Categories
Affiliate Marketing Amazon Associates

Amazon.com Affiliate Commission Rates: A Historical Guide

Updated April, 14th 2020 to reflect the recent notice of commission changes coming on April, 21st 2020

The Amazon.com affiliate program (a.k.a. the Associates Program) is the most popular affiliate marketing program in the world with one recent source citing “millions” of affiliate publishers.  The Amazon.com Associates program has also evolved significantly since its inception in July of 1996 (as anything Internet-related should in the ~ 23 years of its existence). One of the most impactful changes is in how the affiliate program rewards the affiliate publishers who direct customers to Amazon and recommend various products.  

Traditionally, an affiliate program’s commission rates are not something that an affiliate publisher pays much attention to, except for major changes (like the April 1st, 2017 update), as they, especially for larger retailers, tend to alternate somewhat regularly.  

After seeing a post on social media that said, in reference to a more recent Amazon affiliate commission rates update, “I feel like a frog that’s slowly being boiled so I don’t jump out.” we wanted to investigate this claim and provide a factual and historical record of the evolution of the Amazon affiliate commission rates over the past decade.  

There is a lot of data here so we’ll break the analysis down into the following four sections:

Before we dive in there are a few important things to note in this analysis. 

  • These commission rates are specific to Amazon.com.  There are now 16 other Amazon affiliate programs around the world and each has its own rates.  If there is interest in cataloging the evolution of commission rates for some of the other programs please let us know in the comments below and we can apply the same process to these other programs.  
  • We may have missed something.  We tried really hard to be as accurate as possible but there may be mistakes and inadvertent omissions.  If you see something let us know and we’ll get it updated.   
  • This analysis spans from December 1st, 2010 until now (spring 2020).  
  • You can find a spreadsheet of our research that was the basis for this article here.  Note that if you reference this in your own writing, we really appreciate you crediting this blog, using the following link: https://geni.us/AmazonCommissionRates.

Affiliate Rates Summary

The nitty-gritty details are all laid out below but before you read through the next seven thousand words of the history of the Amazon affiliate commission rates over the last decade let’s give you the “TL;DR”.  

While it’s a bit like comparing apples to oranges due to a major shift in the Associates’ commission payout model in early 2017, the gist is that the average commission rate for peaked in mid-2012 at 9.25% and has fallen to nearly a third of that with 3.14% in early 2020.  

Perspective 

Amazon’s affiliate program is over twenty years old now and has seen some major changes over that time.  It’s evolved, as it should. As the program continues to evolve it shouldn’t come as a surprise that rates change and a sizable chunk of those rates will decrease.  

But what doesn’t change is affiliate publishers feeling hurt and betrayed by the changing Amazon affiliate commission rates. 

I recently came across a couple quotes that made me laugh: 

The incredibly shrinking Amazon affiliate payout continues …

“They lowered the commision rate yet again. If this keeps up we’re going to have to PAY AMZN for putting their links on our sites!”

Ironically, these were from 2004, nearly sixteen years ago! (Source)  

I specifically addressed this in a recent blog – The End of the Amazon Associates Era?  In short, here are my thoughts about declining commission rates from Amazon: 

Taking a quick step back, decreasing commission rates shouldn’t be a surprise to us, affiliate publishers.  We all know that Amazon is a business, a publicly-traded business, and its fiduciary responsibility is to its shareholders.  Ultimately, those shareholders demand that Amazon needs to make a return on their investment. We’ve seen that Amazon is brilliant in its efficiency and from their perspective if they can cut commission rates with little to no forecasted downside then why wouldn’t they?  Sorry affiliate publishers, it’s just business…

Amazon.com Affiliate Categories

Before we dive into each category individually, let’s do a quick run-through of the categories that saw their commission rates increase over time (2), those that didn’t change (29), those where we weren’t able to determine a change (4), the categories that are no longer recognized (8), and finally those that saw their rates decrease (23).  

Categories with an INCREASE in commissions

Category Starting Rate First Seen Ending Rate Last Seen Change
1 Grocery Products (including Prime Pantry) 4.0% October 15, 2012 5.0% January 1, 2020 +25.0%
2 Handmade Products 4.0% October 8th, 2015 5.0% January 1, 2020 +25.0%

* The April 21st, 2020 update moved the Grocery category to 1%.

Categories with NO CHANGE in commission rates

Category Rate First Seen Last Seen
1 Amazon Coins 10.0% May 15th, 2014 January 1, 2020
2 Amazon Fresh 3.0% June 1, 2018 January 1, 2020
3 Automotive 4.5% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
4 Baby Products 4.5% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
5 Beauty 6.0% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
6 Electronics Products (including all Office Products) 4.0% December 1st, 2010 February 1st, 2017
7 Furniture 8.0% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
8 Headphones Products 6.0% August 1st, 2013 January 1, 2020
9 Health & Personal Care 4.5% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
10 Home 8.0% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
11 Home Improvement 8.0% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
12 Kindle tablets, Kindle e-readers, and Fire Phone 4.0% May 6th, 2015 January 1, 2020
13 Kitchen 4.5% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
14 Lawn & Garden 8.0% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
15 Luxury Beauty 10.0% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
16 Musical Instruments 6.0% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
17 Outdoors 5.5% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
18 Pantry 8.0% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
19 PC 2.5% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
20 PC Component Products 2.5% September 1st, 2015 January 1, 2020
21 Pets Products 8.0% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
22 Physical Books 4.5% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
23 Physical Music 5.0% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
24 Sports 4.5% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
25 Television Products 2.0% September 1st, 2015 January 1, 2020
26 Tools 5.5% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
27 Toys 3.0% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
28 Video Games 1.0% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020
29 All Other Categories 4.0% April 1st, 2017 January 1, 2020

* 15 categories that had their commissions previously remained unchanged saw a cut in their rates with the April 21st, 2020 update.

