Are Amazon Prime perks worth cost?
By Katherine Gray, Tecca
Source: USA Today
Amazon has become a household name for online buying. The Seattle-based company started out just selling books but has since bloomed into a huge presence in the online world, where you can find everything including the kitchen sink. It branched into e-readers with the incredibly popular Kindle, and now the Kindle Fire tablet family has opened up yet another foothold into consumer’s hands and wallets.
Amazon.com has become a household name for online buying.
That’s where Amazon Prime comes in. It’s a membership program with a $79 yearly fee that offers free two-day shipping on every eligible order you place, plus a lot of other benefits of the more digital variety. $79 isn’t trivial, but it can unlock a world full of streaming content, an ebook lending library, and oh yeah — really fast shipping.
Just the basic facts
An Amazon Prime membership will set you back $79 per year. You can start with a one-month free trial, or if you’re a student or a parent, the Amazon Student and Amazon Mom programs offer other benefits. (We’ll get to those in a little bit.)
One membership can be shared with up to four additional people, so you and your family can all receive the membership for one yearly fee.
You get free two-day shipping and $3.99 one-day shipping on eligible purchases. (More on that in a bit.)
Enjoy instant access to movies and TV shows through Amazon Instant Video.
Who and what’s eligible
Anyone is eligible for the standard Amazon Prime membership, though only members in the United States can watch the streaming video. Purchases of items sold by Amazon itself (as opposed to Amazon merchants) are generally eligible for free two-day shipping, though some items such as very large, heavy, or hazardous materials might receive free standard shipping instead. Shipping to P.O. boxes with U.S. zip codes will similarly get free standard shipping.
Get your stuff fast for less
Super Saver Shipping is great, but there’s a $25 minimum order to qualify and it can still take five to eight days to get your stuff. The biggest benefit of Amazon Prime membership is free two-day shipping on most orders, which can pay for your $79 yearly fee after only a handful of orders. Without a Prime membership, Amazon calculates shipping costs by the shipment (different for various items; combination orders use the highest item fee) plus by the item (which also varies, depending on the item).
It’s somewhat difficult to do a simple comparison, since different items ship for different rates, but here’s an example. Say you place an order for two books, a CD, and a DVD. Here’s what you would pay for various shipping methods without an Amazon Prime membership:
Standard Shipping (5-8 business days) $3.99 per shipment charge + $.99 per book + $.99 each for the DVD and CD, for a total of $7.95; however, there’s a good chance that this order would cost over $25 and thus qualify you for free Super Saver Shipping.
Two-Day Shipping (2 business days) $9.99 per shipment charge + $1.99 for each item, for a total of $17.95; with Amazon Prime, two-day shipping is free.
One-Day Shipping (1 business day) $12.99 per shipment charge + $4.99 per book + $3.99 each for the DVD and CD, for a total of $30.95; Amazon Prime one-day shipping for this order would be $3.99 per item, for a total of $15.96.
If you were to use two-day shipping on this same type of order five times throughout the year, the savings on shipping alone would more than equal the $79 membership fee. As one Amazon Prime member put it to the Tecca team, the internet was created to indulge instant gratification, and free two-day shipping is about as close as it gets!
Prime Instant Videos
The other big benefit of Amazon Prime membership is Prime Instant Videos. This service, available to Amazon Prime members in the United States, provides unlimited, commercial-free instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows. You can watch on your computer or on the new Kindle Fire tablet as well as your internet-connected TV, Blu-ray player, or other set-top box. Amazon’s biggest competitor in this arena, of course, is Netflix, so if all you’re interested in is the streaming video portion of an Amazon Prime membership, you might want to check out our comparison of the two services.
Much like Netflix’s streaming video offerings, the catalog for Prime Instant Videos is constantly changing. A movie you want to watch might be available one week but off the list the next week. This is largely because of the complicated licensing agreements streaming video providers have to manage with studios.
Amazon Student and Amazon Mom
The Amazon Student and Amazon Mom programs offer benefits similar to Amazon Prime, but they’re not quite the same. Neither program offers free streaming video, for example. Amazon Student members are eligible for the same shipping benefits as Amazon Prime for six months and also receive deals and promotions exclusive for students. Amazon Mom members receive the Amazon Prime shipping benefits for three months and can extend that by earning an extra month of free shipping for every $25 spent in the Baby Store. Amazon Mom members also receive discounts and exclusive deals on various baby products.
Kindle lending library
Beyond movies and TV, Amazon Prime members also gain access to a library of borrowable ebooks. The Kindle Lending Library is stocked with over 100 New York Times bestsellers, and you can check out up to one book a month without a due date.
So is it worth it?
Whether or not an Amazon Prime membership is worth it to you will depend on your individual situation. How much will you use the free shipping benefit? As illustrated in our shipping costs example, it doesn’t take many orders to exceed the cost of the membership. How much time will you spend watching streaming video? A $7.99 per month Netflix subscription works out to $95.88 per year, which makes the $79 Amazon Prime membership seem cheap by comparison.
If you’ll use the various benefits of the Amazon Prime membership, it’s well worth the cost. Even if you’re not certain you’ll order enough to get the full benefit of the shipping discounts, the other benefits add plenty of value!