Amazon Prime Is More than Free Shipping: Here Are All of Its Extra Features
Millions of people have an Amazon Prime subscription for one reason: you can get just about anything shipped to your house in two days, with no extra shipping fees. But Amazon Prime comes with a ton of other features that you may not know about. Here are all the ways you can maximize the value of your Prime membership.
Update: Your Amazon Prime membership now gets you exclusive discounts at Whole Foods, too.
You’re Probably Under-Using Amazon Prime
Back in 2005 when Amazon launched Prime, the primary (and only) selling point was that you could cough up $79 and for a whole year you’d get free two-day shipping on all your Amazon Prime-enabled purchases. Over the next decade, however, Amazon Prime became way more than just a get-your-stuff-fast-and-cheap perk, getting more features to realize Amazon’s vision of itself as the “everything store”. The price might have gone up to $139, but now you can use your Prime benefits to get free books, watch tons of free video content, get free game content, and more—but millions of the 63 million Prime subscribers aren’t taking advantage of all the numerous non-shipping perks.
Let’s take a look at the numerous perks that come with a Prime membership and, for fun, we’ll even estimate (based on comparable services) how much those Prime benefits are worth.
Prime Video: Instant Access to Movies and TV
Amazon has its own streaming video service, aligned to compete with Netflix, Hulu, and the like, called Amazon Instant Video. As a bonus for Prime members, a huge chunk of the Instant Video library is accessible at no extra cost to them via the web, mobile apps, and of course on Amazon’s products like the Amazon Fire TV and TV Stick as well as their tablets.
We were a tad underwhelmed with the content back when the service first launched. But today, not only does the Instant Video service sport a wide range of content, but it also includes Amazon’s Original Series — including fantastic award-nominated content like The Man in the High Castle, Transparent, Reacher, The Boys, and Mozart in the Jungle.
Value: $107.88 per year. Amazon Instant Video is available as a stand-alone product for $8.99 a month. To put that in perspective, the actual Prime membership is $14.99 month (or $11.58 if you pay annually), so there’s not much reason not to get Amazon Prime if you plan on streaming Instant Video.
Prime Music: All the Tunes? No. Tons of Tunes? Yes.
Can Prime Music compete with the serious heavyweights in the streaming music industry like Spotify? Not necessarily. Does the 2 million song catalog cover most of the stuff you’ll want to listen to? Most likely. Furthermore, it’s always ad free, and you can even store music for offline use like when you’re riding the no-cellular-signal-subway or going for a cross-country run.
With that in mind, we’ll forgive it for not always having the very specific song we want to listen to at a given moment. Further, if you pair your Prime Music account with an Amazon Alexa-enabled device like the Echo or Echo Dot, playing music is as easy as saying “Alexa, play me some Billy Joel” or “Play me some happy music” to get a hand-curated playlist.
Additionally, if you really like Prime Music you can get Amazon Music Unlimited (90 million songs instead of 2 million songs) for $8.99 a month as a Prime member instead of the usual $9.99, which saves you $12 a year over the full regular subscription price. But even putting aside the enhanced music plan, Prime Music is pretty good. It is fairly unique among music streaming services — most budget options (like Pandora Plus) offer full access to the music library, but have others restrictions, like ad-supported skips, or a limited number of plays before an advertisement runs. Still, the least expensive streaming plans will cost you about 60 dollars a year, and that’s how we’ll estimate Prime Music’s value.
Value: Given the cost of comparable services, we’d say this is worth around $60 a year.
Prime Is For Readers: Books and Giveaways
This next section is an amalgam of two distinct and worthwhile Prime features that are especially valuable to avid readers and Kindle owners. First, we have the Prime Reading feature, which gives Prime members access to thousands of free books and magazines. This content is available on both the actual standalone Kindle devices and on mobile devices running the Kindle app, like your iOS or Android tablet. You can read as much as you want, within the Prime Reading category, without limit.
Next, there is the Kindle First program wherein every month every Prime member can pick one out of six available early-release books and purchase it ahead of the Amazon official release date for $0.00 (the books would otherwise be $4.99).
All told, that’s a huge amount of free reading material available to Prime subscribers. Let’s put a rough value on it. Prime Reading is, at a minimum and if you use it, worth at least $5 a month, based on the premise that you’ll read at least a few books a year and read a few magazines, given the cost of digital magazine subscriptions and books through Amazon.
The Kindle First program is worth $5 a month because they’re literally giving you a free book every 30 days that would otherwise cost you five bucks.
Value: Prime book benefits are worth about $120 a year ($10 a month) in our eyes.
Prime Photos: Unlimited Storage & Easy Sharing
Another great member of the Prime benefit package is Prime Photos — Amazon’s push to get into the photo printing business and further enmesh us in the Everything Store model. Okay, okay, that sounded unnecessarily sinister. In reality, Prime Photos is a free benefit to your Prime Account that allows you to upload, store, and share unlimited photos at their original resolution.
Although it was first introduced roughly eight years ago, the current version of the service was so different that we’re comfortable treating it as practically a brand new benefit. If you tried Amazon Photos years ago and didn’t care for it, definitely give it a second look.
