Amazon Prime is Amazon’s deluxe subscription model. When it started many years ago, it only offered free two-day shipping on select items. It has since expanded quite a bit, offering a slew of services focusing on books, movies, additional shipping perks, and more. This gradually widening range of services was precipitated by a price hike in 2014 from $79 per year to $99 per year. In May 2018, the annual price went up by $20 to $119. In response to this adjustment, many people started to ask, “Is Amazon Prime worth it?”
It’s a difficult question. Amazon Prime’s value hinges not only on how many items you order but also how much you use its other services. In this post, we’ll take a look at everything that Amazon Prime encompasses in 2020 and try to figure out if it’s really worth it.
Yearly vs monthly prices
Amazon allows customers to sign up for Prime on a monthly basis. Currently, the monthly subscription option costs $12.99 a month, which works out to $156 for a year. Clearly, if you really believe the answer to the question “Is Amazon Prime worth it?” is “Yes,” your best bet is to pay for the $119 annual fee upfront.
There’s also an Amazon Prime Video monthly subscription option for $8.99 a month, which just gives you access to all of its streaming movies and TV shows. You will spend about $108 a year if you stick with this month-to-month plan, so if you just want to get Amazon Prime Video, and nothing else, you can save $10 a year if you get it instead of the $119 a year fee for the full Amazon Prime experience.
The big highlight of Amazon Prime is, of course, the free two-day shipping. That sure is mighty convenient, especially if you are really bad at planning a week in advance.
When this was still the spotlight feature of Amazon Prime, figuring out if the subscription was worth it boiled down to some fairly simple math. The cost of paying for two-day delivery outright was $3.99, so if you had fewer than 30 Amazon Prime-eligible orders a year, you might as well cancel your service.
Read more: How to cancel Amazon Prime
Amazon has started adding ways to get free shipping without having a Prime subscription. You can take advantage of free shipping if your cart contains all eligible items and has a total exceeding $25. However, the items might not be shipped to you in two days.
While it’s possible to get free shipping without Prime, Amazon’s also been sweetening the Prime shipping perks for subscribers. Prime members can now get one-day delivery on 10 million items, with no minimum purchase. Some cities get free same-day shipping on three million items if your order is over $35. You can get free two-hour delivery on groceries in certain cities. Finally, if you have a Whole Foods grocery nearby, you can order from them online, and pick up your order in just one hour as a Prime member.
Whether Amazon Prime is worth it just for the shipping advantages depends on how often you shop. If you only shop online infrequently, it may not be worth it. Amazon’s free shipping for non-Prime members during the holidays makes this even clearer.
However, the benefits of Amazon Prime membership besides its shipping deals make things more complicated.
Video streaming services
For a while, all eyes were on Netflix and Hulu as they tried to become a better option. Amazon launched its streaming video service to relatively little fanfare. At first, it didn’t have much original or exclusive content.
Since then, Amazon Prime Video has expanded its reach considerably. It has launched acclaimed original series like The Boys, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and more. It also offers first access to Amazon Studios’ growing library of original films, which arrive a few weeks after they complete their theatrical runs. However, the overall video content library isn’t quite as good as Netflix. Clumsy navigation still afflicts the service as well, though in general everything about Amazon Prime Video has improved drastically in the last couple of years.
Amazon Prime Video also has special “Channels.” They bundle together a number of other third-party streaming services that let you watch and manage subscriptions all within Amazon Video. Amazon’s “X-Ray” feature is functional on all media content streamed this way, letting you check out IMDb information about what you’re watching without opening another window.
The future of Amazon Prime Video is also looking bright, with a number of major original series in the works. The biggest is a future TV show based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings fantasy universe.
While Amazon’s original content on Prime Video is not able to match what’s available on Netflix or Hulu, it’s clear that the company is sparing no expense in adding more shows that could become the next Game of Thrones or Walking Dead, in terms of popularity.
Music streaming services
In the grand battle of music streaming services, there are a lot of subscriptions to choose from. Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, and more recently YouTube Music.
Prime Music looks like it’s trying to get into this action, but it’s still a serious underdog. Sure there are two million songs available for instant streaming, but Spotify is sitting pretty with a solid 60 million in its library. YouTube Music has over 35 million, and Apple Music boasts more than 50 million. This isn’t bringing a knife to a gunfight — it’s bringing a toothpick to global thermonuclear war.
