Amazon Prime is a subscription-based membership program with a growing number of features.
Prime is Amazon’s vision of the online shopping in the near future, and it’s very promising.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if you had a comfort of ordering a Christmas gift without fear it won’t get delivered on time? Or had a possibility to watch a movie completely free? Or had a chance to know about upcoming deals before other customers?
For a yearly fee of $99 members get several benefits that are meant to make using Amazon a more seamless experience.
In general, Prime members can benefit in various forms while shopping over 20 million items on Amazon. “Prime eligible” usually means that the members of the program will:
- not pay for the item (digital goods – videos, songs, or ebooks),
- not pay for the shipping (physical goods),
- get first access to deals.
In this overview, I’ll go through major features, focus on important facts, and give some tips on how to make the most of Amazon Prime. Here are the highlights:
- What do Prime members get
- Benefits for Kindle owners
- International availability
- Finding Prime eligible items
- Prime Day – what you need to know
- What’s the best time to join Prime
- Cost calculations
- Prime Student
Amazon Prime runs in a few countries. The features differ from country to country, so we’ll describe the system in the most advanced market – United States.
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Amazon Prime tips and facts
What do Amazon Prime members get?
Customers who decide to join Prime will enjoy better conditions when buying or renting over 22 million goods:
- 20 million physical items with free two-day shipping,
- 1.5 million songs free to listen and download,
- over 1 million books to borrow from Kindle Owners’ Lending Library,
- 20 thousand movies and TV series free to watch.
Let’s take a closer look at the most attractive Prime services.
Most of the Amazon customers choose Prime just because of this single – and great – feature.
Without Prime, you’ll have to order at least $35 of eligible items to get them shipped for free within four business days. When you are a Prime member, you will not pay for shipping of over 20 million Prime eligible items.
Obviously, the products that are eligible for free shipping are carefully selected. Don’t expect a $0.01 Kindle case cover from a third-party seller to be Prime eligible.
There are two options of the free shipping via Prime. Customers with addresses in the contiguous U.S. will enjoy Free two-day shipping. Not all speeds are available for all items and all addresses. You won’t get magazine subscriptions or personalized gift cards, for instance (check out other details here).
You can get the items delivered even quicker. Free same-day delivery is available in 14 metro areas (you can check your zip code here). Over a million items are eligible, but your order should be over $35 to get it shipped for free.
Savings on shipping fees are considerable, but Prime members will have to pay for shipping in some cases. Below you’ll find a comparison of shipping costs of a book-style Kindle case by Fintie, worth $14.99.
Shipping costs of a $14.99 Kindle case
|Delivery||Without Prime||With Prime|
|Same day||–||free on qualifying orders in certain cities|
|4-5 business days||$6.98||–|
Free movies, songs, and ebooks
Besides free shipping, an offer for digital content also seems very attractive. You can access Prime eligible movies, songs and ebooks completely for free.
However, unlike 20 million physical products qualifying for free shipping, there are only about 2.5 million digital products that are Prime eligible.
There are three categories of digital Prime services.
Prime Instant Video is a collection of free-to-watch movies and TV series. You can start watching a video with a click of a button. Amazon claims that there are over 40 thousand Prime videos, but when you start browsing, you’ll see a list of some 20 thousand.
The selection of eligible videos is not impressive, so make sure to browse the titles to find out whether any movie you want to watch is included in Prime before you join the program.
If you are more into music, you can make use of Prime Music. It’s a free access to songs and curated playlists. You can listen to them online, or download to a connected device for offline playback.
There is one thing you need to know: downloaded music can only be accessed within the Amazon Music application and can’t be exported.
Prime Music offers 1.5 million songs. It’s not enough for a serious music lover. To compare, Apple Music gives access to over 30 million songs.
There is also a free access to ebooks, via Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. I’ll describe it later in detail, but in short you can borrow one eligible Kindle book per month, with no due dates.
Better access to deals
Prime is built around exclusivity. Prime members can expect better conditions when accessing deals offered by Amazon.
First, you can get Prime Early Access. You will have 30-minute early access to two kinds of deals:
- Lightning Deal – short time deal with a limited number of discounts; it usually sits on the front page of Amazon Gold Box,
- sales events on MyHabit – deals featured on Amazon-powered designer fashion online store.