You can easily upload your photos from your PC or mobile device, it automatically analyzes and tags your photos so you don’t have to search for members of your own family when you’re looking to print photos of them, and it makes it super easy to collect family photos together.
You can share your photo storage with your friends and family, and collectively contribute to a share album to pool your best photos together. Even better yet, if you’ve got grandparents always asking for more photos or looking for the next big scrapbooking opportunity, they can order prints from Prime Photos delivered to their door. Amazon Prints, the companion printing service, has very competitive pricing–you’ll pay 19 cents for a 4×6, 69 cents for a 5×7, and $2.09 for an 8×10, which is cheaper than what you’d pay at a printer like Shutterfly.
Google Photos allows for free photo storage up to 15 gigabytes, but $1.99 a month gives you 100 gigabytes of cloud storage split between Google Drive, your email, and Google Photos. There are a few services out there that offer free unlimited photo storage, like Shutterfly, and there are plenty of paid ones, like Flickr Pro. Flickr Pro will cost you about $60 yearly, and we’d say Amazon photos is at least that valuable.
Value: $60 Dollars
Prime Gaming for Gamers
Amazon’s acquisition of the Twitch gaming service, and subsequent introduction of Twitch Prime (which has since been rebranded as Prime Gaming), bodes well for those of you into gaming (or with video game fans in your household) as it gives you access to two big benefits. First and foremost, you get a free Twitch premium account with your Prime membership.
What do you get with that premium membership? You get an ad-free Twitch experience, Prime exclusives like 20% discounts on new release games, free games, and free in-game content, increased storage for archiving your own streams, and you get a free monthly Twitch channel subscription (which you can use to support your favorite Twitch streamer).
At the minimum, you get all the benefits of “Twitch Turbo”, the pre-Amazon premium membership (which is still available for non-Amazon Prime users), that costs $9 a month. Plus, you get the $5 a month credit to use to support a Twitch streamer you like.
Value: $168 per year at minimum ($14 per month), not even counting the free content and game discounts.
Diapers, Food Deliveries, and Other Deals Too
At this point, we’re starting to move away from the easy-to-value things (like how easily we could put a dollar value of a free Twitch premium account) and into the more nebulous Prime features. These features still offer savings big and small, but they’re not as easy to quantify in terms of a set value.
Amazon Kids+: Amazon Kids+ costs you $4.99 a month but gives your child unlimited access to hand-curated lists of kid-friendly books, TV shows, movies, and games. That actually costs you $59.88 more per year, but most parents would look at Amazon Kids+ as a huge value and your Prime membership actually knocks the price down $36 from the non-Prime subscription rate.
If you purchase Amazon Kids+ annually rather than monthly you can get it for even less — just $48 dollars for an entire year.
Prime Same-Day Delivery: Live in a major city like NYC, Chicago, San Francisco, or the like? Your Prime membership also gives you access to rapid delivery, which offers free same-day shipping on select products, including a wide variety of household essentials.
Amazon Whole Foods: If you live in an area that offers the service, you can have a variety of foods — including baked goods, produce, meat, and fish from Whole Foods — shipped directly to your house in two hours for only $9.95.
Amazon Fresh: Amazon Fresh is very similar to the service offered through Whole Foods, but there is no delivery fee! You get free delivery included with your Amazon Prime membership.
No-Rush Shipping Credits: In the same breath, you know what the anti-thesis of Prime Now Is? Amazon’s “no-rush shipping credit” system. Look, we all love getting stuff in 1-2 days for free, but let’s be honest — we don’t need everything delivered that fast. That’s where Amazon’s shipping credit comes in.
On many items (especially around the holidays when Amazon’s shipping schedule is packed full), you’ll see the option to check off “No-Rush Shipping” to kick your delivery back from 2-day delivery to 5-day delivery. In exchange, depending on the product and the current demand on their shipping network, Amazon will give you a digital credit which you can then use to purchase ebooks, TV episodes, movies, music, and even groceries through Prime Pantry (Amazon’s fill-a-big-box-with-groceries-and-goods, pay a flat $5.99 for 45 pounds worth of loot delivered). If you order a lot of non-gift stuff around the holidays, you can make out like a bandit and get piles of credit towards goods. If you order a lot off Amazon and you really need super fast shipping all the time, you can easily put a dent in your $99 subscription just by choosing no-rush delivery on occasion.
To bring our quest to properly value a Prime membership back to some concrete numbers, however, let’s touch on a final point. In addition to all the stuff you get, you can also share your Prime membership with your household with Amazon Household — perfect for sharing free shipping and purchased content with another adult plus up to four children.
Value: So how do we put a value on all those miscellaneous extras and the benefits of your sharing your account? We’re going to slap $99 on to account for the sharing benefits, the potential discounts, and other perks.
That means, if we round up with a few dollars sprinkled about to account for anything small we might have overlooked, all of the items we’ve listed in this guide total up to $600 of total potential value in a Prime account. All of a sudden, $99 seems like a great deal.
Does that mean you should run out and get a Prime account if you don’t have one now? Probably not, unless you’ll actually use these features. But if you have a Prime membership, or are already considering one, take a serious look at all the benefits you get with your existing Prime account, and make a solid go of taking advantage. You might as well get your money’s worth.