How to win Prime Day 2021: The Cheapskate's top tips
Amazon's annual shopping holiday is next week. Here's the inside scoop on saving extra cash.
Rick BroidaSenior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
As you've no doubt heard, Amazon Prime Day 2021 kicks off Monday, June 21. No problem, you've still got time to plan your shopping strategies, to learn the secrets of a successful outing. Gather 'round the playbook, team -- let's get out there and save, save, save!
Shop Prime Day even if you're not a Prime subscriber
You might think Prime Day a members-only affair, requiring an active
subscription in order to take advantage of all the discounts.
Not necessarily. If you don't have a subscription, you may still see sale prices on lots of products -- just without the free one- or two-day shipping afforded Prime members. (You can usually still bag free shipping if your cart total hits at least $25 -- again, no membership required.) Although there are lots of items that are Prime-exclusive, most notably Amazon-branded stuff like Kindles and Echos, there are others that are simply discounted for Prime Day.
That said, to fully hedge your bets, consider signing up for a free one-month Amazon Prime trial (available only if you've never tried Prime before). You can cancel the service after 29 days and avoid getting billed, but you'll still reap the full benefits of Prime Day.
Of course, Prime affords a whole bunch of other benefits, not the least of which are the aforementioned fast shipping on most products and lots of movies and TV shows from Prime Video. So if you don't already have an account, it's totally worth it.
It's important to remember that products go on sale all the time, and any deal that happens during Prime Day is likely to be repeated -- if not right away, then definitely during the holiday shopping season. Don't let the event's inherent sense of urgency overwhelm your common sense.
Indeed, for any given deal you're eyeballing, check to see if the price has been the same (or lower) in the past. A great tool for this is CamelCamelCamel, which tracks Amazon price histories. Just copy the product's URL, paste it into CamelCamelCamel's search field and check the results. (There's a desktop browser plug-in as well, which saves you all that annoying copying and pasting.)
Part of the challenge of Prime Day is keeping tabs on the deals that interest you, especially those scheduled to begin later in the day. If you forget, you might miss out.
Fortunately, the Amazon app lets you track upcoming deals and receive notifications when they're about to begin. It's available for Amazon Fire, Android and iOS in their respective app stores. The app also has useful features such as voice-powered search and shipment tracking.
Like Amazon's daily Lightning deals, many Prime Day deals are available in limited quantities -- and once they're "claimed," they're gone. Or maybe not: You may see a Join Waitlist button that'll put you in the queue to grab an item if it becomes available.
How does that happen? Sometimes other customers will add an item to their cart, then decide not to buy it (or fail to complete the purchase within 15 minutes) -- at which point it goes to the next person in line. That could be you, so don't be shy about joining the waitlist if it's something you really want.
Leverage cash-back options
Before you buy anything, anywhere, at any time, you should always see what cash-back options are available. I'm a fan of using services like Rakuten and TopCashback, which can easily score you added savings on your purchases -- including those from Amazon.
At this writing, Rakuten isn't offering anything there, but TopCashback is currently giving 8% back on Amazon device purchases, 7% back on Amazon home-security and smart-home devices and a $15 rebate when you sign up for a year of Amazon Prime (at the regular $119 price).
Meanwhile, this is definitely the time to grab an Amazon Prime Rewards Visa, and not just because signing up nets you a $150 (!) Amazon gift card. Rather, it's because Amazon's no-annual-fee Visa pays you 5% back on just about everything you buy from Amazon. (Whole Foods, too.) Amazon sometimes boosts that to 10% or even more for certain product categories, and often runs Prime Day-specific bonuses as well.