Amazon doesn’t guarantee you will be able to buy a particular item. What you get is a 30-minute time ahead of all non-Prime customers.
The second thing is not about early access but exclusive access. It’s called Prime Day. Launched in summer 2015 it was a bigger deal event than Black Friday. We’ll cover Prime Day later in this post.
Referring to Black Friday, Prime members will still have an early access to Lightning Deals during the event. Having in mind that the number of discounted items is limited, claiming the product 30 minutes before the rest of customers is a pretty strong benefit.
Amazon Prime – a complete list of features
- Free Two-Day Shipping – on eligible items to addresses in the contiguous U.S.,
- Free Same-Day Delivery – in certain areas,
- Kindle Owners’ Lending Library – you can borrow one book each calendar month; the catalog includes over 1,000,000 ebooks,
- Kindle First – early access to download a new book for free every month from the Kindle First picks,
- Audible Channels – free access to original audio editions of standout articles and news from top sources,
- Prime Reading – free access to over 1,000 top Kindle books, magazines, and comics,
- Prime Instant Video – unlimited streaming of movies and TV episodes,
- Prime Music – unlimited, ad-free access to hundreds of Prime playlists and more than a million songs,
- Prime Photos – secure unlimited photo storage in Amazon Cloud Drive,
- Prime Pantry – members can purchase low priced grocery, household, and pet care items for a flat delivery fee of $5.99,
- Amazon Elements – access to Amazon’s line of everyday essentials,
- Prime Early Access – 30-minute early access to select Lightning Deals and new events on MyHabit.com,
- Membership sharing – Prime members may share the account with up to four eligible household members living at the same address.
What you need to know about Prime for Kindle owners
Benefits for Kindle owners need to be explained in more detail because there is some confusion that leads to expectations greater than the actual offer.
Many customers confuse Prime with Kindle Unlimited, $9.99/month ebook subscription. Both services are subscription-based, and both are positioned as giving unlimited access.
In case of Prime, “unlimited” stands for:
- unlimited movies and TV shows (Prime Instant Video),
- unlimited music (Prime Music),
- unlimited photo storage (Prime Photos).
The service that lets Prime members save on Kindle ebooks has nothing to do with Kindle Unlimited. It’s called Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL). There are two things you need to know about it.
1. You can borrow one book a month
Within Prime membership, you are eligible to access the catalog of Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (over 1,000,000 titles) and borrow a Kindle book just like you borrow a book from a library.
There is no due date. The book won’t disappear from your device in a few weeks, but only when you replace it with a new book.
There is one limitation, though: you can borrow at most one book per month. So, even if you can read four books per month, only one of them can be borrowed from KOLL.
2. You’ll need to have Kindle or Fire device
Kindle books can be read on Kindle apps for desktop computers, iPad/iPhone, or Android tablets and smartphones.
However, unlike Kindle Unlimited, to access Kindle Owners’ Lending Library you’ll need to own a registered device made by Amazon:
- Kindle e-reader, like Kindle Paperwhite or Kindle Voyage,
- Fire tablet, like Fire HD6 or Fire HDX 8.9; also Fire Phone.
Kindle Owners’ Lending Library vs Kindle Unlimited
|Number of books to have at a time||1||10|
|Number of books to have a month||1||Unlimited|
|Access from Kindle & Fire device||Yes||Yes|
|Access from Kindle application||No||Yes|
|Number of available titles||1,000,000+||1,000,000+|
|Monthly cost||$8.25 (part of Prime)||$9.99|
If you are considering signing up for Prime because you want to save on buying Kindle ebooks, think twice. Maybe it’s better to go for Kindle Unlimited, as it gives more possibilities for avid book readers.
When it comes to bestsellers, both KOLL and Kindle Unlimited are quite similar. Their catalogs contain over 1,000,000 titles but lack the books from the Big 5 publishers. So, don’t expect you’ll be able to borrow Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman or Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.
Instead, you’ll find here a lot of books from self-publishers, and titles published by Amazon’s own imprints – some are really good.
Other features for book lovers
Kindle Owners’ Lending Libray is not the only benefit for Prime members who like to read.