The Amazon Prime Music library is also cycling, so it doesn’t seem to be the best option at all for someone who wants a meticulously curated library with hundreds of hand-crafted playlists. The service would have to expand and change quite a bit before to attract serious music buffs, but as an added service that you’re already paying for, it’s not bad at all. It actually might work well for the casual music fan who would just as soon listen to their radio as anything else.
There’s also Amazon Music Unlimited, which offers tens of millions of songs, no ads, support for downloading songs for offline listening, and a way to listen via voice controls if you own one of the company’s Echo smart speakers. Anyone can sign up for Amazon Music Unlimited for $9.99 a month (with a 30-day free trial) but if you are already signed up for Amazon Prime, you can get Amazon Music Unlimited for $7.99 a month, shaving $24 off the price if you stick with it for a year.
Kindle and Audible perks
For bookworms, Amazon Prime comes with some serious pluses. Even if you don’t own a Kindle, you can still take advantage of these using the free Amazon Kindle app on your smartphone.
As a Prime user, you get access to Prime Reading. It offers free access to over a thousand eBooks, popular magazines, comics, books with Audible narration, and more.
Prime users also get access to Amazon First Reads, which is another way to snag free books. Every month, Amazon posts some select eBooks. From this list, Prime members can download a digital copy on the house.
You may not be aware of this, but Amazon also owns Twitch, the streaming video service that caters to content creators. While it started as a gaming-oriented service, with creators streaming “Let’s Play” content live, Twitch has since expanded to include all sorts of content from creators. If you sign up for Amazon Prime, you are automatically signed up for Twitch Prime as well. As a member, you can get free games every month, along with free DLC for popular games like PUBG, League of Legends, Warframe, and many more.
An even nicer benefit is that you can access the premium subscription package of one Twitch video creator for free with your Amazon/Twitch Prime membership. You can support your favorite Twitch streamer and get access to their premium content and privileges without having to spend extra money. The credit is normally worth $4.99 a month.
Amazon Prime Day
Every year, Amazon holds a special shopping event for Prime members. Amazon Prime Day allows both paid subscribers and even those on the 30-day free trial to save tons of money on millions of retail products and services.
The 2021 edition of Amazon Prime Day has yet to be confirmed. Click the link above to learn the latest.
Odds and ends
Prime Members also get a handful of other perks that contribute to the service’s value for some. Prime Photos is an unlimited cloud storage service nobody really uses it because Google Photos does the same thing better for free. Also, Prime Early Access lets you see Lightning Deals thirty minutes earlier than non-Prime users. Two adults living at the same address can create an “Amazon Household” to share select benefits.
Finally, if you live near a Whole Foods grocery store, you can get an extra 10 percent off certain items at the store. There are also special deals and discounts at While Foods just for Prime members. Some Whole Foods locations offer two-hour delivery of your online grocery order to your home for Prime members.
Breaking down the numbers
For Netflix, you can spend as little as $8 a month for access to the service on one streaming device at a time at non-HD resolution. YouTube Music costs $10 per month, and if you upgrade to YouTube Premium for $12 a month, it eliminates ads and offers downloadable music and video. For those two services alone, you can pay as much as $240 every year.
Recently, rival Walmart launched Walmart Plus for $98 a year, or for $12.95 a month, with a 15-day free trial. Its main benefit is free grocery delivery from 2,700 Walmart locations if you buy $35 or more. You can also get free next-day or two-day shipping via Walmart.com with no minimal order. In addition, you can save up to 5 cents a gallon at over 2,000 Walmart, Murphy USA, and Murphy Express gas stations. Finally, there’s Scan & Go, which lets you enter into any Walmart store and, while using the Walmart app, scan items you want to buy. You can then pay for them instantly and walk out with them without having to go through the checkout counter.
Amazon Prime’s video and music services cost just $119 a year. Amazon’s video content is worse than what’s offered on Netflix, but it is improving and will continue to get better. However, if you had to pick between the two, Netflix and YouTube Premium seem to offer $240 worth of value annually. Paying $119 for Amazon Prime every year doesn’t offer quite as much value.
If you shop a lot on Amazon annually, you can usually cover the cost of the service with the savings you get on two-day shipping. If you only shop on Amazon occasionally, the $119 yearly membership may not be worth it.
So, is Amazon Prime worth it?
Is Amazon Prime worth it? It depends on what kind of user you are.
If you take full advantage of the many services that come with a Prime membership, signing up is very much worth it.
If you are not a heavy Amazon buyer of goods, your best bet is to ditch the $119 yearly fee and stick with Netflix and YouTube Music. They may cost more, but they also offer a ton of content in return. Ultimately, that’s where you want to spend your hard-earned money.