When Amazon Prime launched in 2005, the $79 yearly fee gave members two-day shipping on select items. Amazon has since expanded to audio, video, and even food delivery, and the subscription service -- which recently increased to $119 annually and has more than 100 million members -- offers a lot more perks.
But is Prime membership worth it? For most the 2-day shipping alone used to do it, but that was when Prime was less expensive and didn't keep raising its yearly cost. Below is a guide to what a Prime membership includes, so you can decide if it's right for you.
What Do You Get With Amazon Prime?
The most well-known perk of an Amazon Prime membership is free two-day shipping on more than 100 million eligible items, designated by a Prime logo on the product page and at checkout. Currently, items with the Prime logo that say "FREE Same-Day" are eligible for free same-day delivery in more than 8,000 cities and towns with qualifying orders of at least $35. In most cases, if you place the order before noon, same-day delivery items will arrive before 9 pm.
Can't wait for that new record, book, or game? Release-date delivery by 7 pm is free for Amazon Prime members. If you're not in a hurry for an item, opting for no-rush shipping can get promotional rewards applied to your account. Incentives may include coupons for eBooks or Prime Pantry.
Amazon Prime members in certain ZIP codes can score free two-hour delivery of tens of thousands of items - including groceries and electronics - by using the website or mobile app. Delivery from local restaurants is even available in certain areas. It's not uncommon to see discount codes for your first order. As of writing, first-time Prime Now shoppers can get up to $15 off their first three orders via the coupon code "SAVE15".
Prime members have access to Prime Pantry, so instead of ordering shampoo or cereal in bulk, you can order items one at a time, as you would when grocery shopping. The service has recently changed to a subscription-based model, and members can pay $4.99 per month to get free shipping on Pantry orders of at least $40. Otherwise, you can pay a flat shipping rate of $7.99 per order. Like grocery stores, Prime Pantry also has coupons and deals. Box sizes vary, but they can hold up to 45 pounds. Items are shipped via ground and may take one to four business days to arrive.
AmazonFresh, available in select cities, costs an additional $14.99 per month after a 30-day free trial. Still, the grocery delivery service is accessible only to Prime members.
What's the difference between Pantry and Fresh? Pantry delivers nonperishables, like boxed items and canned goods, whereas Fresh options encompass groceries such as fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, frozen goods, and prepared meals. Fresh items also arrive in insulated reusable totes, and customers can select delivery times.
Delivery is not free (as it is with Prime Now) unless you spend over $50 on your order; otherwise, delivery is an additional $9.99. A pickup option for Prime members who don't necessarily have AmazonFresh is also available in Seattle.
Prime members can order common household items by pressing Amazon Dash Buttons. Once you order a button for a product, such as detergent or a snack food, for $4.99, that amount is credited to your account for a subsequent order. Thus, the button ends up being free -- provided you use it.
Prime members also have access to Amazon Elements, the company's private-label brand. Considering the brand launched in 2014 and is now comprised mostly of wipes and dietary supplements, it's a small perk.
Prime Early Access to Lightning Deals
Prime members get 30 minutes of early access to Amazon's Lightning Deals - flash sales on a limited amount of discounted items for a set amount of time. Before the sales, early access availability is noted on the deal listing.
Prime members who enjoy reading can take advantage of various benefits. Prime Reading lets members borrow select eBooks (some with Audible Narration), comic books, magazines, and Kindle Singles, with no due date. (This is different than Kindle Unlimited, which offers unlimited access to more than 1 million titles and thousands of Audible books for $9.99 per month.)
In addition to 10 Prime Reading titles, members can also download one of six editors' book selections one month before publication date with Amazon First Reads.
Free Washington Post Subscription
Prime members can sign up for a free six-month Basic Digital subscription to The Washington Post. After the trial period, the cost is $3.99 per month.
Free Audible Access
Since 2016, Prime members have also received access to Audible Channels of podcasts and original programs. These include West Cork, a true crime audio series, and What Were You Thinking?, hosted by journalist Dina Temple-Raston, who explores the brains and choices of adolescents. Users can download the Audible app to listen on Android, iOS, Windows 10, and certain Fire devices, and can browse shows by genre.
Prime Music gives members access to 2 million ad-free songs that can be played on demand via laptops, phones, and Fire and Echo devices. You can choose from personalized stations or curated playlists. Prime members also get a discounted rate of $7.99 per month or $79 per year for Amazon Music Unlimited -- usually $9.99 per month -- for access to tens of millions of songs. Echo and family plans are also available.
