How to Get the Most Out of Amazon’s ‘Subscribe & Save’ Program

You can save both time and money by automating the purchases of things you buy the most. Here's how to do it right.

The Amazon Subscribe & Save program can be a great way for Prime members to save money while automating a bit of life. For my family, Subscribe & Save is a way to buy items like toilet paper that we never seem to realize we’re running low on until the last minute. Here’s how the program works and how you can make the most out of it.

How ‘Subscribe & Save’ Works

Tens of thousands of items on Amazon are Subscribe & Save eligible. Basically, when you buy these items you can either buy them normally to ship with your next manual Amazon order, or you can add them to your Subscribe & Save list. This list sets up regular delivery dates — from monthly to every six months — whatever fits your needs.

One of my favorite parts about Subscribe & Save is that you can set different items to different schedules. For instance, you could have toilet paper arrive magically at your doorstep each month, but get toothpaste shipped to you every other month. The trick is to make sure you’re getting the items you need without ordering more than you need.

What Are the Benefits of ‘Subscribe & Save?’

Besides just making life easier by automating the shipment of certain items you need on a regular basis, Subscribe & Save has a few other benefits, including:

  • Discounted prices. The basic Subscribe & Save price for nearly all items is a little lower than the normal sticker price. But you can stack those savings up even more by adding five or more eligible items to your subscriptions. For some items, the savings is 15%, and for diaper subscriptions, it’s 20%.
  • Coupon options. You can add even more savings by clipping Amazon coupons when you check out. These coupons often apply to the first time an item ships as part of your Subscribe & Save cart.
  • Free shipping. Even if you’re not an Amazon Prime member, you get free shipping when you use Subscribe & Save. This also applies to small items Amazon calls Add-On items, which even Prime members have to add to a cart with at least $25 worth of goods to ship for free.
  • Flexible delivery schedules. Like I noted above, you can set items to a delivery schedule that fits your needs. And you can always update your delivery schedule if you find you’re receiving too many or too few shipments for your personal use.
  • Changeable delivery date. On top of that, if you need to bump your delivery date a few days — say you’re running low on toilet paper and need a delivery a week early, it’s no problem. Just log into your Amazon account, and change your delivery date.

How To Get the Most Out of It

Now that you know what Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program is and how it works, let’s talk tips for making the most of the program:

  • Do some price checking. Obviously it’s in your best interest to get familiar with Amazon’s prices versus prices at your local grocery store, discount store or warehouse store. Sometimes the convenience of a Subscribe & Save option will be worth a slight premium, but you should aim to save as much as possible on individual units of each item that you order. And don’t just price check once. Take note of the prices of your favorite Subscribe & Save items each time you’re in the store, just to make sure you’re still getting a good deal. Note that Subscribe & Save offers almost all name-brand items. If you have a more-affordable, off-brand counterpart that you like, you’ll probably save money by going with that item, instead. But if you have certain preferred name brands for personal care, household, baby care or even food items, you may find them on the Subscribe & Save list.
  • Check your cart’s prices every month. One of the worst parts about Subscribe & Save is that prices on these items change with their Amazon list prices. This can be a little tricky, especially if the prices go up. Make a habit to log into your Subscribe & Save account each month to make sure you’re not paying way more for a particular item than you should. Amazon will tell you when you can last edit a Subscribe & Save item, which is typically several days before your scheduled delivery.
  • Add additional items just before your ship date. Loads of deal and coupon websites give lists of the best Subscribe & Save deals for that particular month (or you can download an app like Honey that will automatically check to see if any coupons are available for the item you’re considering). Check these deals out before your order’s last day to edit.
  • Always have at least five items in your Susbscribe & Save account. The best way to net 5% to 15% savings on Subscribe & Save is to schedule at least five items for regular delivery. With all the available Subscribe & Save items, it’s pretty easy to find some household basics to help you meet this savings threshold.
  • Look for coupons. Amazon offers the option to clip virtual coupons as they’re available. Again, you can often find lists of coupon-eligible items on deal sites around the web or with savings apps. These coupons typically only apply to your first Subscribe & Save order, but they can be a great way to net some initial savings.
  • Skip shipments when necessary. Perhaps the hardest part about making Subscribe & Save work for you is figuring out when to order certain items. I know, for instance, about how much toilet paper and how many diapers my family will go through in a week. But how often do I buy a new tube of toothpaste? I’m not really sure. Make your best guess when setting up your shipment times. Then if you’re not running low on an item when it’s scheduled to deliver, hit the “skip” button. This will push the item back a month, and reset its whole delivery schedule based on that shipment.
  • Edit items as you go. If you find yourself consistently “skipping” one or two items, make your life a little easier: edit the shipment times. Again, you can have your Subscribe & Save items shipped as often as once month or as infrequently as every six months. Tweak your shipment times as you go, and you’ll put less time into managing your Subscribe & Save list each month.

