With its plethora of services — including video, e-books and the ability to buy almost anything — Amazon has created an annual membership program that offers free or discounted services across the board. Read on to find out whether Amazon Prime is worth it for you.
Q.: What Is Amazon Prime?
A.: Amazon Prime is a paid service (Free 30-day trial, $99 per year) that gives Amazon shoppers a few distinct advantages. Members of Amazon Prime are eligible for:
- Free two-day shipping on any eligible item without a minimum-order balance, and free same-day delivery (in 14 metro areas) on eligible orders more than $35. Prime Pantry Delivery costs a flat $5.99 for delivery of heavy and bulky items.
- Prime Now app that offers one-hour delivery, in select metropolitan areas. (You can get $20 off your first order of $50 or more with the promo code TRYITNOW.)
- Sharing the free shipping benefits (and other Prime benefits) with one other adult and up to four children as part of Amazon Household.
- Video streaming through Amazon Prime Instant Video and Music streaming through Amazon Prime Music
- Sharing the video and music streaming with another adult, as long as they are marked as an adult in your account.
- Prime Photos for unlimited photo storage on Amazon Cloud Drive. You also get 5GB of cloud storage for other types of files.
- One free Kindle book to borrow (from a pool of about 350,000 selections) each month. Also, Kindle First offers early access to one of four Editors' Picks of new e-book releases each month.
- Free, unlimited access to The Washington Post National Digital Edition for six months (normally worth $9.99 per month). Then, Prime members can purchase a monthly subscription for just $3.99.
- Amazon Mom for discounts on product subscriptions such as baby wipes, perfect for new parents and caretakers. You also get a 20 percent discount on diaper subscriptions. This benefit can be shared between members of an Amazon Household.
- 5 percent cash back, if you use an Amazon Store Card for purchases.
When you purchase eligible products, you can get a discount on your Prime membership. It's worth noting that if you opt for free no-rush shipping (which can take between 5 and 7 days), you can earn money toward music, video and e-book purchases. Also, if a Prime-eligible package arrives after the two-day shipping guarantee, Amazon will extend your Prime membership for a month.
Q.: How much does Amazon Prime cost?
A.: The membership fee for Amazon Prime is $99 per year. The savings on shipping alone could make the program worthwhile for frequent shoppers. And on the video side, Prime is about the same price as access to Netflix or Hulu Plus ($96 per year for each), but whereas Netflix and Hulu Plus are recurring $8 monthly costs, the $99 Prime one-year subscription needs to be paid up front. Users can also access certain shows on Hulu for free, but without access to full seasons or apps for game consoles or mobile devices. Users who purchase the Amazon Fire Phone will also get 12 free months of access to Amazon Prime.
The first 30 days of Prime is free, and you can cancel anytime. Even those on a free trial are eligible for Amazon's annual birthday celebration called Prime Day.
Q.: What is Amazon Household?
A.: Households consist of two adults, each with their own Amazon account, and up to four children. Eligible Prime benefits can only be shared between the two adults in a household. Those benefits include shipping, Prime Instant Video (streaming only), Kindle Owners' Lending Library, Prime Early Access.
By setting up an Amazon Household you can easily share Amazon content via a Family Library. Plus Prime members can share a variety of Prime benefits. Both adult members must authorize each other to use credit and debit cards associated with their Amazon accounts for purchases on Amazon. To authorize another adult, sign into your account, click Settings > Households And Family Library > Invite An Adult. After both members have done this, go back to your account and click Create Household. You will be prompted to set your content sharing settings. Then you click Create Your Family Library.
Q.: What is Family Library?
A.: Members of an Amazon Household can create a Family Library of Amazon content that can be freely shared among the other household members.
Q.: Which items get free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime?
A.: The vast majority of items that Amazon sells qualify for free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime. Oversized items, such as treadmills and basketball hoops, get free standard shipping instead. However, items sold through third parties (via Amazon Marketplace) are ineligible for any kind of free shipping, unless the seller happens to offer it.
Q.: Which Kindle books are available to borrow?
A.: Amazon states that there are more than 350,000 books available in the Kindle's lending library, including more than 100 current New York Times best sellers. To see if a book you want to read qualifies, simply search for it on your Kindle device, Kindle app or the Amazon website, and see if the Prime logo appears next to it. If so, a Prime subscription lets you borrow it for one month. If not, you'll have to pay for it the old-fashioned way.
