It might not seem like it, but Amazon Prime first launched more than 15 years ago. It has been a huge revenue stream for the Amazon retail company ever since. To make the service more attractive, the company has expanded the number of features available to millions of Prime members over the years.
If you have never signed up for Amazon Prime, here’s a quick look at the history of the service. We also go over its costs, availability, and features. If you want to hope right in, you can also sign up for the service at the link below.
What is Amazon Prime? A quick history
Amazon first launched Amazon Prime in the US in February 2005. At first, it was just a way for customers to get free two-day shipping on millions of items the company sold, with no strings attached.
Over the years, the company has added more and more features to the service. This includes access to thousands of streaming movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video, unlimited online photo storage, free eBooks, Amazon Music access, and more.
Originally, the only way to subscribe was with a yearly fee. Prime membership started at $79 a year, and in 2014, the price went up to $99 a year. In 2018, the yearly price went up to $119. Amazon also introduced monthly subscriptions in 2016.
In 2021, Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos revealed that Amazon Prime had exceeded 200 million subscribers worldwide.
How much does Amazon Prime cost?
Prime costs $119 a year, or $12.99 a month if you don’t want to commit to a year. New subscribers have a 30-day free trial period to give the service a test run. You can cancel before the trial period ends without getting charged. If you want to sign up to use the Prime Video streaming service, there’s the option to do just that for $8.99 a month.
There are, however, a few ways to get a discount on Amazon Prime. If you are a qualified college student, you can sign up for an Amazon Prime Student subscription. You get a six-month free trial before your credit or debit card gets charged.
However, you cannot access certain services during that period, such as Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. However, once the six-month trial is over, your full Student Prime subscription begins at just $59 a year or $6.49 per month. Then you get full access to all the regular features. The student subscription ends when you graduate or after four years, whichever comes first. Keep in mind the plan won’t just be canceled. You’ll be charged the full price of Amazon Prime unless you cancel the subscription.
Is Amazon Prime worth it?
Unlike other services that focus on a single aspect like Netflix or Xbox Game Pass, Amazon Prime has so many features it’s almost guaranteed to be worth it for most people. For shoppers there’s free two-day shipping, for streamers there’s Amazon Prime Video, for gamers there’s Prime Gaming, and so on.
Learn more: Is Amazon Prime worth it at $119 a year?
That said, most of the non-shopping features are secondary, and there are typically better options out there for each one. If you aren’t much of a shopper, it might be more worthwhile to spend your subscription money elsewhere, but considering the low yearly price and what you get for it, it’s one of the best values around.
It’s also worth noting that Amazon Prime doesn’t really have any major direct competitors. That’s really how it managed to pull so far ahead. The closest is the new Walmart Plus subscription, but even that doesn’t offer any benefits beyond shopping and groceries. Amazon Prime is truly in a class of its own.
What does Amazon Prime offer?
Once you are signed up for Amazon Prime, you can access many features for a single subscription fee. We’ve listed all of the benefits below, but note that they may differ for subscribers outside the US.
Free two-day, one-day, and even same-day delivery — The main feature for Prime subscribers is no shipping charges for millions of items. Most people who sign up for Amazon Prime can get those items within two days of ordering them. For some bigger cities, Amazon offers free one-day delivery on those same items. On certain products, and in a very small number of metro areas, you can even have Amazon ship them to you for free the same day you order them, usually if you get it ordered before noon. More recently, Amazon started delivering prescriptions for free in 2 days.
Two-hour shipping with Prime Now — If you live in a city with Amazon’s Prime Now service, you can have certain items shipped to you within two hours of ordering. Amazon also offers free two-hour delivery on groceries in certain cities. The retailer can even get groceries to you within 2 hours, which is outstanding.
Release day delivery — Getting a hot product on day one is awesome. What’s not so exciting is waiting in line and dealing with hordes. Amazon guarantees release day delivery on hot items, making your life much simpler.
Key by Amazon — You don’t need to be home to get an Amazon package, nor does the courier have to leave the Amazon box outside! Those with supported smart locks or garage doors can give Amazon access to enter your home and safely leave packages inside.
Prime Video — Stream thousands of TV shows and movies on your smartphone, tablet, game console, smart TV, or streaming media device with access to Amazon Prime Video. That includes several exclusive TV shows and movies that are only available via the service.
Prime Music and Amazon Music Unlimited — Stream over two million songs, ad-free, with a Prime subscription via Prime Music. You can also access Amazon Music Unlimited, with its larger 50 million song library, with a discount if you are a member. Sign up separately here.
Prime Gaming — Gamers can use Prime to score free games and in-game items. Those same users can sign up for one free Twitch premium streamer a month. That way, they can both support their favorite Twitch video streamer and get access to their exclusive features.
Prime Reading and Textbook rentals — Your Amazon subscription comes with Prime Reading, which offers over a thousand free books for subscribers. Additionally, members get access to a library of textbooks they can rent. You can also enjoy Audible channels for free if you don’t feel like reading, yourself.
Amazon Photos — Members can upload an unlimited number of photos from their smartphone to the cloud for free with Amazon Photos.
Prime Wardrobe — Here’s a really cool concept. Ever wanted to buy clothes from Amazon but wondered if they would even fit? Dealing with returns is annoying, so Amazon simplifies the process with Prime Wardrobe. You can pick up to eight items, try them on, return what you don’t want, and only get charged for what you keep.
Whole Foods discounts and free one-hour pickup — You can get special discounts at Whole Foods that are not available to regular shoppers with a subscription. The grocery chain also recently added support for Prime members to order groceries online at all of its locations, and pick them up in one hour.
Hot deals — Prime members often get access to hot deals and family supply discounts. In addition, Amazon has a Prime Day yearly event, which features great discounts. Think of it as Amazon’s version of Black Friday.
Amazon Rewards Visa Card Cash Back — As a Prime member, you can sign up to get an Amazon Rewards Visa Card. This gives up to 5% cashback on purchases via the Amazon website or at Whole Foods. You can also get 2% back on purchases at drug stores, gas stations, and restaurants. Finally, you can also get up to 1% cashback on any other purchase.
Can I share my membership with others?
If you are on a full subscription, you can share the benefits of that membership with a family member. This method is not available for anyone with an Amazon Student Prime subscription.
What is Prime Day?
In 2015, Amazon decided to launch its own “holiday” called Prime Day. The special time period (which usually lasts over 24 hours) has featured tons of discounts for items on the Amazon site, but they are just for members. Usually, the start of Prime Day is in mid-July. In 2018, it started on July 16, and Amazon stated it added more new members on that day than any day in its history.
Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, Amazon Prime Day in 2020 was delayed to October 13-14. 2021 is seeing a worldwide recovery, so Amazon decided to host Prime Day 2021 earlier than usual, on June 21 and 22. There’s no word yet on when Amazon Prime Day 2022 will begin.