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All Contents © 2018The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Bob Niedt, Online Editor
| December 1, 2018
You pay dearly for your Amazon Prime account, $119 a year after the latest $20 price hike. The holiday season is prime time to tap that bad boy for more than the free two-day shipping you may have initially signed on for.
That's because Amazon Prime has a slew of benefits beyond two-day shipping for members to utilize, from unlimited streaming music and movies to exclusive deals not available to the great unwashed. Here, we've highlighted 15 of those Prime perks that are perfect for the holidays. Have a look.
Free two-day shipping is so 2005, the year Amazon launched Prime. Today's Amazon Prime is all about getting more stuff to members at an ever-faster pace. Free same-day delivery doesn't apply everywhere or on everything, mind you, but more than 8,000 eligible cities and towns and counting is a fairly wide swath. If your ZIP code, which you can check out right here, offers same-day service, when you order before noon and choose the same-day shipping option at checkout, Amazon says the package will be delivered by 9 p.m. that night (Sundays included, and don't be surprised to see the U.S. Postal Service delivering, and in some cities, vans with Amazon's logo on them). If you order past noon, an option is next-day delivery. Two caveats: The same-day order must total $35 or more, and not every product Amazon stocks is eligible (but more than a million are, so there). If your same-day-delivery swag is under $35, Amazon will dock Prime members a surcharge of six bucks, so you might want to slow your roll.
Talk about impulse shopping. Amazon's Prime Now service delivers the goods to Prime members for free within two hours, in approximately 60 select markets (located near Amazon warehouses, naturally), including Atlanta, Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, San Diego and Virginia Beach. Free two-hour delivery includes grocery orders from Whole Foods in select cities. Can't wait two hours? You can get the goods delivered for free in an hour in some areas. Is it under $35? There's an upcharge of, yes sir, six bucks. Prime Now specializes in delivering items ranging from food and pet supplies to electronics and beauty products. And, of course, Amazon-only products, including Kindles. The service will also deliver food from member restaurants in 24 markets to your door in an hour. That's a great option for feeding the extended family and assorted friends for your holiday parties.
Hey, if you can have patience with some of your holiday orders, especially early in the shopping season, it just may pay off. Choose no-rush shipping at checkout, and you can earn either a discount or a promotional reward that can be used in the future. Your no-rush order will arrive within six business days, rather than the standard two days for Prime members (and I've found that "six days" was really three days a couple of times I've used no-rush). You can use your rewards to snag movies on Amazon Video, buy e-books and more. Rewards are applied after your no-rush order ships, and Amazon says you’ll see which no-rush reward your order qualifies for in the offer at checkout. Typical givebacks include a $5 credit toward purchases on Prime Now or Prime Pantry each time you choose no-rush shipping. And no, you cannot get a discount and awards on the same product. "We will surface only one type of offer per order at checkout, either a reward or a discount," says Amazon.
If you or a neighbor has ever been a victim of a porch pirate, a thief who brazenly steals packages from unattended doorsteps, then you know workday deliveries can be a nail-biter. Amazon understands -- and helpfully offers options to protect your holiday deliveries.
Amazon Key is a service that allows the Amazon driver to access your car or home to safely stow away your goodies. Here's how it works with your car: Members download the Amazon Key app and run through a one-time setup. Place your order and make sure your vehicle is parked in a publicly accessible area. You can expect delivery within a 4-hour time window and you'll get delivery notification via the Amazon Key App. In-car delivery service is available only in select markets and, a big caveat, only for select vehicles (from General Motors and Volvo) 2015 or newer equipped for remote entry.
In-home delivery is a bigger pull: Your abode has to be equipped with a keyless smart lock. Amazon sells Amazon Key smart lock kits that allow you to lock and unlock your door remotely using the Amazon Key app. The kits also include wireless Amazon Cloud Cam video cameras. Place your Amazon order, select in-home delivery and you'll be notified the day of delivery, in a 4-hour window. Moments before the driver arrives, you will get a notification, which gives you the option of watching the delivery. The driver doesn't have special codes or keys for your house. Rather, as long as the driver (along with his Amazon handheld scanner) is at the right house with the right package, your door will be unlocked remotely, and the driver will place the package inside the door. The door will then be re-locked remotely. The entire delivery is recorded by your video cameras. Yes, it's scary for some, but convenient, too.
Don't want strangers in your car or home? Then try Amazon Locker instead. Amazon has installed delivery lockers in many of its Whole Foods stores and at other select retailers. When you're ordering your goods from Amazon, select the address of your preferred locker location for that delivery. When the package arrives and is tucked into a locker, you'll be sent a unique access code. Head on over, punch in the code, and grab your goods from the locker.
It's a giving time of year, and did you know you could shop, buy and give to your favorite registered charitable organization through Amazon Prime? Neither did I, until recently. It's called AmazonSmile. Simply pick a charity and do all of your shopping on the AmazonSmile website. It has the exact same products and prices as Amazon.com. There are more than a million nonprofits to choose from, and the one you pick will receive 0.5% of the value of your eligible purchases. Amazon says charities have netted $89 million via AmazonSmile to date. I'm helping support Friends of Frying Pan Park Farm, a county park in Virginia that is a working farm interpreting farm life of the 1920s to the 1950s.
Look at you, sharing what you can during the holiday season. And yes, you can share your Amazon Prime membership with your household. Here's the catch: Your Prime benefits can be shared with one other adult in a household -- as long as you both agree to share your payment methods. That’s fine for, say, a spouse, but giving your roommate access to your credit or debit card might be a deal-breaker. Your partner in Prime has to have a separate Amazon account to be able to be added to your Prime membership. You'll then be able to share certain Prime perks including free two-day shipping. Teens and younger children can also be added (up to four) but they have parental-restricted access, praise be.
