HolidayBuyer's Guide

How to shop on Amazon without ruining the holidays

Keep your holiday shopping secret by setting up an Amazon Household and prevent prying eyes from seeing presents in your order history.

Matt Elliott/CNET

As the calendar turns to December, my kids maintain they still believe in Santa but only, I suspect, in an effort to keep the gravy train rolling. They are certainly more dubious in the summer months of the magical fat man and his challenging delivery schedule, flying reindeer or no. Would an admission of disbelief, however, result in no presents under the tree Christmas morning? That's a question they aren't ready to ask.

Whether they truly believe or not, I don't want them digitally snooping this holiday season. They borrow the family iPad frequently and use the Amazon app to come up with gift ideas. When they are using the app, they are but two taps away (Menu > Your Account) from seeing my Amazon order history and any Christmas gifts I have purchased for them. And I'm too lazy to sign out after each Amazon shopping session.

Amazon Household to the rescue

To prevent digital snooping, accidental or otherwise, I have turned to Amazon Household. With it, I can share Prime benefits along with digital content, including e-books, apps and games. Really, I use it just to have two separate order histories.

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Photo by Matt Elliott/CNET

To sign up, head to the Amazon Household page. You can add one other adult (and up to four children). A Prime membership can be shared among the two adult Household members, but you don't need to be a Prime member to set up a Household.

In order to share Prime benefits with the other adult Household member, you need to be the primary Prime member and not an invited guest of another Prime member. Amazon Student Prime members aren't eligible to form an Amazon Household either, no matter how tight you may be with your roommates.

With an Amazon Household, you can create a second Amazon profile to use for your holiday shopping to keep your order history clean on your primary account. For me, I'm going to use my MacBook as my holiday shopping portal for Amazon since my kids think any device without a touchscreen isn't worth their time. They can happily go about their shopping using the Amazon app on the iPad without accidentally or purposefully seeing Christmas presents in my order history.

Kill recommendations, erase history

Your browsing habits and purchase history can also get you into trouble. Amazon offers recommendations based on the categories you've been browsing and the products you've purchased, which can also spoil a holiday surprise. Thankfully, you can tell Amazon's recommendation engine to ignore certain items you've purchased, and you can erase and disable your browsing history.

To remove a product from recommendation consideration, you will need to access your Amazon account from the web (I can't find a way to do this on the mobile app).

  • From Amazon.com, click Your Account from the menu at the top of the page.
  • Scroll down to the Personalization section at the bottom and click Improve Your Recommendations.
  • To the right of each item in your order history, you can check the box for Don't use for recommendations.

To erase and disable your browsing history, head back to the Personalization section of Your Account page and click View and Manage Your Browsing History and then click Manage history. Here, you can remove individual items or click the button to Remove all history.

After erasing any potentially incriminating items from your browsing history, it might be a good idea to disable browsing history for the month of December. To do so, click to turn off the toggle switch for Turn Browsing history on/off at the top of Manage history page.

You can also delete and disable your browsing history from the Amazon mobile app by going to Your Account > Browsing history > Manage.

In related news, find out why buying stuff on your phone still sucks.

Editor's note: This post was originally published on December 2, 2015 and has since been updated to include information about disabling Amazon's recommendations and your browsing history.

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