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All Contents © 2017The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Andrea Browne Taylor, Online Editor
| January 2017
For many online consumers, Amazon is a one-stop shop for everything from diapers to television sets. The e-commerce giant is widely known for its vast product selection and low prices. In fact, consumers rated Amazon their favorite online store in the National Retail Federation's 2015 Favorite 50 Retailers list. Its Amazon Prime service -- with free, two-day shipping on all eligible items, as well as access to digital storage for your photos, video streaming and much more -- keeps customers coming back often.
But even Amazon regulars may overlook these nine lesser-known ways to save big on purchases big and small. Take a look.
There's a way for some folks to reap the benefits of Amazon Prime without having to fork over the $99 annual membership fee. Prime members are allowed to add one adult in their household to their Prime account free of charge. The second adult must have his or her own Amazon account and must use the same billing address as the primary Prime account holder. (Caution: Both individuals will have access to credit card information associated with the Prime account.) Once the new household member has been verified, he or she gets access to free two-day shipping, video streaming, online photo storage and the Kindle owners' lending library.
SEE ALSO: 5 Surprising Perks of Amazon Prime
If you don't order from Amazon often enough to warrant spending $99 a year for Prime, there are a couple of other ways to get your occasional orders delivered free. When you order $25 worth of eligible books or spend at least $49 on eligible products, your entire order qualifies for free economy shipping, which typically takes five to eight business days.
However, if you don't need to order any books and are struggling to find enough items to get your total to $49 without going way over, try using the site FillerItem.com to find add-on items that won't put you over your budget, recommends smart shopping expert Trae Bodge. Simply enter the remaining amount that you have to spend to reach the $49 threshold. You'll then be shown a list of right-priced products available on Amazon that are eligible for free shipping.
SEE ALSO: 6 Ways to Beat Amazon's Prices
If you regularly buy certain household items, such as diapers, hair care products and cleaning supplies, from a brick-and-mortar retailer, you can save time -- no more standing in long checkout lines -- and money with Amazon's Subscribe & Save program.
By registering for the program, you can schedule regular deliveries of your favorite products. Save 15% on every order by scheduling five or more products to be delivered together on a recurring schedule. If you schedule fewer than five products, you'll get a 5% discount on your entire purchase. Keep in mind that product prices, delivery fees and taxes may change over time after you've set up your recurring shipments, notes Howard Schaeffer, general manager of deal site Offers.com.
If you decide you don't like the service, you can cancel your subscriptions at any time.
SEE ALSO: Are Amazon's Diapers a Good Deal?
You never know what you’ll find in on Amazon's coupons page, accessible via the site's Today's Deals tab. It's worth a look to see if coupons exist to cut the price on the items in your shopping cart. Examples of coupons available to all Amazon members when we checked the page included 15% off on select Black & Decker power tools, 30% off on select Wisk laundry detergent products and 15% off on select Lysol household cleaning products.
Note: Certain coupons can only be redeemed by Prime Pantry and Subscribe & Save program members.
SEE ALSO: Worst Things to Buy on Amazon Instead of Jet.com
Multiple third-party sellers, in addition to Amazon itself, may carry an item you seek on Amazon.com. Before you buy, compare Amazon's own price, including tax and shipping fees, to the total price tag at various third-party sellers.
According to Amazon's policy, it's up to each third-party seller to decide if it wants the e-commerce site to charge sales tax on its behalf, unless the seller resides in a state that requires sales tax to be charged. When it comes to shipping, the seller's product listing should explicitly state if a fee will be charged; some charge, some don't.
For example, we found a set of three AmazonBasics Dumbbells sold by Amazon for $24.99. With shipping ($15.55) and tax ($2.43), the final price jumped to $42.97 -- nearly double the original amount. A similar set of dumbbells sold by a third-party seller that doesn't charge shipping or sales tax cost just $26.98 -- about 35% less.
To ensure a hassle-free experience, there are a few things shoppers should do before placing an order with a third-party seller. Read other customers' reviews of the seller, and inquire directly with the seller about its return/exchange policy.
SEE ALSO: Ordering From Etsy or Amazon? A Guide to Third-Party Sellers
It's no secret that one of Amazon Prime's biggest perks is free two-day shipping. However, if you're a Prime member who doesn't need a desired item right away, opt for no-rush shipping on your next order to receive a promotional credit to your account once the items from the order have shipped. The credit is based on the number of items in your order that are eligible for no-rush shipping. It can be used toward a future purchase.
To evaluate the value of no-rush shipping, we set up a mock order with five products in our virtual shopping cart: a digital camera, a camera bag, a hardcover novel, a 34-pack of AA batteries and a garden hose. Total cost: $178.96, including tax. Every item except for the camera bag was eligible for no-rush shipping. When we selected the no-rush shipping option, a $5.99 credit toward a future Prime Pantry purchase appeared on the checkout screen.
SEE ALSO: New Competition for Amazon Prime
Television sets sold and fulfilled by Amazon -- not by a third-party seller on the site -- are eligible for price matching. If you purchase a TV from the e-commerce site and find the same model for a lower price on Amazon or another qualifying retailer's website within 30 days of purchase, you can notify Amazon to receive a refund of the price difference using the original method of payment.
However, if the comparable TV set is cheaper as the result of a discount from a rewards program offered by Best Buy, Costco or Target, the refund will be issued using an Amazon gift card.
SEE ALSO: 11 Things You Can't Return to Amazon
You can score deals on popular technology, such as smart watches, wireless surround-sound speaker systems and tablet computers, by shopping Amazon's Warehouse Deals section. The items offered in this section are either open-box (the product was previously sold, opened but not used, and then returned) or pre-owned (the product was previously sold, opened and used at least once before being returned). Each item is inspected and certified before being listed for resale. Amazon categorizes these products as used-like new, used-very good, used-good or used-acceptable.
So how much can you save? We found an Apple MacBook Pro 8 GB with a 13.3-inch display (in "used-like new" condition, with a one-year warranty) in the Warehouse Deals section for $1,110, while a brand new model on Amazon.com sold for $1,400 -- a 20% difference. A Honeywell portable air conditioner with remote control (listed in "used-very good" condition) was priced at $288. A brand-new version cost nearly 20% more at $349.
Before you buy, however, make sure you fully understand the product's return policy (Warehouse Deals items sold by third-party vendors are subject to the seller's return policy), and find out if the original manufacturer's warranty still applies (it can be void on certain used items, including new and refurbished electronics), advises Jeanette Pavini, a Coupons.com savings expert.
SEE ALSO: Worst Things to Buy on Amazon
Do your children love to play games on their smartphones or tablets? You're in luck. The Amazon Underground shopping app, which is available on Android and Kindle Fire devices, offers a variety of embedded kid- and teen-friendly game apps free. This includes the latest versions of Where's My Mickey? (which otherwise costs $1.99 on iTunes and Google Play) and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (which costs $9.99 on iTunes and Google Play). In-app game features that give players unlimited lives, access to different game levels and various upgrades are also free of charge when you download the apps through Amazon Underground.
In addition to games for kids, adults can also access other useful mobile apps free. These include Office Suite Pro (which costs $14.99 on iTunes and Google Play), multiple fitness apps, and an array of e-books and language translation applications.
SEE ALSO: 5 Ways to Save on Video Games
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