The Amazon Shopping Guide
Ever feel like you aren’t taking full advantage of Amazon’s online shopping? There are so many hidden features and benefits, there’s a good chance you haven’t exploited all the little tricks. But the good news is, you’ve found this guide.
By the time you reach the end, you’ll be a smarter Amazon shopping master.
What’s covered in this guide: tips and tricks for shopping, payments, digital content, rewards, personalization, and more. What’s not covered in this guide: setting up your own Amazon Store, hosting data on Amazon Web Services, or anything related to the business side of Amazon.
1.1. Navigating Amazon’s Site
Amazon is an online “department store”: its massive inventory is categorized into dozens of departments, which are meant to make it easier for you to find what you want to buy. You can either browse or search.
First things first, check out the Full Store Directory. Here you’ll find every department (e.g. Sports & Outdoors) as well as each department’s subdepartments (e.g. Team Sports, Camping & Hiking). If you don’t have a particular item in mind and just want to window shop, this is the best way to do it.
You can also get quick access to each department by going to the top left and mousing over the Departments menu. As of this writing, Amazon has 11 major departments and close to 100 subdepartments.
When browsing, you can use the left sidebar to filter inventory results to match only what interests you. For example, when browsing for TVs, you can filter by screen size, display technology, price range, model year, brand, etc. Don’t underestimate how much time these filters can save!
When you know exactly what you want to buy, or the general kind of item you want to buy, then use the search bar at the top. Simply type what you’re interested in and Amazon will do the rest for you.
By default, searches are performed across all departments. But if you’re already browsing within a department or looking at a particular item, then the search will limit its results to within your current department. You can change which department is searched by clicking on the left-side dropdown menu.
We recommend switching to All Departments whenever you want to search. Some items do get miscategorized from time to time, and you don’t want to miss out on them just because you were limited to a certain department!
In the top-right area, there are some quick access navigation items that are always there no matter where you are on the Amazon site.
The Account & Lists dropdown lets you jump to any account-related page in just one click. Get used to this as you’ll use this often. The Orders button takes you straight to your order history page, which is great when you want to check the status of a pending or shipped order. The Prime menu grants quick access to Prime content (it’ll show as Try Prime if you aren’t a Prime member). And also the Cart.
1.2. Understanding Product Pages
Amazon product pages can be pretty overwhelming, packed with so much information that it can be hard to digest. Fortunately, you don’t have to pay attention to all of it. Here are the most important elements.
- Product photos. Pay attention to these to make sure you’re buying what you think you’re buying. Not all sellers put up high-quality photos, but most reputable ones do. Some high-profile products even have videos!
- Product name, price, and quality. Ignore the “List Price,” which is just the recommended retail price set by manufacturers. The “Price” is what matters, and don’t be deceived into thinking it’s on sale! When a product is on sale, you’ll see a third price labelled “Sale Price.” Prime-eligible items will show Prime here.
- Product description. This is the quickest way to get a sense of an item and whether it fits your needs. Make sure to pay attention to whether the item is “In Stock” (green) or “Out of Stock” (red).
- Purchasing options. Don’t bother looking here until you decide to buy something. If you do decide to buy an item, you just have to select whatever options are most relevant to you, then click Add to Cart.
Not all products have a “From the manufacturer” section, but high-profile products from reputable brands usually do. This is where they can put in-depth product descriptions and dive deep into all of its features, benefits, and reasons to buy. We always recommend reading this section whenever it’s available.
The “Compare to similar items” section is great when you aren’t sure if this item is right for you. Product comparisons are often done within the same class and price range, with a little leeway up and down, so you can see what you’re missing out on (compared to slightly better items) and what extra you’re paying for (compared to slightly worse items).
The “Customer questions & answers” section is arguably the most helpful section of all. If you have reservations about an item, just ask about it here. It’ll alert everyone who has ever bought it, and some of them may be compelled to answer your inquiry. But first, browse through the already-asked questions!
In fact, this section is the best way to ensure you don’t accidentally buy incompatible hardware or get ripped off by the seller.
