If you’ve been on the fence about whether or not you should sign up for Amazon Prime, this deep dive into all of the benefits is for you.
The best thing about Amazon Prime is that there’s something for everyone, and probably one or two things you never knew existed. Before I began researching this list, I didn’t know about Prime Reading – and I’m a book lover who covers Amazon for a living! And while I vaguely knew that Prime Now offered food delivery, I didn’t know that they could deliver goods from Eataly, a gourmet Italian grocery-slash-restaurant with locations in Chicago, New York, Boston, and L.A. I mean, wow. I’ll raise a glass of wine to that. The wine was delivered by Prime Now, of course.
And therein lies the value – in the sheer scope of this almost audaciously ambitious service that began 12 years ago with just two-day free shipping. Today, you can get everything from discounted diapers to free legendary Overwatch skins, and have your groceries delivered while streaming a Game of Thrones marathon. All with one service. Crazy.
Choose your Prime membership
There are six ways to do Amazon Prime:
Prime with an annual fee: $99/year
This is the Amazon Prime that’s been around seemingly forever, and if you’re a heavy Amazon user, this is the membership you want. Not only do you get access to all of the perks we mention below, it costs 25% less than the month-to-month plan, making it the best value of the two all-inclusive options. It kicks you off with a 30-day free trial, so you can cancel after Prime Day if you don’t want to keep it.
Prime with a monthly fee: $12.99
If you’re not quite sure about Amazon Prime but need more than a 30-day trial to decide, or need it for only part of the year, then the monthly payment option is what you’re looking for. But if you need it for more than 8 months, the annual plan is a better value.
Prime Video: $8.99/month
Some people just want access to the Prime Video library, without all of the extras. Amazon has positioned itself as a direct competitor to Netflix, so this makes perfect sense. A video-only Prime membership will run you $8.99/month, and the month-to-month nature of it means you can cancel and restart as you please. Keep in mind, though, that a full-blown annual Amazon Prime membership costs less over the course of a year than a Prime Video on its own – $8.88 less, to be precise. You might as well spring for the whole enchilada.
Prime Student with an annual fee: $49/year
After a 6-month free trial, students can get all of the benefits of Amazon Prime at a 50% discount.
Prime Student with a monthly fee: $6.49/month
Students also opt for a monthly subscription – handy if you go home for the summer where your parents already have Prime.
Prime for EBT card holders: $5.99/month
Qualifying customers with EBT cards can sign up for Amazon Prime at a reduced rate that works out to $71.88 over the course of a year. All of the usual Prime benefits are included.
Shopping with Amazon Prime
Free Two-Day, Same Day, and One-Day Shipping
Amazon Prime’s oldest and possibly most famous benefit is free 2-day shipping for Prime items. Depending on where you live and object availability, that can sometimes be reduced to one day.
But my favorite Prime shipping perk is the ability to opt for no-rush shipping in exchange for credits, usually for Prime Pantry or digital downloads. I like to collect digital credits to use towards movie rentals. You can even game this a little by placing separate no-rush orders for individual items. The best part is that your orders often will arrive within the 2-day window anyway.
Here’s a screenshot of what the No-Rush Shipping credit looks like.
Prime Now isn’t limited to stuff – You can also get 2-hour deliveries of food and alcohol from buzzy local establishments (like Eataly, in Chicago) and any number of local restaurants.
Early Access to Lightning Deals
Lightning Deals can sell out quickly, but Prime members get a 30-minute head start.
Some Amazon deals are only available when you order via voice search with Alexa. You can ask, “Alexa, what are your deals?” or you can go to the Alexa Deals page at Amazon to see what they are. Through July 9, 2017 your first Alexa order comes with a $10 credit. At the time this article was written, Alexa-only deals included 35% off Haribo Gummi Bears and 25% off Philips Hue Go Lights.
You’ll need an Alexa-enabled device like an Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, Echo Show, or Fire TV to access these exclusive deals.
Access to Prime Day sales
Let’s be honest, your fear of missing out is a big part of why you’re considering a Prime membership this week. Amazon’s Prime Day sales are only open to subscribers. The party that promises some of the best deals this side of Black Friday is members only.
A question we hear frequently from our fans is whether or not the Amazon Prime credit card is worth it. With 5% back on Amazon purchases and no annual fee, our credit card expert Mark Jackson certainly thinks so. You can read more about his take on the Amazon credit card in our article about the best credit cards for shopping online.
Tons of entertainment and digital media options
As a Prime member, I probably use Prime Video more than any other Amazon Prime benefit. For starters, there’s the top notch original programming that’s been winning Emmy Awards the past few years. Then there’s an entire library of movies and televisions series that subscribers can stream for free. And if it’s a new release, you can rent it in HD – sometimes for free if you’ve racked up enough of the digital media credits you can get for opting out of two-day shipping.
