Secrets of Amazon Prime Day

I’ve been covering Amazon Prime Day since it launched in 2015, and over the years I’ve seen it blow up into a huge made-up shopping holiday. But is it actually a good way to save money?

Prime Day Ain’t That ‘Green’

On the plus side, there are literally tens of thousands of items on sale. On the minus side, those deals are literally impossible to sort through, and for every decent discount, there are 99 random duds no one would ever care about. Still, if you know where, and how, to look, real steals can be found.

These are my top Prime Day shopping tips, based on years of covering Prime Day, Black Friday and other shopping events.

More on Amazon Prime Day:

  • Amazon Announces the Dates for Its Annual Prime Day Event
  • Amazon Prime Day: Best Early Deals You Can Get Right Now

Don’t wait for Prime Day

This year, Prime Day runs July 11-12, but early deals have already started. A lot of these early ones are for Amazon’s own products, like Fire TV sets and Amazon Echo devices, but I’ve also seen AirPods and Dyson vacuums. But note that these deals can come and go randomly, so by the time you check, they might already be gone.

You don’t need to buy an Amazon Prime membership

Prime Day is really there for one reason — to get people to sign up for an Amazon Prime subscription. The free shipping and Amazon Prime video catalog are usually incentive enough, but these member-only deals can offer a little push if you’re on the fence.

If you don’t feel like giving Amazon $140 per year for the privilege of being a shopping club member, remember that there’s still a 30-day free trial you can sign up for anytime, which is good for getting access to Prime Day deals.

Other retailers are getting in on the action, too

Almost every other major retailer has jumped on the Prime Day bandwagon, hosting a similar set of summer deals at around the same time. Of course, they’re not going to call these Prime Day sales, but it’s essentially Amazon counter-programming.

For example, Target has Circle Week from July 9-15, Walmart has Plus Week from July 10-13, Best Buy has a July 4th sale, but also a Black Friday in July sale from July 10-12.

The big takeaway here is that even if something looks like a good deal on Amazon during Prime Day (or early Prime Day deals), make sure to open a few extra browser windows and do some comparison shopping.

Stick to the right categories

Amazon’s own devices and brands, like Kindle readers, Echo speakers, Fire TV sets, Fire Tablets, Eero routers, and Ring cameras, are big draws for Prime Day. I can’t imagine anyone ever paying full price for something like a Kindle Paperwhite or Echo Dot, as they’re deeply discounted several times a year, including on Prime Day.

You’ll often find TVs from brands like Samsung, LG and TCL on sale, as well as laptops and other computer gear, kitchen gadgets, sometimes tools, and one of my favorite categories, 3D printers.

Check to see if it’s actually a real sale

Just because something is listed as being on sale, that doesn’t mean it’s actually a good deal. For savvy shoppers, checking the historical record on prices over time is one of the best things you can do.

The website CamelCamelCamel is a long-time favorite for checking the history of Amazon prices. Drop in an Amazon product’s name, URL, or product ID and you’ll see a detailed chart of its price history, including whether the current sale is an all-time low.