What Is Amazon Prime? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
Amazon Prime gives you access to everything from Prime Day to free two-day shipping. You’ve probably seen enough Amazon ads to know that Amazon thinks this is a must-have subscription for its shoppers. But what is Amazon Prime and what makes it so special? Unlike most online subscriptions, you’re not getting just one benefit. Before you decide whether to join Prime, let’s take an in-depth look into everything Prime has to offer and what it’s missing.
Tip: Save money by tracking Amazon price drops.
Amazon Prime Benefits
Amazon Prime offers a multitude of benefits to subscribers. In fact, it’s one of the more comprehensive memberships you can buy online. It’s a mix of entertainment, deals, discounts, and of course, free shipping. While you’ve probably heard a lot about the shipping part, the following explains all of the benefits you will get.
Free Two-Day Shipping (And Sooner)
It’s important to note that the free two-day shipping only applies to items that specifically say they’re Prime eligible, which also includes Amazon Pharmacy subscriptions. These are items that are sold and shipped by Amazon or sold by a third party but shipped by Amazon. Items shipped by third-party sellers usually aren’t eligible.
Depending on the item, you may also be eligible for same-day or one-day delivery at no extra cost. Same-day is only in specific zip codes, so don’t be surprised if it’s not offered in your area.
As an added benefit, if you’re not in a hurry to get your items, you can choose No-Rush Shipping, which usually takes two to three extra days. If you go this route, you’ll usually get $1 to $3 in digital credits to use on digital items, such as ebooks, music downloads, and videos. In my experience, I usually receive my items around one to two days later.
If you shop at Whole Foods and are in one of the eligible areas, you can get two-hour delivery on your groceries.
Earn More Cash Back
If you have an Amazon Prime Rewards credit card, which you can get even without a Prime membership, you jump from 3% cash back to 5% cash back on all Amazon purchases. You’ll also get 5% cash back at Whole Foods.
Get Early Access and Exclusive Discounts
Even if you don’t have Amazon’s credit card, you can still save significantly if you shop at the right time. Amazon Prime members get early access (30 minutes early) to Lightning Deals. If you’ve ever missed out on an extremely popular item, having that extra half hour can make all the difference. This is also beneficial during Prime Day and Black Friday deals.
You’ll also find regular discounts on a wide variety of items. These discounts are only available to Prime members.
Plus, you can get extra discounts on Subscribe and Save items. You can score up to 20% off baby food, diapers, and more. Plus, get up to 15% off items on your baby registry. This also works well with Amazon Elements products. It adds to the savings on items like baby wipes and vitamins/supplements.
You also get discounts on prescriptions through Amazon Pharmacy. Discounts vary based on the prescription.
If you have a physical Amazon 4-Star or Amazon Bookstore in your location, Prime members get discounts on all products.
Good to know: Do you need to view Amazon in a different language? Learn how to change it.
Amazon Music Prime
First of all, this is different than Amazon Music Unlimited, which gives you access to over 100 million songs ad-free. As of November 2022, Amazon Prime members now get access to the full 100 million song catalog as well, but it’s only in the form of playlists, albums, and artists. You can’t just pick individual songs. That’s still a benefit just for Amazon Music Unlimited members.
However, as a Prime member, you also get access to ad-free podcasts. And, if you’re not big on creating your own playlists, you can take advantage of all the playlists others have created. Considering most music-streaming memberships start at around $10/month, this can save you $120/year.
If you are interested in upgrading to the Music Unlimited plan (separate from Prime), it’s $8.99/month for individuals or $15.99/month for the family plan.
Amazon Prime Video
If you’re cutting the cord, this may become your favorite benefit. Amazon Prime members get full access to Amazon Prime Video. This benefit alone is why many people choose to subscribe. You’ll find thousands of movies and TV shows included at no extra cost, including original series and movies, such as Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Jack Ryan, Good Omens, and The Boys.
Naturally, you can also buy/rent millions of titles from Amazon and stream them. Another benefit is that you can add on other premium services (for an additional fee) to access them from one place, such as STARZ and Showtime.
Prime Reading is a stripped-down version of Kindle Unlimited. Members get a rotating selection of over one thousand books, comics, audiobooks, magazines, Kindle Singles, and more every month. While you can’t keep these, you can read them while they’re included for free in your membership.
However, each month Amazon offers Prime members one free Kindle edition book from a small selection called Amazon First Reads. At the time of writing, there are eight books listed in different genres. The selection changes each month. While you get to buy and keep one book for free, the others are discounted to just $1.99. Plus, print editions are $9.99 or less.
You can borrow up to 10 titles at a time with Prime Reading. The good news is if you don’t finish a borrowed title during the month, you can keep it for free until you finish it. If you see several titles you want to read but may not have the time, go ahead and borrow them, open each book so it’s active, then read at your own pace.
If you like a variety of genres, Prime Reading can be perfect. If you like a large selection, Kindle Unlimited may be the better option. Or try one of these Kindle alternatives instead.