With Prime Video, members get free Amazon video streaming for thousands of TV shows and movie titles, from new releases to classics. TV shows include Amazon original series such as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Sneaky Pete, and Lore, and a host of other series, like Sex and the City, Downton Abbey, and Mr. Robot.
Available shows and movies are added or removed, but if something in your Watchlist is slated to leave Prime Video, the final date will likely be listed so you can get in some binge-watching. With a Prime membership, you are also able to purchase paid monthly subscriptions to premium networks, like HBO, Showtime, and Starz.
Shopping With Alexa
Prime members can tell their shopping orders to Alexa if they have an Amazon Echo or other Alexa device. Plus, special Alexa deals and discounts are available for Prime members.
In 2014, Amazon acquired Twitch, a livestreaming video platform and community for gamers, who watch and discuss video games. And in September 2016, Twitch Prime was announced. Amazon Prime members get game freebies, a free Twitch channel subscription every month, discounts on box game preorders, and ad-free viewing.
Prime membership includes free unlimited photo storage, plus an additional 5 GB for video and document storage — only for personal use and not for business. You can also share the photo storage with five other people in a Family Vault. Photos are easily searchable, can be uploaded through a mobile app, and can be accessed across a variety of devices.
Amazon Prime members can get 20% off diapers subscriptions, a free welcome box, and 15% off eligible baby items. For an additional $2.99 per month (after a one-month free trial), Prime members can snag FreeTime Unlimited, which offers access to more than 15,000 kid-friendly books, movies, TV shows, apps, and games on Kindle, Fire tablets, Android devices, or compatible Echo products.
Amazon Prime Store Card
Members can get an Amazon Prime Store Card and earn 5% back on Amazon purchases. Occasionally there are even bonus offers for applying — like receiving a $10 gift card upon approval.
Prime members can create an Amazon Household account to share benefits with one other adult and up to four teens and four children, provided all of these people have the same address. Check out Dealnews' guide: "How to Add Family to Your Amazon Prime Account."
Teens can even shop with their own login under their parent's account. It provides freedom for them to do their own shopping, but parents can still approve their purchases.
Subscription boxes have grown incredibly popular, thanks to services like Stitch Fix. Amazon joined the game with Prime Wardrobe, and it's a great way to try before you buy. Simply choose at least three items of clothing, accessories, and shoes to fill your box. Amazon will send you the box at no extra charge and give you seven days to try them out. You'll keep only the items you love, pay for those, and send the rest back.
Shoppers can grab select models of LG and Motorola phones at Prime-exclusive prices. The phones are unlocked, allowing you to choose your plan and carrier simply.
Prime members have access to exclusive brands, including those offering clothing and snacks. Wickedly Prime offers a variety of snacks, soups, and teas. Happy Belly is another brand for Prime members on Amazon, and offers "high-quality foods and beverages that taste great." It's not just tasty snacks, either. Prime members can also shop exclusive fashion brands, including The Fix.
Prime offers a ton of benefits to its members, and Amazon often adds perks. If you're afraid of missing out, consider checking out Prime Insider. It's a great way to keep up with all the benefits a Prime membership offers, as well as get access to "exclusive interviews and user guides," and "offers and deals just for Prime members."
Prime-Exclusive Discounts at Whole Foods
Since Amazon purchased Whole Foods, it's been providing Prime members with extra incentives to shop at the healthy grocer. Last November, Prime members received an in-store Whole Foods coupon for 20% off and 14% off whole regular and organic turkeys, respectively. It was the first in-store coupon we'd seen since the buyout, but not the last. Around Mother's Day, the online retailer had a promotion where Prime members could snag 20 tulips for $10 at their local Whole Foods store.
The deals aren't restricted to seasonal offerings, though. Prime members can now save an extra 10% on select items at Whole Foods stores.
Amazon introduced new delivery options over the last year. Now, Prime members can have their packages dropped off inside their homes, so they don't have to worry about items being stolen. It's also recently introduced in-car delivery for select models of Chevrolet, GMC, Buick, Cadillac, and Volvo.
Do you have an Amazon Prime membership? Why or why not?
If you're a Prime member, which perks do you use the most? Let us know in the comments.
Josie Rubio is a contributing writer at dealnews. Republished with permission.