Amazon has a lot of subscribers — more than 200 million Amazon Prime members — according to a 2021 shareholders report delivered by its billionaire founder, Jeff Bezos.
If you don’t have Amazon Prime, you may well wonder if it’s worth it. Do over 200 million Amazon Prime members know something you don’t? After all, there are plenty of other retail competitors, such as Walmart+, Target, Costco and an army of stores beyond that.
So is Amazon Prime worth its membership?
Here’s everything to know about Amazon Prime pricing, discounts and benefits, as well as how to get the most value out of an Amazon Prime membership.
How Much Does Amazon Prime Membership Cost?
An Amazon Prime membership is $139 per year.
For college students, Amazon Prime Student costs $69 a year.
Anyone interested in trying out Prime without immediately paying the membership fee can take advantage of a free 30-day trial; Prime Student members can opt for a free six-month trial.
The free trial is offered provided that you haven’t been an Amazon Prime member for the last 12 months.
How Much Is Amazon Prime a Month?
Amazon Prime costs $14.99 per month, which comes to $179.88 a year. Paying about $15 month may be easier in the short run, but in the long run, over a year’s time, you will pay $40.88 more than you would if you paid yearly.
Amazon Prime costs college students $7.49 a month, which comes to $89.88 a year. That is $20.88 more than what a college student would pay if they opt in for the $69 annual membership.
What Are the Benefits of Amazon Prime?
Here are the key benefits of Amazon Prime:
— Free shipping.
— Music streaming.
— Movie and TV streaming.
— Photo storage.
— Access to sales.
— Access to Amazon Family.
— Access to Prime Gaming.
— Access to Amazon Household.
The free shipping isn’t really free since you’re paying a membership fee. But once you do pay that membership fee, you get unlimited free shipping, and Amazon has significantly improved the speed of its delivery service over the years. (Meanwhile, Amazon’s competitors have been improving, too.)
Still, Amazon is the leader in free shipping and fast delivery. It delivers most items to Prime members within two days, but increasingly, you’ll find Amazon delivering within a day or even the same day. In some areas of the country, there are more than 3 million eligible items that qualify for same-day delivery on orders over $25. Generally, if you order before noon, you can get these items by 9 p.m.
In 5,000 cities and towns throughout the country, Amazon also offers free two-hour delivery service on many grocery items, including meat and seafood. Amazon Pharmacy offers free two-day delivery on prescriptions and discounts when paying without insurance.
With Amazon Prime, you’ll get access to Amazon Prime Music; you can listen to more than 2 million songs without ads.
If you’re interested in Amazon Music Unlimited, which provides access to 75 million tunes, you can sign up for $8.99 a month (which totals $107.88 a year), or a significantly cheaper $89 a year for an annual subscription. (If you aren’t an Amazon Prime member, it’s $9.99 a month.)
Movie and TV Streaming
Amazon Prime Video offers streaming of thousands of TV shows and movies.
Membership includes Prime Reading, which offers access to more than 1,000 books, comics and magazines. You don’t need to purchase a Kindle to read the books; they’re available to download on any device.
There are other features for book lovers, like First Reads, which allows Prime members access to books that haven’t been released to the general public, often for free or at highly discounted prices.
With Prime Photos, you can add your pictures to Amazon’s cloud drive. Members receive unlimited photo storage and 5 GB for video. If you want more video storage, plans start at $1.99 a month for 100 GB.
Access to Certain Sales
For years, Amazon has held its annual Prime Day, typically in the summer, and often in July. It’s an event known for a variety of steep discounts for Prime members. During other days throughout the year when Amazon has lightning deals — offering products in a limited quantity for a discount over a short period of time — Prime members will get 30 extra minutes on the front end to shop.
Access to Amazon Family
If you’re a Prime member, you can subscribe and get things like diapers and baby food sent to you regularly for up to 20% off through the Subscribe and Save feature. You can also save up to 15% on select items if you have a baby registry with Amazon.
Access to Prime Gaming
Amazon’s Prime Gaming (formerly Twitch Prime) is a streaming service that specializes in gaming. Among other things, you will get games, in-game content and a Twitch channel subscription.
Access to Amazon Household
Amazon Household lets you share Amazon benefits with your partner and your children, up to a total of six members. That means you can have up to six people in your family accessing free movies, books and photo storage.
