I have been using Amazon.com for well over a 15 years now, which is a long time in the Internet world. I first started using Amazon when I was serving in the military and stationed overseas. Amazon made it easy for me to send gifts to loved ones back home, as well as order things for myself that I couldn’t buy at the Base Exchange or on the local economy. It didn’t hurt that their prices and selections were better than most other online stores. Later, Amazon Prime made me love Amazon even more.
Slowly but surely, Amazon has become the default shopping option in our household. If you aren’t using Amazon, you should at least check it out, and we’ll also give you a few extra reasons to use Amazon that many people aren’t aware of.
Why I Love Amazon
It all boils down to one word: convenience. I can go to one website and research and compare prices on similar items, crowd-source reviews from a community that cares about helping others—not making more sales—and I can order virtually anything that will be shipped to my door in two business days.
“Oh sure, you say – anyone can ship to you in two days, if you’re willing to pay for it.”
True. But with Amazon Prime, you can get unlimited free 2-day shipping on most items sold by Amazon and a lot more. And while Amazon Prime comes with a subscription fee, the cost of the subscription is easily recouped if you order frequently through Amazon and take advantage other Amazon Prime features. In my opinion, Amazon Prime is one of the most underrated features at Amazon.com – and one of the best deals going in Tech, or anywhere else.
1. Amazon Prime – the Standard of Online Shopping Clubs
Many stores offer shopping clubs and similar benefits. But I have yet to find a store, online or off, which has a club as cool as Amazon Prime. To be clear, you have to pay to get all the features of Amazon Prime ($99 per year), but there are a few ways you can get a free trial, or a free extended trial (see Amazon Moms and Amazon Student, below).
Amazon Prime features:
- Free unlimited two day shipping from items sold and/or fulfilled by Amazon.com
- Free streaming videos from a select library of movies and TV shows
- Free streaming radio from a select library of albums and genres. Like many streaming radio stations, it will learn your preferences and serve music related to your choices.
- Ability to borrow Kindle books for free
- Kindle First Program, which allows Prime members to download one free book per month before the books are sold online (from a select group of books).
Free Two Day Shipping: Two day shipping didn’t seem like a big deal to me, until I experienced it during the holidays. Now it’s nice to know that I can order something and know it will arrive at my doorstep in one or two business days (I’ve had purchases arrive in one business day on more than one occasion). The free shipping doesn’t cover every item on Amazon, just those sold by or fulfilled by Amazon. But that covers the vast majority of items on the site. You can get free shipping without Amazon Prime, but you need to spend at least $35, and it may not arrive within 2 days. It time is of the essence, as it often is during the holiday season, then Prime is well worth the cost. To top it off: you can share your free shipping benefits with up to 4 family members. Not a bad deal at all!
Video Streaming & Borrowing Kindle Books: The free streaming video and ability to borrow a book a month on the Kindle are nice bonuses. The Amazon Prime movie library isn’t as deep as what you might find at Netflix, but the variety is pretty good. It features a lot of quality movies and TV shows, including a lot of children’s shows and content from the Discover Channel. We use Amazon Prime video streaming as a cable TV alternative. The bonus is we get the content on demand, instead of paying for a DVR or having to schedule our lives around TV. You can also rent movies that aren’t available to stream for free. Prime members can borrow one book per month on their Kindle, from a select group of books.
Bottom line: Amazon Prime is by far the best deal in tech right now. Learn more.
2. Amazon Subscribe & Save – Save Money on Auto-shipments
If buy things on a regular basis, then you may enjoy shopping online with Amazon Subscribe & Save. With this program, you can set up a monthly purchase order to have items shipped directly to your door and enjoy a savings of 5-15% on your purchase. This works for a variety of items you use on a regular basis, including things like food items, paper towels, coffee, health items, toiletries, and more. You can also use it for things like diapers and wipes if you have children, but before you do, be sure to check out the next program on our list to enjoy an even greater savings on those items. Learn more.
3. Amazon Mom – Not Just for Moms
Despite the program name, Amazon Mom is not just for Moms – anyone can sign up for it. However, the main benefits are aimed at moms and caretakers of small children. The benefits include three months of FREE Two-Day Shipping with Amazon Prime and 20% off diapers and wipes which are auto-delivered to your doorstep with Subscribe & Save (the normal savings rate for non-Amazon Mom shoppers is 5% for diapers and wipes, so this is a substantial savings).
To top it off, you can get additional months added to your free shipping with Amazon Mom. I’m not exactly sure how this works, but my wife signed up for the program before Christmas and her free two day shipping has been extended from the original 3 months, to a total of 11 months. I believe it has to do with taking advantage of special offers, but I’m not 100% certain. If anyone knows for sure, please leave a comment!
This is a free program, so if you are a parent or caretaker of small children, there is no reason not to sign up (or even if you just want to get 3 months of free 2-day shipping). Learn more.
