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Not sure if Amazon Prime is right for you? Here is everything you need to know

For those who shop often on Amazon, they may be asking themselves: Is an Amazon Prime account worth signing up for? The company’s subscription service costs $99 a year ($11 on month-to-month basis), but it offers a multitude of benefits that may very well offset the price of admission. Here’s everything you need to know about Amazon Prime, so that you may make an informed decision about whether to subscribe or continue with more traditional buying and streaming habits.

Access to free shipping and lightning deals

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For frequent Amazon shoppers, the immediate benefit may be the money you save on shipping. Prime members get free two-day shipping on many of the products Amazon sells, as long as you live in the continental United States. Some users also get access to free one-day shipping in certain eligible zip codes, and some may even receive same-day shipping.

Shipping is not the only way Prime can save its users money, either. Prime members can also get early access to Amazon’s “lightning deals,” wherein the company offers massive discounts on specific items for a limited time.

Catch the latest flicks on Prime Video

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One of the more valuable parts of a Prime membership is access to Amazon’s library of streaming video content. Like Netflix, Prime Video offers a massive number of shows and movies. In addition to a rotating selection of popular shows and movies from third parties, Amazon also has its own studio, which produces excellent series such as Transparent and Catastrophe, among others. Prime Video costs $9 on its own, but it’s included in a Prime subscription.

Upload photos and stream your favorite tracks with Prime Music

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Prime also allows users to stream music, much like Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play Music. Amazon’s library is robust, and users can stream music from their computers, smartphones, tablets, and even the Amazon Echo family of voice assistant products.

Prime also includes a cloud-based service for storing photos, naturally dubbed Prime Photos. In addition to unlimited storage space for photos, users may also store up to 5GB of videos and documents.

Land in-game perks with Twitch Prime

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In recent years, game streaming services like Twitch have become one of the hottest trends on the internet. These services allow people to broadcast themselves playing games while others watch and chat, and Twitch has developed a particularly lively community. Now, Amazon Prime members will automatically get access to Twitch Prime. Among the benefits of this service are free items and content for games — Hearthstone players got access to a new Priest character, for example — along with ad-free viewing. If you already have a Twitch account, you just need to link it to your Amazon Prime account to reap the benefits.

Borrow books via the Kindle Lending Library

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If you own a Kindle and an Amazon Prime membership, you can download one free ebook each month from Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library. The process is like checking out a book from a traditional library, except there’s no due date; simply return your ebook when you feel like it.

Skip a trip to the grocery store with Prime Now and Prime Pantry

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Food delivery services like Postmates have been springing up lately, and Amazon has also gotten in on the action. Prime Now allows users to order items from local stores or restaurants and have them delivered within the hour. On a similar note, Prime Pantry allows members to purchase groceries and household items and have them shipped together in a pantry box. The pantry box usually comes with a $6 shipping fee, however, users can get free shipping by purchasing at least five qualifying items.

Cash in (or out) on Prime Day

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For those who think Black Friday and Cyber Monday are simply not enough, there is Prime Day, Amazon’s yearly festival of sales. On this day, Prime members get access to exclusive deals. Not everyone has a rosy view of Prime Day, but there’s always a chance you’ll find something great at a low cost.

Save even more as a parent or student

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If you have kids — and all the extra expenses they bring — Prime Family can help you with savings on baby-related items. One of the most notable benefits? You can subscribe to have diapers delivered to you regularly, for 20-percent off the list price. Prime Family also lets you set up an online registry for childcare items, and share it with friends and family.

If you’re a college student, you can also get a Prime membership for a fraction of the cost ($49). You’ll need to register with a valid university email address (.edu), however, at which point you’ll get a six-month free trial of Prime before you need to start paying for it. You’ll also gain access to a bevy of student-specific deals.

Just how much is a Prime membership worth?

So, do the features of a Prime membership warrant the price? Looking at the numbers, it would seem to be the case. The free two-day shipping alone is a nice benefit; shipping costs vary depending on the weight of the package, and if you frequently order items from Amazon, you can easily rack up $100 in shipping fees over the course of a year.

Prime Video is almost worth the price alone. The service’s biggest competitor, Netflix, charges $8 a month ($96 a year) for its basic package. Potential members should also factor in Prime’s music streaming service. Spotify, one of the world’s most popular streaming services, charges $10 a month for its ad-free Spotify Premium service. That said, it should be noted that Amazon’s music library is not as robust as Spotify’s. Based on the market for video and streaming services, it seems that with Prime you’re getting roughly $18 a month in value.

Overall, if you are a frequent or even semi-frequent Amazon shopper, you will probably get your money’s worth with a Prime membership, particularly if you find enjoyment in the service’s other benefits.

Start your free Prime trial today