the app. You can get $10 off an order of $50 just by installing Amazon Assistant, a browser extension. And you’ll get a $10 bonus when you add $100 to your Amazon gift card balance for the first time.”

Gramuglia adds that you can also earn a $10 Prime Day credit if you spend $10 at Whole Foods — “whether it’s in-store or online via Prime Now — by July 16th (11:59 PST). The credit is redeemable through July 17th — a day after Prime Day.”

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