Tip: learn how to use a Kindle without an Amazon account.
With Prime Gaming, you get a free Twitch.tv channel every month. Plus, you get access to free games and exclusive in-game loot. The games are yours to keep – not just while you’re a member. You’ll have to link your game account to Amazon.
There is one drawback, though. If you’re sharing your membership, only one person per household can claim an offer. If you have multiple gamers in your home, you won’t be able to both claim the same games and offers. Of course, you can always just play together.
Try Before You Buy
If you hate the thought of ordering clothing and shoes online since you can’t try them on, and struggle with varying sizes from brand to brand, Amazon Prime lets you try before you buy.
Eligible clothing, shoes, and accessories (such as belts and hats) are shipped for free to your home. You then have seven days to try out the items and send back (for free) what you don’t want. You’re only charged for the items you decide to keep. You can send everything back if you don’t like it or it doesn’t fit.
Choose up to six items at a time. Even limited time deals are included as part of the offer.
Unlimited Photo Storage
An often overlooked benefit of Amazon Prime is unlimited photo storage. After Google Photos eliminated unlimited storage, many users started looking for alternative photo services. As long as you’re a member, you get full-resolution photo storage and up to 5 GB of video storage.
If you need more storage space for videos, bump this up at any time. Plans start at $19.99/year for 100 GB, with plans for up to 30 TB for a whopping $1,799/year.
If you do decide to make the switch, read on to learn how to move your photos from Google Photos to Amazon Prime’s photo storage.
What Is Amazon Prime Pricing?
With all the benefits, Amazon Prime pricing is more than reasonable. A standard membership is just $14.99/month, which increased from $12.99 in February 2022. Compare this with streaming services, such as Netflix and HBO Max, that charge more than that just for streaming video with no extra benefits.
Naturally, there are several ways to reduce your cost. If you pay month to month, it’s $14.99/month, while an annual plan costs $139/year, which saves you $30.88 a year.
If you’re a student, get Amazon Prime for just $7.49/month and Amazon Music Unlimited for just $0.99/month. There are often free trials that last for several months or more.
If you’re on EBT or other eligible government assistance programs, you may also be eligible to get Amazon Prime for $6.99/month. You are required to verify your status once a year.
No matter what type of plan you choose, you’re eligible for at least a 30-day free trial. Often, you can score one or two free trials per year. However, a full month is a generous trial.
There is one final potential discount. You can share your Prime membership with one other adult living in your household. A partner or roommate can get all the same benefits without needing a separate membership. Think of it as a buy-one-get-one-free option – but you have to live together. You can also add up to four teens with their own accounts. Some benefits aren’t eligible, but you can view the full details at Amazon Household.
Helpful hint: Learn how to save money on Amazon with these smart hacks.
Signing Up for Amazon Prime
Signing up for Amazon Prime is incredibly easy. Simply log in to your Amazon account as usual. On the website, visit the Amazon Prime page. If you don’t have an Amazon account, you’ll be prompted to create one now.
Click “Try Prime.” If you’re eligible for a free trial, you can start it. Otherwise, you’ll be asked to choose your plan.
For students and government assistance plans, you must verify your status by entering any required information. For example, students must have a valid student email address.
On the Amazon Shopping app, choose Prime from the menu just before the search box. You may have to scroll to the left to find it.
Once you’re signed up, all you have to do is sign in using your Amazon account credentials. You’ll see the same credentials for any Amazon services on other devices, such as Prime Video, Prime Music, Prime Gaming, etc.
Manage Your Prime Membership (Cancel or Change)
Once you’re signed up, you can manage your Prime membership easily by logging in to the Amazon website or app.
On the website, log in, click the menu under your name, and choose Prime Membership.
On the app, open the menu and select Prime from your shortcuts or the list of items that appear. All the details about your Prime membership are listed in the Prime category.
From here, you can explore your benefits, check out exclusive deals, get tips to make more of your membership, or change your membership. Click the Help option below the search bar to end or change your membership. In the app, expand the Prime menu and select Help.
From here, you can choose to end your membership, pause it, set up an Amazon household, or change to an annual plan. Follow the prompts to complete your desired action. If you’re part of the household but not the main account holder, you can’t cancel or change the subscription. Only the main account holder can do that.
Finding Eligible Prime Items
You might have noticed I used the word “eligible” when talking about free shipping and other benefits. You don’t have to just guess as to what’s eligible.
When you search for an item, there are a variety of filters. For example, I’ll search for “blouse” just to show you how to filter for Prime eligible and Try Before You Buy items.
Check the Prime box to filter your results to items that are eligible for free shipping for Prime members. Select “Prime Try Before You Buy” to only see items you can try for seven days for free. It’s that simple. The app has the same filter options.
Tip: Try these browser extensions that will help you save money when you shop online.
Finding Prime Reading
If you want to take advantage of Prime Reading, you’ll want to filter these items from everything else Amazon has to offer.
