If you're not a Prime member, you're probably wondering what is Amazon Prime or if it even merits your money. Amazon Prime is more than just speedy shipping. It's a subscription service that gives members access to a variety of Amazon perks. Benefits include expedited 2-day shipping, access to exclusive Amazon deals, and many other Amazon-centric benefits.
For many consumers, Amazon Prime is a no-brainer for the shipping perks alone. However, an Amazon Prime membership will set you back $119 per year ($12.99/month). So if you're hesitant to join the 150 million members Amazon currently has, we don't blame you. To help you make an informed decision, we're breaking down what is Amazon Prime. From fast shipping to free streaming services, here's everything you need to know if you've ever wondered what is Amazon Prime.
What is Amazon Prime?
Amazon Prime is a paid subscription service — $119 per year or $12.99 per month — that gives Amazon shoppers a variety of perks. The biggest perk, however, is free one- or two-day shipping on most items sold by Amazon. CEO Jeff Bezos has stated that Amazon has over 150 million paid Prime members worldwide. So if you've ever wondered what is Amazon Prime — this should answer your question.
Prime membership and Prime Day
Amazon Prime Day is a 48-hour retail holiday designed specifically for Prime members. Although it's typically celebrated in July, last year Prime Day occurred on October 13. The pandemic and an unprecedented surge in deliveries caused Amazon to delay its retail holiday. However, this year Prime Day will likely return to its normal summer timeframe.
Amazon Prime and Memorial Day
Although Memorial Day isn't an Amazon-exclusive holiday, Prime members do at times get access to exclusive Memorial Day sales at Amazon. The deals tend to focus on Amazon's own hardware, such as its line of Echo speakers and 4K Fire TVs. If those are the type of deals you're looking for, a Prime membership can guarantee you won't miss out on any savings.
Amazon Prime Gaming
Heads up, gamers! Amazon just announced a new benefit for its 150 million Amazon Prime members. Amazon Prime Gaming is the latest freebie in Amazon Prime's suite of digital perks. Prime Gaming is essentially a rebranding of Twitch Prime. (Amazon purchased the live video-game-streaming site for $970 million back in 2014). That means you get the same exclusive in-game loot, free monthly games (that are yours to keep forever), and a free monthly Twitch subscription. To claim all of your gaming freebies and benefits, Prime members just need to log into their account and visit the new Prime Gaming landing page.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video is one of the biggest perks of being an Amazon Prime member. Prime Video offers unlimited streaming of movies and TV episodes for paid or free trial members in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. You can also add video subscriptions to services like Showtime, Starz, A&E, AMC and many other streaming entertainment channels. In fact, Prime members can now get a 30-day free trial of Paramount Plus. Amazon is constantly expanding its Prime Video library with new content. For more information, go to About Prime Video.
If you think you'll be heading abroad, though, Amazon will limit your viewing. In that case, it's worth getting an Amazon Prime VPN so you can change your location and watch everything you pay for, wherever you are.
Amazon Prime vs. Walmart Plus
Amazon's biggest competitor has launched a new membership service of its own. Walmart Plus is Walmart's answer to Amazon Prime. The $98-year service offers speedy delivery of items purchased on Walmart along with early access to deals and discounts on fuel at Walmart gas stations.
Amazon Prime vs. Best Buy Beta
Best Buy Beta is a new subscription service designed to take on Amazon Prime. Priced at $199.99 per year, Best Buy's service offers unlimited free shipping, 24/7 tech support, free in-home installation of select devices, and 2-year warranty protection on most purchases at Best Buy. (The latter includes Apple Care on Apple purchases). The pilot program is only available in select cities, so it's too early to tell what kind of impact it will have on Prime members. However, its pricier admission fee may make it a hard sell for current Prime members.
Amazon Prime Benefits
Although the cost of admission isn't cheap, there are many perks associated with an Amazon Prime membership. For instance, Prime members get 10 percent off on select Whole Foods purchases. Amazon has been doubling down on Whole Foods discounts with new weekly price cuts that save shoppers an average of 20 percent on in-season produce, meat, seafood, and other products.
Last October, Amazon announced that Prime members would get free Amazon Fresh deliveries on orders of $35 or more. Amazon Fresh previously required that Prime members pay an extra $14.99/month. However, Amazon announced that Fresh would now be free for Prime members who have previously used the service. (Members who haven't used the service must ask to be invited to Amazon Fresh before taking advantage of the free delivery).
