Is Amazon Prime Worth It? Weighing Cost vs. Savings

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Once upon a time, shoppers actually had to venture out of the house to get the stuff they needed. Rain or shine, people had to get off their comfortable couches, get dressed and drive to a store. Then, Amazon changed everything.

Amazon is by no means the only online retailer and Jeff Bezos has had competition for his entire career. But more than any other brand or website in history, Amazon has come to define e-commerce in the modern age. The business model it pioneered has been copied the world over, likewise for its game-changing innovations like free shipping.

What Amazon Prime Offers

The biggest innovation of all, however, was Prime–Amazon as a subscription service changed online shopping forever. A Prime subscription costs $119 per year. Only you know if that expense is worth the investment, but it’s important to understand what’s included in the cost before you decide.

Lots of companies now offer free shipping. There are plenty of streaming services, music subscriptions and e-book clubs. No one, however, packages them all together quite like Amazon Prime.

Make Your Money Work for You

Is Amazon Prime worth it and will Amazon save you money? Read on to find out.

1. Free 2-Day and Same-Day Shipping

Free two-day shipping is the perk that built Prime and it remains one of Amazon’s biggest selling points. Even Alaska and Hawaii can get in on the action now, although some items still don’t qualify for free two-day shipping outside the contiguous United States. When weighing the costs vs. the rewards, however, keep in mind that non-Prime members get free shipping for orders over $25 on Prime-eligible items.

Of course, there are exceptions to the two-day rule. Large or unusual items like a treadmill, for example, might take longer to arrive but are still free to ship. If you make a lot of smaller purchases — under $25 for books and under $49 for other items — Amazon Prime might be worth the money.

Additionally, Prime offers free same-day delivery to customers living in more than 5,000 cities and towns. To take advantage of this perk, you must buy more than $35 worth of goods and place your order by the cut-off time, which is typically noon.

If your order totals less than $35, you can still get same-day delivery, but you’ll have to pay $5.99 per order. And you might be able to get your order even faster — typically within two hours — if you live in one of the few cities serviced by Prime Now.

If you have a habit of waiting until the last minute to pick up birthday gifts or forgetting key dinner items at the grocery store, same-day shipping could be a good reason to join.

2. Streaming Video

With Amazon Prime Video, there’s no reason to keep your cable subscription. The service offers free access to thousands of streaming television shows and movies. Its massive library is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. According to Protocol, Amazon Video is home to 13,845 movies. No. 2 Netflix, on the other hand, comes in at just 3,850. In all, subscribers to Prime Video get 1.5 times the number of movies available on all of Amazon’s major competitor streaming services combined–all included in the cost of Prime.

Make Your Money Work for You

Good To Know

You can find free Amazon Prime movies and TV shows in the Prime Video category online or on the Video app’s home screen. It’s important to note, however, that compared to services like Netflix, the Prime Video interface has been panned as clumsy, cluttered and confusing.

It’s often hard to differentiate between free content and videos and shows you have to pay for while you’re browsing. That said, a standard subscription to Netflix now costs $13.99 per month or $168 per year. That’s far more than a $119 Prime subscription, which comes with far more goodies than just Prime Video–Netflix gives you only streaming media at a higher price.

3. Amazon Prime Music

Like Prime Video, Prime Music is included in the cost of an Amazon subscription. It comes with an impressive library of 2 million songs for free, plus curated playlists and stations. If you want to upgrade to a full-service subscription with 70 million songs, you can pay $7.99 per month or $79 a year for Amazon Music Unlimited.

Spotify, on the other hand, costs $9.99 per month. It’s a tough sell. Like Netflix to Prime Video, the alternative subscription service here costs more and is limited to only the standalone service–it doesn’t come with any of the many other benefits of Amazon Prime.

4. Unlimited Photo Storage

If you regularly view the world through the lens of your camera or your smartphone screen, Amazon’s cloud storage feature could be a serious money-saver. Photo fanatics who subscribe to Prime can archive unlimited photos for free. Not only is the storage secure, but photos are also automatically backed up and users can access their images from anywhere.