Categories where we are not sure if there was a change in commission rates. 

Category Rate First Seen Last Seen
1 AmazonLocal (local.amazon.com) 6.0% March 1st, 2013 October 8th, 2015
2 Endless.com and smallparts.com Products 15.0% December 1st, 2010 May 2nd, 2012
3 Gift Cards NOT Redeemable on the Amazon Site 4.0% May 2nd, 2012 February 1st, 2017
4 Magazines 25.0% October 15th, 2012 August 28th, 2013

Categories that are NO LONGER RECOGNIZED

Category First Seen Last Seen
1 Dash Buttons June 1, 2017 December 1, 2018
2 Electronics Products (including all Office Products) December 1, 2010 February 1, 2017
3 Wine April 1, 2017 September 1, 2018
4 Magazine Products October 15th, 2012 August 28th, 2013
5 Endless.com and smallparts.com Products December 1, 2010 May 2, 2012
6 Myhabit.com Products May 2, 2012 April 1, 2016
7 Products available on AmazonLocal (local.amazon.com) March 1, 2013 October 8, 2015
8 Gift Cards NOT Redeemable on the Amazon Site May 2, 2012 February 1, 2017

Categories with a DECREASE in commissions

Note: 15 categories that had previously remain unchanged plus one category that saw an increase in commissions saw their commissions dropped with the April 21st, 2020 update.  We hope these are temporary changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic so we are not including them in this list below. 

Category Starting Rate First Seen Ending Rate Last Seen % Change
1 Amazon Cloud Cam Devices 7.0% September 1, 2018 4.0% January 1, 2020 -43.0%
2 Amazon Echo 7.0% May 6th, 2015 4.0% January 1, 2020 -43.0%
3 Amazon Element Smart TV 7.0% July 1, 2017 4.0% January 1, 2020 -43.0%
4 Amazon Fashion Women 10.0% July 1, 2017 4.0% January 1, 2020 -60.0%
5 Amazon Fire Tablet 8.0% June 1, 2017 4.0% January 1, 2020 -50.0%
6 Amazon Fire TV 7.0% May 6, 2015 4.0% January 1, 2020 -43.0%
7 Amazon Gift Cards / Gift Cards Redeemable on the Amazon Site 6.0% December 1st, 2010 0.0% January 1, 2020 -100.0%
8 Apparel 7.0% April 1st, 2017 4.0% January 1, 2020 -43.0%
9 Dash Buttons 8.0% June 1st, 2017 4.0% May 1st, 2019 -50.0%
10 Digital Music (Amazon MP3 Products) 10.0% December 1st, 2010 5.0% January 1, 2020 -50.0%
11 Digital Videos (Amazon Instant Video) 10.0% December 1st, 2010 5.0% January 1, 2020 -50.0%
12 Digital Video Games / Game Downloads Products 10.0% December 1st, 2010 2.0% January 1, 2020 -80.0%
13 DVD (& Blu-Ray) Products 4.0% December, 24th 2014 2.5% January 1, 2020 -38.0%
14 Handbags & Accessories 7.0% April 1st, 2017 4.0% January 1, 2020 -43.0%
15 Industrial (& Business) Products and AmazonSupply.com 8.0% October 15th, 2012 6.0% January 1, 2020 -25.0%
16 Jewelry Products 10.0% December 24th, 2014 4.0% January 1, 2020 -60.0%
17 Luggage 7.0% April 1st, 2017 4.0% January 1, 2020 -43.0%
18 Men & Kids Private Label 10.0% July 1, 2017 4.0% January 1, 2020 -60.0%
19 Myhabit.com Products 15.0% May 2nd, 2012 8.0% April 1, 2016 -47.0%
20 Ring Devices 7.0% December 1st, 2018 4.0% January 1, 2020 -43.0%
21 Shoes 7.0% April 1st, 2017 4.0% January 1, 2020 -43.0%
22 Video Game Console Products 4.0% August 1, 2013 1.0% January 1, 2020 -75.0%
23 Watches 7.0% April 1st, 2017 4.0% January 1, 2020 -43.0%

Commission Rates Changes Over Time

Amazon.com’s affiliate program has had some fairly major changes in how they pay out commissions over the last (approximately) 18 years that I’ve been using the program.  

Initially, the program was on a “Classic Fee Structure”, that then segues into the “Performance Fee” model that was based on volume.  On April Fool’s day, 2017, the whole program moved to a fixed price per category model. Currently, the program is using that model but we are seeing a very interesting model evolve for the five affiliate programs in Europe. 

Classic Fee Structure

The first model I remember was a “fixed-advertising-rate plan” where the affiliate publisher would earn a 4% commission (a.k.a. an “advertising fee”).  This initially included 23 different categories. This model also had an upper limit of $25 for how much one could earn per sale of the “Personal computers” category.  Details can be found on the Amazon Associates Resource Center – How are fees calculated in the Classic Fee Structure? 

Volume-Based Structure 

While it always excluded certain categories, the Volume-Based model offered commission rates from 4% to 8.5% based on the total number of products that were sold.  This was the primary model when we started our research (December 1st, 2010) and we got our earliest snapshot of the “Associates Program Advertising Fee Schedule” from the Wayback Machine.  

(Image source)

This model was generally applauded by affiliate publishers and was definitely missed when Amazon made its next major change. 

Fixed fee per Category

The beloved Volume-Based model disappeared with a major update on April 1st, 2017.  With this change, there were 29 new categories introduced with commissions ranging from 0% to 10% and a catch-all category at 4%.  

