When Amazon Isn't the Cheapest Place to Shop

Scenarios and Tactics to Save

Evan M. 10/23/20 (PDT)

Amazon is often thought of as the cheapest and easiest place to buy anything online. While they are certainly the largest online retailer (at least here in the US), they aren’t always the cheapest.

Many prices are competitive, but there are quite a few situations where Amazon is probably not the best choice – especially when talking about items with a slightly higher price points ($100-ish).

Frugal shoppers will also be likely to utilize a few tactics to save elsewhere as well.

Directly Shopping from the Source Is Often Cheaper

The best prices are almost always found directly from the company that makes whatever it is you want.

Amazon is a retailer, and so companies pay the ecommerce behemoth a percentage for having their items appear on the site. This fee has several layers to it and does fluctuate depending on the type of item and how many are being sold, but typically Amazon takes a 10-15% cut.

To help compensate for this loss, a lot of companies raise the price of goods ever slightly.

Low priced goods are highly competitive. A difference of just a few cents can make all the difference in which product a shopper chooses. The price of these goods is therefore consistent no matter where you shop from.

It’s really the larger priced items where you can find a better deal from the source. Sometimes this difference is striking. Take these KitchenAid Stand Mixers for example.

KitchenAid Stand Mixer price comparison Amazon

On Amazon it’ll cost you $459.99 while if you just hop on down to KitchenAid’s main site, you’ll get the same item for $80 less.

Coupons, Promos, & Discounts Can Drive Down the Price Elsewhere

In 2017 Amazon gave 3rd party sellers the ability to implement coupons on their products sold on the platform.

While they aren’t an exclusive savings incentive for other sites and stores anymore, you’ll probably still find a much better coupon or discount off of Amazon – even if the brand is selling on Amazon directly.

That’s because there’s more to gain from a seller if they pull a customer to their site, rather than just get a sale on Amazon. If you’re a frugal shopper, then doing some light coupon hunting prior to making a purchase on Amazon is a good way to grab the absolute best price.

Coupon and promo codes can change frequently, and it can be frustrating to find a code only to have it not work upon checkout. A solution to this is going directly to a brand’s site and searching for the discount or deal section.

Sephora has a page dedicated to their latest offers. Many other brands do as well, making this a great way to guarantee a deal.

Cash Back Amounts are Greater Elsewhere

Cash back is a great way to get rewarded every time you shop online. Typically, people rely on whatever cash back incentive their chosen credit card provides – but smart shoppers don’t stop there. Cash back is available at more brands than people think, and in general beat out major credit card cash back rates.

Cash back sites like RebatesMe can offer rewards for members that often exceed the amounts earned by using a credit card, even those rates of store specific cards.

MasterCard and Visa credit cards

Store cards & credit cards are common amongst retailers and come stacked with cash back or savings incentives, but also high APR’s.

For example, at Amazon cash back is given to credit card holders only. They have 2 total. One is a store card that you can only use on Amazon.com, and the other is a Visa card where you can earn 5% cash back on Amazon purchases (only for prime members).

While 5% is pretty high in the credit card world, using a cash back site will often net you twice as much or even more depending on the day – all without having a hard credit inquiry pulled or dealing with ridiculous APR’s.

The difference is that a credit card cash back generally pays out in 30-60 days, while cash back sites can go up to 90. But if you’re willing to wait just a bit, then the payout might be extremely generous.

RebatesMe has a double cash back rate page dedicated to some of the best rates currently available. You can see for yourself how much more you can earn.

Prime Costs can Kill Savings for Some

Amazon’s flagship program is designed to enhance the online shopping experience. Exclusive discounts, Prime Video access, and the notable 2-day shipping are all quality perks.

For the low price of $12.99 per month, it’s tempting to jump on board for the 2-day shipping alone. However, if you aren’t a fervent shopper, and are eager to be as frugal as possible, then your subscription could be costing you more than its worth.

Subscription fees are easy to forget about, and over time the cost really does stack up. This seems like “no-brainer” info, but companies like Harvest have made it a business to help people consolidate their subscriptions, and to cut out the fat.

But with Amazon for example, if you get a year of Prime for $119, then buying only 1-2 items per month for the 2-day shipping is going to seriously cut into any sort of savings you’ve stacked.

Loyalty Programs & Other Brand Incentives Can Add Value Elsewhere

Loyalty pays. Many brands offer programs that give you some nice perks just from shopping through them. Discounts, free items, or special coupons are all things that can help add value to your shopping that isn’t available through Amazon.

This is especially true for apparel, retail, and beauty. Places like Sephora, Nike, and Macy’s have extensive rewards programs that pay out if you shop directly through them.

Nike and Sephora specifically are notorious for handing out exclusive promo codes and discounts to their members throughout the year. Things like take an extra 20% off or $15 off are common email promos.

Tackle on a list of freebies, exclusive products and services, and there’s a lot to be gained simply by choosing one shopping cart over another.

In today’s era, loyalty programs won’t cost you a thing, and usually just require an email address, making them easier to access than ever before. Most people don’t take full advantage of what they’re offered, so be sure to comb through every program you sign up for to make sure you’re getting all you can get.

You’re Not Saving if You’re Buying a Cheap Knockoff

Amazon is a complicated marketplace.

It gives sellers an easy platform to sell their goods and reach a large audience, but at the same time, it gives fraudsters the same power. It’s insanely easy for people to put up a fake product, come up with some fake reviews, and pass it off as a brand name item.

Fraud not only cheats a brand out of a legitimate sale, but it also cheats out the customer who is expecting the quality and legitimacy that a brand (and certain price point) brings.

White Nike Jordan shoes

Shoes seem to be a category on Amazon hit hard with fraud.

In fact, fake products and reviews are so prevalent on the site, that some major brands are pulling from the platform entirely – with Nike being one of the biggest recently to do so.

Shoes, apparel, and cosmetics items are some of the biggest categories where this occurs, but it can certainly happen anywhere.

If you see a great brand name product for an insanely low price, chances are that it’s too good to be true.

Tips for Getting the Best Price Online

No matter where you shop, there are plenty of tricks to take advantage of to ensure you’re getting the best price possible.

• Check the manufacturer’s site directly

• Don’t assume one retailer (like Amazon) will always have the cheapest price

• Know how and when to recognize knockoffs

• Take advantage of coupons, cashback, and sales events

• Use loyalty programs to your advantage

• Be patient. If you don’t need it now, wait until a sales event

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