If someone had said consumers would happily pay over $100 annually to get free shipping and perks from a retail store a decade ago, would you believe them?
Probably not, yet that’s exactly the scenario Amazon.com has created out of thin air.
Amazon Prime, a subscription service offered by Amazon.com, started off with humble beginnings with fast and free shipping on a wide range of products.
These days, they offer discounts at Whole Foods, numerous subscribe-n-save programs, streaming video, and even same-day delivery in some cities.
Heck, they’ll even deliver some items to your car provided you live in a participating city and drive certain models.
But, is Amazon Prime worth its $119 annual price tag ($59 per year for students)?
At the end of the day, the value you’ll glean from Amazon Prime depends on how much you use it and which services you use most often.
What Does Amazon Prime Include?
We already talked about what you’ll pay to score Amazon Prime membership for a year, but it’s important to understand what you get in return for the annual fee before you sign up.
Here are the main perks of this service, along with how they work:
- Free two-day shipping on millions of eligible items
- Free same-day delivery in eligible zip codes on orders of $35 or more
- Access to Prime Now, which offers free two-hour delivery on thousands of items in select zip codes
- Free no-rush shipping
- Prime Video, which includes unlimited streaming of movies, television, and other digital products in the U.S. and Puerto Rico
- A discount on Amazon television channels, which cost between $4.99 and $14.99 per month for Amazon Prime members
- Prime Music with unlimited access to hundreds of playlists and over 2 million songs
- Exclusive savings at Whole Foods Market
- Prime Wardrobe, which lets you try out clothing items before you commit to the purchase
- Prime Pantry, which lets members in select cities shop for food and pantry items
- Prime Reading, which offers free and unlimited access to movies, magazines, and newspapers so you can read them on your Fire tablet, Kindle, or using the Kindle app on your phone
- Amazon First Reads, which lets members in the U.S. download a new book for free every month from the Amazon First Reads picks
- Washington Post free trial
- Membership sharing for two adults living at the same address
- Prime Photos, which includes secure unlimited photo storage and photo organization features
Keep in mind that these are just the main features of Amazon Prime since there are many, many small add-ons and benefits a small subset of consumers might use.
If you want to find out about every service you get with an Amazon Prime membership, you can check out this page on the Amazon website.
Pros and Cons of Signing Up for Amazon Prime
If you think you could take advantage of several of the benefits an Amazon Prime membership offers, then there’s a good chance paying $119 per year would be worth it.
A membership is also a good value if you tend to shop on Amazon.com a lot since you may be able to save money over the long haul with free shipping, special deals, and sales.
Still, there could be potential downsides to getting an Amazon Prime membership, too. Here are the main pros and cons of signing up:
Why You Should Sign up for Amazon Prime
- You could save money by using Amazon Prime video streaming in place of a cable television subscription. If you’re paying $100 or more each month for cable television but think you could get by without it, you might want to give Amazon Prime Video a try. Sure, you won’t get access to everything you can watch on the tube, but there are plenty of movie and television show options to choose from if you’re not picky.
- Enjoy free and fast shipping on almost anything you can buy online. If you have kids or a busy lifestyle, you already know what a pain it can be to constantly have to run to the store. With a Prime membership, on the other hand, you can order almost anything you need, from toothpicks to underwear, and have it delivered to your home in a matter of days — or even a few hours.
- Some items can be delivered on the same day, which can be valuable in certain situations. Some zip codes allow for same day delivery, an insane benefit for some customers.
- Take advantage of special promotions to save money. With Amazon Family, you could score discounts like 20% off diapers and baby food. But that’s just one example of how Amazon Prime can help you save money.
- Simplify your life. Having an Amazon Prime membership makes it easy to take care of shopping and entertainment all in one place. All Prime services are available with the click of a mouse and anywhere you have an internet connection.
- You can pick up an Amazon.com credit card for even more savings on Prime purchases. The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card makes it easy to earn 5% back on Amazon.com and Whole Foods purchases. You also get 2% back at restaurants, grocery stores, and drugstores, and 1% back on all other purchases.
- There is a 30-day Free Trial.
Why You Might Not Want to Sign Up for Amazon Prime
- You may not receive much value from the service if you don’t use its benefits. If you’re not going to use any of the services an Amazon Prime membership offers, then $119 isn’t a great deal. This is especially true if you rarely shop online and won’t take advantage of free shipping on a regular basis.
- Some services are only available in certain zip codes. If you live in rural Idaho, you probably don’t care about same-day or two-hour delivery options since they aren’t available where you live.