Q.: What is Amazon Prime Music?
A.: Amazon Prime Music is a streaming music service, similar to Spotify or Pandora. Users can choose albums or songs to stream, or allow Amazon to create a customized profile to suit their tastes and do it for them. At present, the service offers more than a million songs, but its selection still pales in comparison to those of Spotify and Pandora. Amazon Prime members can also download these songs and listen to them online (as long as their Prime membership remains active).
Q.: What Is Prime Now?
A.: Prime Now is an app for iOS and Android devices that promises delivery of select goods from Amazon within an hour. At the outset, the service is only available in select parts of Manhattan, New York, but the program could expand its range if it gains popularity. The goods on offer are mostly groceries, toiletries and small gifts, but this could also change as Amazon gains additional local partners. To see if your area is within Prime Now's delivery range, check the Prime Now website.
Q.: What is Amazon Prime Instant Video?
A.: Amazon Prime Instant Video is the streaming-video component of Amazon Prime. Like Netflix and Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime offers unlimited streaming of tens of thousands of movies and TV shows. Unlike its two competitors, however, Amazon Prime also allows à la carte rentals and purchases of its content.
Q.: Can I use Amazon's streaming video services without an Amazon Prime subscription?
A.: Yes, but you will have to buy or rent each individual piece of content you want to watch. The prices on this content can vary dramatically, from $2 for individual TV episodes to $30 or more for entire seasons.
Q.: Will a Prime subscription give me access to every streaming video on Amazon?
A.: No. Amazon offers only certain TV shows and movies for unlimited streaming. When it comes to brand-new movies and recently broadcast episodes of TV shows, for example, you'll have to dish out money for each individual piece of media. Amazon marks its unlimited streaming shows and movies with a Prime graphic across the top of the box art; everything else is pay-as-you-go. Between the two categories, the service offers about 150,000 videos, of which about 40,000 are available for unlimited streaming with a Prime subscription (compared to Netflix's estimated 75,000).
Amazon Prime now hosts two original series: "Alpha House" (staring John Goodman) and "Betas," with more shows planned to debut next year.
Q.: Where can I watch Amazon Prime Instant Video?
A.: Amazon Prime Instant Video is available on PC, Mac and Linux computers, as well as all modern and last-gen game consoles. All iOS users can download an Amazon Prime app, but Android users are not so fortunate. The only Android devices that support Amazon Instant Video are Amazon's own Kindle Fire tablets, and the company has no current plans to change this policy. The service is available for Roku set-top boxes and most smart TVs, but not for Google Chromecast or Apple TV.
Q.: Is Amazon Prime Instant Video better than Netflix/Hulu Plus?
A.: The short answer is "no," but the longer answer depends on what you're looking for in a service. If you want the free two-day shipping and the free Kindle book, Amazon Prime's streaming video is a nice bonus. The unlimited streaming options are generally not as robust as those offered by Netflix and Hulu Plus, but the cheaper price and extra Prime features may make it worthwhile for Amazon fans — particularly those who own Kindle Fires.
Q.: Can I get Amazon Prime for Less?
A.: If you're in school, you can sign up for Amazon Student Prime. Through this discount program, you get a 6-month free trial of Amazon Prime. After that period is up, you can sign up for a full year for half off.
Q.: What is Prime Day?
A.: July 15 will mark the first annual Prime Day, when more deals will be offered than on Black Friday. Those deals will only be offered to those with a Prime membership. The deals will include Lightning Deals that will change every 10 minutes, as well as deals of the day. The discounts will be available starting ta midnight PST.
Q.: Why shouldn't I subscribe to Amazon Prime?
A.: If you tend to make infrequent Amazon purchases that exceed $35, the service is probably not for you. Likewise, if you get your e-books from Barnes & Noble, Apple or Kobo, the free Kindle book will not benefit you much. If you already subscribe to Netflix or Hulu Plus, you have access to a wider selection of unlimited streaming video than what Amazon Prime offers.
Q.: How can I sign up for Amazon Prime?
A.: Visit Amazon Prime's Web page, and follow the instructions. You'll need a free Amazon account as well as a credit card.
|Related Buying Guides:|
|Best Streaming Media Players|
|Cable TV Alternatives|
|Amazon Prime vs. Netflix|