1.3. Reading Product Reviews
Never buy an Amazon product without looking at its reviews. And don’t just look at the star rating! While the star ratings are useful at a glance, you need to delve into the actual reviews to get a feel for what’s good and what’s bad about an item.
Due to how users behave, 1-star and 5-star reviews are the most unreliable because these kinds of reviews tend to lack constructive insight. They’re either overly positive or overly negative, with no critical thinking. Instead, pay attention to the 3-star reviews and read what they say (2-star and 4-star are okay too).
I recommend sorting reviews by Most recent instead of Top rated because sometimes products change (especially items like soaps and lotions, which can have new formulas) and older top-rated reviews can be outdated. Don’t forget to filter by Verified purchase only!
One last note: when a product has multiple models, versions, flavors, scents, or sizes, reviews are labelled for whichever model/version/flavor/scent/size it was written. Bear this in mind because sometimes, for example, the Large version might be great while the Small version is too restrictive.
1.4. Finding Deals and Discounts
Amazon’s base prices are already some of the lowest around, but you can save even more money by taking advantage of Amazon’s special sales. Fortunately, they’re all consolidated on the same Gold Box page. Types of Amazon deals include:
- Deals of the Day: Every day, a handful of items go on sale. These sales only last for 24 hours and can save you anywhere from 20 to 90 percent off their normal prices. But each day’s selection is very limited.
- Lightning Deals: A Lightning Deal is a limited-time, limited-quantity sale that ends when the time runs out or when all available stock are claimed. The savings are incredible, often in the 60 to 80 percent off range. Prime members get a 30-minute head start on all Lightning Deals.
- Savings & Sales: A listing of all sales and deals, including “Buy X Save $Y” deals.
- Coupons: Yes, Amazon has its own coupon system. You have to “clip” them to take advantage, but it’s very simple: just click Clip Coupon on an item to apply the discount. Coupons tend to be for smaller household and pantry items.
In addition to the above deals, you also have the Amazon Outlet (for reduced-price overstock items) and the Amazon Warehouse (for reduced-price items that are used or refurbished). For bargain hunters, these sections are a dream come true.
1.5. Setting Up Wish Lists
Amazon wish lists come in handy in several ways.
- When you come across an item you might want but don’t want to buy just yet, toss it into a wish list and save it for later. This can be a great way to curb impulsive spending on pricey gadgets, as you may decide in a month that you don’t want it.
- When you have items that you buy on a recurring basis (e.g. pet food or treats, toiletries, dry food items, batteries), you can keep them socked away in a wish list. Then when you need to re-order them, just grab it from your wish list.
- You can make your wish lists public and share them with others. This comes in useful for birthdays and gift exchanges, ensuring that you’ll get gifts that you actually want.
To create a list, go to the Your Lists page and click Create a List at the top right. Once you have a list set up, you can go to any product page and look in the right sidebar for the Add to List dropdown. Select the list you want, and that’s it.
2. Orders and Payments
2.1. Managing Payment Methods
Go to the Your Amazon Wallet page to see all of your stored credit cards, debit cards, checking accounts, and gift card balance. Storing a payment method in Amazon makes future checkouts much faster, and is also mandatory if you want to use Amazon’s 1-Click Ordering feature.
To add a credit or debit card, scroll down and expand the Add a card section. Enter your card details, then click the Add your card button.
To add a checking account, scroll down and expand the Add a personal checking account section. Enter your bank details, the click the Add this checking account button.
As for gift cards, you can also click Reload your balance to transfer money from a card or bank account to your gift card balance, or click Redeem a gift card to apply a gift card and add the value to your account.
2.2. Managing Shipping Addresses
Go to the Your Addresses page to see all of your stored shipping addresses. Storing a shipping address makes future checkouts much faster.
Click Add Address to add one. Fill out the address details as you would, then click the Add address button to finish. If you have more than one, be sure to click Set as default on the one you’ll use most.
Note that if you don’t want to have Amazon packages shipped directly to your residence, you can have them delivered to a nearby Amazon Locker and pick it up yourself. Use the Amazon Pickup Location Search Tool to find one near you.