- Amazon Prime music is limited and not all songs are available. You can always listen to something on Amazon Music, but it may not be what you want.
- Shopping online deprives local service providers and stores of your business. If you’re someone who likes to give back to your community and shop local, spending too much on Amazon Prime might make you feel guilty. After all, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is a billionaire many times over but your local grocer or convenience store owner is not.
- Amazon Prime might make it too easy to shop ‘til you drop. Finally, don’t forget that Amazon Prime might make online shopping a little too convenient. If you’re not careful, the allure of free shipping and special discounts could leave you spending more than you wanted.
Why I Personally Love Amazon Prime
I have been using Amazon.com for well over 18 years now, which is a long time in the Internet world.
I first started using Amazon when I was serving in the military and stationed overseas. Amazon made it easy for me to send gifts to loved ones back home, as well as order things for myself that I couldn’t buy at the Base Exchange or on the local economy.
It didn’t hurt that their prices and selections were better than most other online stores.
Later, Amazon Prime made me love Amazon even more.
Slowly but surely, Amazon has become the default shopping option in our household. If you aren’t using Amazon, you should at least check it out, and we’ll also give you a few extra reasons to use Amazon that many people aren’t aware of.
I can go to one website and research and compare prices on similar items, crowd-sourced reviews from a community that cares about helping others—not making more sales—and I can order virtually anything that will be shipped to my door in two business days.
“Oh sure, you say – anyone can ship to you in two days if you’re willing to pay for it.”
But with Amazon Prime, you can get unlimited free 2-day shipping on most items sold by Amazon and a lot more.
And while Amazon Prime comes with a subscription fee, the cost of the subscription is easily recouped if you order frequently through Amazon and take advantage other Amazon Prime features.
In my opinion, Amazon Prime is one of the most underrated features at Amazon.com – and one of the best deals going in Tech, or anywhere else.
Many stores offer shopping clubs and similar benefits. But I have yet to find a store, online or off, which has a club as cool as Amazon Prime.
The Bottom Line On Prime
Is an Amazon Prime membership a good idea for your wallet?
That totally depends on how often you would use the benefits, including fast and free shipping.
Fortunately, Amazon Prime makes it easy to “try before you buy” with a free 30-day membership.
Keep in mind, however, that your credit card will be charged in full for a membership after 30 days unless you cancel in advance.
7 Other Great Amazon Perks!
But Amazon actually has even more benefits. As if Amazon Prime didn’t already blow the top off, let’s talk about a bunch of other less popularized perks of Amazon.
1. Amazon Subscribe & Save – Save Money on Auto-shipments
If you buy things on a regular basis, then you may enjoy shopping online with Amazon Subscribe & Save. With this program, you can set up a monthly purchase order to have items shipped directly to your door and enjoy a savings of 5-15% on your purchase.
This works for a variety of items you use on a regular basis, including things like food items, paper towels, coffee, health items, toiletries, and more. You can also use it for things like diapers and wipes if you have children, but before you do, be sure to check out the next program on our list to enjoy an even greater savings on those items. Learn more.
2. Amazon Mom – Not Just for Moms
However, the main benefits are aimed at moms and caretakers of small children. The benefits include three months of FREE Two-Day Shipping with Amazon Prime and 20% off diapers and wipes which are auto-delivered to your doorstep with Subscribe & Save (the normal savings rate for non-Amazon Mom shoppers is 5% for diapers and wipes, so this is a substantial cost savings).
To top it off, you can get additional months added to your free shipping with Amazon Mom. I’m not exactly sure how this works, but my wife signed up for the program before Christmas and her free two-day shipping has been extended from the original 3 months to a total of 11 months.
I believe it has to do with taking advantage of special offers, but I’m not 100% certain. If anyone knows for sure, please leave a comment!
This is a free program, so if you are a parent or caretaker of small children, there is no reason not to sign up (or even if you just want to get 3 months of free 2-day shipping). Learn more.
3. Amazon Student – Just for Students
With Amazon Student, you can get a limited free 6 month Amazon Prime trial (the free trial does not include the free streaming video, but it does include the free two-day shipping). Students can then extend their subscription to Amazon Prime for half the cost of the regular version – and the paid version of Amazon Student includes all the bells and whistles of the Amazon Prime others experience.
As an Amazon Student member you’ll also get six months of FREE Two-Day Shipping with Amazon Prime on eligible purchases, and will automatically continue receiving Amazon Prime shipping benefits at a cost of $39 a year for up to four years with automatic renewal.
