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Should You Have An Amazon Prime Membership?

Updated on December 23, 2015
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E-Commerce and Amazon

In 2013, business-to-consumer e-commerce volume in the U.S. was at $703.28 billion—retail e-sales (as opposed to wholesale or services) in the U.S. were a staggering $237 billion.

With the number of digital shoppers in the U.S. approaching 200 million shopping online is the norm in today’s consumer society. It is the number one way for consumers to buy products without ever having to leave their home (vs. other methods such as mail order or telephone ordering).

Inarguably, Amazon is one of the largest and most profitable e-commerce sites in the world, and it offers almost any kind of product imaginable. Games, toys, food (produce and fresh food is even an option through Amazon Fresh in select cities), pet products, sporting and outdoor goods, jewelry, beauty care, clothes—virtually anything one can think of Amazon likely stocks it (or can find it and ship it via a third-party vendor). With nearly 200 million quarterly visitors in the U.S. alone Amazon is still growing.

It offers many services for convenience to its customers. One of these, Amazon Prime, is geared toward saving the frequent shopper a bundle on shipping charges by paying a flat rate annually and receiving free two-day priority shipping on purchases. Standard membership is $99 per year. For the recurrent shopper, savings on priority shipping costs more than makes up for the annual subscription. There are options, however, that may decrease that fee for those that may be eligible.

Basics of Prime Membership

Amazon Prime membership offers many attractions for its price.

The first of these is called “Prime Shipping”. Members are eligible to receive free two-day shipping on eligible products, a shipping service level that normally has a hefty premium added to it. For the person who perhaps buys few items annually from Amazon this is of no value—one or two purchases per year will certainly not gain anyone his or her money’s worth.

However, for those who make frequent purchases this free shipping, and getting the goods in two days, is easily recouped. Furthermore, the program allows those buyers who aren’t in so much of a hurry to receive their goods a credit (usually $1) if standard shipping is chosen (also free). Thus, by being willing to wait, not only does the buyer get free standard shipping he/she receives $1credit good toward select products (usually in the Amazon Music or Kindle categories) toward getting a song or a book on Amazon.

Another benefit is access to Amazon’s “Instant Video” library. This once paled in comparison to companies like Netflix or Hulu, but nowadays, AP Instant Video is full of great movies and TV shows that can be streamed for free on a computer, smart phone, or tablet. For example, if one has a child who likes, say, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Netflix only has two seasons currently. But Amazon Instant Video, in contrast, has five seasons that can be streamed as part of the yearly membership fee. And, like Netflix, Instant Video is now producing original content (thus expanding viewing options).

For the more aurally inclined Prime Music gives unlimited access to ad-free music with hundreds of free playlists and over a million different songs. Again, Amazon has come a long way with its music selection. Prime Music carries many of the most popular songs and albums, making Amazon a one-stop shop for all things shopping and media. Additionally, you can use the free music credits mentioned in the Shipping section to purchase all of the songs you love.

Amazon Photos gives members virtually unlimited storage for all of photos, and 5GB of storage for personal video and document storage. The nice thing about this feature is that one can access Amazon Cloud Drive from nearly any device and access all of the pictures or files saved, making it a competitor with services like DropBox.

More Benefits from Amazon Prime

Deals and Discounts from Amazon Family

Members also enjoy access to special deals and discounts from time to time. And for regularly purchased consumer items this alone may be enough of a cost savings to sign up for a Prime membership.

For example, those with kids in diapers can get discounts up to 20% off on them through Amazon’s Subscribe & Save service.

As a member, the Subscribe & Save service essentially creates a standing order for whatever item one might need on a regular basis (in this example, diapers). That item is shipped every month (or every other month, whatever the customer signs on for) at a discounted rate. And the more Subscribe & Save items signed up for, the greater the total discount is on those Subscribe items.

So, again following the example, significant savings can be generated by subscribing to a diaper order, a baby wipes order, and whatever else one might need (there are lots of Subscribe & Save items, not just baby stuff).

Additionally, you can receive up to 15% off of eligible products added to a baby registry that an expectant parent can create on Amazon.

