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

An Amazon Prime membership gives you free two-day shipping, plus extra privileges like video and shuffle-only music streaming, for a $139 annual fee.
Tommy Tindall
Anisha Sekar
By Anisha Sekar and  Tommy Tindall 
Edited by Courtney Neidel

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If you want to shop the next Amazon Prime Day, you'll need an Amazon Prime membership. There are lots of perks to Prime, but it costs to subscribe. A standard Amazon Prime membership is $139 per year — perhaps a steep price to pay for free 2-day shipping. But if you’re a bookworm, a video and music streamer or just someone who shops online often, the benefits might outweigh the costs.

To help you decide whether it’s a good deal for you, we explain what you get when you go Prime.

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.

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 annual membership: $139 per year. Those who pay an annual lump sum for the full membership will spend less in the long run.

  • Prime monthly membership: $14.99 per month. If you want full Prime benefits but prefer to spread out your payments, you’ll pay about $180 a year. If you receive qualifying government assistance, you can get Prime Access, which offers the same benefits as a Prime membership, for $6.99 per month.

  • Prime Student membership: 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 $69 per year (or $7.49 per month) after that.

  • Prime Video membership: $8.99 per month. This membership is just for Amazon's unlimited TV show and movie streaming service. It’ll cost you around $108 per year. In January, Amazon started including ads on Prime Video shows and movies. For $2.99 more a month, you can upgrade to an ad-free plan. 

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 in to your account and cancel it. Otherwise, you’ll be charged the membership fee.

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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 to non-Prime customers on orders that meet a minimum threshold of eligible items, it takes five to eight business days for those orders to arrive.

But just as the company has expanded from a simple bookstore to an e-commerce empire, so has Prime extended its benefits to include:

Unlimited movie and TV streaming

You can stream thousands of TV shows and movies with ads 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

Prime members get access to Amazon Music Prime, which lets you shuffle play any artist, album or playlist ad-free from the full catalog of over 100 million songs. You’ll need to step up to Amazon Music Unlimited to play any song on-demand, which costs $9.99 a month for Prime members.

Whole Foods deals

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

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, which now come twice a year. During the rest of the year, you’ll get access to Lightning Deals with a 30-minute head start on non-Prime members.

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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 backed up 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 line of baby wipes, vitamins and supplements.

Amazon Family

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

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Sharing a Prime membership Using Amazon Household

If multiple people in your household use Amazon Prime you can consider getting Amazon Household. With Amazon Household, you can share benefits you choose with your kids and manage their profiles restricting content where necessary. For those with kids who enjoy streaming, you can share digital content using the Family Library.

There’s also the option of sharing with another adult, be it a spouse or friend. However, you’ll need to link your individual accounts using Amazon Household and share the benefit payment.

Here are a couple of the rules you should know in terms of how many family members you can add.

  • A maximum of two adults can join Amazon Household and they must have their own Amazon accounts. 

  • Up to four teens between the ages of 13 and 17 can have their own individual Amazon logins and can use it to shop or stream content. That includes free Prime Video, Amazon Music, and Twitch Prime.

  • A maximum of four children can be added to Amazon Household but they cannot shop. You can, however, share eBooks, apps, and games with them.

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 $139 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 when you opt for the annual membership at $139 a year. Prime also includes access to a fairly robust music streaming service in Amazon Music Prime, albeit with shuffle-only playback. 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 $70 a year — a pretty amazing deal. Free two-day shipping for less than $6 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.