Prime subscribers can upload photos from their web browsers or by using Amazon’s free mobile app. And because Amazon Photo comes with 5 GB of free space for non-photo files like videos, you can capture all those special family moments in real time. As a bonus, you can use the money you were spending on external hard drives to book more memory-making experiences with loved ones.

5. Kindle First Reads and Kindle Unlimited

The Amazon Kindle Lending Library has closed, but its e-reading offerings are still worth considering as part of your investment in a Prime membership. The Kindle First Reads program, for example, is still in full effect.

Kindle First offers access to books before their official release dates. You can download one of several editors’ picks every month before it goes on sale for free. You can also shop select print versions for just $9.99.

The most voracious readers might consider Kindle Unlimited. A subscription costs $9.99 per month–the first two months are free–and includes unlimited reading and listening across all devices. Included in the subscription is essentially everything that’s ever been written down. That, of course, is an exaggeration–but not by much. It’s hard to imagine there’s a book you want but can’t find on Kindle Unlimited.

6. Amazon Elements

Another exclusive for Prime members, Amazon Elements refers to the company’s own line of daily necessities aimed at families. Designed with input from actual customers, the brand offers “premium products with transparent origins.”

It includes products like baby wipes, supplements and vitamins. You can also save on diapers and more with Amazon Family, too.

7. Prime Early Access

Ideal for bargain shoppers who like to be first in line, Prime Early Access gives members 30-minute early access to Lightning Deals on Amazon and sale events on MyHabit.com. Another Amazon site, MyHabit offers a wide selection of designer labels for the family and home at up to 60% off.

If you like scoring deals, the Prime Early Access feature might make a subscription worthwhile. However, you will need to have fast fingers, as products can still sell out.

8. Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods

Amazon shut down Prime Pantry, which it launched in 2014. Amazon, however, is by no means out of the grocery game–quite the opposite, actually. According to Business Insider, the move was just part of a larger effort to streamline the online ordering experience. Depending on where you live, there are still options for free grocery delivery and pickup through Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market. Just log on, type in your zip code and see if Amazon has made it to your neck of the woods yet.

9. Amazon Family

Amazon Family offers deals for parents with young children, as well as parents-to-be. As an Amazon Prime member, you get 20% off a diaper subscription and a 15% Baby Registry completion discount.

To get the discount on diapers, you’ll have to enroll in the “Subscribe & Save” option, which allows you to choose the product quantity and frequency of deliveries. However, this feature isn’t just for Amazon Family. The subscription service applies to a wide range of household products and necessities.

Coupon deals for baby products and household items are also available to Amazon Family members.

10. Membership Sharing

Two adults and four children can share one Amazon Prime membership, thanks to the Amazon Household feature. Because adults have access to each other’s payment methods as part of this arrangement, individuals should only share memberships with those they trust.

Along with free shipping, the membership-sharing feature allows families to share their Prime Video accounts, Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, Prime Photos and Amazon Family accounts.

Those are just the top 10. Check out Amazon’s Prime membership benefits page to find out more about the many perks that come with a Prime account in areas like shopping, streaming, reading and delivery.

Andrew Lisa contributed to the reporting for this article.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

About the Author

Lia Sestric is a Pittsburgh native and graduate from E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. Her bachelor’s degree is in Broadcast News. She has written and produced television news stories in the Los Angeles area and Charleston, S.C. In 2012, Lia began to freelance write on the side about higher education and careers for Yahoo! Finance. Lia is now based in the Washington, D.C. area and continues to work on national and local writing contracts. Her work frequently appears on major sites like Yahoo, The Huffington Post, MSN, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, USA Today, in addition to GOBankingRates. 
You can follow her on Twitter @liasestric and Facebook @LSHWrites. Lia can be reached by email lia.sestric@gmail.com.

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