What Is Amazon Prime? The Benefits, the Cost and Whether It’s Worth It

Amazon Prime membership gives you free two-day shipping, plus extra privileges like music and video streaming, for a $119 annual fee.
Jun 14, 2021

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A standard Amazon Prime membership currently costs $119 per year — perhaps a steep price to pay for free 2-day shipping. But if you’re a bookworm, a video buff or just someone who often shops online, the benefits might well outweigh the costs. To help you decide whether it’s a good deal for you, we've broken down the basics on what Amazon Prime actually offers.

What is Amazon Prime?

Amazon Prime is a subscription service from Amazon. It gives members access to exclusive shopping and entertainment services, discounts and more.

What are the benefits of Amazon Prime?

Amazon Prime’s key benefit is its free two-day shipping on millions of eligible items. In some cities, you can even get same-day delivery on eligible orders. While Amazon does offer free standard shipping on qualifying orders of $25 or more to non-Prime customers, it takes five to eight business days for those orders to arrive.

But just as the company has expanded from a simple bookstore to a finger-in-every-pie empire, so has Prime extended its benefits to include:

Prime Now shopping

Prime Now narrows the free same-day delivery window on certain items — including Whole Foods groceries — to as little as two hours, but it’s only available in select metro areas.

Whole Foods deals

Prime members get an extra 10% discount on eligible sale items at Whole Foods Market, in stores and online.

Unlimited movie and TV streaming

You can stream thousands of TV shows and movies for free using Prime Video. Members can also subscribe to channels like HBO and Showtime for an additional cost.

Unlimited reading

Members can choose from over a thousand books, comics and magazines to read for free. The service is available on Kindle and Fire tablets, as well any iOS or Android device with the Kindle app.

Unlimited music streaming

You can listen to over 2 million songs and browse Prime Playlists, all ad-free with Amazon Music Prime. Prime members can also get a discounted subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited, which has over 70 million songs.

Free games

With Prime Gaming, you get access to free PC games and in-game content, plus a monthly Twitch channel subscription.

Prime Day and Prime Early Access

Prime members get the exclusive perk of shopping annual Prime Day deals. During the rest of the year, you’ll get access to Lightning Deals with a 30-minute head start on non-Prime members.

Free unlimited photo storage with Amazon Photos

A Prime membership gives you unlimited, full-resolution photo storage and 5 GB video storage. Your photos will be added to the cloud through the Amazon Photos app, which you can access from both your computer and mobile device.

Amazon Elements

As an Amazon Prime member, you have access to Amazon's own consumer-first line of everyday items, like baby wipes.

Amazon Family

Free for all Prime members, Amazon Family offers family-oriented coupons and deals, including up to 20% off diapers when you set up five Subscribe and Save subscriptions per month, and a 15% baby registry completion discount.

Before you build a budget
NerdWallet breaks down your spending and shows you ways to save.

How much does an Amazon Prime membership cost?

The cost of an Amazon Prime membership depends on the plan you choose, but you can try it for free for 30 days.

Here’s a breakdown of the payment plans and what they include:

  • Prime Video: $8.99 per month. This membership restricts your perks to unlimited TV show and movie streaming. It’ll cost you around $108 per year.

  • Prime: $12.99 per month. If you want full Prime benefits but prefer to spread out your payments, you’ll pay about $155 a year. If you receive qualifying government assistance, you can get a Prime membership for $5.99 per month.

  • Prime: $119 per year. Those who pay an annual lump sum for the full membership will spend less in the long run.

  • Prime Student: If you’re a student with a valid school email address, you can get a free six-month trial of Prime Student and a discounted membership fee of $59 per year (or $6.49 per month) after that.

Heads up: Amazon keeps your credit card information on file when you sign up, so if you decide you don’t want the membership once your free trial expires, make sure to log into your account and cancel it. Otherwise, you’ll be charged the membership fee.

Is Amazon Prime worth it?

Whether Prime’s membership perks justify the price tag depends on which ones appeal to you and how much you use them. Let’s start by evaluating two of Prime's biggest draws: shipping and streaming entertainment.

  • Shipping. If you spent more than $119 in shipping fees last year, well, there’s your answer.

  • Streaming entertainment. Amazon Prime, which includes Prime Video, is cheaper than both the commercial-free Hulu plan and the standard Netflix plan. Prime also includes Amazon Music Prime, which is about the same price as ad-free subscriptions to Spotify and Apple Music. If the video and music selection is wide enough that you’d consider forgoing a subscription to other services, you’ll recoup the cost of Amazon Prime.

There are other considerations to take into account, such as the convenience of having your items shipped in days instead of weeks, or not having to go to the store to buy essentials like paper towels.

Keep in mind, too, that you can share your shipping benefits with another household member. If you split the cost with a roommate, for example, you can effectively cut the cost down to under $60 a year — a pretty amazing deal. Free two-day shipping for less than $5 a month is well worth it for most shoppers.

The best way to figure out if an Amazon Prime membership is worthwhile: Sign up for the free trial. Then, you can decide whether to make the investment.