For Prime Reading, you can use the website, Amazon Shopping app, or Kindle app. For the website, you can search for a title and filter by Prime Reading on the left. This limits you to just Prime Reading-eligible titles and a few sponsored results.
You can also use the main Amazon menu. Click the “All” menu at the top left of the screen and go to “Kindle E-Readers & Books -> Prime Reading.” This takes you to the Prime Reading section of the Kindle bookstore.
In the Amazon Shopping app, open the menu and select “Books & Reading.” Choose “Kindle Store,” then use the filter options at the top to only view “Prime Reading” titles.
In the Kindle app, open the Store at the bottom of the app and filter by “Prime Reading” using the filter just under the search box.
Using Amazon Prime Video
While the Amazon Prime Video catalog is extensive, you have to be careful. Titles to buy/rent and those on premium add-on services are mixed in with what’s included with Amazon Prime Video.
When you open Amazon Prime Video on the website, in the Prime Video app, or on your TV, included titles are clearly labeled with Prime. These are the two versions I’ve seen so far when using Prime Video myself.
Amazon also owns Freevee, formerly known as IMDB TV. All content is free on Freevee, but it’s ad-supported. You don’t need a Prime membership to view it. However, Freevee content is mixed in with Amazon Prime Video content. It still has ads, though.
This content is usually marked with the word “Ads” in the top corner.
If you’re ever unsure, select a title. If it says “Watch Now” or “Watch with Amazon,” it’s included. If those options aren’t there and you see a price or the option to sign up for a free trial of another service, it’s not included.
Finding Prime Music
When you sign up for Amazon Prime, you get access to Prime Music. Log in to the Amazon Music app or use the Amazon Music web player. You’ll see options to upgrade to Music Unlimited, but you don’t have to.
Unlike many other benefits, Prime Music is not shared between Amazon Household members. Only the main account holder gets this benefit.
Using Amazon Prime for Prime Day
Prime Day is basically Black Friday in July, though Amazon offered a second Prime Day event in October. If you’ve never heard of it or wonder what the big deal is, you can check out our explanation of 2021’s Prime Day. This is a two-day event filled with Lightning Deals and deep discounts on products in nearly every category.
As the name implies, only Prime members get to participate in this epic savings frenzy. You can subscribe for just a month to score the deals; though, if you’re eligible for a free trial, it’s a great time to sign up.
Amazon Prime and Amazon Smile
Amazon Smile is a great program that allows you to donate half a percent of eligible purchases to a charity of your choice. It’s a small amount, but it does add up over time.
The good news is that you can participate in the program even if you’re not an Amazon Prime member.
Sharing Your Benefits
You are able to share your benefits with others living in the same household. However, Amazon doesn’t let you share every benefit. Some are restricted to just the account holder. For instance, you can’t share Prime Music, and, as mentioned earlier, Prime Gaming benefits are limited to one user.
However, you can share benefits between two adults, up to four teens, and up to four children. Teens are able to shop, but you’ll need to approve their purchases. Children can’t shop on their own.
If your family members need access to all the benefits, they’ll need to have separate Prime memberships.
As a side note, if you choose to leave an Amazon Household, you won’t be able to join any other Household group for 180 days. You can, however, rejoin the original Household.
Good to know: If after reading all this, you think Amazon Prime isn’t for you, here’s a list of the best Amazon alternatives.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I cancel an annual membership and get a refund?
Yes. However, you’ll only get a refund on your unused months. If you’ve just started a new month and used any of your benefits, you won’t be eligible for a refund for that month.
Can members with discounted Amazon Prime plans share their memberships?
No. If you’re already getting a discount on the plan itself, you won’t be able to share it. It’s also important to note that annual memberships aren’t available on discounted plans.
Is it safe for my kids to share my membership?
Yes. There are parental controls in place for both teen and children’s accounts. As mentioned above, you can restrict purchases. You can also restrict the types of content kids watch on Prime Video.
Is Prime Reading better than Kindle Unlimited?
In some ways, Prime Reading is better than Kindle Unlimited. First, it’s included with your Prime membership, while Kindle Unlimited is $9.99/month. Plus, there is a constantly rotating variety of titles under Prime Reading, along with a free ebook every month.
While you may not always find the latest and greatest bestsellers, titles are handpicked by Amazon editors to include a selection of bestsellers and books from major publishing houses. With Kindle Unlimited, a large portion of the library is independently published books.
It’s perfect for people who read just one or two books a month. You’ll easily find something to enjoy from the selection.
Where can I view all my benefits in one place?
Is Amazon Prime truly cost effective?
Absolutely, but only if you utilize multiple benefits. For example, if you’re just using Amazon for music and video and have an annual plan, you end up paying approximately $5.80 for each service per month. With average ad-free video streaming platforms starting around $9/month and music streaming starting around $10/month, you’d save $89/year.
Of course, that’s just the cost savings with two benefits. The more you use, the more value you get.
Image credit: Unsplash. All screenshots by Crystal Crowder.
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