10 Reasons You Spend So Much on Amazon

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For Amazon regulars, it’s pretty hard to imagine what the coronavirus pandemic would have been like without the convenience of that ginormous online marketplace.

To get an idea of Amazon’s place in American life, consider this: More than 80% of American households have an Amazon Prime membership, says Scott Galloway, professor of marketing at the NYU Stern School of Business. That, he tweets, is “more than voted in the 2016 election, have a pet, attend church or decorate a Christmas tree.”

It’s so easy to shop and buy from the giant retailer that users need willpower and savvy to avoid overspending. Understanding some of Amazon’s ingenious marketing tactics also helps make conscious choices rather than automatically succumbing to a site’s subtle signals to buy.

Let’s look at some of the ways Amazon makes online shopping even more mesmerizing.

1. Amazon rewards credit cards

Shopper earning extra cash back online
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Amazon is in the banking business, too. The no-annual-fee Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card offers top-tier cash-back rewards: 5% for Prime members on purchases at Amazon and Whole Foods Market. (Nonmembers get 3% cash back, which is still nothing to sneeze at.)

Outside the Amazon ecosystem, you’ll get 2% cash back on spending at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores. You’ll also get 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Among other card perks: no foreign transaction fees and a roadside dispatch service.

A card this rewarding makes it easier to justify spending — especially at Amazon. But there are ways to sweeten your Amazon savings without an Amazon credit card. For example, the Honey browser extension automatically compares the prices of various sellers on Amazon to ensure you get the best possible price for an item.

2. Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime
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The Amazon Prime membership fee — $12.99 monthly ($6.49 for students) or $119 a year — offers consumers a bundle of attractive services and ensures the company a steady payment stream.

Perhaps the most alluring features of Prime membership are free:

  • Unlimited two-day shipping with all eligible items (Without Prime, shipping generally is free on orders of $25 or more.)
  • Prime Video, the streaming video service (Prime Video purchased separately is $8.99 a month.)

Not that you need to join Prime to enjoy benefits like these. There are also many ways to stream popular videos free of charge. If you are resourceful, you can find free shipping, too. To learn about these, read “15 Free Streaming Services to Watch While Stuck at Home” and “8 Ways to Land Free Shipping for Online Purchases.”

3. Lightning Deals

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Other ways Amazon makes shopping immersive is through limited-time promotions like Lightning Deals. You may see these and other promotions offered on Amazon’s “Today's Deals” page or elsewhere throughout the site.

Each Lightning Deal price is available for a limited number of items and is good for a brief time. A timer shows how long you have to make the purchase before your deal expires.

Limited time windows dial up the intensity: Hurry! The clock is ticking! But know this is a common retailer trick that relies on the principle of scarcity, which we break down in “8 Ways to Stop Buying Things You Don’t Need.”

4. Lists

Shopping adding a product to an Amazon wish list
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If you see something you want to buy later, you can save it to a list.

You can create numerous lists. Make one your shopping list. Make another a wish list and share it with family or friends so that when your birthday rolls around, they’ll know exactly what you are hoping for.

Lists are one more clever convenience that keeps us returning to Amazon.

5. 1-Click ordering

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One convenience that Amazon offers is speed. If you know what you want, Amazon’s 1-Click ordering lets you buy it instantly. The feature lets shoppers skip dealing with a shopping cart and checkout process. As Amazon explains it:

“When you place your first order and enter a payment method and shipping address, 1-Click ordering is automatically enabled. When you click ‘Buy now with 1-Click’ on any product page, your order will be automatically charged to the payment method and shipped to the address associated with your 1-Click settings.”

You even can buy gifts this way: Just check “This will be a gift” on the product page before clicking the 1-Click button.

Ready to turn off this feature? Visit Amazon’s “Change Your 1-Click Settings” page for instructions.

6. Saved credit card data

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Speed and convenience are central to the Amazon experience. Even without 1-Click ordering turned on, Amazon can store your credit card information so you’ll never need to enter it again.

To learn how to remove stored cards from your Amazon account, visit the “Manage Payment Methods” page.

7. Mobile shopping app

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Other stores have mobile shopping apps, too. But, as with much else, Amazon has ironed out the wrinkles. Its mobile app makes finding and purchasing smooth, quick and convenient.

With the Amazon App, you can find a purchase or window shop discreetly just about any time you wish — at work, waiting in line at the grocery store or walking down the street.

8. Voice shopping

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Alexa is Amazon’s voice assistant, a form of voice-activated artificial intelligence that is available on various Amazon devices, such as Echo smart speakers.

Using only the sound of your voice, you can direct Alexa to, for example, search the internet, manage your home’s smart appliances, play music and movies or perform other tasks — including ordering groceries and shopping on Amazon.

You can ask Alexa to search Amazon for a product or to find it in your order history; Alex will check the price and ask if you want to buy it.

9. Subscribe & Save discounts

Amazon's Subscribe & Save feature
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When you purchase a product that Amazon thinks you might need again, the site offers a small discount if you agree to automatic reorders of the product. In other words, you agree to let Amazon automatically charge you for the item and ship it to you on a recurring basis without consulting you. The retailer calls this a Subscribe & Save subscription.

On the product page for an eligible item, Amazon shows two prices, the one-time purchase price and a discounted Subscribe & Save price. For example, my cost for a 40-ounce jar of Milk-Bone MaroSnacks dog treats was $7.49 at the time this article was written. But if I agreed to repeat deliveries, the price would drop to $7.12.

Note that you can change the delivery frequency for a Subscribe & Save subscription at any time. You also can cancel one entirely. Visit Amazon’s “Subscribe & Save” help page to learn how.

10. ‘Save for later’ option

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Unlike with many other online retailers, Amazon lets you easily change your mind about an item at checkout without risking that you will forget about an item entirely: Instead of deleting it from your cart, you can mark it as “Save for later.”

This removes the item from your cart but prompts Amazon to remember what you’ve saved and show your “Saved for later” list next time you check out.

It’s another way Amazon captures some sales that the retailer would otherwise lose.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.