2.3. Saving on Shipping Fees
When shopping on Amazon, all orders of $25 or greater become eligible for free standard shipping. Standard shipping delivers within 5-8 business days. This is one of the best ways to get free shipping on Amazon without Prime.
In order to qualify towards the $25 minimum, items must be marked as fulfilled and/or shipped by Amazon. If you add ineligible items to your cart, the order may or may not lose eligibility for free shipping.
In order to qualify for free shipping, the shipping address must be within the United States. However, certain items may have geographic shipping restrictions that may preclude them from free shipping, especially for Alaska and Hawaii destinations.
2.4. Managing Orders
Go to the Your Orders page to see all the orders you’ve ever made, including those that are pending and on route to delivery.
Click Order Details on any order to see where it was shipped, what payment method was used, how much the order cost, and all the items included.
For orders within the last 60 days, you’ll see buttons for Ask product question (in case you have issues with a new purchase), Leave seller feedback (which helps others know if the seller is reliable), and Leave package feedback (which Amazon uses to improve their shipping and packaging).
Otherwise, you’ll see buttons for Write a product review (which you should always do, even if it’s just a sentence or two) and Archive order (which hides this particular order from your order history).
2.5. Leaving Product Reviews
If you’ve never left a product review before, consider starting. It couldn’t be easier, and your input will help others with their purchasing decisions. After all, if you love what you bought, wouldn’t you want others to enjoy it too? And if you hated it, wouldn’t you want to warn others to avoid the same fate?
Go to the Your Reviews page to see a list of all unreviewed products you’ve purchased. Click one of the stars to give a rating to a product, then type some of your thoughts into the “Write your review here” box. You don’t have to write anything — you can just give a star rating — but sharing your experience is what makes Amazon product reviews a worthwhile system.
3. Digital Content
3.1. Managing Ebooks and Media
If you’ve ever bought digital media through Amazon, you can manage it on the Manage Your Content and Devices page.
Here you’ll find all of your “content” — which mainly consists of ebooks, MP3s, and videos — and whether they’ve been updated since you acquired them. If so, click the Update Available button on the right and then Update to bring it up to date.
You can also click the … button on the left to bring up more actions for a specific ebook. Actions include Order Details (see how much you paid), Deliver to device (make it available to read offline), Delete (remove permanently from your library), Clear furthest read page (reset reading progress), Read Now (to use Amazon’s web reader), and Add to collections (for organization).
3.2. Managing Apps, Games, and Gifts
Whether you have a Kindle device or some other Android device, you should consider installing the Amazon Appstore — yes, even alongside Google Play Store ! There are a bunch of apps you can find on the Appstore that don’t exist in the Play Store, and more options are always better on Android.
You can see all of your downloaded apps on the Your Apps page.
Click the star ratings to review an app, otherwise use the Actions menu to manage each individual app: View order details (see how much you paid for it), Your in-app items (see what you bought while using the app), Archive this app (hides the app from devices but keeps it on your account), or Delete this app (permanently removes the app from your account).
If you ever buy digital games or software on Amazon, you can view all of your purchases on the Your Games and Software Library page.
It’s a barebones page, but it contains all the information you need — namely, your games and software activation keys and download links. You may need to install the Amazon Games & Software Downloader if you don’t see any download links. You can find that in the right sidebar.
If someone ever sends a digital gift to you, you can see it on the Your Digital Gifts page. Digital gifts are admittedly rare so you probably won’t see this page often, if at all, but it’s good to know it exists.
3.3. Managing Music and Video
Amazon offers three distinct music services for customers: unlimited streaming for Prime members (learn more about Prime Music ), an even greater streaming selection with Amazon Music Unlimited (the difference between that and Prime Music ), and online music storage (upload and stream your own MP3s).
You can enroll in and manage all of these services on the Your Amazon Music Settings page. Note that Amazon Music Unlimited costs $8/mo and the online music storage has a limit of 250 songs (up to 250,000 for $25/yr).
Amazon offers three distinct video services for customers: unlimited streaming for Prime members (learn more about Prime Video ), one-time video rentals and purchases (which you can stream at your leisure), and Amazon Channels (subscriptions to third-party streaming services).