To top it off, students are eligible for special deals, free release date delivery of games, books, and movies, and more. If you are in school, I highly recommend it. Learn more.
4. Amazon mp3 Store & Amazon AutoRip
iTunes still has the corner on the market, but Amazon has a nice offering in terms of price and selection. Amazon frequently offers a wide range of albums for $5 or less, which is something you won’t find in the iTunes store.
The cost savings can be substantial. A study by DealNews showed Amazon was cheaper almost 80% of the time, with an average savings of over $1 per album.
In addition to savings, there are two other advantages of using Amazon for your mp3 purchases: the first is that you can quickly and easily download your albums directly into your iTunes, so your music is instantly portable.
The second is the coolest feature – Amazon automatically stores all of your purchases through the mp3 store in the cloud in the Amazon Cloud Player, giving you Internet access to your music wherever you are, including streaming through your smartphone, if you have one. This is a great option if you have an unlimited data plan as you can stream music at work, in the car, or wherever you have access to a signal. Learn more.
Amazon AutoRip is also awesome! It works like this: You buy an AutoRip Eligible CD and you receive a physical copy of the CD shipped to your home, and you get instant access to a digital copy of the CD. Here is a list of AutoRip eligible CDs so you can see some of the available albums.
On the surface, this seems like a small convenience at best, right? You can always rip the CD once you receive it. Except that you can’t always do that. Many new computers aren’t made with CD drives (for example, netbooks and most of the new Mac line doesn’t have disk drives).
Tablets and mobile devices can’t rip the albums either. So the convenience factor is definitely there. But it gets better.
AutoRip automatically sends your purchased songs to the Amazon Cloud Player where you can access them from anywhere you have an internet connection and you can download them to your favorite MP3 player.
5. Amazon Kindle Special Offers
I love my Amazon Kindle. It’s an awesome little device, and it’s incredibly convenient to have a library of books at my fingertips.
While I enjoy a nice hardcover book, I find that I actually read more quickly with a Kindle. I haven’t converted my entire library to Kindle books, but I rarely buy physical books anymore, unless it is a book I anticipate I will reference frequently. There are also a ton of free Kindle books to get you started.
If you are thinking about getting a Kindle, I recommend buying the Kindle with special offers.
It costs about $25 less than the other versions, and gives you special deals on Kindle books, throughout Amazon, and at local vendors. The special offers are unobtrusive and only appear on the home page (where your library is located) and on the front cover when the device is turned off. The ads in no way interfere with your reading experience.
The reason I bought a Kindle was actually based on one of these deals, which saved me enough money to cover the cost of the Kindle, and then some. I can’t guarantee you will get a free Kindle as I did (it was essentially free), but I can tell you that you will be able to save money on regular purchases.
Don’t want a Kindle? You can still use the free Kindle App to read Kindle books on your PC, Mac, smartphone, etc. It’s a convenient way to read books across a variety of platforms, and since it always syncs when you have an internet connection, you can pick up right where you left off.
6. Amazon Instant Video
My wife and I gave up cable TV almost ten years ago. While I don’t miss cable, I still enjoy the occasional movie. Netflix and Blockbuster are both great options and will satisfy most movie watchers’ demands.
But some movies aren’t available on the Netflix streaming video subscription, so Amazon Instant video is a great option as it allows you to purchase and download movies, or rent them a la carte. There is also a special library of movies available for free streaming rentals for Amazon Prime members, which is a great value for Prime subscribers. Learn more.
7. Amazon Web Services
Though it might seem like this is only for the techies out there, Amazon’s S3 service can be used by anyone who needs online storage.
This includes people who have websites and need an industrial strength server, need to use a CDN, or want a place to store their online backups.
But Amazon’s S3 servers are also great for people who want to back up their personal or professional files as well. You can store backups of your photos, files, or even mirrors of your hard drive with Amazon’s secure storage. The cost is very affordable and well worth the peace of mind it offers.
How Does Amazon Offer All of This Value?
Amazon offers a ton of value, even though some of it comes at a cost, like the $119 a year Amazon Prime membership. I can tell you that I easily get that much value out of the two-day shipping. And I’m sure some people use hundreds of dollars worth of shipping, not to mention the free streaming videos, streaming music, free Kindle books, and other services.
The bottom line, though, is that Amazon offers these deals because they know that in the long run, their customers are going to stick around longer and spend more money with them. And it has certainly worked for me. But you know what, I’m happy to give Amazon my business. They offer me great value, and I’ve become a loyal customer.
Isn’t that what it’s all about?