Amazon Prime has become an indispensable companion for online shoppers. The service, which costs $119 per year, offers free two-day shipping to more than 100 million subscribers. But the benefits don't end there. Amazon frequently adds perks to keep its existing customers happy and attract new shoppers. Prime members, for instance, get exclusive discounts at Whole Foods stores nationwide.
Update: Amazon is giving everyone an early holiday gift. The e-tailer announced that it will offer free shipping (between 5 to 8 days delivery) with no minimum purchase required on orders that will arrive in time for the Christmas holiday. The offer applies to "hundreds of millions of items." Amazon calls this a limited time offer, but doesn't specify when the deal will end. Free shipping with no Prime membership required will be a boon for many shoppers this year. (Prime members shouldn't feel too cheated as they'll continue to get 2-day shipping and added benefits like same-day delivery from Whole Foods).
However, Amazon is also known for occasionally taking perks away. Most recently, it announced that in lieu of receiving 20 percent off video game pre-orders, Prime members will receive $10 credits on select pre-order titles.
With Prime's ever-changing ecosystem, is membership worth the cost? It's a more valid question than ever after Amazon's last price hike. Here are the top Prime perks to help you decide if Prime is right for you.
Arguably the most important Amazon Prime perk is its shipping offer. Amazon Prime customers get free two-day shipping through the service, and can get overnight shipping for as little as $2.99 per item. At times, overnight shipping can even be free. (This frequently happens during the holiday/Black Friday season). Amazon also offers same-day delivery on qualifying orders in certain cities, as well as special offers on products with its “no-rush shipping,” which Prime customers can choose if they’re willing to wait a bit longer for an item.
Although it's only available in select markets, Prime Now gives consumers the opportunity to receive select items in as little as an hour. Prime Now is offered on thousands of items sold through Amazon. Most recently, Amazon announced its extending Prime Now to include food and products purchased at Whole Foods. The service is currently available in select cities such as Boston, Dallas, Austin, and Virginia Beach, but Amazon has been expanding the service very aggressively. Just this month Amazon expanded its Prime Now delivery to include Annapolis, Cleveland, Louisville, North/Central New Jersey, and Pittsburgh as well as additional locations in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Amazon’s Prime Video has become a real competitor in the streaming-video market, thanks to popular original series like “Transparency,” which has won several EMMY awards. In addition to original programming, the streaming service, which comes free with a Prime subscription, offers a wide range of network and broadcast television content, as well as lots of free movies.
Prime Pantry is designed to be an easily accessible service for people to stock up on household goods. The service sells everything from food and beverages to cleaning and beauty items. Although it used to have a flat fee of $5.99 per order, Amazon recently changed its pricing structure. Prime Pantry is now a subscription service that costs an extra $4.99 per month (in addition to your Prime membership), but includes unlimited free shipping on orders of $40 or more. Orders under $40 will incur a $7.99 shipping fee. Prime members who want to shop Prime Pantry items — without joining the service — will have to pay a flat fee of $7.99 per order regardless of its size or total price.
Another Prime benefit for foodies is lower pricing at Whole Foods. Prime members receive exclusive 10 percent off discounts on select items at all Whole Foods stores nationwide. This program first debuted in Florida earlier this spring. Examples of discounts include baby back pork ribs for $4.99/lb. ($5/lb. off), wild caught Sockeye salmon for $13.99/lb. ($6/lb. off), organic red cherries for $3.99/lb. ($2/lb. off), and 25 percent off bulk items like nuts and granola. In addition, some Whole Foods stores now double as Amazon lockers where Prime members can pick up and make returns.
Amazon’s Lightning Deals offers customers the opportunity to get a compelling offer on select items. However, because the deal is offered for a limited time and on a limited supply, customers need to move fast. To give Prime subscribers a better chance at finding a deal, Amazon offers them access to the deals 30 minutes before its non-subscribers. Who doesn’t like to get a jump on a good deal?
Prime Reading is a relatively new perk that allows users to read more than a thousand books, magazines, comics, and other content for free. Best of all, there is no limit on how much content Prime subscribers consume and on which device they decide to read it. Think of Prime Reading as a one-stop shop for heavy readers to get access to the content they care about – and not have to pay for it in the process.