(Image source)

This model currently holds for the Amazon.com Associates program while the number of categories and the individual rates have changed (see above).  

Direct and Indirect Qualifying Purchases

In the five European Amazon Associates Programs (Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Amazon.it, and Amazon.es) a new model is being rolled out that factors in what category the original referral link was for and how it delivered the shopper to Amazon.

While I’ve copied in their language below, I (in my non-legal opinion) decipher it to mean that you’ll be paid a solid rate when you link directly to a product and the shopper buys that product or a product in the same category.  Further, if you sell over a certain threshold your commission rate goes up (whoopy!). However, for purchases that are not in the same category as the link your shopper clicked on then you are going to a significantly lower commission rate in the 1.5% range.  Finally, if you use a link to search results or a link to a category or brand based landing page, and not a “Product Details” page (the direct product deep link) then you also won’t qualify for the higher of the commissions.   

Standard Program Fees may vary depending on whether a Qualifying Purchase occurs from a customer making a Direct Qualifying Purchase or an Indirect Qualifying Purchase and based on the amount of Qualifying Revenues for a Product Category. A “Direct Qualifying Purchase” means a Qualifying Purchase of a Product in the same Product Category as the Product detail page linked to from the Special Link that resulted in that Qualifying Purchase. An “Indirect Qualifying Purchase” means a Qualifying Purchase of a Product in a different Product Category than the Product detail page linked to from the Special Link that resulted in that Qualifying Purchase. If a Special Link does not link to a Product detail page, then any resulting Qualifying Purchase will be an Indirect Qualifying Purchase. “Product Category” means the product category of the Product described in the tables below, as determined by us. We will determine the classification of Products in each category described in the Agreement.
EU Fee Statement Appendix 

Initially rolled out in early November of 2018 with an update to the European programs Operating Agreement, there are seven categories that were initially impacted. The model was significantly increased to include 22 categories in a March 1st, 2019 update. 

(Image Source)

While the initial reaction from our clients and peers has been negative with this new model, time will tell if it has a downward effect on affiliate publishers’ commission rates and by how much.  It will also be interesting to see if this model is adopted in the Amazon.com / US affiliate program.  

Our Process

There were two main components to digging up this data.  

First was my inbox.  I tend to save any email that may be useful at a later date.  No clue why I thought the notices from Amazon about “Change to the Amazon Associates Program”  or “Amazon Associates: Important Program Update” were important to note but for some reason, I saved over 40 of them.  These emails often came a week or so before a change in the Operating Agreement, which includes the breakdown of “Advertising Fees” (aka affiliate commissions) and mentioned the date that the new terms would go into effect.  With these emails, I started charting out an approximate timeline of when the Associates Program had a change.  

The second part was digging deep in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.  Unfortunately, the Wayback Machine can be a bit spotty in its indexing of sites and pages as obscure as the Operating Agreement for Amazon’s affiliate program.  But that was okay! I would then find a historic version of the page that included the “Advertising Fees” table(s) and descriptions, note it, then add the relevant values in a column under the most previous change in the policies.  

For example, from my inbox, I knew that the effective date for a change was August 28, 2013, and that there was another one on February 1st, 2014.  So I would find a time that the Wayback Machine had indexed the page I needed between those dates (eg. Sep. 11, 2013), I’d pull up that page and add the commission rates for the various categories mentioned from the table under my heading of the August 28th, 2013 change. 

When there were long gaps between my record of updates I would step through the available snapshots to try and find updates where I may have deleted the email that would have alerted me to it.  For these, I don’t have a specific “Effective Date.”  

Challenges 

Initially, there were two ways items were commissions — “Fixed Advertising Fee Rates for Specific Product Categories” and “Volume-Based Advertising Fee Rates for General Products” for everything else that didn’t have a specific category.  The earliest breakdown of category-specific commission rates, the basis for the rest of this review, only had six categories mentioned. Ultimately we tracked approximately 64 different categories.    

It’s important to note that of those 64 different product categories, not all of them still exist on Amazon (Eg. “Endless.com and smallparts.com Products” or “Myhabit.com Products”), but more importantly, we don’t have a good record of when certain categories were introduced into Amazon.  This creates a significant challenge in determining if a product was paid out via “Volume-Based” rates or not. We do our best to ascertain this and note it below when we do make the assumption it was previously available on the store and would fall into the “Volume-Based” rates.  

Amazon.com Affiliate Commission Rates Timeline

Approx. December 1, 2010

I don’t have an email alerting me to a change in policies, as a result, this is as far back as I could find a record on the Wayback Machine.  

This will be our baseline as its the first instance we were able to find that included the Fixed Advertising rates.  There are six product categories:

Product Category Fixed Advertising Fee Rate
Endless.com and smallparts.com Products 15.00%
Digital Videos (Amazon Instant Video) 10.00%
Digital Video Games / Game Downloads Products 10.00%
Digital Music (Amazon MP3 Products) 10.00%
Amazon Gift Cards / Gift Cards Redeemable on the Amazon Site 6.00%
Electronics Products (including all Office Products) 4.00%

An average of these commission rates gives us 9.17% and covers six product categories

Volume-Based rates are displayed as such (and remain consistent until they are phased out in the spring of 2017): 

Number of Products Shipped / Downloaded in a Month Volume-Based Advertising Fee Rates for General Products. 
1-6 4.00%
7-30 6.00%
31-110 6.50%
111-320 7.00%
321-630 7.50%
631-1570 8.00%
1571-3130 8.25%
3131+ 8.5%

Source 

Approx. May 2, 2012

With this update, two additional categories are introduced:

Product Category Fixed Advertising Fee Rate
Myhabit.com Products 15.00%
Gift Cards NOT Redeemable on the Amazon Site 4.00%

 The average commission rate increases slightly to 9.25% and is for eight product categories

No observed changes in commission rates.

