Amazon has offered consumers price-matching refunds if the price of an item dropped after the purchase ever since the dawn of the online shopping monolith changed retail forever. No more. The price you pay is the price you paid, and if it goes down 5 minutes after you click the checkout button, you're out of luck.
Amazon silently adapted its price-matching policy this spring, but the absence of a press release caused the change to go largely ignored until shoppers started complaining.
Now it's official. If you buy something on Amazon and the price later drops, you can't get a refund for the difference. Not within a week, not within a month, not ever. The only exception to this rule are TV's. Amazon will continue to match prices offered by select retailers.
The policy change may be a response to the rise of price-tracking apps and services which automatically request a refund when the price of an item drops after a purchase. Some price-tracking apps can even search through your shopping and email accounts for receipts, track prices on purchased items, and automatically apply for refunds when prices drop.
It's not the first time Amazon has switched up its refund policy. Just a few years ago the online retailer let users apply for price-match refunds within 30 days of a purchase. Amazon later scaled back the deadline to just 7 days. Now those days are all long gone.
According to Amazon, the new policy is not new at all. A spokesperson for Amazon told Recode that the company's refund policy never applied to anything other than TVs, and anybody lucky enough to receive a price-match refund on other types of items was an exception.
But the exception to the rule was actually the rule up until recently, and one of the reasons why shoppers flocked to the online shopping Mecca.
Amazon doesn't release any numbers about how much it's paid out in refunds, but price-tracking apps have probably been putting a little pressure on the retailer's bottom-line.
However, Amazon says the policy shift is about consumers' security, not the company's profits. Price-tracking apps require users to share their credentials on retailers' sites.
Amazon is quitting the price-match club, but Best Buy, Walmart, Lowes, Target and many other big retailers still offer price-matching refunds. Best Buy offers price-matching refunds within 15 days of a purchase, while Walmart lets shoppers apply for refunds within 90 days.
It's also worth knowing that, although Amazon might no longer offer price protection, there's a good chance that you receive price matching protection when you pay for Amazon purchases with a credit card.
Price matching comes as a complimentary benefit with many good credit cards. In fact, every MasterCard in the U.S. comes with 60-day price protection as a benefit.
The reason why so many retailers and credit card companies can afford to offer price-matching refunds and still turn a profit is because so few consumers take advantage of them. According to the NPD Group, only about 1 in 20 consumers ever apply for a price-match refund, mostly because of the hassle involved.
Ironically, apps that remove the hassle from getting a price match also risk making price matching extinct.
Whether or not price-match refund polices can hold up against an onslaught of apps that automate the process is anybody's guess. Amazon could be the canary in the coal mine for retailers' price-match refund policies, refund apps, and the 5% of consumers that actually use them.
Looking for a credit card? It pays to shop around using a credit card website like GET.com.