Amazon Channels brings the most popular standalone streaming services from cable stalwarts like HBO, STARZ, and Showtime under the Prime Video umbrella, allowing cordcutters to use their payment info already on file with Amazon. These channels do cost extra, but you’d be paying for them outside of Amazon’s ecosystem, too. It’s just convenient to have it all in one place under one payment system.
Amazon Prime subscribers have free access to more than 2 million songs and counting through Prime Music. It integrates nicely with Echo (though the sound quality of music on an Echo Dot is reportedly questionable.)
You can also upgrade to Amazon Music Unlimited for access to a much larger music database – Amazon quantifies it as “tens of millions of songs” – at three different paid account levels:
- Echo plan: $3.99/month for unlimited music on a single Echo, Dot, or Tap.
- Individual plan: $4.99/month for unlimited music on all of your devices.
- Family plan: $14.99/month or $149/year for unlimited music for up to six family members
The Individual and Family plans are also available without an Amazon Prime membership at a higher cost.
Hey book lovers, did you know that Amazon has an entire library of books, magazines and audiobooks that you can read for free with a Kindle or Kindle app? There’s no limit on how many you can read. Titles we found include Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Water for Elephants, Woman’s Day and Time magazines, and lots of Lonely Planet travel guides.
Every month, Prime members can buy a not-yet-released Kindle book from one of six Editors’ Picks for just $1.99.
Free for Prime members, Audible Channels includes access to podcasts, audio series, audiobooks, and other audio content. Bedtime Stories for Cynics presented by Nick Offerman, anyone? It’s an Audible Original, so you won’t find it anywhere else.
6-Months of Free Access to The Washington Post
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post, so hooking Prime subscribers up with some free premium media content was a no brainer and more or less inevitable. The trial is free for six months, and $3.99/month thereafter.
Gamers rejoice, for Twitch Prime delivers the loot when you connect your Twitch account. Twitch prime is included free with your Amazon Prime membership. For July 2017, Prime members can score a free Overwatch Golden Loot Box with random goodies inside. Members enjoy free gaming content every month, plus pre-order discounts and release-day delivery.
Amazon FreeTime Unlimited
Prime members get a 40% discount on FreeTime Unlimited, a full suite of parental controls which includes unlimited access to kid-friendly media including more than 13,000 books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games from brands like Disney, Nickelodeon, and Sesame Street, just to name a few. Pricing starts at $2.99/month for a single child, or $6.99/month for up to four children. There’s also a 1-month free trial you can check out.
Back up your photos with Amazon’s unlimited photo storage, free with your Prime subscription. You can add up to five family members so you can pool your photos into one giant family collection. You can also then avail yourself of Amazon Prints to order custom cards, wall decor, photo books, gifts, calendars, and, yes, good old fashioned photo prints.
Household Goods and Groceries with Amazon Prime
No time to go to the grocery shopping? Assemble your list of household goods and nonperishables with Prime Pantry and let them come to you. The box you fill has a flat delivery fee, so fill it up with as much stuff as you can to make it as cost effective as possible.
Amazon frequently doles out $5 Prime Pantry credits in exchange for no-rush shipping, so you may already have some credits laying about in your account. Don’t forget to click on the coupons when they’re available, and leverage Subscribe & Save to score extra savings on items you use constantly.
Where Prime Pantry leaves off with flat-rate shipping for household goods, Amazon Fresh steps in to deliver fresh produce, frozen foods, and more perishable goods. Because different items require different packaging in order to stay fresh/frozen/etc., Prime Pantry’s “fill a box” method doesn’t really work here. That sometimes results in things like a single bag of frozen peas being packed in 10x its weight of dry ice, but the convenience is nice when life conspires to keep me out of the store.
Orders totaling $40 or more get free delivery. To place an order, you reserve a time slot and either receive it personally from the delivery person, or give your blessing to be left at your door.
These little branded buttons mount easily inside of cabinets and can be quickly pressed to automatically reorder whatever it is you just ran out of. They cost $4.99 per button, but that cost is credited back to you the first time you use it. (Heads up that beginning at 6pm PST on Monday 7/10 and running through Prime Day, they’ll only cost $0.99, and you’ll still get the $4.99 credit on first use.)
In my household, the only Dash button I have is for toilet paper, and frankly, I use it more than I care to admit since carrying 12-packs of double-roll t.p. home from the grocery store can be pretty awkward on foot, and the need for toilet paper is never so top of mind as when you’re reaching for the last roll.
Lately, I’ve been using the new Dash Wand to immediately add things like shredded cheese, cocoa powder, and my favorite popsicles to my Amazon Fresh cart.
My favorite Dash item, however, is the Prime Surprise Sweets Dash Button, which delivers a surprise box of treats from small-batch artisans for $18 a pop. I don’t personally have this button – I can’t justify the cost, honestly – but I love the idea of a button that magically summons chocolate, don’t you?
How much are you spending on diapers? Would you like them to magically appear on your doorstep at a 20% discount? Behold, Amazon Family, free with your Amazon Prime account. Create a profile for your child and you’ll get access to exclusive deals and discounts, plus 15% off select items from your baby registry.