Source

Approx. Oct 15, 2012

Three additional categories were introduced: 

Product Category Fixed Advertising Fee Rate
Magazine Products 25.00%
Industrial (& Business) Products and AmazonSupply.com 8.00%
Grocery Products (including Prime Pantry) 4.00%

The “Endless.com and smallparts.com Products” category disappeared. 

Additionally, the “Myhabit.com Products” category saw its commission rate gets cut from 15% to 8%. 

The average commission rate drops by .35% to 8.9% and covers 10 categories

Source

Approx. Jan 12, 2013

Again, I don’t have a record of an email announcing the change so this is the next time we noticed a change.  This noticeable change was the “Digital Music (Amazon MP3 Products)” category had its commissions cut in half, from 10% to 5%.  

This drops the average category-based commission rate a full half of a percent to 8.4% and covers 10 categories.

Source

March 1, 2013

For this change, we had an email alerting us to an update to the Operating Agreement.  With this update, the category “Products available on AmazonLocal (local.amazon.com)” was introduced at 6%. 

The average commission category-based commission rate dropped again to 8.18% and is now for 11 categories.  

Source 

July 1, 2013

An email indicated there was an update with the effective date of July 1st, 2013 but I wasn’t able to find a snapshot from the Wayback Machine to compare commission rates.

August 1, 2013

We have an email that preferenced this update and with it, we saw: 

After these updates, the average for category-based commissions dropped again to 7.31% and covers 13 categories

Source

August 28, 2013

Less than a month later another update is announced by email to alert Associates to the introduction of a separate break out of fees specifically for Mobile.  To keep things simple, we are not tracking the evolution of these mobile applications but for the sake of a quick comparison, and chronicling the evolution of Amazon.com Associates rates, we’ve included a table of the new rates and how they compare to the “Standard” (non-mobile) payouts. 

Product Category Fixed Advertising Fees (for Mobile) Comparison to General 
Electronics Products 4% 4% (no difference)
Amazon MP3 Products 5% 5% (no difference)
Amazon Instant Video Products 5% 5% (no difference)
Game Downloads Products 5% 10% (5% more)
Gift Cards Redeemable on Amazon.com 6% 6% (no difference)
Gift Cards NOT Redeemable on Amazon.com 4% 4%  (no difference)
Magazine Products 6% 25% (19% more)
Grocery Products 4% 4% (no difference)
Video Game Console Products 4% 4% (no difference)
Headphones Products 6% 6% (no difference)
Industrial Products 6% 8% (2% more)
Products available on any site other than www.amazon.com 0% 8% for Myhabit.com
8% for Amazonsupply.com
6% for local.Amazon.com

There were no changes, additions, or subtractions in the category based commission rates and the average percent stayed at 7.31% for 13 product categories

Source 

February 1, 2014

The early February update includes two major changes: 

With these updates, the average for category-based commissions dropped again to 5.58% and is now for 12 product categories

Source

May 15, 2014

I have an email alerting me to this change but I was not able to find a snapshot on the Wayback Machine to find what changed. 

July 4, 2014

While I don’t have an email record a specific update, the next change in commission rates the Wayback Machine has a record of is for early July.  This update simply included the introduction of Amazon Coins at a 10% commission.  

At this point, the average for the category-based commissions raises up slightly to 5.92% from its record low of 5.58%. The category count also increases to 13

Source

Dec 24, 2014

The next noticeable change we found via the Wayback Machine was for the inclusion of “DVD (& Blu-Ray) Products” at 4% and of “Jewelry Products” at 10%. 

With these two additions, the average commission rate for category-based commissions climbs slightly to 6.07% and now covers 15 product categories

Source

May 6, 2015

The Wayback Machine’s next snapshot that included a change in commission rates see a few changes: 

Including these three new additions and one subtraction, the average commission rate for category-based commissions dropped slightly to 5.82% and now covers 17 product categories

Source

June 1, 2015

An email alerted me to a change in Operating Agreement but no noticeable changes were made with regards to the commission rates.  The category-based commission table still includes 17 product categories and has an average of 5.82%.  

September 1, 2015

The September first update was announced via email and included two noticeable, albeit low commission, categories:  

With a total of 19 product categories defined now, the average commission rate drops again to a new low of 5.45%.

Source

October 8, 2015

The early October update included an announcement via email that there would be a 1-month limited boost for the Echo and Jewelry categories.  We also these changes to the category-based commission table:

Now with 21 product categories specifically defined and these temporary boosts, the average commission rate for these product categories rises to 5.74%

Source

December 1, 2015

While I received an email to announce a change in the Operating Agreement the Wayback Machine didn’t have a snapshot for us to review and look for commission rate changes. 

January 1, 2016

With the announced new year update we see Amazon Echo drop back from its temporary boost of 10% back down to 7%.  We also see the Jewelry category disappear after the limited boost.  

The surprise with this update was the disappearance of the “Products available on AmazonLocal (local.amazon.com)” from the table. 

Dropping back down to 19 product categories, the average commission rate for these product categories also drops to its record low of 5.34%

Source

February 1, 2016

An email announced the early February changes to the Operating Agreement but we didn’t see a difference in the commission rates. 

April 1, 2016

Again, I received an email announcing changes to the Associates Operating Agreement but these changes did not seem to affect the commission rates. 

May 15, 2016

With this announced change I wasn’t able to find a Wayback Machine snapshot in the correct time frame in order to compare rates. 

