Don’t Have Prime But Shop at Amazon? Read Those Prices Carefully

ProPublica has a new article Amazon Says It Puts Customers First. But Its Pricing Algorithm Doesn’t, which outlines how Amazon does not always list the lowest price including shipping as the first available option. Here’s an example they provide of how this works on some pruning shears if you don’t have Amazon Prime or reach the $49 Super Saver Shipping tier:

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Amazon really, really wants everyone to buy Amazon Prime. They do all kinds of little nudges to get you to join. For example, their Super Saver Shipping option went from a few days to oftentimes weeks to get to me. Another way they promote Amazon Prime is by promoting merchants that join their Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) program, because that means customers can buy more stuff with Prime. ProPublica points out that Amazon used to be more blunt about it with this former language:

Because most FBA listings are ranked without a shipping cost, you get an edge when competing!

Bottom line: If you don’t have Prime and don’t qualify for Super Saver Shipping, the default buying option will often not be the cheapest. By using the term “algorithm”, that suggests to me some sort of complicated scheme. What Amazon does is simple but perhaps deceptive: They assume that their Prime-eligible items will ship to you free, whether you have Prime or not. If you don’t have Prime and don’t reach the $49 tier for Super Saver Shipping, you should remember this rule across the entire site. Don’t click on the “Add to Cart” button without closer inspection. Amazon is simply adding yet another inconvenience for non-Prime shoppers. (I can’t wait for the new Top Gear, er… Grand Tour to start though!)

10-Minute Digital Privacy Tuneup from Consumer Reports

1plogoFollowing the news of the Yahoo hack of half a billion users (noted as the biggest data breach in history), you may be interested in some more tips regarding online security.

In their latest issue, Consumer Reports has a 10-minute digital privacy tune-up. Here are highlights and direct links for your convenience:

  • Turn on automatic software updates wherever available.
  • Use screen locks wherever available.
  • Check where else you’ve been hacked at haveibeenpwned.com. You’ve probably been pwned. Adobe and Dropbox for me.
  • Use temporary e-mail addresses. I tested their recommendation 10minutemail.com and I will definitely use it in the future for those “Give me your e-mail and get XXX” offers.
  • Cover up your laptop webcam.
  • Use the HTTPS Everywhere Browser Extension (available on Chrome, Firefox, Firefox for Android, and Opera). Help you use encrypted https whenever possible.
  • Turn off location tracking in apps.

I would also add a reminder about free and/or cheap password managers. All of my accounts now have their own unique, complex passwords. I can’t imagine not using one anymore. I still use 1Password mostly because it was the first one I tried, but if they force me into a monthly subscription I will likely bail. I’ve heard positive things about LastPass, KeePass, Dashlane, and RoboForm.

Marriott / Starwood Hotels Merger: Status Match, New Points Transfer Options

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Marriott completed its acquisition of Starwood Hotels last week, and has already started the merging process for their loyalty rewards programs. Both programs will essentially be run separately for a while, but you can now match status and exchange … [Read the rest]

Vanguard Advice on Dynamic Retirement Spending Rules

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There is a lot of focus on how to accumulate a big nest egg, but possibly even more complicated is how to spend it down. Vanguard Research has released a new whitepaper called From assets to income: A goals-based approach to retirement spending … [Read the rest]

Amazon Prints Promotional Codes: 50 Free 4×6 Photo Prints

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Amazon now does photo printing with Amazon Prints, starting at 9 cents each for 4x6 prints. Bound photobooks start at $19.99 for 8x11 with 20 pages included, then $1 for every 2 additional pages. Free standard shipping on all orders currently, with … [Read the rest]

Access from AT&T Review: Affordable Home Internet For Low-Income Households

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Access from AT&T is an affordable internet access plan for low-income households offered in certain areas with AT&T service. The cost is either $5 a month at 3 Mbps or $10 a month for 5-10 Mbps, depending on your area. According to their FAQ and … [Read the rest]

Ooma Hub Upgrade Offer: Discounted Telo + No Monthly Taxes and Fees

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I replaced my landline with Ooma VoIP home phone service over 6 years ago and and haven't had a monthly bill since. This ended up being one of those deals where early adoption was rewarded. First there was no monthly fees, then it was about $1 a … [Read the rest]

Join Fairmont Hotels President’s Club, Get 1,000 Free Aeroplan Miles

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Here's an offer for 1,000 free Air Canada Aeroplan miles if you sign up for the Fairmont Hotels President's Club loyalty program and use the enrollment code FED16 (embedded in link). Be sure to enter your Aeroplan number (join free here) under the … [Read the rest]

Secret Eaters: Fighting Your Unconscious and Semi-Consicous Choices

In my last Buffett post, I talked about the importance of tracking performance carefully when trading your own portfolios. Most casual traders "think" they are doing fine, but if you ask them their rate of return for the last year compared to a … [Read the rest]

Warren Buffett’s Ground Rules: Do-It-Yourself Investing Guidelines

Okay, so you probably aren't reading a book titled Warren Buffett's Ground Rules: Words of Wisdom from the Partnership Letters of the World's Greatest Investor if you are perfectly happy owning solely index funds forever. While the shared concepts … [Read the rest]

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard Review: 50,000 Points = $500 Limited-Time Bonus

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Limited-time bonus bump, updated review. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus(TM) World Elite MasterCard® is a travel rewards card that has opened up to new applications again, now with a limited-time sign-up bonus worth at least $500 and the annual fee is … [Read the rest]

Free 1,000 Virgin America Points for Newsletter Sign-Up

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Updated. Now twice the points for twice the newsletters... Get 500 free Elevate points when you sign up for the new Virgin America Hotels e-mail newsletter. * Offer valid until September 30th, 2016. Only one email address is allowed and only … [Read the rest]