How to Get the Most Out of Amazon Prime Benefits
There are a number of strategies that can make an Amazon Prime membership even more valuable, says Trae Bodge, a New York City-based lifestyle journalist who runs the shopping blog TrueTrae.com.
Here are the benefits to take advantage of:
TV/videos: While you’re enjoying free TV shows and movies, including Amazon original programming, “there is also a new feature where you can create a watch party and view content at the same time as other Prime members,” Bodge says.
Downloads: These are beneficial for travel. “Some TV shows and movies can be downloaded, which is handy for long journeys where you don’t have Wi-Fi,” Bodge says. “Just browse content and look for the download icon or click on ‘downloads’ at the bottom of your screen followed by ‘find something to download.'”
She adds: “Some music can be downloaded as well, which I have found to be helpful when I am traveling in remote areas with no Wi-Fi.”
Whole Foods: Your membership also gets you access to deals at this grocery giant, “which, given how much you can spend at Whole Foods, is a benefit worth taking advantage of,” Bodge says. She adds that Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card holders also get 5% cash back on Whole Foods purchases.
Amazon Key: If porch piracy is a concern where you live, “Prime Members in select areas can use Amazon Key, which allows delivery personnel to have access to your garage or a door in your home where they can deposit your Amazon packages,” Bodge says. “You can monitor these deliveries via the Amazon app.”
What Are the Amazon Prime Card Benefits?
If you want to go all in, you can apply for the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card.
The card gives you 5% cash back on purchases on Amazon and, as Bodge mentioned, at Whole Foods. If you apply for the card without a Prime membership or later let your membership lapse, you’ll get 3% back.
At other stores, Prime members and nonmembers will get 2% cash back at gas stations, restaurants and drug stores and 1% back on anything else. There’s no annual fee (other than your $139 Amazon Prime membership annual fee) and no foreign transaction fees. It also comes with a welcome bonus: a $100 Amazon gift card.
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Is It Worth It to Get Amazon Prime?
That’s a fair question, especially since the Amazon Prime membership fee has continually risen over the years.
In 2018, the membership jumped from $99 a year to $119. It went up to $139 in February of 2022.
Still, some people love Amazon and will probably pay whatever fee they’re asked, while others can certainly take it or leave it. If you’re unsure about signing up for an Amazon Prime membership, consider these factors.
The objectives of your membership.In other words, what’s your goal?
For Michael Foguth, founder of Foguth Financial Group with offices in Michigan, a membership is worth it. He and his wife have five children and do a lot of shopping online. “It can be a lot easier for a family that’s on the go to have everyday items purchased and delivered from Amazon Prime, including water and vitamins to clothes, shoes and toys,” he says.
If you use the other services, such as streaming music and TV, that’s another perk, Foguth says. He says his family pays for Netflix and Pandora, but acknowledges, “You could be saving quite a bit of money by not paying for Netflix and using Prime Video. If you have Amazon Prime, you could also be saving a decent amount of money by utilizing Prime Music and avoiding having to pay for Spotify, Pandora or another music streaming service.”
The cost of items you regularly buy. Amazon Prime isn’t for everyone, says Michael Gerstman, CEO of Gerstman Financial Group LLC, a financial advisory firm with locations in Dallas, Texas, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
He finds it incredibly convenient, but says it’s not always the cheapest place to buy things. “If you have the time and the proximity, you will find on certain items that other big-box retailers may provide greater value. These include Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart and Target,” he says.
The membership fee.Gerstman also points out that if you pay membership fees to both Amazon and another big-box retailer, such as Costco or Sam’s Club, you may be wasting money.
“You probably don’t want memberships with too many retail clubs because any cost savings on products will be lost due to the cost of the memberships,” he says. “I would recommend that, once a year, you do a price comparison on the staples you purchase. I would then commit to that retailer and keep things easy.”
Also keep in mind that while Amazon continues to become more popular (and more expensive), other retailers have taken notice and are copying the Amazon playbook, tweaking their own formulas for doing business. Some competitors, such as Walmart+, are offering their own memberships with benefits like speedy delivery and more. It’s worth occasionally comparing services and not assuming Amazon’s membership is always going to be the best deal.
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Update 09/14/22: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.