You can enroll in and manage all of these services on the Your Amazon Video Settings page. To start streaming, go to the Amazon Video page. To watch purchased content, go to the Your Video Library page.
4. Tools and Extensions
4.1. Tracking Price Histories
One of the downsides to shopping on Amazon (or anywhere else for that matter) is you can’t see whether the current price is actually a deal or not. A product listed at $50 today could’ve been $30 last week, in which case you may not want to buy it. Then again, if it was $100 last week, then you should pounce on it right away.
Using a site called CamelCamelCamel, you can copy/paste any Amazon product link into the search bar and immediately see the entire price history for that product since it was put up on Amazon.
As part of the price history, you’ll also see the product’s current, highest ever price (and when), and lowest ever price (and when). You can also see the last five price changes for the product, giving you an idea of whether it’s trending up or down. And lastly, you can choose to filter or include third-party sellers.
CamelCamelCamel is available as a browser extension called The Camelizer, available for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. Don’t like CamelCamelCamel? Try one of these other Amazon price tracker tools and Amazon browser extensions .
4.2. Obtaining Promo Codes
In addition to the digitally clipped coupons mentioned in the “Finding Deals and Discounts” section above, Amazon also supports third-party promotional codes that can be applied during checkout (like most other online retailers have). But finding such promo codes can be tough and time-consuming.
Which is why we recommend installing the Honey extension, available for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari.
Honey sits quietly in the background while you shop online. Whenever you reach a checkout page, whether on Amazon or any other online retailer, it automatically searches its database for all current and active promo codes that apply to your cart. You can then pick the one you want, apply it, and save money!
If you don’t like Honey for whatever reason, you can check out these other sources for Amazon promo codes .
4.3. Checking Fake Reviews
If you’re worried about fake product reviews on Amazon and how they might be unfairly influencing the star ratings of products, you aren’t alone. Fake reviews are a huge problem right now, and there’s no sign of it getting any better. But the good news? There are tools you can use to help identify and filter them out.
Our favorite tool is ReviewMeta.
ReviewMeta is a simple site: just copy and paste the link to any Amazon product into ReviewMeta’s search box. The site gathers all of the product’s reviews and analyzes them to see which ones are likely to be genuine or fake, then presents an “adjuste rating” with the fake ones removed.
What I like about ReviewMeta is that it also shows a “Report Card” that shows why it graded a product the way it did. If you scroll down further, the “Analysis Report” explains exactly what each mark on the Report Card means. You can also grab ReviewMeta as a browser extension for Chrome or Firefox.
FakeSpot is another fake review identification tool.
In the same way, you just copy and paste an Amazon product link into the search box. It analyzes all of the reviews, gives a grade, and an analysis overview explaining why it got such a grade. It’s not as in-depth, but it works just fine as a less-complicated alternative or complement to ReviewMeta.
4.4. Finding Filler Items
In the “Saving on Shipping Fees” section, remember we mentioned that you can get free shipping on orders over $25 as long as your cart items are eligible? Well, imagine you want to order an item that’s only $21 with a $6 shipping fee. Wouldn’t it be better to just fill your cart with $4 more to get free shipping?
That’s where a tool like CheapFiller or Amazon Filler Item Finder comes in handy. Simply enter how much more you need to spend to reach the $25 minimum. The site will then return a bunch of low-priced results that may interest you enough to throw into your cart.
Don’t expect these products to be amazing, of course. The idea is that instead of spending money on shipping fees, you may as well get something out of it — even if that thing is ultimately stupid or pointless. Why not?
More Ways to Take Advantage of Amazon
Now that you know how to navigate Amazon and make the most of its basic features, it’s time to step it up to the next level.
First things first, see our article on useful but hidden Amazon features for everyone, even those who don’t have Prime memberships. After that, check out these core Prime benefits as well as these newer Prime benefits. Sure, Prime costs $11/mo or $100/yr, but it’s well worth it for most.
Considering it? Start a 30-day free trial of Prime now!
What do you shop for most on Amazon? Got any other tips and tricks that we missed? Or maybe you have questions? Let us know in the comments below!
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