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There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to Amazon Prime memberships. It depends heavily on your online shopping habits.
So how do you figure out which is right for you? Let’s take a quick look at the benefits you get from Amazon Prime, and then figure out which membership type best serves your needs.
Amazon Prime Shipping
Prime members get free two-day shipping on all eligible purchases, of which there are a lot. You also get free same-day shipping on select items in select US cities, but you have to spend at least $35 to qualify.
Two-hour shipping is also available in select US cities through Amazon Prime Now on a select list of grocery, electronic, household, health and beauty, pet, toy, sport, and outdoor items.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime offers a lot more than just free shipping. Prime members get access to Amazon Prime Video, which includes Amazon originals like Transparent and Fleabag. (Compared to Netflix Originals, however, Amazon Prime is definitely lagging in the original series category.)
You also get a huge backlog of HBO shows like Sex and the City, The Sopranos, True Blood, and Girls. At the time of this writing, you also get some relatively recent 2015 and 2016 movies like Eye in the Sky, Room, and Sicario, plus popular TV shows like Mr. Robot and Downton Abbey.
Other Amazon Prime Perks
Free shipping and video streaming are likely to be the biggest draws for most people, but there are plenty of other features as well. Keep these in mind when you’re thinking about how much the service is worth to you:
- Access to more than 2 million songs and albums.
- Unlimited photo storage and 5 GB of video storage.
- Free one-hour restaurant delivery in select areas.
- Groceries brought to your door for a flat delivery fee of $5.99.
- Access to a selection of free ebooks and magazines through Prime Reading (not to be confused with Kindle Unlimited).
- Discounted games and free game loot.
- Select content and podcasts from Audible.
- Inexpensive photo prints with free shipping.
- Early access to Amazon products.
- Free select Kindle books every month, or books for just $1.99.
So now that you now what you get, how do you choose a plan that’s right for you?
Annual membership — Amazon’s annual Prime membership has gone up from $79.99 to $99 a year. Technically, you can share this membership with Amazon Household, so if you can find another person to share your Prime membership with, it comes down to just less than $50 per person. This is one of the most economical options, but there are serious privacy issues to consider — namely that you have to share payment information with one another.
Monthly membership — If you prefer not to shell out $99 in one go, you can opt for the month-to-month option. This will cost you $10.99 a month. You can use the monthly service for select times of the year and cancel your membership at any time. Going month-to-month for the full year costs $132. That’s $33 more than if you paid the full amount upfront, so if you can afford the $99 in one go, do it. If you wait for holiday shopping or Cyber Monday deals, month-to-month makes more sense.
No membership — You can still get free shipping with Amazon without forking over a membership fee. The difference is that you have to spend a minimum amount on purchases, and the shipping takes longer. To get free 5-to-8-day shipping, you have to spend at least $25 on books or $49 on eligible items. The other options are standard 4-to-5-day shipping for $5 to $17, depending on the item; 2-day shipping which ranges from $12 to $30; and 1-day shipping that ranges from $25 to $57. Amazon does not provide a clear breakdown of shipping charges — you have to place the item in your cart and go through the checkout process to see how much shipping will cost.
If you are purchasing multiple items, you can either group them together and have them all shipped together (at a potentially slower speed) or have them sent separately (at a potentially higher cost). In our tests, the added difference to ship items separately at a higher cost added $5 to $6 to the shipping charge.
We did just that with a variety of items and this is what we found:
So Which Is Right for You?
The best way to make a decision is to look at the table above and determine where your shopping habits fall. If you’re looking for more guidance, read on.
How many purchases would you have to make for Prime’s free two-day shipping to be worth your while? Without Amazon Prime, book lovers would have to make at least nine separate purchases (with two-day shipping). Depending on your reading habits or needs, this is actually very doable. If you read a lot and want those books fast, an annual Amazon Prime membership is ideal. Avid readers and purchasers should go for an annual membership.
If you’re purchasing heavier items, you’ll earn the cost back at only four purchases per year. If you’re furnishing a new home, or have some large purchases planned, Prime will easily pay itself off in shipping costs. But that is a pretty unlikely scenario for most. Monthly Prime might make more sense for big ticket items if your shipping cost is over the monthly $10.99. If you’re anticipating purchasing one or two heavy items and don’t want to wait over a week for them, go for the monthly option.
If two-day shipping doesn’t matter to you, you’re going to have to bundle your purchases. You’ll need to get to $49 to get free 5-to-8 day shipping. If you find yourself occasionally spending extra money to meet that limit, put that money toward a monthly Prime membership. Do you do that regularly? Annual membership is a no-brainer. If you’re constantly looking for extra purchases to qualify for free shipping, go for monthly or annual membership depending on how often it happens.
If you shop more often at brick-and-mortar stores, ditch Amazon Prime altogether. To avoid long lines and harried holiday shoppers, sign up for a monthly account in November and December. The money you would spend on gas going shopping could be a good trade-off for the $22 for the two-month membership, and you’d also get early access to Amazon deals during that time. For the occasional or holiday shopper, it’s a choice between monthly or no membership at all.
If you order more than 20 books a year from Amazon, an annual Prime membership is absolutely worth it. If you shop on Amazon only during the holidays, month-to-month makes more sense. If you rarely shop online, Amazon will try to pull you in with an Amazon Prime Video membership for $8.99 a month, but depending on your taste, it might not be worth the money.
Do you have an Amazon Prime membership? Do you think it’s worth the $99 a year? Let us know in the comments.
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