Amazon is expanding its private-label offerings -- an area that holds huge business potential, as we pointed out in our story about warehouse club Costco. Amazon Elements products, for example, are already available only to Prime members, and the company is rolling out other exclusive private-label brands. Also unique about Elements: Scan a special code on the product -- using your Amazon Shopping app -- and you will see where every ingredient in the product was sourced, down to the water in the baby wipes. The Amazon Elements line also includes vitamins and nutritional supplements.
It's that time of year. You just have to get your Trans-Siberian Orchestra on. And why pay for ad-free Pandora, Spotify or Apple Music when you're already making beautiful music with your Amazon Prime account? Included in Amazon Prime Music is free access to more than two million songs. The drawback? Music fans argue that Amazon's free playlists and stations aren't as deep as those of competing streaming services -- and it's true. (I couldn't access O.A.R. or OneRepublic songs on the Prime freebie.) But before you fork over an extra $9.99 a month for Apple Music or Spotify, download Amazon's music app and take it for a test run. It might be all you need. If not, an upgrade to Amazon Music Unlimited, which features tens of millions of songs including new releases (there you are, O.A.R.), runs $7.99 a month for Prime members.
The kids are home for the holidays, the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are coming over. Time to tap Amazon Prime Pantry for your grocery shopping needs. Prime Pantry is an Amazon Prime perk where members shop for non-bulk groceries and household products. Shipping is free on orders of $35 or more; orders less than that face a flat $5.99 shipping fee, and you fill up as many boxes as you need online and wait for delivery. Alternatively, Prime members can sign up for Prime Pantry and pay a separate monthly fee of $4.99, which includes free delivery on Prime Pantry orders of $10 or more. The advantage of Prime Pantry: It stocks items that aren't otherwise available on Amazon.com including everyday sizes on groceries and household goods, so shoppers aren't forced to buy in bulk. New: You no longer have to fill a box to capacity, which was a pain.
Oh, snap: Holiday photos. Lots and lots of them. That's OK: Amazon Prime members (and five others, as in family and friends) get unlimited photo storage. Yes, unlimited. Photos are accessible from any device anywhere you can tap into your Amazon Prime account. If you're like me, doubling down by having an Amazon Prime account and paying Apple every month for cloud storage for those precious photos, it may be time to trim some costs.
And no worries about tagging photos. Amazon's scary servers will automatically sort your photos. Want to free up storage on your phone? Use the Amazon app, upload them to Prime Photos and delete them from your phone. What could possibly go wrong?
From Amazon-produced series, like "Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan" or "The Man in the High Castle" to holiday classics, including "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Holiday Inn," you'll have plenty to pinch on besides the holiday cookies.
Yes, I am increasingly taking advantage of watching free movies and TV series via Amazon's streaming service, Prime Video. If you have a newer TV, like me, the Prime Video app comes built in, so click on it and boom! I'm in Hollywood. Oh, and don't you worry. While you're watching Prime Video, Amazon is watching you. The "personal recommendations based on your viewing history" can be both creepy and convenient. You can even download movies and TV shows to mobile devices for later viewing.
You like your deals fast and hot. And you want to be at the front of the pack getting them, because it's the holiday shopping season and you want to buy unique gifts. Amazon Prime members enjoy access to those one-off, deeply discounted (and in short supply) Lightning Deals 30 minutes before everyone else. Lightning Deals are only good for a few hours (or as long as supplies last) so if you really want what's on sale the early access is an advantage. But even then, Amazon warns that some deals could sell out during the early access period, before opening up to the general public. A recent Lightning Deal caught my eye: A Oasser Air Compressor Electric Inflator Portable Hand Held Pump with Digital LCD. It was selling for $47.99, down from $84.99.
Is it baby's first Christmas. You're in the right place. The former Amazon Mom has morphed into Amazon Family, a Prime perk that includes up to 20% off diapers, baby food and more, free shipping and free returns, which we don’t want to think about when we’re talking diapers. Oh, and Amazon Family has lots of other nice perks, meaning discounts on kid-friendly items and unlimited streaming music plans for families of up to six. You or your shorty, with permission, can stream thousands of family friendly movies and TV programs from the likes of Nickelodeon, Disney and PBS.
If you own an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot, your Prime membership allows you to place orders through Alexa, the voice-activated digital assistant. For example, if you just ran out of batteries for your flashlight, say "Alexa, order AA batteries" and a 20-pack of AmazonBasics will arrive on your doorstep two days later. Shipping is free for Prime members, naturally, and Alexa is already aware of your Prime status. Say "Alexa, what are your deals?" to learn about special Alexa-only discounts, although I find her voiced descriptions a bit difficult to follow.
You can even ask Alexa to sing you a Christmas carol. And she will.
With the crew coming over for various holiday bashes at Casa de You, you need to pair that Amazon Prime account up with your local Whole Foods Market. Amazon purchased Whole Foods in the summer of 2017. Since then, shoppers have been able to order the upscale grocer's private-label products, including those from 365 Everyday Value, Whole Foods Market, Whole Paws and Whole Catch, on Amazon.com. Amazon has also slashed in-store prices at Whole Foods on certain organic (and non-organic) items including bananas, eggs and avocados. Amazon recently started rolling out free two-hour delivery of groceries from Whole Foods to Prime members in select cities, a bonus when you get that party started and don't want to leave to replenish the appetizers.
Amazon Prime members will get alerts to discounts via the Whole Foods Market app. There are also signs throughout the store directing Prime members to special discounts. You'll want to have that app handy for the cashier to scan at the checkout.
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