12 Tips to Score the Best Deals on Amazon Prime Day

Amazon Prime Day Tips

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Amazon Prime Day Tips
Courtesy of amazon.com

Prime Primer

Amazon's summer shopping extravaganza is July 15-16, and Prime subscribers will be able to score some sweet savings on electronics, small appliances, and other popular buys. But like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, this is a shopping holiday that demands a little forethought if you want to maximize your savings. We spoke with deal experts to figure out exactly how you can make that happen.

Related: 12 Mistakes to Avoid on Amazon Prime Day

No Prime? No problem.
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No Prime? No Problem

Yes, Prime Day is exclusive to members, but if you don't have Prime and want in on the fun, newbies can sign up for a free 30-day trial. Of course, you'll need to cancel within the 30-day window if you don't want to continue your membership, currently $119 for a year or $13 a month. (If that sounds steep, be sure to check out the list of benefits that come with Prime.)

Joanie Demer, co-founder of coupon and deal site The Krazy Coupon Lady, recommends considering the month-to-month deal if you want Prime only for major shopping holidays. "If you're only going to shop a couple months out of the year — Prime Day or Black Friday, for example — that could save you some serious money," she says. Of course, you can also ask a friend or family member with Prime to keep their eyes peeled for certain deals. And if there's already an adult in your household with Prime, you can share your Prime membership.

Start watching Amazon right now.
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Start Watching Amazon Early

Prime Day — or, more accurately, Prime Days — may be July 15-16, but it's wise to start watching Amazon as much as a week or two before the big event. "Historically, Amazon has featured sneak peeks to get consumers excited," says Casey Runyan, managing editor of Brad's Deals, a site that scours the web for low prices on popular products. Safe bets for early discounts are Amazon products such as Fire TVs and Kindles, as well as Amazon subscription services like Audible, she says.

Know your deal types.
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Know Your Deal Types

Prime Day deals usually fall into the following categories: Prime Day exclusive deals, Deals of the Day, and Lightning Deals. Prime Day exclusives will make up the bulk of the discounts and will be available for the whole event unless they go out of stock. Deals of the Day are available only for 24 hours and are usually fairly popular products. "Amazon does a good job of ensuring there is an adequate amount of inventory and purchasing time for their Deal of the Day products so that the pressure to buy now is a little less," Runyan says.

Lightning Deals are the trickiest of the trio. Think of them like Black Friday doorbusters, Runyan says: They're available only for a short time and in limited quantities. That means they can actually be gone in mere minutes — a common scenario on Prime Day. In other words, if you see something you like, you have to be ready to pounce.

Get the Amazon app to keep tabs on limited-time deals.
Source: Amazon

Get the Amazon App to Keep Tabs on Limited-Time Deals

So what's the best way to pounce? Download Amazon's app, available for Android and iOS devices. Then you can turn on notifications for "watched and waitlisted deals" in your settings. After that, you can scroll through the app's Upcoming Deals section and tap "watch this deal." Then you'll get alerts for when a limited-time deal will be up for grabs.

Demer notes that Lightning Deals are watchable for only 24 hours before they go live. She also recommends setting up 1-Click ordering to speed through checkout like a pro.

Amazon Echo

Use Your Alexa Devices to Shop, Too

If you've never used your Echo, Echo Dot, or other Alexa-enabled device to shop, now might be the time. Amazon is promising "the biggest Prime Day deals ever on Alexa-enabled devices." Only time will tell what that really means, but in past years, shoppers using Alexa have been given early access to discounts or exclusive Alexa-only deals, especially on Amazon devices. "Last year, Amazon gave Alexa users access to Prime Day deals a week early," Demer says. "Just ask, 'Alexa, what's the Prime Day deal?' about a week before Prime Day to shop early on select items."

Know what's going to be on sale.
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Know What's Going to Be on Sale

Some of the best deals will be on Amazon's own devices, including the Kindle, Echo and Fire TV. But expect the company to spread the love, Runyan says. "Amazon has a lot of control over the pricing of their own brands, and is very well known to be willing to take a short-term loss to gain market share. In the past we've seen Amazon use Prime Day to drive awareness and gain exposure for these brands." That could mean offers on apparel from Amazon brands such as Lark & Ro and Daily Ritual, and Amazon home furnishing brands such as Rivet and Stone & Beam, she says.

Not in the market for Amazon's stuff? There will be plenty of other price breaks. Look for sweet deals on smart home devices, TVs, and small appliances. The Instant Pot is an especially safe bet, Runyan says. And there are always plenty of random deals in the mix — Demer recalls 85% off Honest Co. diapers last year, and more than 40% off Oral-B electric toothbrushes.

Target store

Don't Forget to Check Deals at Other Retailers …

Amazon has such clout that other big players can't afford to look the other way during Prime Day. "Last year, Target offered a sale 'for everyone' — an obvious jab at Amazon's Prime Day, which is only for Prime Members," Demer says. "This year, they're doing 'deal days' on July 15-16 where they'll discount thousands of items — and boast about customers being able to pick up their items ordered online on the same day at Target stores." The uber-popular Instant Pot was actually cheaper at Target than Amazon during Prime Day last year, she says.

It's not just Target that's getting in on the action. Demer recommends watching prices at eBay, Kohl's, Old Navy, and JCPenney. Also worth keeping tabs on: chief big-box rivals including Walmart and Best Buy.

Jorge Villalba/istockphoto

… But Be Sure to Factor in the Price of Shipping

Don't forget the benefit that made everyone jump on the Prime bandwagon in the first place: free shipping. So if you're shopping other retailers' sales, determine whether you'll need to pay for shipping (and how long the shipping will take — Amazon, of course, will get you the goods in one or two days). Runyan says free shipping is "a must-have benefit for consumers" and should be the norm for most big retailers who really want to compete with Amazon.

Whole Foods
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Look for Price Breaks at Whole Foods, Too

Now that Amazon owns Whole Foods, Prime Day has a new frontier: bricks-and-mortar grocery stores. Accordingly, Prime members will likely see special in-store deals. Last year's offers included $10 off a $100 order as well as price breaks on Whole Foods' store brands, fresh produce and seafood, Runyan says.

Customers Like Feedback

Learn How to Spot Fake Reviews

If you're like most Amazon shoppers, you check reviews before buying, especially if you're unfamiliar with the brand — and there are bound to be tons of brands you've never heard of on Prime Day. But the site is rife with fake reviews, often left by people paid to give a glowing recommendation for a product they've never even seen, let alone owned. Read up on how to spot these dubious reviews, which are often awkwardly worded, overly brief, or light on evidence that the product was actually used. Third-party sites such as Fakespot can also help.

Price trackers are your friend.
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Price Trackers Are Your Friend

Unless you're pouncing on a limited-time, limited-quantity Lightning Deal, take a step back and figure out how great of a price you're really getting. Demer recommends Camelcamelcamel for a useful snapshot of an item's price history on Amazon. There are also other price trackers such as Invisible Hand that can help you make sure other stores don't have what you want for even less.

Don't buy just for the sake of buying.
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Don't Buy Just for the Sake of Buying

At the end of the day, Prime Day exists to convince you that you can get a rock-bottom price only if you buy now. "Try not to get swept up in the hype of the parade of offers. ... Buy only the things you actually want or need," Demer says. Also consider that sales roll around all year, especially on those much-ballyhooed Amazon devices. "Don't let the time window or amount of product claimed pressure you to buy something or expend your budget just because you didn't want to miss out," Runyan cautions. "It might not be the only good deal on the item out there ... and the reality is that many of the same items go back on sale at some point each quarter."