You can save even more by applying for one of Amazon’s credit cards. You can read here about whether an Amazon credit card is right for you. You’ll need good credit to qualify, so if you don’t know where your credit stands, you can check your credit scores for free right here on Credit.com.

Like all Amazon tools and programs, Subscribe & Save won’t always save you money. Sometimes there’s a premium to be paid for convenience. But if you use these tips, you can probably get great discounts on items you would have purchased to begin with.

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Could What Your Amazon Alexa Overhears Be Used Against You?

A murder case may offer clues to whether Amazon Alexa protects users' privacy.

Have you seen the Geico ad with the talking parrot? A 19th-century ship is boarded, the captain surrounded by pirates. The leader shouts, “Let’s feed him to the sharks,” (pirate cheers and swords held high) “and take all his gold” (more cheers). The parrot repeats these lines, and adds, “and hide it from the crew. They’re all morons anyway.”

The voiceover at the end of the Geico ad explains, “If you’re a parrot, you repeat things. That’s what you do.” If you’re a voice-activated Internet of Things (IoT) device, you don’t repeat things, but you may transmit them.

Voice-activated IoT devices (which, for this piece, includes smartphones and televisions) are always there, just like that pirate’s parrot. You know the services: Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa. Mostly, these fine-featured friends are waiting for their activation command — listening, not recording. When activated, they gather the particulars of your life and beam them into a cloud server where your day-to-day existence is, at least in some basic ways, made better, the improvement generally taking the form of convenience or efficiency.

But all the value adds of having a digital assistant come at a personal price that many privacy advocates — including me — worry may come at a cost much higher than the price of, say, the device you need to access the service.

The price is your privacy.

Unfortunately, it is a murder case in Bentonville, Arkansas, that most forcefully highlights one of the more complex privacy issues connected to digital assistant IoT technology these days.

In November 2015, a former Georgia police officer named Victor Collins was found floating facedown in a hot tub owned by Bentonville resident James Andrew Bates. There were traces of blood at the scene, and a coroner later determined that Collins had died of strangulation and partial drowning. The smart water meter installed at Bates’ house indicated that 140 gallons of water — much more than usual — had been used on the night of Collins’ death. That pointed to post-murder cleaning. There was physical evidence at the scene, but the prosecutor wanted to know if there was more information hiding on the Amazon Echo that had been streaming music when Collins died. There was the possibility that the device had stored 60 seconds, which is what it is equipped to do, and that it might still be on the physical device. Amazon declined to help with the investigation. (Amazon did not immediately respond to Credit.com’s request for comment.)

Why This Raises Questions

It should be said that the producers of digital assistants aren’t trying to create a better pirate parrot. They aren’t in the business of mindless repetition. They are in the business of learning more about you so they can sell you things, or helping others do that, or selling what they know about you to a third party that can use it to make money.

There is so much information potentially. Consumers use digital assistants to help with travel, email and messages; they listen to music, check out sports scores and the weather. They can keep a calendar in order, post to social media, translate documents and search the internet. (When it comes to criminals, these devices could be seen as the digital equivalent of a stupid accomplice.)

Murder isn’t the best backdrop for discussions about privacy, but unfortunately the protections guaranteed by our courts is nowhere in evidence at the consumer level, so it is often the mise-en-scéne for this kind at article.

If you’re a parrot, you repeat things. If you’re an Amazon Echo at a murder scene, you give rise to serious questions about the expectation of privacy in a consumer landscape that has turned personal preference into a commodity. Increasingly geared toward the conveniences of radical personalization, a digital assistant knows how you like things in your home, but given the inevitability of hacking and data compromises, that means that at least potentially all that information could be used against you — and not just in your personal battle to resist temptation in the marketplace and save money.

Without a doubt, it would be easier to talk about the cost of convenience when it comes to digital assistance were we dealing with a case revolving around hacked information used to burglarize a home, or the purloined daily schedule of a popular celebrity who was (supply your own verb) as a result of leaked data. For that matter, it would be easier to talk about plug-and-play cameras that can’t be made secure no matter what you do. But until there’s a body, it seems, no one pays attention, and so these outlier situations are often how privacy becomes a topic for discussion.

The digital assistant as a privacy issue may not be a problem for you — some people feel they have nothing to hide — but it is for sure something consumers need to think about before transmitting their lives to the cloud where it may be only a matter of time, or bad luck, before a hacker streams it for laughs or loot.

Remember, if you’ve been the victim of identity theft, don’t blow it off. A good way to start taking action is by checking your credit — warning signs can include accounts you never opened and sudden drops in your scores. You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.