August 1, 2016

The early August update, announced by email, had two categories, “Handmade Products” and  Myhabit.com Products”, disappear.  We also saw the “Amazon Gift Cards / Gift Cards Redeemable on the Amazon Site” category drop from 6% to 2%.

With two fewer categories, 17 total now, the average commission rate for the product category based commission table dropped to a new record low of 5.03%

Source

January 1, 2017

The new year update for 2017 saw a general overhaul for both page and the general terms surrounding the commission rates.  This included listing the product categories alphabetically now. 

However, with these visual changes, there were no changes to the actual number of categories listed (17 still) or the commission rates (an average of 5.03% still).  

Source

February 1, 2017

The early February update saw the removal of a single, high commissioning category — Digital Video Games / Game Downloads Products — which paid out at 10%.  

Dropping down to 16 categories also pushed the average commission rate across all of the product category commission tables down to a new low of 4.72%.  

Source

April 1, 2017

The update on April Fool’s day 2017 took Associates by shock, it was a major restructuring of how the Amazon.com Associates program paid out commissions.  The change completely eliminated the volume-based program and gave a specific commission rate to each category.  

As a result, the number of specific categories called out jumped nearly 3X from 16 categories to 45.  

The new categories were: 

Category Commission Rate
Apparel 7.00%
Automotive 4.50%
Baby Products 4.50%
Beauty 6.00%
Furniture 8.00%
Handbags & Accessories 7.00%
Health & Personal Care 4.50%
Home 8.00%
Home Improvement 8.00%
Kitchen 4.50%
Lawn & Garden 8.00%
Luggage 7.00%
Luxury Beauty 10.00%
Musical Instruments 6.00%
Outdoors 5.50%
Pantry 8.00%
PC 2.50%
Pets Products 8.00%
Physical Books 4.50%
Physical Music 5.00%
Shoes 7.00%
Sports 4.50%
Tools 5.50%
Toys 3.00%
Video Games 1.00%
Watches 7.00%
Wine 0.00%
All Other Categories 4.00%

Other noticeable changes included: 

The major change did push the average commission rate up to 5.41% (over the 45 categories). 

Source

May 1, 2017

The update to the Operating Agreement in early May was announced via email, but I was unable to find a snapshot of the changes on the Wayback Machine.  

June 1, 2017

The update in commissions for June 2017 was solely for Amazon related products.  We saw:  

With these additions and upgrades, the average commission rate rose again to 5.61%, which now covers 47 categories.  

Source

July 1, 2017

The July 2017 update had a number of changes to the commission rates.  These included:

The categories table now covers 50 different product categories.  With these bumps in commission, the average commission rose to 5.85%, the highest it’s been since Dec of 2014.  

Source

December 1, 2017

Two updates in early December both saw commission rates drop. 

Still, at 50 categories the average commission rate dropped to 5.67%

Source

January 1, 2018

The new year 2018 update, with regards to commission rates, looks to have been focused on readjusting holiday incentives for Amazon products.  This update saw the “Amazon Fire Tablet”, “Dash Buttons”, and “Kindle tablets, Kindle e-readers, and Fire Phone” categories all drop to 4% from their previous rate of 8%.  The update also saw the “Amazon Echo” category drop from 8% to 7%. 

Still at 50 categories, the drop across these four categories dropped the average commission rate to 5.41%.  

Source

March 2, 2018

A Mach 2018 update was announced but I was unable to find a timely snapshot on the Wayback Machine to check for commission rate changes. 

May 2, 2018

The early May update didn’t have any visible changes to the commission rates.  There continue to be 50 categories and the average across them is still 5.41%.  

Source

June 1, 2018

The early June 2018 update included the introduction of the “Amazon Fresh” category which debuted at a 3% commission rate.  

This brings the total up to 51 categories but also brings the average commission rate down to 5.36%

Source

July 1, 2018

The update in early July 2018 was announced by email but I could not find a Wayback Machine snapshot to compare commission rates. 

August 1, 2018

Again an update to the Operating Agreement was announced by email but the Wayback Machine didn’t have a snapshot of the appropriate time period.  Therefore I was not able to compare historical commission rates. 

September 1, 2018

September 2018s update included the introduction of the “Amazon Cloud Cam Devices” debut with a 7% commission rate.  

With this bump up to 52 categories the average commission rate also bumps up slightly to 5.39%

Source

October 1, 2018

The early October 2018 update had two major categories of changes for commissions as well as moving to a new page on the Amazon.com Associates site. 

Three categories including “Amazon Echo”, “Watches”, and “Wine” disappeared.  Note, Wine had always been at a 0% commission rate.  

At the same time, six new categories were introduced, all at 0%.  These categories included: 

With these changes, the average commission rate dropped substantially from 5.39% to 4.85%.  The new total number of categories, after the disappearances and new additions, ended up at 55

Source

November 1, 2018

The November 2018 update of the Operating Agreement didn’t appear to have any changes to the commission rates.  

Source

December 1, 2018

The end of the year update for 2018 had a few additions.  These included: 

With these three categories added, there is 58 total now with an average commission rate of 4.96%

Source

March 1, 2019

An update to the Operating Agreement was announced by email, with an effective date for the first of March, but the Wayback Machine didn’t have a snapshot within the appropriate time period.  Therefore I was not able to compare historical commission rates. 

April 1, 2019

The update in early April 2019 was announced by email but I again could not find a Wayback Machine snapshot to compare commission rates. 

May 1, 2019

Henceforth, I declare the May 1st, 2019 Amazon.com Associates Operating Agreement update as the “Four Percent” update as 13 of the 14 changes were from categories being dropped down to a 4% commission rate.  These included:

The other change was that of the “Dash Buttons” category disappearing.  