Kindle Owners’ Lending Library

The reading world is migrating toward e-readers instead of hard-copy books.

Amazon’s Kindle Reader was among the first electronic book readers, and for those owning a Kindle along with a paid Prime membership much of the world’s classic and contemporary literature is literally at one’s fingertips free of charge

Members can “borrow” one book a month from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Although the Lending Library doesn’t have every book imaginable, it is expansive. One can best liken this benefit as one’s own online library where a good book can be “rented” every month, yet without a library pass or leaving home!

Early Access

This feature gives members a 30-minute head start on all “Lightning Deals” found on Amazon. While this may not seem like much of a perk for everyday shopping, when Amazon runs some kind of Prime promotion (which they’ve done in the past), one may find products that are very desirable at bargain prices. And because of members’ getting in on the action slightly earlier than non-members one can nab the good deal before it’s sold out.

Pantry

Prime Pantry allows for members located in the contiguous U.S. to order basic food items, cleaners, pet items, and other household products for a flat fee of $5.99 for each Pantry box. So, if one truly dislikes physically going to a dry goods or grocery store, Amazon has it covered.

How To Sign Up For Amazon Prime

Anyone can sign up for a 30-day free trial to “test” Amazon Prime to see if it’s a good fit for one’s budget and needs. If convinced that joining is the right move, one can then sign up for a full membership (which will cost $99).

Some people qualify for a reduced subscription rate, though. Students with email addresses that end in “.edu” can sign up for Amazon Student (which is essentially Prime) and enjoy the benefits at nearly half the cost ($49).

Additionally, anyone can sign up for an Amazon Fresh membership (in select cities). It starts with a free 90-day trial but once the trial period is up Fresh will cost $300 annually (which includes all of the benefits of Prime in addition to the perks of the Fresh program).

Some credit card companies will provide a free Prime membership when signing up for their card, but be aware of minimum payments required to qualify for the Prime benefit.

Would You Sign-Up?

After reading this article, would you sign-up for Amazon Prime?

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If Amazon Isn't Right For You...

If the $99 annual fee is just not in the budget, or if a different provider is preferred, then there are other options comparable to Prime.

Of course, one can continue to shop at local brick-and-mortar stores (which most people will continue to do to some degree. There is also jet.com, which is an e-commerce store that offers a variety of products just like Amazon. Also, Jet does not charge a membership fee, which makes shopping there much more enticing.

In regards to the video or music streaming, there are several services comparable to Prime. For video, one can sign-up for Netflix for $8 to $9 per month depending on whether or not one is a new subscriber. [This is at least $96 dollars a year.] Or, one can sign-up for Hulu Plus for $8 a month for their regular service; commercial-free viewing, though, jacks Hulu’s price to $12 a month. So, a Hulu Plus subscription with commercials is roughly $96 a year and a commercial-free subscription is $144 per year.

It is important to remember that, generally, the selection of movies and TV shows is going to be somewhat more expansive on Netflix or Hulu than Prime, so one will need to weigh the pros and cons accordingly. However, with Netflix and Hulu Plus, there is no access to music streaming or cloud storage. But, depending on one’s needs, perhaps one of these other streaming services makes more sense than a Prime subscription.

There are also many other music subscription services that are now available beyond Prime music streaming. They include Google Play Music (free or $10 per month in extras), Spotify ($10 per month), Apple Music ($10 per month), Tidal ($10 per month), Rdio ($10 per month), or Rhapsody ($10 per month). Again, one will need to decide what the greatest needs are and then make a choice accordingly.

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Is Amazon Prime A Good Deal?

While Amazon Prime is not the only option out there, it is definitely a good one for the price and the expansive services provided with that membership cost.

But beware: any subscription services will continue to charge one’s credit card unless one personally makes a request to cancel the subscription. So, be sure to stay on top of the charges showing up on credit cards.

Overall, the $99 spent on a membership each year may be worth its weight in gold. If buying as few as a dozen items on Amazon, one may easily earn back the subscription cost in the shipping savings alone.

In the end it is a terrific cost-saver for “frequent flyers” and for those who want instant video and credits toward downloadable music. So, for those people, enjoy!

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