What is Amazon Prime? The benefits of Amazon's popular membership program, and whether it's worth the cost

Steven John
·5 min read
  • Amazon Prime is a premium membership service run by the online retailer Amazon that offers a wide host of exclusive perks, discounts, and entertainment options.

  • Amazon Prime costs $119 per year for a standard membership, or $12.99 per month.

  • The most notable perk is free two-day shipping on eligible items, but members also gain access to free grocery delivery as well as streaming services like Prime Video, Prime Music, and more.

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When Amazon launched Amazon Prime back in 2005, it was a membership that guaranteed free two-day shipping on all sorts of different products, from cat litter to candy; books to beach towels.

Many argue that if that's all Prime ever was - a fast, free shipping plan - it would be worth the $119 annual fee (or less, depending on your circumstances) based on how much that can be saved in shipping costs.

But today, Amazon Prime is much more than just a two-day shipping membership. Over the years, it's become a one-stop shop for entertainment, groceries, apparel, parenting products, and so much more.

To help you decide if an Amazon Prime membership is right for you, let's go over the basics.

What does Amazon Prime include?

Amazon Prime has always and will always be all about fast shipping. Members living in the continental United States (and in many other countries) get free two-day shipping on countless Prime products. In some zip codes, members can get free one-day delivery or even same-day delivery on orders over $35.

By comparison, non-Prime members must order at least $25 of eligible items to get free shipping, on top of typically having to wait five to eight business days for the order to arrive.

Beyond conveniently fast shipping, Prime members can take advantage of a whole host of perks, including:

  • Prime Now: This service focuses on last-minute needs, such as household essentials, snacks, gifts, and seasonal items, and reduces the delivery window to as little as two hours for your shipment.

  • Free grocery delivery: There are a few ways to stock up your kitchen with Prime, including Amazon Fresh, Amazon's full-fledged grocery delivery service, and Amazon Pantry, which allows you to shop for single-serving pantry staples, like canned goods or dry pasta, and receive free shipping with orders over $35. In select cities, Amazon Prime can also enjoy exclusive savings and free two-hour delivery when shopping at Whole Foods Market.

  • Unlimited movie and TV streaming: You can stream thousands of movies, TVs, and Amazon Originals with Prime Video.

  • Unlimited music streaming: Members can access 2 million songs through Amazon Music, plus a discounted price on Amazon Music Unlimited, which offers a bigger library of roughly 60 million songs.

  • Free unlimited reading: With Prime Reading, members can choose from our thousands of books, magazines, and comics to read for free.

  • Early access and Prime Day access: This gives members a 30-minute head start on Amazon's many Lightning Deals. In addition to that, Prime members get access to Amazon's annual Prime Day.

  • Free gaming: Prime Gaming (formerly known as Twitch Prime) gives members a host of free games and expansions for popular titles to try every month, plus a free subscription on Twitch.

  • Free cloud storage: Members get unlimited photo storage included with their membership, along with an additional 5 GB of free storage for video files. Amazon also offers annual cloud storage plans. These cost $19.99 a year for 100 GB and $59.99 a year for 1 TB.

  • Exclusive discounts for families: Amazon Family helps parents save money on several of the items that are essential for childcare, from diapers to baby food and child-proofing gear - all for free.

  • Prime Wardrobe: With Prime Wardrobe, members can order eligible apparel and then enjoy seven days to try the stuff out after it arrives.You only pay for the garments you keep, and ship the rest back to Amazon in pre-paid packaging.

The benefits outlined above only scratch the surface. For more, check out our favorite Amazon Prime benefits that go beyond free two-day shipping.

How much does Amazon Prime cost?

You can try Amazon Free for 30 days. Beyond that, the cost of Amazon Prime depends on what plan you choose:

  • Amazon Prime yearly subscription: If you opt for a full year, you'll pay an annual fee of $119.

  • Amazon Prime monthly subscription: You can also pay $12.99 a month.

  • Prime Student: If you're a student with a valid school email address, you can get a six-month trial of Prime Student and then pay 50% less than other Prime users ($6.49/month) after the trial ends.

These plans give you full access to Amazon Prime. But if, say, you're only interested in Prime Video as a standalone membership, you'll have to pay $8.99 a month.

One thing worth noting: While you can try Amazon Prime free for 30 days, the trial automatically renews, meaning the credit card you put on file will be charged. Of course, you can avoid unwanted fees by canceling your Amazon Prime account on time.

Is Amazon Prime worth it?

The question of whether an Amazon Prime membership is worth it depends on your shopping habits, whether you're buying for yourself or a full household, and how much use you get out of the aforementioned perks.

For many people, the allure of free shipping is enough to justify the value. If you spend more than $119 a year on shipping alone, that could be enough to sign up.

If you're still wondering whether Amazon Prime is worth your money, you should take into account the streaming options. Amazon Video, Amazon Music, and Amazon Gaming are all offerings in the Amazon universe that continue to expand.

At the end of the day, an Amazon membership might not be for everyone, but for those who decide it's worth it, it'll most likely come down to convenience, potential savings, and entertainment preferences.

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