With the substantial number of drops in commission, the average rate hits an all-time low of 4.18% across the 57 categories that were mentioned. 

Source

June 1, 2019

With the early June 2019 update, there appears to not be any changes in commission rates.  There are still 57 categories with an average commission rate of 4.18%.  

Source

October 1, 2019

The October 2019 update appears not to have any changes in commission rates.  There continue to be 57 categories with an average commission rate of 4.18%.  

Source

January 1, 2020

The New Year 2020 update again appears not to have any changes in commission rates.  Across the 57 categories included in the table, there continues to be an average commission rate of 4.18%.

April 21, 2020

In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon made major cuts to 17 categories.  These changes included:

15 of the 17 categories had not previously seen any changes to their rates.

These changes leave Amazon still at 57 categories but pushed the average commission to it’s lowest ever rate of 3.14%, nearly 1/3 of where we started tracking it in December of 2010.

Amazon Affiliate Commission Rates By Category

Amazon Cloud Cam Devices (43% drop)

The “Amazon Cloud Cam Devices” product category made its debut with the September 1, 2018 update, at a 7% commission rate. The rate was dropped to 4% on the May 1, 2019, update.  

Amazon Coins (no change)

Amazon Coins got its own category sometime between May 15th, 2014 and July 4, 2014.  They debuted with a 10% rate and have stayed consistent ever since. 

Amazon Echo (43% drop)

Introduced on the May 6th, 2015 update at 7%.  The category jumped up to 10% with the October 8th, 2015 update (the Jewelry category was the other one that got a bump at this time).  

The commission rate was back down to 7% by the January 1st, 2016 update and stayed at this rate until the July 1st, 2017 update where it was bumped to 8%.  

The December 1st, 2017 update saw 8% as well but the next update, January 1st, 2018 saw the rate reduced again to 7%.  

For the October 1st and November 1st, 2018 updates, the Amazon Echo category wasn’t specifically mentioned so it could be assumed the category was bunded into the “All Other Categories” bucket of 4%.   

The December 1st, 2018 update had the rate back to 7%, though the May 1st, 2019 update saw the rate fall to 4% where it has stayed and is currently at.  

Amazon Element Smart TV (43% drop)

The Amazon Amazon Element Smart TV (w/ Fire TV) category was introduced with the July 1, 2017 update at 7%, and carried that rate until May 1, 2019 update where the rate was dropped to 4%.  

Amazon Fashion Women (60% drop)

The Amazon Fashion Women category was introduced with the July 1, 2017 update at 10%, and stayed that way until May 1, 2019 update where the rate was dropped to 4%.  

Amazon Fire Tablet (50% drop)

The Fire Tablet was introduced as an independent category with the June 1, 2017 update and had a rate of 8%.  This rate only lasted through the end of the year as the January 1, 2018 update halved the commission to 4% where it has stayed. 

Amazon Fire TV (43% drop)

The Fire TV got its own category sometime in the winter or spring of 2015 (first seen with the May 6, 2015 snapshot).  We noticed it launch with a 7% commission rate. This rate held steady for a number of years and it wasn’t until the May 5, 2019 update where the rate was dropped to 4%.  

Amazon Fresh (67% drop)

The Amazon Fresh category first appeared with the June 1, 2018 update at a rate of 3%.  The rate dropped to 1% with the April 21, 2020 update.    

Amazon Gift Cards / Gift Cards Redeemable on the Amazon Site (100% drop)

One of the original categories that were specifically designated, this category was initially at 6% at the earliest update we have – December 1st, 2010.  The 6% rate holds until the August 1st, 2016 update where it’s dropped to 2%. With the massive overhaul of the April 1st, 2017, the category is moved to 0% and been stuck there ever since.  

AmazonLocal (local.amazon.com) (unknown)

The AmazonLocal category first showed up with the March 1st, 2013 update at a 6% commission rate.  That rate held through the October 8th, 2015 update. The January 1st, 2016 update no longer included AmazonLocal so we are unsure if it defaulted to the volume-based model or commissions were no longer paid for the category.  

Apparel (43% drop)

The Apparel category debuted with the major commission rate shift on April 1st, 2017 at 7%.  With the May 1st, 2019 update the category was dropped to 4% at which it currently stays.  

Automotive (no change)

Automotive was declared its own category with the April 1st, 2017 update and came out at 4.5%.  The rate has stayed consistent and is at the same rate today. 

Baby Products (33% drop)

The Baby Products category was carved off with the April 1st, 2017 update at the 4.5% rate and dropped to 3% with the April 21, 2020 update. 

Beauty (50% drop)

Also debuting with the April 1st, 2017 changeup, the category launched at 6%.  The rate dropped to 3% with the April 21, 2020 update. 

Dash Buttons (50% drop)

The Dash Buttons category was introduced in the June 1st, 2017 update at 8% and held this rate until the January 1st, 2018 update.  At that point, the new rate was 4% which they held until the May 1st, 2019 update where they were no longer specifically called out. This could imply that they were moved to the “All Other Categories” bucket of the same 4% or Amazon stopped selling them.   

Digitalmusic”>Digital Music (Amazon MP3 Products) (50% drop)

Digital Music, aka Amazon MP3 Products, was one of the original categories introduced with the December 1st, 2010 update.  They were rolled out at a 10% commission rate that has held until January 12th, 2013 where the rate was cut in half to 5%.  That 5% rate has held strong ever since. 

Digital Videos (Amazon Instant Video) (50% drop)

The Digital Videos category follows a nearly identical story as Digital Music.  It was one of the few categories that was defined in our earliest research (December 1st, 2010) and was at a 10% rate.  That rate dropped by half with the August 1, 2013 update and still holds today at 5%. 