4. Amazon Student – Just for Students
Amazon Student is an extension of Amazon Prime, but it is limited to students with a .edu e-mail address. I wasn’t aware of this program until I recently took a writing course at a local university. With Amazon Student, you can get a limited free 6 month Amazon Prime trial (the free trial does not include the free streaming video, but it does include the free two day shipping). Students can then extend their subscription to Amazon Prime for half the cost of the regular version – and the paid version of Amazon Student includes all the bells and whistles of the Amazon Prime others experience. From Amazon:
As an Amazon Student member you’ll also get six months of FREE Two-Day Shipping with Amazon Prime on eligible purchases, and will automatically continue receiving Amazon Prime shipping benefits at a cost of $39 a year for up to four years with automatic renewal.
To top it off, students are eligible for special deals, free release date delivery of games, books, and movies, and more. If you are in school, I highly recommend it. Learn more.
5. Amazon mp3 Store & Amazon AutoRip
iTunes still has the corner on the market, but Amazon has a nice offering in terms of price and selection. Amazon frequently offers a wide range of albums for $5 or less, which is something you won’t find in the iTunes store. The cost savings can be substantial. A study by DealNews showed Amazon was cheaper almost 80% of the time, with an average savings of over $1 per album.
In addition to savings, there are two other advantages of using Amazon for your mp3 purchases: the first is that you can quickly and easily download your albums directly into your iTunes, so your music is instantly portable. The second is the coolest feature – Amazon automatically stores all of your purchases through the mp3 store in the cloud in the Amazon Cloud Player, giving you Internet access to your music wherever you are, including streaming through your smartphone, if you have one. This is a great option if you have an unlimited data plan as you can stream music at work, in the car, or wherever you have access to a signal. Learn more.
Amazon AutoRip is also awesome! It works like this: You buy an AutoRip Eligible CD and you receive a physical copy of the CD shipped to your home, and you get instant access to a digital copy of the CD. Here is a list of AutoRip eligible CDs so you can see some of the available albums.
On the surface, this seems like a small convenience at best, right? You can always rip the CD once you receive it. Except that you can’t always do that. Many new computers aren’t made with CD drives (for example, netbooks and most of the new Mac line doesn’t have disk drives). Tablets and mobile devices can’t rip the albums either. So the convenience factor is definitely there. But it gets better.
AutoRip automatically sends your purchased songs to the Amazon Cloud Player where you can access them from anywhere you have an internet connection and you can download them to your favorite MP3 player.
6. Amazon Kindle Special Offers
I love my Amazon Kindle. It’s an awesome little device, and it’s incredibly convenient to have a library of books at my fingertips. While I enjoy a nice hard cover book, I find that I actually read more quickly with a Kindle. I haven’t converted my entire library to Kindle books, but I rarely buy physical books any more, unless it is a book I anticipate I will reference frequently. There are also a ton of free Kindle books to get you started.
If you are thinking about getting a Kindle, I recommend buying the Kindle with special offers. It costs about $25 less than the other versions, and gives you special deals on Kindle books, throughout Amazon, and at local vendors. The special offers are unobtrusive, and only appear on the home page (where your library is located) and on the front cover when the device is turned off. The ads in no way interfere with your reading experience.
The reason I bought a Kindle was actually based on one of these deals, which saved me enough money to cover the cost of the Kindle, and then some. I can’t guarantee you will get a free Kindle like I did (it was essentially free), but I can tell you that you will be able to save money on regular purchases.
Don’t want a Kindle? You can still use the free Kindle App to read Kindle books on your PC, Mac, smartphone, etc. It’s a convenient way to read books across a variety of platforms, and since it always syncs when you have an internet connection, you can pick up right where you left off.
7. Amazon Instant Video
My wife and I gave up cable TV almost two years ago. While I don’t miss cable, I still enjoy the occasional movie. Netflix and Blockbuster are both great options, and will satisfy most movie watchers’ demands. But some movies aren’t available on the Netflix streaming video subscription, so Amazon Instant video is a great option as it allows you to purchase and download movies, or rent them a la carte. There is also a special library of movies available for free streaming rentals for member of Amazon Prime, which is a great value for Prime subscribers. Learn more.
8. Amazon Web Services
Though it might seem like this is only for the techies out there, Amazon’s S3 service can be used by anyone who needs online storage. This includes people who have websites and need an industrial strength server, need to use a CDN, or want a place to store their online backups. But Amazon’s S3 servers are also great for people who want to back up their personal or professional files as well. You can store backups of your photos, files, or even mirrors of your hard drive with Amazon’s secure storage. The cost is very affordable and well worth the peace of mind it offers.
How does Amazon Offer All of This Value?
Amazon offers a ton of value, even though some of it comes at a cost, like the $80 a year Amazon Prime membership. I can tell you that I easily get that much value out of the two day shipping, and I’m sure some people use hundreds of dollars worth of shipping, not to mention the free streaming videos, etc. The bottom line, though, is that Amazon offers these deals because they know that in the long run, their customers are going to stick around longer and spend more money with them. And it has certainly worked for me. But you know what, I’m happy to give Amazon my business. They offer me great value, and I’ve become a loyal customer. Isn’t that what it’s all about?