Following a year of revelations about Amazon’s treatment of its workers, privacy-infringing products, and huge tax handouts from the government, some people are cancelling their Amazon Prime memberships in protest.
But boycotting one feature of a company that has its feelers in every nook and cranny of your online life isn’t going to do much in the way of actually hurting Amazon. Amazon Web Services is a major backbone of the internet and is all-but-impossible to avoid. A Prime subscription costs $12.99 a month. Jeff Bezos is the wealthiest man in the world and has more money than God. In 2017, Amazon accounted for 44 percent of all US e-commerce sales.
You’ll never put a dent in Amazon’s profit by canceling Prime. It’s way more fun—and arguably, more effective—to be grit in the gears. That’s why I plan to never pay for Prime, and use free trials forever, instead.
I’ve been doing this for years, and on the way to perfecting this grift, I’ve fucked up once or twice, so you can learn from my mistakes.
Step 1: Open a new email account
You’ve likely already used your everyday email address on a Prime trial in the past, which means you can’t use it again to get a new free trial. Open your favorite email service—Yahoo, AOL, MSN—and start a new address. I avoid making Gmail burners because I used Google products for a lot of stuff and this could get confusing. Just don’t use one of those fake email address services (like Email Fake or Guerrilla Mail) that don’t actually give you access to a secure inbox, because you’ll actually need to use this inbox to confirm your trial and check on order updates.
Note: Most email providers will put a limit on the number of accounts you can open with the same phone number. Since you’re going to be connecting this email and eventual Amazon account to your credit card details, you’re probably going to want to enable two-factor authentication as well. If you want to be extra-secure, you could buy a cheap prepaid phone and use that number for receiving 2fa text codes.
When you hit a ceiling, move on to the next email client. There are hundreds out there. One day, if I live to be hundreds of years old, I will run out of email clients. But that’s like thinking about the heat-death of the universe: I don’t.
Step 2: Get a password manager
This is a crucial part of the game. Do not skip it. Please take it from me—you will want an easy way to keep these logins straight, once you’ve made a couple dozen of them. Not only will you need to remember the login credentials for your Amazon account, but all the burner email accounts, too.
Use Lastpass or your preferred password manager, if you don’t already have one. Using a password manager will also help make your online life more generally secure.
Step 3: Start your trial
Log out of whatever Amazon account you’re already in and start a new one with the email address you just made. From there, hit Try Prime, anywhere on the site. You’ll be able to find it, it’s fucking everywhere and never leaves you alone. Go ahead and “try” Prime.
It’ll ask you to add your credit card, but that’s fine. We’re going to make sure Amazon will never charge it for Prime in a moment.
At the moment, Amazon doesn’t seem to be strictly enforcing rules about how many free trials one person can sign up for. Some people in this Reddit thread have reported that Amazon put a stop to their trials after around 30 signups. Amazon Prime’s terms and conditions do not say that you can’t keep stacking free trials, though it does say that the company “may terminate your Prime membership at our discretion without notice.”
I emailed Amazon to ask if, or how, they monitor new Prime accounts, and will update if I hear back.
Step 4: End your trial
It’s time to curve Jeff Bezos. Immediately after starting the trial, navigate straight to ending it.
To do this, go to Your Account in the top bar, then Prime. It might take a moment to activate your trial—there's a very slight lag from when you sign up to when these options come available—but then you’ll see a breakdown of your membership on the left sidebar. Near the bottom, there will be a link that says “End Trial and Benefits” or “Remind me before renewing.” Remember, you probably won’t be checking whatever email address you signed up with, so you want to end it, not be reminded.
From here you’ll be led through the most devious user experience path I’ve seen. Step carefully, and keep clicking “Cancel My Benefits,” even as the site tries to get you to stay.
After a few attempts to keep you, you’ll reach a page to cancel. In tiny print, you’ll see that this option ends your membership at the end of one month, and you’re free to use the trial benefits until then.
I learned my lesson about not immediately canceling the hard way once. I forgot to end a trial and saw that I was being charged by Amazon for a membership for months without realizing—and had no clue which email address was guilty. I had to log in to each Amazon account and email inbox (almost all of which I’d forgotten the passwords to, because I wasn’t using Lastpass yet), to try to find the culprit and cancel the subscription. Don’t be like me, I want you to avoid this mistake.
Step 5: Live your life
You’re free to use all the benefits of Prime for the next 30 days, no charge. Sometimes I put a reminder on my calendar when it’s ending, so I know when to renew if I need to. But because you’ve ended the trial just as it began, it’s not necessary to remind yourself, and in fact, the site will keep reminding you that your benefits are ending every time you log in. You also obviously don’t have to repeat this process every 30 days on the dot—you can make a new one whenever you need.
Bonus step: Look inward
Do a little introspection about how often you use Amazon Prime for dumb small shit that you could grab at a small local shop. Someday, Amazon will probably change how it verifies new accounts. Maybe today is that day. Until then, you can live fast and die with free shipping.