Prime members also get discounts on digital services like FreeTime Unlimited, which costs $2.99/month for Prime members or $4.99/month for non-members. And should you receive an Amazon Prime delivery late, Amazon will try to rectify its mistake.
Students can also benefit from Amazon Prime. If you're a two- or four-year college student with a valid .edu email, you can get a free six-month trial of Amazon Prime Student, which gets you all of the benefits of Prime in addition to special student-specific deals and coupons. After your trial ends, Prime Student will cost you half the price of a regular Prime membership for up to four years or until you graduate, whichever comes first.
Prime Student membership now comes with a deal on Music Unlimited, the paid streaming service that typically costs $7.99 per month for Prime members. Those college students will get the option to add the 50-million track library of Unlimited (which beats Prime Music's 2 million count) for $0.99 extra.
Those are just a few of the many features of Amazon Prime. But Prime membsership goes beyond just deals. Below are the answers to all of your questions concerning Prime membership.
Q.: Why should I subscribe to Amazon Prime?
A.: Amazon lists a variety of reasons why customers who frequent its website may want a Prime subscription. Below you'll find a few.
- Free two-day shipping on eligible items to addresses in the contiguous U.S. and other shipping benefits. For more information, go to Amazon Prime Shipping Benefits.
- Free same-day delivery in eligible ZIP codes. For more information, go to Order with Prime Free Same-Day Delivery.
- Amazon Fresh: Now that Prime Pantry has been suspended, Amazon Fresh is one of the e-tailer's main food/grocery delivery services. Amazon Fresh lets Prime members shop groceries, everyday essentials, household items, and more. The service is free for Prime members and available in select cities only. You can request an invitation here.
- Prime Now: In select cities, Amazon offers one-hour delivery on tens of thousands of products from local stores. For instance, in New York City you can get delivery of beer, wine and spirits from Westside Market, Union Square Wines, or Vintage Grape. Amazon recently expanded its Prime Now delivery to include Annapolis, Cleveland, Louisville, North/Central New Jersey, and Pittsburgh. Prime Now also delivers food/groceries from Amazon-owned Whole Foods.
Amazon Prime savings
- Deals and Discounts, Compliments of Amazon Family: These include 20 percent off diapers through Subscribe & Save and 15 percent off eligible products from your baby registry. For more information, go to Get 20% off Diaper Subscriptions or About the Completion Discount.
- Prime Early Access: Get 30-minute early access to Lightning Deals on Amazon.com and new events on MyHabit.com. For more information, go to About Prime Early Access.
- Video Games: Amazon now gives Prime members $10 credits on pre-orders of select video games. Previously, Amazon offered 20 percent off new, physical video games during pre-order stages.
- Kindle First: Early access for members in the U.S. to download a new book for free every month from the Kindle First picks. For more information, go to Kindle First.
- FreeTime Unlimited: Parents will enjoy savings on FreeTime Unlimited, which brings tons of kid-friendly content to your account. Prime members pay $2.99 per month, while non-Prime members pay $4.99.
- Whole Foods: Prime members can enjoy exclusive savings at Whole Foods locations nationwide. Prime members also get free 2-hour Whole Foods deliveries via the company's Prime Now service. Deliveries are available in select cities only
- Amazon Rewards Visa Card: Prime members with an Amazon Rewards Visa Card can earn 5 percent on Amazon.com purchases, 2 percent at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores, and 1 percent back on all other purchases. Plus, you can get 5 percent back on your Whole Foods purchases. (Non-Prime members will get 3 percent back). Amazon card holders can also get up to 20% back on select purchases. For instance, the retailer is currently offering 10% off select Sony TVs.
- Just for Prime: Amazon has a special section on its website called Just for Prime. Here you'll find exclusive deals that only Prime member can enjoy. The deals range from electronics to home and kitchen devices. You can browse some of the deals here.
Entertainment: Prime Video, Music and Photos and more
- Prime Video: Unlimited streaming of movies and TV episodes for paid or free trial members in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. You can also add video subscriptions to Showtime, Starz, A&E, AMC and many other streaming entertainment channels. Amazon is constantly expanding its Prime Video library with new content. For more information, go to About Prime Video.
