The cornerstone of an Amazon Prime membership has long been fast and free shipping. Two-day delivery on more than 30 million items remains paramount, but the program has moved into different territory and expanded the scope of existing benefits, enhancing the overall value. However, we still often get asked the question, is Amazon Prime worth it?
For instance, Amazon Prime offers Sunday delivery, free same-day service on hundreds of thousands of products for customers in more than 35 cities, and even faster delivery of groceries, restaurant meals, electronics, and various household items—within an hour or two—in certain markets.
Though the minimum purchase required for free standard delivery on eligible shipments (usually five to eight business days) is just $25, the incentives to sign up for Amazon Prime keep getting sweeter.
Among the enhanced benefits:
Permission to enter your home. Amazon Key launched in 37 U.S. cities Nov. 8 and allows Prime customers to give permission to Amazon’s couriers to open the doors to their homes and leave deliveries inside. If you like the sound of this, you’ll first need to buy a kit for $250. It includes an Amazon Key-compatible smart lock and a security camera, so when the courier arrives at your home, the system can unlock the door while recording the delivery. To see whether the service is available where you live, you can enter your ZIP code on Amazon’s website. Amazon Key can also be used to permit others—such as a dog walker from Rover—to get into your home as well.
Video streaming. Membership includes instant access to tens of thousands of movies and TV shows, including Amazon original series such as “Transparent” and “Mozart in the Jungle.” Amazon Studios announced a slate of movies new to its service, such as the thriller “You Were Never Really Here,” due to be released in February 2018, and director Gus Van Sant’s drama, “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,” due out in 2018. The company is also developing new series, including “The Underground Railroad” with “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins. You can watch on your computer, Fire TV, or other compatible device. You can also download the Amazon Video app to watch on your smartphone.
Music streaming. Prime Music now features unlimited, ad-free access to more than 2 million songs and thousands of playlists and stations. Among its most recent additions, Sam Smith’s “The Thrill of It All” and Kelly Clarkson’s “The Meaning of Life.”
Audio series from Audible. This perk allows listeners to stream audiobooks—best sellers, family favorites, celebrity-narrated classics, and original audio series—on demand.
Still not sure about Amazon Prime? Check out the pros and cons.
Prime Photos. The service allows secure, unlimited photo storage free in Amazon Cloud Drive for you and up to five family members or friends. Also included: 5GB of storage for videos and other files.
Goodies for gamers. Another benefit is Twitch Prime, which offers ad-free viewing on Twitch, the social-video platform and community for gamers. The service includes a free monthly subscription to a Twitch channel of the subscriber’s choice. Members also receive exclusive discounts on preordered and new-release games, and get guaranteed release-date delivery.
Prime reading. In addition to the Kindle Lending Library, which lets members borrow one Kindle e-book per month for free, Prime Reading provides unlimited access to a rotating selection of more than a thousand books, magazines, and comics. They can be accessed with a Kindle, Fire tablet, or smartphone by way of the Kindle app (for Apple or Android).
Lightning Deals. Prime Early Access gives Prime members 30-minute-early access to select Amazon Lightning Deals—daily limited-time discounts on tech products, fashion, and home goods, including luggage, headphones, watches, and mattresses.
Amazon Fresh. For an additional $15 per month, Prime members in select cities can shop for groceries, perishables, and favorites from local shops, and find restaurants. This month, Amazon notified customers in certain neighborhoods in seven states, including New Jersey, California, and New York, that it would end its Amazon Fresh grocery delivery service. Stay tuned to find out how the Whole Foods acquisition will benefit Amazon Prime members.
Prime Now. A mobile app allows customers in most parts of the U.S. to shop from early morning to late evening, seven days per week, for groceries, gifts, alcohol, and food. Most services offer free 2-hour delivery, though if you spend less than $35 there’s a $5 fee in some cities. Amazon also offers 1-hour delivery in select cities for $8.
Membership sharing. Prime members can share certain benefits, including free shipping, video streaming, and unlimited photo storage by creating an Amazon Household Account.
Consider a Free Trial
If you’re unsure whether you could benefit from Prime, you can sign up for the service at no cost. You’ll have 30 days to give it a try, but take note: At the end of the free trial period, your credit card will be charged the membership fee automatically for the next period unless you cancel in advance.
Members who have paid the fee but haven’t used their benefits are eligible for a full refund. You can’t receive a refund if any household member has placed an order using Amazon Prime.
There’s also a version of Prime for college students, which provides unlimited, free two-day shipping and special offers and promotions created just for students as part of a six-month free trial. After that, it costs $49 per year—half the price of a regular membership—and that membership adds unlimited streaming of movies, TV shows, and music, the Kindle Lending Library, and Prime Photo.
Another consideration is whether you do a lot of business with third-party marketplace vendors, not Amazon itself. If that’s the case, note that those purchases might not be eligible for free or expedited Prime shipping.
The above was first reported by Consumer Reports.