Amazon Prime - What is it?

Amazon Prime first launched 14 years ago and has been a huge revenue stream for the Amazon retail company ever since. To make the service more attractive it has expanded the number of features available to the millions of Amazon Prime members over the years.

If you have never signed up for Amazon Prime, here’s a quick look at the history, costs, availability, and features of the subscription service.

What is Amazon Prime? A quick history

Amazon first launched Amazon Prime in the U.S. in February 2005 as a way for customers to get free two-day shipping on millions of items that the company sold, with no minimum amounts needed for those shipments. Over the years the company has added more and more features to the service, including access to thousands of streaming movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video, unlimited online photo storage, and more.

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Originally, the only way to subscribe to it 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 started introducing monthly subscriptions in 2016. In 2018, Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos revealed that Amazon Prime had exceeded 100 million subscribers worldwide. It’s more than likely that number has continued to go up since then. Amazon Prime is available in 18 countries worldwide.

How much does it cost?

Currently, it costs $119 a year, or you can pay $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, and they 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.

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, but during that period you cannot access Amazon Prime Video or the streaming Amazon Music services, nor can you get free Kindle eBook borrowing rights. However, once the six-month trial is over, your full Student Prime subscription begins at just $60 a year, and you get full access to all the regular features. The student subscription ends when you graduate, or after four years, whichever comes first.

What are its features?

Once you are signed up for Amazon Prime, you can access a ton of features that may make it worth the subscription price, depending on how much you use Amazon and its services.

Free two-day, one day, and even same-day delivery – The biggest feature for main Prime subscribers is the elimination of shipping charges for millions of items. Most people who sign up for Amazon Prime will be able to 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.

If you can wait to have an item shipped to you, not only can you avoid shipping charges, but you might be eligible to get digital rewards, such as a dollar off your next Kindle eBook.

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 Prime vs Netflix

Amazon Prime VideoStream 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 access to hundreds of playlists 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 an Amazon Prime member.

Twitch Prime – Gamers can use Prime to score free games and in-game items, thanks to a free subscription to the Twitch Prime service. Those same users can sign up for one free Twitch premium streamer a month, so they can both support their favorite Twitch video streamer and get access to their exclusive features.

Free Kindle and Audible content – If you are a big reader, 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 – Amazon Prime members can upload an unlimited number of photos from their smartphone to the cloud for free with Amazon Photos.

Whole food market building with amazon prime discount

Whole Foods discounts – If you live near a Whole Foods grocery location, you can get special discounts on its store items that are not available to regular shoppers with an Amazon Prime subscription.

Amazon Rewards Visa Card Cash Back – If you are a Prime member, and sign up to get an Amazon Rewards Visa Card, you can get up to 5 percent cash back on purchases via the Amazon web site or at Whole Foods. You can also get 2 percent back on purchases at drug stores, gas stations, and restaurants, and up to 1 percent cash back on any other purchase.

Can I share my membership with others?

If you are on a full subscription, you can offer the benefits of that membership with another family member that has a different Amazon account than yours. This method is not available for anyone with an Amazon Student Prime subscription.

What is Amazon Prime Day?

Amazon Prime day logo

In 2015, Amazon decided to launch its own “holiday” called Prime Day. The special time period (which usually last 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.
This year Amazon Prime Day will take place July 15-16. To learn more about Prime Day, you’ll want to head here.


While it may be a large cost upfront, a subscription to Amazon Prime can pay for itself for customers who use it both wisely and frequently to get discounts on items and services. Have you signed up and what do you use it for? Let us know in the comments!

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