Digital Video Games / Game Downloads Products (80% drop)

Another of the categories that were specifically broken out in our earliest research (December 1st, 2010) the category also started at 10%.  This rate held longer than Digital Videos and Digital Music and it wasn’t until the December 1st, 2017 update that the rate got cut to 2%.  

Note that the Feb. 1st, 2017 update doesn’t seem to include a specific mention of this category so it might be assumed that the category was bundled in with the “All Other Categories” category of 4%.  Or it was simply a mistaken omission.  

The Digital Video Games / Game Downloads Products category is still at 2% today.  

DVD (& Blu-Ray) Products (38% drop)

First broken out with the December, 24th 2014 update, the category was initially set at 4%.  This rate held until the major update of April 1st, 2017 where the category was dropped down to 2.5%.  The 2.5% rate holds through to today. 

Electronics Products (including all Office Products) (no change)

The Electronics category goes back to our earliest snapshot of December 1st, 2010 where it was placed at 4%.  This rate held steady through the February 1st, 2017 update, but then the major update of April 1st, 2017 it disappeared.  This would imply that if a specific subcategory wasn’t called out (eg. PC) then the products previously in this category would fall into the “All Other Categories” bucket of the same 4%. 

Endless.com and smallparts.com Products (unknown)

This category was one of the originals we discovered with the December 1st, 2010 snapshot.  The category was at a solid 15%. The next snapshot we saw, for May 2nd, 2012 was the last one that included this category.  We are unsure if the products on Endless.com and smallparts.com then reverted to the volume-based model or if no commissions were paid going forward.  

Furniture (63% drop)

The Furniture category showed up with the major shift of April 1st, 2017.  The commission rate was set at 8% and dropped to 3% with the April 21, 2020 update.   

Gift Cards NOT Redeemable on the Amazon Site (unknown)

Unlike the Amazon Gift Cards category that debuted on the first snapshot at 6%, the “Gift Cards NOT Redeemable on the Amazon Site” was introduced with the May 2nd, 2012 update at a 4% commission rate.  The rate held through the February 1st, 2017 update but disappeared with the major update of April 1st, 2017. It’s unknown if this category was then included in the 4% “All Other Categories” bucket or if this type of gift cards no longer yielded a commission on Amazon.com.  

Grocery Products (including Prime Pantry) (75% drop)

The Grocery Products category was first called out with the October 15, 2012 update at a 4% rate.  With the major update of April 1st, 2017, the Grocery Products category was one of only two that saw an increase in its commission rate, going from 4% to 5%. Unfortunately, the rate dropped to 1% with the April 21, 2020 update.

Handbags & Accessories (43% drop)

The Handbags & Accessories category was first seen with the major April 1st, 2017 update.  The initial commission rate was 7%. The May 1st, 2019 update had the rate reduced to 4% which is where the rate still holds today. 

Handmade Products (25% increase)

Handmade Products got its own category designation with the October 8th, 2015 update and debuted at 4%.  

Interestingly the category disappeared for the August 1st, 2016, the January 1st, 2017 and the February 1st, 2017 updates.  This would imply that it temporarily fell back into the Volume Based model.    

With the April 1st, 2017 update, the category was re-introduced at a higher commission rate of 5%.  

The category got a short term bump up to 6% for the second half of 2017.  The July 1st, 2017 update listed it at 6% but then the December 1st, 2017 update saw the rate reduced again to 5%.  The category still holds at 5% today. 

Headphones Products (50% drop)

Initially introduced with the August 1st, 2013 update, at 6%, the category dropped to 3% with the April 21, 2020 update.   

Health & Personal Care (78% drop)

The Health & Personal Care category was introduced with the major reshuffle of the Amazon.com Associates program on April 1st, 2017.  The initial rate was 4.5% and that has dropped to 1% with the April 21, 2020 update.    

Home (63% drop)

The Home category got defined with the major update on April 1st, 2017 and at an 8% rate. That rate dropped to 3% with the April 21, 2020 update.

Home Improvement (63% drop)

Following the same story as the Home category, the Home Improvement category debuted on April 1st, 2017, at 8%, and dropped to 3% with the April 21, 2020 update. 

Industrial (& Business) Products and AmazonSupply.com (63% drop)

Introduced on the October 15th, 2012 update, the initial rate was 8%.  With the major update of April 1st, 2017, the commission rate was dropped to 6%, then dropped to 3% with the April 21, 2020 update.   

Jewelry Products (60% drop)

The Jewelry category was initially called out on the December 24th, 2014 update at a whopping 10%.  However, the next update, May 6th, 2015 saw the category disappear again implying that the category was moved back to the volume-based program.  

The same thing happened with the October 8th, 2015 update where the Jewelry category was reintroduced at 10% but then disappears by the next update we have records for, January 1st, 2016.  

With the major update of April 1st, 2017, the category is reintroduced at 7% where it stays until the May 1st, 2019 update which saw the commission rates drop to 4% where it is at today.   

Kindle tablets, Kindle e-readers, and Fire Phone (no change)

Initially introduced with the May 6th, 2015 update, at 4%, the Kindle tablets, Kindle e-readers, and Fire Phone category then doubled to 8% for three updates (June 1st, 2017, July 1st, 2017 and December 1st, 2017).  The January 1st, 2018 update saw the rate back to 4% where it’s held ever since.  

Kitchen (no change)

The Kitchen category was defined with the April 1st, 2017 update, at 4.5%, and has stayed at that rate ever since. 