This story is an op-ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

Image: Amazon

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Wells Fargo, Amazon Nix Their Private Student Loan Deal

private-student-loans

Wells Fargo and Amazon appear to have ended their private student loan partnership.

Just six weeks after announcing that Amazon Prime members were eligible for interest rate discounts on the bank’s private student loan products, traces of the deal were removed from the online retailer’s student-centric site. Wells’ previously Amazon-focused landing page also now redirects to the bank’s generic private student loan landing page.

A spokesperson for Wells Fargo confirmed via an email to Credit.com that the promotion had ended but did not respond to request for comment as to why. Amazon similarly confirmed the promotion had ended via an email without giving a reason why.

The promotion, announced July 21, offered Prime members and their co-signers a potential 0.50% base interest rate discount on all Wells Fargo private student loan products. They were also eligible for a 0.25% interest rate reduction if they enrolled in Wells Fargo’s automatic monthly loan repayment plan.

The bank’s website currently lists the the variable interest rates on its private student loans as ranging from 3.39% to 9.03%. Its fixed interest rates range from 5.94% to 10.93%.

The promotion’s end comes on the heels of Wells’ agreement to pay a $3.6 million civil penalty to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to settle allegations of illegal student loan servicing practices. (The bank declined to answer questions as to whether the two were directly related.)

Private Student Loans 101

Given the climbing cost of a college education, many students may be thinking of taking on a private student loan to cover their tuition. But it’s important to do your research before applying because these loans typically tout variable interest rates that, unlike the fixed rate associated with federal student loans, can fluctuate with market conditions. They also have fewer borrower protections than federal loans. (For instance, private student lenders are not required to offer forbearance or deferment options.) And, particularly if your credit is not in tip-top shape, the interest rate on these loans can climb quite high. (You can view two of your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.)

If you do decide to take on a private student loan, be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully to find the best financing for you. Repayment plans tend to vary by lender, and some charge fees to process forbearance and deferment requests. You can learn more about what to watch out for when applying for private student loans here.

Image: BraunS

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Your Amazon Account Could Get You a Lower Rate on Your Student Loans

wells-fargo-amazon

Wells Fargo is sweetening the deal on its private student loans for members of Amazon Prime Student, both companies announced Wednesday.

Amazon Prime Student members who apply for any of Wells Fargo’s private student loan products are eligible for a 0.50% interest rate discount, according to the bank’s site. Members can also get a 0.25% interest rate reduction for enrolling in the lender’s automatic monthly loan repayment plan. Co-signers who use Amazon Prime Student may also be eligible for the discount.

Keep in mind, the discount will only apply to new loan applications received on or after July 21 of this year, and as with any loan application, borrowers will be subject to a credit check, a loan/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, and possibly school certification of loan amount and enrollment at a Wells Fargo–participating school. Though students are not required to make payments while they’re still in school, the repayment period kicks in 6 months after graduation or upon leaving.

Amazon Prime Student offers a free six-month trial, after which students are eligible to receive 50% off of Amazon Prime, which amounts to around $49 each year. Students are eligible for this discount on Prime for up to four years, or until they’re no longer a student.

According to Wells Fargo’s website, the variable interest rates on its private student loans range from 3.39% to 9.03%. Its fixed interest rates range from from 5.94% to 10.93%.

If a borrower qualifies for the lowest interest rate within those ranges, a 0.50% reduction would be applied to that rate with the Amazon Prime Student discount, a spokesman for the bank said in an email.

To take advantage of that discount, prospective borrowers need to be confirmed Amazon Prime Student members. Once the terms of the loan are agreed upon between Wells Fargo and the customer, those remain the terms throughout the life of the loan, unless the borrower moves to refinance or take other action, the spokesman said.

Private Student Loans

Remember, if you’re considering a private student loan to help you pay for college, it’s important to do your homework before you apply to make sure it’s right for you and your finances. Unlike federal student loans, which guarantee a fixed, low-interest rate, private loans are often variable-rate commercial loans, and as we mentioned above, require credit checks. If you’re not sure where your credit stands or are concerned that you have poor credit, now’s the time to find out for sure. (You can view a free summary of your credit report that is updated monthly by visiting Credit.com.)

During the application process, be sure to ask questions that will help you determine whether the loan will become a burden or a boon to your finances — and to your credit. You’ll want to find out whether there is an origination fee, which many lenders charge, if there are late fees and how much they cost, and whether the lender offers deferment due to economic hardship or unemployment. Also, be sure to ask if the lender offers forbearance, which acts as a pause button for your payments. To learn more about the various repayment options student loan borrowers have, you can go here.

More on Student Loans:

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