What is Amazon Prime?

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

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If you’re one who frequently shops on Amazon or notices your neighbors receiving a conspicuous number of Amazon deliveries, you may be asking yourself: What is Amazon Prime, and is it truly worth it? The company’s subscription service costs $120 a year — or $13 a month-to-month, due a recent price overhaul — but it offers a multitude of benefits that may offset the price of admission.

Whether you use other Amazon products like the Amazon Fire TV or just like to shop there, here is 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

what is amazon prime free shipping
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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 within the continental United States. Some users also get access to free one-day shipping in certain eligible zip codes, while others have same-day shipping. Prime members also get free two-hour delivery with Prime Now, which delivers daily essentials and groceries and free release-date delivery on eligible pre-order items (more on this below).

Alternatively, if you do not need an item right away, you can score some rewards by not going with the fastest shipping option. With Free “No-Rush” Shipping, you either earn rewards on future purchases or receive discounts immediately, simply for agreeing to receive your order within six business days.

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. More specifically, Prime members get 30-minute early access to select lightning deals.

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.

Check out all of our live Prime Day coverage, including our hand-picked deals.

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 an expansive number of shows and movies. In addition to a rotating selection of popular shows and films from third-parties, Amazon also has its own studio, which produces award-winning original content such as Transparent and Catastrophe. You can rent or buy Prime Video titles individually, but get free access to a number of them with a Prime subscription. You can stream them on a variety of devices, including smart TVs, set-top boxes, and consoles, as well as to your mobile device, with some even having the ability to download for offline viewing.

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. Amazon’s library of music has more than 2 million songs and the content is ad-free.

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. New search technology also makes it easy to find specific photos using a keyword, allowing you to pinpoint an image based on location, among other factors.

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. As an added bonus, you’ll get a free monthly Twitch channel subscription to support your favorite streamer.

Borrow books, nab advance copies, and catch up on the latest news

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If you own a Kindle and subscribe to Prime, 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.

Amazon also has the Kindle First program for Prime members. With Kindle First, Prime Members can read one of six unreleased books every month for free. Amazon editors will select the six books each month, and Prime members can read one in advance of the official release date.

If you’re a news junkie, the company has also teamed up with the Washington Post to provide Prime members with a free, six-month trial to the digital version of the newspaper. Like any trial membership, however, Prime members must cancel their subscription after six months if they don’t want to be charged after the trial period ends.

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

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Food delivery services like Postmates are growing increasingly popular, which is probably why Amazon has recently 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, though, users can get free shipping by purchasing at least five qualifying items.

Prime members can also take advantage of Amazon Elements, a curated line of premium and ethically-sourced products that includes everything from supplements and baby wipes. Before purchasing an item from Amazon Elements, Prime members can learn where each ingredient is sourced, why those ingredients were used, and the manufacturer’s location. This type of transparency is the hallmark of Amazon Elements, as the program was created for more ethically-focused shoppers.

Prime Members can also take advantage of Amazon’s Dash buttons, which lets users purchase frequently-used items with the push of a button. Each button costs $5, whether you opt for the Tide offering or those tailored toward Nerf products, and can be set up via Amazon’s official app.

Lastly, Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods means members will soon be able to get discounts in-store, as Prime will become the official rewards program for the grocery chain at some point in 2018.

Painlessly and easily build your wardrobe

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Taking a page from Trunk Club and Stitch Fix, Amazon has recently begun experimenting with Prime Wardrobe, a clothing subscription that allows customers to purchase clothes, shoes, or accessories and only pay for what they keep. Customers have up to seven days to decide what they’d like to keep, and can ship unwanted items back to Amazon free of charge. Shoppers can select up to 10 items for each Prime Wardrobe box, and the more they keep, the larger of a discount they will receive. Prime Wardrobe remains in beta, however, and it’s unclear when — and if — the service will launch.

Those seeking style advice can also use Amazon’s Outfit Compare feature, which is housed within the mobile app. The newly-minted tool allows Prime Members to upload two photos of themselves wearing two different outfits. An Amazon stylist will then view both photos and, using their skilled eye for fashion, will inform you of which looks best.

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 bevvy 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 also almost worth the price of admission by itself. 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 subscription. That said, it should be noted that Amazon’s music library is not as robust as Spotify’s and a number of songs, albums and artists are locked behind its Amazon Music Unlimited service, which costs a few dollars extra. 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

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