Lawn & Garden (63% drop)

Lawn & Garden was introduced with the April 1st, 2017 update at a solid 8% commission rate.  That rate dropped to 3% with the April 21, 2020 update. 

Luggage (43% drop)

The Luggage category kicked off at 7% with the April 1st, 2017 update.  That rate held until the May 1st, 2019 update where it was cut down to 4% for which it still sits today. 

Luxury Beauty (no change)

The Luxury Beauty category spun out of the major April 1st, 2017 update at a solid 10% commission rate which it holds through to today. 

Magazines (unknown)

With the October 15th, 2012 snapshot we found “Magazine Products” have a huge commission rate of 25%.  Unfortunately, while the rate stayed the same this category only existed through the August 28th, 2013 update and disappeared with the subsequent February 1st, 2014 change.  We are unsure if the rate then dropped to the volume-based model or went to zero.     

Men & Kids Private Label (60% drop)

Introduced with the July 1, 2017 update, the category started at 10% a commission rate.  The rate was later reduced to 4% with the May 1st, 2019 update.  

Musical Instruments (50% drop)

The Musical Instruments came online as an independent category with the April 1st, 2017 update at 6% and dropped to 3% with the April 21, 2020 update.  

Myhabit.com Products (47% drop)

“Myhabit.com Products” was a category that showed up with the May 2nd, 2012 snapshot and initially was placed with a 15% commission.  This high rate dropped by nearly half, to 8%, with the next snapshot, on October 15th, 2012.

The rate stayed at 8% until the category disappeared with the August 1st, 2016 update.  

Outdoors (45% drop)

The Outdoors category launched with the major commission rate update of April 1st, 2017 with a 5.5% commission rate.  That rate dropped to 3% with the April 21, 2020 update. 

Pantry (63% drop)

The Pantry category debuted with the April 1st, 2017 update and at an 8% commission dropped to 3% with the April 21, 2020 update. 

PC (no change)

The PC category, not to be confused with the “PC Component Products” category, was introduced with the April 1st, 2017 update at a 2.5% commission rate.  It still holds that rate today.  

PC Component Products (no change)

Initially introduced with the September 1st, 2015 update, the commission rate of 2.5% (the same as the PC category), has held consistent.  

Pets Products (63% drop

The Pets Products category premiered with the major April 1st, 2017 update at an 8% commission rate.  That rate dropped to 3% with the April 21, 2020 update. 

Physical Books (no change)

The product category that Amazon started with didn’t get carved off for its own until the major April 1st, 2017 update, before which it was on the volume-based model.  The initial rate of 4.5% was set then and continues through today.  

Physical Music (no change)

The old school Physical Music category was specifically defined as a category with the April 1st, 2017 update where it was previously under the volume-based model.  The debut rate was 5%, which still holds today.    

Ring Devices (43% drop)

Ring Devices got their own category with the December 1st, 2018 update and debuted at 7%.  That rate didn’t last long and with the May 1st, 2019 update the rate was down to 4% where it still holds today. 

Shoes (43% drop)

Shoes, as a category, were introduced with the April 1st, 2017 update at 7%.  That rate held until the May 1st, 2019 update where the rate was dropped to 4%, where it still holds today. 

Sports (33% drop)

The Sports category first appeared at 4.5% with the April 1st, 2017 update.  The rate dropped to 3% with the April 21, 2020 update.  

Television Products (no change)

With the September 1st, 2015 update, the Television Products category was introduced with a 2% commission rate.  The same 2% commission rate is still in effect today.   

Tools (45% drop)

The Tools category was also launched with the April 1st, 2017 update with a 5.5% commission rate. The rate dropped to 3% with the April 21, 2020 update.

Toys (no change)

Launched with the April 1st, 2017 update, the Toys category started with a 3% commission rate that still holds strong today.  

Video Games (no change)

The inauguration of the Video Games category saw a paltry 1% commission rate with the April 1st, 2017 update.  That 1% commission rate has held steady ever since. 

Video Game Console Products (75% drop)

Not to be confused with the “Video Games” category, the Video Game Console Products came online with the August 1, 2013 update at a solid 4%.  That commission rate didn’t last long and with the February 1st, 2014 update, the rate was dropped to 1%. Today the 1% rate still holds true. 

Watches (43% drop)

The Watches category was kicked off with the major April 1st, 2017 update to a 7% commission rate.  

The Watch category seems to have disappeared for both the October 1st and November 1st, 2018 updates imply the rate fell to 4% as it was bucked in with the “All Other Categories” group.  

Watches were reintroduced with the December 1st, 2018 update at 7% before being cut down to 4% with the May 1st, 2019 update.  Watches are currently at that 4% commission rate. 

Wine (no change)

The Wine category was introduced with the April 1st, 2017 update and debuted at 0% commission.  This rate held through the September 1st, 2018 update and disappeared on the October 1st, 2018 update.  However, instead of defaulting to the “All Other Categories” it seems to have been picked up with the “Alcohol” category that was also introduced then at 0% commission and still is. 

All Other Categories (no change)

The default, catch-all bucket of “All Other Categories” was introduced when the volume-based model was deprecated in favor of the fixed fee, category-based model on April 1st, 2017.  The category debuted at 4% and has held consistent throughout today. 

The 0% Categories (no change)

On October 1st, 2018, six new categories were introduced, all with 0% commissions.  These categories included “Wireless Service Plans,” “Alcohol,” “Digital Kindle Products purchased as a subscription,” “Food prepared and delivered from a restaurant,” “Amazon Appstore,” and “Prime Now, Amazon Pay Places, or Prime Wardrobe Purchases.”  The rates of stayed consistently at 0% through today and marks the few categories one can’t earn a commission on Amazon.com’s massive product catalog.