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 from $79 to $99, 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 Original Series’—including fantastic award nominated content like The Man in the High Castle, Transparent, 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 cost works out to ~$8.25 as month, so there’s no 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 listento? 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 (10 million songs instead of 2 million songs) for $7.99 a month instead of $9.99, which saves you $24 a year over the full regular subscription price. But even putting aside the enhanced music plan, Prime Music is still strongly comparable to services like Pandora One, which runs $36 a year.
Value: Given the cost of comparable services, we’d say this is worth around $36 a year.
Prime Is For Readers: Books, Audiobooks, and Giveaways
This next section is an amalgam of three distinct and worthwhile Prime features that are especially valuable to avid readers and Kindle owners. First, we have the freshly minted 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.
In addition to the free content found in new Prime Reading section, there’s also the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which is an additional Prime feature wherein Kindle owners (as in you have a physical Kindle, Kindle Fire tablet, or Fire Phone) can check out a book a month from a catalog of hundreds of thousands of books. If you have a Kindle device you access the lending library by opening up the Kindle store (on your Kindle) or launching the Kindle app (on your Fire tablet or phone) and looking for the “Borrow for Free” category. You can borrow a book a month for a total of 12 books a year.
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).
Finally (but wait! there’s more!), you get a free subscription to audiobook giant Audible’s “Channels” system–ad-free podcasts and curated original content–plus a rotating selection of 50 audiobooks for free. It’s not full access to the Audible library (which is an extra $14.95 a month), but it’s still an awesome free perk if you’re into audio-based content.
All told, that’s a huge amount of free reading and listening material available to Prime subscribers. Let’s put a rough value on it. Prime Reading is, at 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.
Technically, you could sort of replicate the Kindle Lending Library experience by setting up your Kindle to access digital library lending services through your local library using the OverDrive system, so we’re going to abstain from assigning a value to it (even though it’s clearly a bonus for Prime members with Kindles).
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. Finally, you get the Audible Channels + rotating audiobooks–it’s not the full Audible experience, but we’ll conservatively say it’s at least worth 1/5th the whole package and value it at $3.
Value: Even discounting the Kindle Lending Library, Prime book benefits are worth about $156 a year ($13 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 two years ago, the recent revision of the service was so extensive 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 up to 5 people and collectively contribute to a “Family Vault” 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 9 cents for a 4×6, 58 cents for a 5×7, and $1.79 for an 8×10, which is around half what you’d pay at a printer like Shutterfly.
Google Photos allows for free unlimited resolution photo storage (up to 16MP) without a fee, but $1.99 a month gives you unlimited storage and resolution size including uploading RAW format photos. Amazon Photos provides a similar service, but included in your Prime membership.
Value: $23.88 per year, if we give it a price comparable to Google Photos.
Twitch Prime for Gamers
Amazon’s recent acquisition of the Twitch gaming service, and subsequent introduction of Twitch Prime, 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, 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 Family: If you’ve got babies in your household, Amazon Family offers 20% off diaper subscriptions and discounts on a wide variety of kid-related products. Speaking of kids, Freetime Unlimited costs you $2.99 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 $36 more per year, but most parents would look at Freetime Unlimited as a huge value and your Prime membership actually knocks the price down $24 from the non-Prime subscription rate.
Prime Now: Live in a major city like NYC, Chicago, San Francisco or the like? Your Prime membership also gives you access to Prime Now, which offers free two hour shipping on a wide variety of household essentials and groceries. That’s right: there is no delivery fee; you just pay tip. It’s like Amazon Fresh, except it comes with your Prime subscription.
Amazon Restaurants: Even better yet, if you live in a covered area, you can enjoy free 1-hour delivery from dozens of restaurants (many of which don’t even offer regular delivery service in the first place). We’re not even going to try to put a value on that—the ability to order delivery from your favorite restaurant that doesn’t normally deliver is fantastic.
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 credits 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.