- Prime Music: Unlimited, ad-free access to hundreds of Prime Playlists and more than a million songs for members in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. For more information, go to About Prime Music. Did you also know you can get Amazon Music free on your Echo?
- Prime Photos: Secure unlimited photo storage in Amazon Cloud Drive. For more information, go to About Prime Photos. If you can wait until the holidays, you can usually find a deal that gets you a $10 Amazon credit for uploading photos to the Amazon cloud.
- Kindle Owners' Lending Library: Accessible to members in the U.S. For more information, go to Kindle Owners' Lending Library.
- Video Add-On Subscriptions: You can order third-party streaming apps through Amazon Prime to keep all your video content in one place. For instance, you can add Showtime Anytime and HBO Go to your account.
- Free Games with Prime Gaming: Amazon offers a selection of free games and in-game loot with Prime Gaming, formerly Twitch Prime. Prime members also get free in-game content for select mobile games like PUBG Mobile.
Other Prime member bonuses
- Amazon Elements: Access to Amazon Elements products, Amazon's own line of everyday essentials.
- Membership Sharing: Two adults living in the same household can create an Amazon Household to share certain Amazon Prime benefits. For more information, go to About Amazon Households.
Q.: Do I get exclusive access to deals?
A.: Yes. Amazon frequently makes deals available for for Prime members only. Similarly, a few years ago when Amazon restocked its Nintendo Switch inventory, the console was only available for Prime members. This may be a sign of things to come where Amazon becomes more like Costco or Walmart, requiring membership before you can shop.
Likewise, Amazon's Elements line of products are only available to Prime members. The product line ranges from baby wipes to vitamins. The idea is that Amazon goes the extra mile of telling you exactly where the product came from. (In the case of those wipes, I can tell you liquid inside is 97.9 percent pharmaceutical-grade purified water from the White Lick Creek Aquifer in Moorseville, Indiana).
It's worth noting that if you opt for free, no-rush shipping (which can take five to seven 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 and you reach out to customer service, Amazon may extend your Prime membership by a month.
Q.: How much does Amazon Prime cost?
A.: Now that you know what is Amazon Prime — it's time to look at the costs. The membership fee for Amazon Prime is $119 per year or $12.99 per month. The first 30 days of the annual subscription are free, and you can cancel anytime.
Students can get a generous price break, however. Amazon Student accounts get many of the same Prime benefits, and it's free for the first six months. After that, you will need to subscribe to Prime, but at a 50 percent discount. During the six-month trial, students can get free shipping but will not be able to access streaming video and music, or borrow Kindle books. However, they will receive full Prime benefits if they choose to subscribe at the discounted price afterward. They'll also get access to exclusive deals, such as specials on video game pre-orders.
Q.: Can I give Amazon Prime as a gift?
A.: Yes. Just visit Amazon Prime's gifting page, add it to your cart and follow the instructions to find out how you can give a yearlong subscription to a friend or family member. In your cart, before you check out, just make sure that the box reading "This item is a gift" is checked off, and you can fill in the rest of the information when you pay.
Q.: What is Prime Day?
A.: Prime Day began in 2015 as a way for Amazon to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The sale was such a success, that it became an annual summer event for Amazon. In 2018, Amazon extended the sale to a full 36 hours, making it the longest Prime Day ever. This year, Prime Day 2019 lasted 48 hours and Amazon said it sold more than 175 million items worldwide, which surpasses Amazon's Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales combined. Check out our Amazon Prime Day page for a recap of the summer sale.
- The best Kindle
Q.: What are Amazon Households?
A.: Amazon Households allow two adults and up to four children to share digital Amazon content. Two adults in the same household can share a number of Amazon Prime benefits, including two-day shipping, streaming video and access to the Kindle Lending Library. To add yourself to — or remove yourself from — a household, follow the instructions on the Amazon help website.
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. Oversize 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 1 million books available in the Kindle Lending Library. 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. Currently, the service offers more than two 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). Its newer service, Music Unlimited, gives you access to "tens of millions" of songs and weekly new releases. If you own an Amazon Echo, you can pay $3.99/month for this service, but you'll only be able to stream on your Echo device. For $7.99/month, you'll be able to stream on all of your devices.
Q.: What is Twitch Prime?
