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 the 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 that the company sold, with no strings attached.
Over the years the company has added more and more features to the service. That included access to thousands of streaming movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video, unlimited online photo storage, 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 and CEO Jeff Bezos revealed that Amazon Prime had exceeded 200 million subscribers worldwide.
How much does Amazon Prime cost?
Amazon 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 just want to sign up to use the Amazon 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, during that period you cannot access Amazon Prime Video or the streaming Amazon Music services. You also can’t use the free Kindle eBook borrowing rights. However, once the six-month trial is over, your full Student Prime subscription begins at just $60 a year. Then you get full access to all the regular features. The student subscription ends when you graduate, or after four years, whichever comes first.
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 that 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 Twitch Prime, 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 individual 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 a ton of features for a single subscription fee. We’ve listed all of the benefits below, but note that they may differ for subscribers outside of 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. Other items might costs $5.99 in shipping for the same-day delivery service.
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.
Amazon 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 a number of 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.
Twitch Prime — Gamers can use Prime to score free games and in-game items. That comes with a free subscription to the Twitch Prime service. 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.
Free Kindle and Audible content — You can borrow a selection of free Kindle eBooks, magazines, and more with your Prime subscription. You can also get a free Kindle book a month from a pre-selected list. Fans of podcasts and audiobooks can also access a limited number of products on Audible for free.
Amazon Photos — Members can upload an unlimited number of photos from their smartphone to the cloud for free with Amazon Photos.
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. The groceries must total at least $35 for this feature.
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 five percent cash back on purchases via the Amazon website or at Whole Foods. You can also get two percent back on purchases at drug stores, gas stations, and restaurants. Finally, you can also get up to 1% cash back on any other purchase.
Other features — Couples with new babies can get 20 percent off diapers and 15 percent off other eligible products from their baby registry. Smart speaker owners can shop on Amazon Prime via voice commands. You can also get additional discounts on select deals. Prime members can get 30-minute early access to Lightning Deals on Amazon.com.
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. Time will tell whether or not it will return to the standard July dates in 2021. Learn more about Prime Day at the link below.