Amazon's "Free" Prime Samples Program Makes Online Shopping Even More Convenient

They say you can't please all the people all of the time, but there's one thing that almost always makes all people happy — free samples! In fact, in this age of internet shopping, one of the only advantages of going to an actual brick and mortar store is that sometimes they'll hand out gratis tidbits and trial sizes. Except now, thanks to Amazon's "free" samples feature, shopping IRL is about to get even less appealing. That's right, the website where basically all your money goes already is now giving out samples. Obviously, you want them all. Right now. So how do you get these goodies in your shopping cart?

First of all, you should know that these samples are only available to Prime members, and they're not exactly free. The program is officially called "Prime Samples," and this is how it works: You buy a sample for anywhere from $2 to $4, and receive a credit equal to that price for a full-size product from the same category. So, as Amazon explains on the site, if you buy a $2 shampoo sample, then you get $2 off the next full-size bottle of shampoo you buy (even if it's not the exact same brand or scent, etc., as the one you sampled). So at the end of the day, the sample you're paying for really does end up being free.

If you're like me — someone whose shameless quest for free samples is practically a hobby — this is seriously good news. At the moment, the bottom of my purse is littered with empty Sephora sample containers; I've also been known to consume free tastes of foods I don't even like, just because they're on a tray and I don't have to pay for them. Samples are fun, okay??

But honestly, samples are also practical. They give you the opportunity to try new products before potentially wasting money on something you won't end up liking. This is especially useful when you're talking about things like beauty products (which different people can react to in such different ways) and food (what if your kids think it's gross?). Fortunately, there are samples available in several different categories, including beauty products and food, as well as baby, sports nutrition, personal care & household, and vitamins & supplements. There are also sample boxes available ranging in price from $7.99 to $19.99 (these work the same way, with the price being credited towards future purchases in the same category).

And these aren't just the kind of random, no-name samples somebody hands you when you're walking past a mall kiosk, either. These are things you truly want to try. Like this Vichy Micellar Cleansing Water and Makeup Remover for Sensitive Skin, for example ($2):

Or these Elizabeth Arden Advance Ceramide Daily Youth Restoring Capsules ($4):

Meanwhile, over in the edibles category, you can sample Teapigs English Breakfast Tea for $4:

Or find out what your kids really think of these RXBAR Kids Whole Food Protein Bars before you stock up ($2):

And of course, this is just a small sampling (sorry, couldn't help myself) of what Prime Samples has to offer. There's so much more to see when you actually check out all the sample categories on the site. Plus, Amazon actually keeps track of your credits and automatically applies them to eligible purchases, so you don't have to worry about forgetting to hit "apply" or whatever the next time you buy. You'll also get an email when you have credits available, and they're valid for 180 days after the samples ship.

The only tiny caveat? Samples take 3 to 5 days to ship, instead of Prime's usual 1 to 2 days. But who cares? They're samples! And "free"! Hooray!

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