Amazon Subscribe & Save: How to Get the Biggest Discounts
What do movies, magazines, and music have in common? You can access all of them through subscription services, either by receiving your product on a regular basis or having continuous access to a web service. With Subscribe & Save, Amazon aims to bring groceries and other household items into the mix too. You set up a regular, scheduled delivery date for products you use regularly like toilet paper, light bulbs and cat food, and in exchange, Amazon gives you a discount on the price.
Sounds like a good deal, and it is in principle, but there are a couple of things you need to be careful of. Here’s how Subscribe & Save works, how to use it, and how to get the most out of it.
How does it work?
Essentially, Subscribe & Save operates on the same principle as bulk buying. If you buy from a business in large volumes, they can offer products to you a little cheaper than usual because it allows them to move more stock. The more you order, the cheaper the discount you can typically get.
Since Amazon hopes you’ll maintain your product subscriptions for a long time to come, they don’t mind making a little less profit per item if it means they can keep you as a long-term customer, and entice you away from their competitors. To sweeten the deal and encourage larger orders, they offer larger discounts which you can unlock by having five or more items delivered in the same month.
It’s a pretty flexible system – you can order items between once a month and once every six months, and you can set different delivery schedules for different items.
How much can you save?
Most items have two discount levels. If you have four or fewer items delivered in a calendar month, you get the lower level discount, which is usually 5% off the normal price. But if you have five or more items delivered, you unlock the higher level discount. This is typically 15%, though if you’re a Prime member you’ll get 20% off diaper subscriptions. These five items all need to be delivered to the same address to unlock the higher discount though.
You can increase your savings by combining the Subscribe & Savediscount with Amazon coupons. From the Amazon home page, click “Today’s Deals,” and then “Coupons” from the menu bar at the top. Then click “Subscribe & Save” on the menu to the left of the screen. You can “clip” these coupons before you subscribe to the product, and you’ll either get a fixed dollar discount or a further percentage off the price — but it will only apply to the first order of the product.
On top of these discounts, you also get free shipping on everything you subscribe to. This even includes Amazon’s “Add-On” items. These are items that are so cheap that it’s not cost effective to ship them alone for free. Even Amazon Prime members have to pay for shipping on these items, unless they combine them with a larger order.
Beware of Fluctuating Prices
Amazon uses a dynamic pricing system, based on supply and demand, seasonality, competitor pricing and many other factors. It’s a complicated system, and one that you don’t encounter in a traditional bricks-and-mortar store.
Unfortunately, the price you pay each month will reflect these fluctuations — in other words, the price you paid on your first month is not locked in. This is great if prices go down, but they can also go up, of course, which might give you a shock when you check your bill.
There are a couple of things you can do to minimize the chance of a nasty surprise. First, use a price tracker like camelcamelcamel or the thetracktor to check the price trends of the items you want to order. If prices fluctuate wildly, you know your bill will be largely unpredictable, but at least you’ll know the approximate range of prices you can likely expect (don’t forget to take your Subscribe & Save discount into account here when doing the math), and decide if that’s acceptable to you.
Secondly, you can check the prices before your monthly order is shipped. Amazon will notify you when the point of no return is approaching — that is, the point after which you can’t cancel, adjust or skip the order. At this point, you can check the prices and decide whether to go ahead on this occasion or not. Remember though, if you cancel an item and your total items delivered per month drops below five, you’ll lose that higher-level discount.
How to use it
Tens of thousands of products are available on Subscribe & Save- you can see what’s available in Amazon’s dedicated Subscribe & Savestore. You can get there by clicking “Today’s Deals” from the home page and then clicking “Subscribe & Save.”
Once inside, find a product you want and make sure “Subscribe & Save” is clicked on the menu to the right, and not “One-Time Purchase.” You’ll see the discount you’re eligible for just above this option. Use the drop-down menu to choose how many you want, and how often, then click “Subscribe Now,” and you’re done.
You can amend your subscriptions at any time by going to “Your Subscribe & Save Items” in “Your Account.” From here you can change any aspect of the delivery schedule, including changing the frequency of delivery, changing the date it’s delivered on, or canceling the subscription altogether. You can also skip the next month’s delivery, which will keep your subscription active but you’ll just skip this month. With the exception of changing the delivery date, you can do all this item-by-item — all items delivered each month will come on the same date.
Is it worth it?
Although the discounts you can get are pretty impressive – especially taking into account the free shipping – Amazon’s bricks-and-mortar competitors are no slouches either and not every single item will be cheaper than you can get elsewhere. You’ll need to do some price comparisons to know for sure. Getting the best deals as a consumer does require a little homework, but a little work can reap great rewards, so it’s definitely worth the effort.