A.: Most gamers are already familiar with Twitch, the popular game-stream broadcast service, but may not know about Twitch Prime. Amazon Prime users also get access to Twitch Prime, which allows them to watch Twitch streams completely ad-free. Monthly in-game bonuses and "Free Games With Prime" — a selection of free titles for Prime members — are other perks continue. Most recently, Amazon announced that Prime members will get free in-game content for select mobile games starting with in-game items for PUBG Mobile. The in-game content will work with popular titles from EA, Moonton, Netmarble, Wargaming Mobile, and more.
Q.: What is Prime Now?
A.: Prime Now is an app for iOS and Android devices and a website that promises free delivery of select items within 2 hours. At the outset, the service was only available in select cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and Phoenix, but the program has added new cities on a regular basis.
The goods offered are mostly groceries, toiletries and small gifts, but this should change as Amazon gains additional local partners. You can also order food delivery from some of your favorite restaurants. For instance, in New York City, Eataly, Westside Market, Gourmet Garage, Vintage Grape Wine & Spirits and Billy's Bakery are among the participating businesses. You can opt for one-hour delivery if you're in a hurry, but that will cost you an extra $7.99. To see if your area is within Prime Now's delivery range, check the Prime Now website.
Q.: What is Amazon Prime Video?
A.: Amazon Prime Video is the streaming-video component of Amazon Prime. Like Netflix and Hulu, 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. You can also chose to subscribe to Prime Video only for $8.99/month.
Amazon Prime hosts a number of original series, including hits like Mozart in the Jungle, Transparent, and The Man In The High Castle. Users can also stream older HBO shows, such as The Sopranos, Eastbound & Down and the first season of Veep. Like Netflix, new shows are added continually.
With a Prime membership, you also get access to the ala carte Amazon Channels subscriptions, where you can pick and choose the networks you want, and not pay for anything you don't watch. Subscriptions include HBO, Starz, Showtime, PSS Masterpiece, Magnolia Selects, Britbox and Acorn TV.
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. Or you can sign up for Prime Video on a monthly basis for $8.99.
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. For 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.
Q.: Where can I watch Amazon Prime Video?
A.: Amazon Prime Instant Video is available on PCs, Macs 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 Video are Amazon's own Kindle Fire tablets and Fire TV devices.
The service is available for Roku set-top boxes, Apple TV, and most smart TVs, but not for Google Chromecast. Amazon has also unveiled Fire TV Edition: a line of TVs that runs with the same interface as a Fire TV Cube or Fire TV Stick. An Amazon Prime membership isn't necessary to use the TVs, but could help users get the most out of one.
Q.: Is Amazon Prime Video better than Netflix/Hulu?
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, but the cheaper price and extra Prime features may make it worthwhile for Amazon fans — particularly those who own Kindle Fires or Fire TVs.
Q: What is Amazon Scout?
A.: Amazon is always looking for new ways to get people to shop and its latest project — called Amazon Scout — gives consumers product recommendations based on what products they like or dislike on the Amazon Scout page. Currently, the site only features deals on home decor, kitchen, and women's shoes.
Q.: What is FreeTime Unlimited?
A.: Prime members save $2 per month on this subscription service that offers thousands of books, movies, TV shows, educational apps and games for children ages 3 to 10 years old. Recently, Amazon expanded the ages, to also include specialty content for kids ages 9 to 12. Owners of a new Fire Kids Tablet automatically receive one year free. FreeTime Unlimited is accessible through Fire tablets, Fire TV and Kindle e-readers. Parents can granularly sort and filter content based on their own judgement as to what's appropriate.
Q.: Why shouldn't I subscribe to Amazon Prime?
A.: If you tend to make infrequent Amazon purchases that exceed $25, the service is probably not for you. (Spending $25 or more will get you free shipping, even without a Prime membership.) 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, 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.
If you decide you want to cancel the subscription afterward, go to your account and select Manage Prime Membership. Click End Membership if you're currently subscribed, or Do Not Continue if you're on a free trial and do not wish to start a paid subscription.
Q.: What should I do if my delivery is late?
A.: Although Amazon prides itself on its speedy delivery, occasionally the retailer can drop the ball. There are a few things you can do to avoid an Amazon Prime delivery late, but Amazon will also rectify things with perks such as an added free month of Amazon Prime.