AMAZON PRIME DAY is arguably one of the most confusing shopping holidays in existence. It’s hardly a day—the members-only event spans 48 hours. Amazon also promises “millions of deals,” but oftentimes the displayed discounts are misleading—or outright false. Some deals are actually available to people who don’t subscribe to Prime. Add in the frenzy of limited-time Lightning Deals and you’ve got a recipe perfect for spending too much money.
Fear not! We’re here to help. WIRED’s Gear team is familiar with common shopping pitfalls, and I’ve been a deals writer for nearly a decade. What time do sales start and end? How do you tell whether a deal is actually a deal? We pooled our collective knowledge to get you prepared for Amazon Prime Day this summer (and beyond).
Amazon has officially announced that Prime Day is set for July 11 and July 12, 2023.
Amazon’s big sale event officially begins at 3 am Eastern time and runs for 48 hours. WIRED will cover the best deals from both Amazon and retailers that have competing sales. Some deals and sales will begin ahead of the official start time. (We’ll be covering those too.)
Officially, yes. You must be an Amazon Prime member to shop for Amazon’s Prime Day deals. There is a free 30-day trial available for new accounts. (Prime membership comes with a lot of perks, and we’ve rounded up all of them here.) The trial will let you get in on the sale—just remember to cancel your membership to avoid any subsequent renewal charges.
There are some discounts available if you’re not a subscriber (those deals might not be that great). But other major retailers like Target, Walmart, and Best Buy usually hold concurrent sales during Prime-exclusive sales events. Their prices are often close to what Amazon is offering on the same products, and sometimes they match the price. This is a good way to take part in the Prime Day Sale if you don’t want to support Amazon.
Here are sales pages from Amazon and major retailers that might hold competing sales:
- Best Buy
It all depends. For some items, Prime member-exclusive event prices tend to be some of the lowest we see all year. That’s especially true for Amazon hardware, like Kindles, Fire Tablets, Fire TV Sticks, and Echo devices, but there are other factors to consider. Prices fluctuate throughout the year, and some products are discounted quite often. Even if the price is good, a deal on a product that goes on sale all the time diminishes the overall quality of that deal.
The sheer volume of deals promoted by Amazon during sales like Prime Day is a blessing and a curse. The truly good discounts can be difficult to pinpoint—there’s so much stuff on sale that the overall selection can feel overwhelming. But there’s a good chance that the item you want will be on sale. We’ve seen some fantastic Prime-exclusive discounts in the past, ranging from dirt-cheap Kindles to elusive price drops on the Nintendo Switch. The tricky part is to find the diamonds in the rough.
WIRED covers legitimately good deals all year long, including during the Prime Day event. Our tips below will help you find those great discounts on your own.
ABC: Always be checking (prices, that is). Researching an item’s price is the most important aspect of determining the quality of a discount. Don’t fall prey to deceptive marketing language and inflated MSRP prices—our tips only take a few moments. The easiest step is to take a second to Google the items you’re considering so you can see the price across multiple stores.
One tool we like to use is Camelcamelcamel, which tracks Amazon’s prices over time. Just paste the Amazon link or ASIN (found in the Product Information section on the Amazon product page) into Camelcamelcamel’s search bar and you’ll be able to see an item’s lowest recorded price, its average price, and how frequently the price fluctuates. Some deals, such as Lightning Deals, are excluded from the pricing history, but it’s still useful to see what an item has sold for in the past. We also like Keepa, which has an extension (available for multiple browsers) that shows the recent price history for products directly on the Amazon page so you never have to open a new tab.
Keep in mind that these services may not work all the time. But being able to see how much a product costs right before the sale started (and whether the MSRP happened to increase) can be helpful. Putting these tools together can help you deduce whether a deal is worth your money.
WIRED always fact-checks deals to determine their quality. You can check out our ongoing deals coverage to find roundups of the best discounts available—during Prime Day and year-round.
Lightning Deals are limited-time deals that Amazon runs for only a few hours. They’re not restricted to Prime Day, but they’re especially prevalent during big sales events. Once an item sells out, you may be able to join a waiting list, but not always.
Put bluntly, the Lightning Deals selection is often full of impulse buys, like makeup and skincare products or toys. Prime members can browse upcoming deals on Amazon’s website and in the mobile app. The app can also alert you before a Lightning Deal begins. We’ll share some of our favorite Lightning Deals in a live blog during the event this year.
The best deals sometimes sell out quickly. To get around this, Amazon’s launching a new invite-only deals program during 2023’s Prime Day. Prime members can request an invitation on items that are expected to sell out. This feature is only available on select products but it’s spread across a wide range of categories and price points—including kitchen, electronics, fashion, and beauty. Current examples include an Amazon 4K Fire TV, JBL noise-canceling headphones, and this Foreo cleansing brush—all of which are a part of the program.
On the page, you’ll see a “Request Invite” button on the right-hand side. Click it to get a chance to buy it at the sale price, but there’s no guarantee you’ll be invited. According to an Amazon spokesperson, the company removes “bot-like submissions” from the list of requests and selects from the remaining customers. However, it’s not clear how Amazon chooses from the remaining list of interested buyers.
If you’re selected, you’ll receive both an email and a notification via the Amazon app once Prime Day begins. The deal is valid until Prime Day ends—so you’ll have to purchase the specific product before the two-day event comes to a close. Meanwhile, anyone who hasn’t been selected will receive a notification at the beginning of the second day of Prime Day (July 12). That way, you’ll know the status of your invitation requests either way.
If you know what time a deal begins, make sure to actively pay attention to the product page around the starting time. You may also be able to add an item to your cart before the sale begins, so you can refresh the page to snag it right away. With the Amazon Shopping app (Android, iOS), you can set up personalized deals alerts to get notified when items you have searched for recently are on sale, but only if you’re a Prime member.
It’s smart to create an account at trusted retailers so you can save your credit card information and shipping details ahead of time. This will make the checkout process as fast as possible. It’s also a good idea to clear your web browser cache before you start shopping during sales events like Prime Day. Just be sure to log back in to those retailers afterward.
If a deal does sell out, there’s a high chance that another store will be offering a similar or matching discount. Check other stores, especially big box merchants like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy. Sometimes expired deals can come back in stock, too.
It’s easy to fall into a trap during events like Prime Day or other shopping holidays. You might see a great deal on a product you don’t really need. Don’t do it. Make a list of items you’ve actually been wanting to buy ahead of the event and save those links. When Prime Day begins, take a look around to see whether they’re on sale, and use the aforementioned practices to make sure it truly is a good deal. Then buy it! Don’t buy a product just because it has a nice price.
This isn’t your only chance to score a great deal this year. Amazon is expected to hold another Prime Day sale event in the fall, and it’ll be quickly followed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday.