What is Amazon Prime?

What began as a humble online bookstore in 1994 has morphed into the largest online retailer in the world and fundamentally changed the way Americans shop. Before, online shopping was an afterthought for most retailers and spending money online was kind of a chore. Today, you can buy virtually anything on Amazon and do it with no more than the click of a button.

But more than anything, Amazon changed the way we think about delivery. Before the eCommerce revolution, shipping times of two to four weeks were the norm. Amazon could reliably deliver your books in less than a week almost anywhere in the country. Then in 2005 they outdid themselves with the introduction of Amazon Prime, a membership program that offered “all-you-can-eat” express shipping for a $79 annual fee. Today, Amazon Prime is all that and more.

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delivery benefits

The most well-known of Prime’s benefits are directly tied to its roots of speedy delivery. Free two-day delivery is still part of the package but as a Prime member you have access to free one-day and same-day delivery on millions of items. Sure, same-day delivery is limited to orders over $25 but considering overnight delivery is at least $10 with most carriers, it’s still an amazing perk.

If you don’t care if your package is delivered that quickly, you can opt for no-rush shipping which comes with a reward, typically a voucher for a Kindle book or other Amazon digital product. If you’re the kind of person that needs the latest release the day it comes out, Amazon has that covered for Prime members as well as their release-date delivery service.

One lesser known Prime benefit is Amazon’s prescription medication service. Amazon can’t process insurance payments but if you’re paying for your prescription out of pocket, Prime members can shop around for the best prices and get free two-day delivery on their meds.

As a Prime member you can even consolidate your packages to arrive on the same day of the week. And if you really trust your delivery person and have a myQ smart garage door opener installed, you can have Amazon leave your packages safe in your garage with Amazon Key, away from the eyes of roving package thieves.

The most touted shopping benefit for Prime members is probably Prime Day, a two-day event where Amazon offers exclusive deals to Prime members, particularly on their own hardware like Fire tablets, Kindle eReaders, and Echo devices. It usually happens in mid July and this year is no exception. We’re just waiting to hear from Amazon for official dates.

How’s your credit? Amazon has two credit cards available depending on your needs. If you just want to flex your credit on Amazon you can apply for the Prime Store Card which earns 5% Amazon rewards back on all items and up to 15% on select purchases. It also has a no-annual-fee Visa card that earns 5% back on Amazon purchases and at least 1% on all other purchases.

Do you have a Whole Foods near you? Amazon bought them back in 2017 and offers a number of discounts and services for Prime members. If you’ve got the Prime Visa card we just mentioned you’ll get 5% in Amazon rewards when you use it at Whole Foods. Prime members even get free two-hour delivery in select markets.

What may surprise you (it surprised me) is Amazon has special services for Prime fashionistas. Its Try Before You Buy service has a curated selection of men’s, women’s, and children’s clothes that you can have sent to you (up to six items) in a resealable box. Try the clothes for a week, return what you don’t want, and pay for what you keep. If you need some tips for your drip, Amazon has a personalized styling service for Prime members that costs $4.99 per use. First, take an online fashion quiz and a stylist will select up to 16 items for you. Next, pick up to eight of those options to be sent to you. Finally, keep what you like and return the rest.

Digital Content

One of the best benefits of a Prime membership is access to Prime Video, Amazon’s answer to Netflix and Hulu. Amazon’s no slouch in the world of streaming either, it’s got some of the most popular shows streaming right now. Members also get access to a two-million-song library for free, or, for $8.99/month, they get access to Amazon Music Unlimited which has a library of over 90 million songs (compare that to the roughly 82 million available on Spotify) .

Another surprise in the Amazon stable of services for Prime members is Prime Gaming. More than an answer to the Epic Games Store, Amazon gives members free in-game content, a free subscription to a Twitch channel of their choosing, and at least five free games every month (I’m totally getting Escape from Monkey Island).

Amazon also has a cloud storage solution for your photos and videos. The normals get 5GB of photo storage (pay monthly for more) but Prime members get unlimited photo storage and 5GB for video just for being a member.

For the literate among us, Prime has you covered. Amazon has a library of ebooks that are free to read for Prime members. And once a month, members can select one book for free from a curated list of early access titles.

Finally, if you have kids, Amazon has the Amazon Kids+ service that bundles child-friendly content from all of their services (books, shows, apps, music) into one package. Normally it costs $7.99/month or $79.99/year, but Prime members pay $4.99/month or $48/year. Plus, the content is available across all Android and iOS powered devices.

Is an Amazon Prime Membership worth the money?

To get access to everything Amazon Prime has to offer, you’ll have to shell out $14.99/month or $139/year. Alternatively, if you’re enrolled in college or have a .edu email address, you could qualify for a Prime Student membership for $7.49/month or $69/year. Finally, if you just want access to Prime Video, that’s $8.99/month.

Given all of the services available with a Prime membership, it definitely could be worth it. If all you do is order stuff from Amazon and you aren’t worried about how fast it will get to you, then it’s not worth the extra money. But once you start taking advantage of some of the other services, it starts to become more attractive.

If you’re a gamer who likes subversive superhero shows and orders a few things online, the free games and streaming make Prime a really good deal. Likewise, if you’re a parent struggling to keep your kids entertained, need a backup solution for your family photos, and enjoy a book to relax, again, Prime is probably worth it.

Amazon Prime comes with a ton of perks that, if used, make it one of the best memberships online. For comparison, Netflix’s basic plan is $9.99, only offers video streaming at standard definition, and doesn’t allow concurrent streams. For $5 more Amazon offers three concurrent streams at 1080p and 4K plus everything else.

But if you don’t shop online much and you don’t care about what shows Amazon has to offer, it’s probably not worth it.

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