You’ll also find interesting the following services – all available at no extra cost:
- Kindle First
- Audible Channels
- Prime Reading
If you join Prime, you will get an early access to Kindle First.
What is Kindle First? Every month Amazon editors pick up four titles and make them available in advance of their official release dates.
Regular Kindle users can buy one Kindle First book a month for $1.99. Prime members can get it for free.
Prime Reading was introduced in October 2016. It gives a free access to a rotating selection of top Kindle books, magazines, and comics.
The list of Prime Reading titles is includes over 1,000 items, including Harry Potter series, Hobbit, Kindle Singles from top-selling authors, and many more.
Opposite to Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, you don’t need to have a Kindle e-reader or Fire tablet to enjoy the Prime Reading. The Kindle app on your iPad or Android tablet is enough.
If you’ve just discovered the beauty of listening to audiobooks, you should get excited about free access to Audible Channels.
Audible Channels is a short-form digital audio service curated by Amazon editors. The list of programs, lectures, and audio editions includes such top sources as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, or Harvard Business Review.
Amazon Prime is available in selected countries
As I earlier pointed out, this article analyzes Prime benefits available for customers in the U.S. shopping on Amazon.com. However, the service is available in other countries, as well.
The list of features differs from country to country. In some countries, like the U.K and Germany, the members can watch unlimited movies with Prime Instant Video. In other countries (Spain or Italy) Prime is basically about free shipping.
Before I share the list of Prime membership in different Amazon stores, let me highlight a couple of important facts for the customers of Amazon.com.
Prime is only available for American residents with a credit card issued by the American bank. Even then you won’t fully use Prime from outside the U.S.
A free two-day shipping is obviously out of the question. Plus, you may have problems watching Prime eligible movies in a location different than continental U.S. This is due to geographical restrictions required by movie distributors.
Prime membership fees across the world
|Amazon store||Country||Yearly fee|
|Amazon.com||United States||USD 99|
|Amazon.co.uk||United Kingdom||GBP 79|
|Amazon.de||Germany, Austria||EUR 49|
How to find Prime eligible items on Amazon?
Before joining Prime, it’s good to spend some time browsing Amazon for the product you are willing to buy that are included in the Prime portfolio.
Unlike other services, Prime doesn’t have a landing page, from where you can browse all Prime eligible items. This can be easily explained: there are too many items in too many categories to do that.
So, is it difficult to find products that qualify for Prime benefits? Not at all. Amazon makes a lot of efforts to clearly highlight Prime items across the store.
The general rule is that every eligible product is marked with a small Prime logo.
On search pages
When you browse Amazon website, you’ll see Prime logo everywhere. On search pages, the logo appears next to item’s price. This is very useful because for Prime members eligibility becomes one of the important factors in deciding which product to buy.
Here is the example of search results in Amazon Instant Video department. The prices start from $0.00 because for Prime members the videos are free to play and download.
And here is the example of Prime eligible items in Electronics department. Prime items qualify for free two-day shipping.
On product pages
It’s more complicated on single product pages. Generally, the Prime logos appear on pages of digital items, like videos, songs or ebooks.
Here is the product page of a Kindle ebook that is included in Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Under the price of the Kindle edition you’ll see a small Prime logo with a “Borrow for free” text that links to info about Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.
On product detail pages of movies and TV series, there are two hints:
- the logo next to video’s thumbnail,
- the info about Prime above the “Watch Now” button; the “Watch Now” button is modified to prompt to start using Prime.
Some time ago the Prime logo appeared also on product pages of physical items. The Prime logo was seen next to item’s price. There was also a widget explaining the benefits of Prime membership.
Now the logos are gone, but you are still able to find out whether the product qualifies for free shipping. Above “Add to Cart” button there is a checkbox accompanied by a message “Yes, I want free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime”.
On deal pages
Prime eligible items, the ones that are included in Prime Early Access, are marked with a Prime logo.
For instance, when you visit Amazon Gold Box landing page all the Lightning Deals that are displayed 30 minutes earlier for Prime members look like this:
Browse pages for Prime eligible digital items
There is no landing page for all Prime eligible products, but the exception is digital content. Below you’ll find browse pages for videos and music:
- Prime Instant Video – movies
- Prime Instant Video – TV series
- Prime Music – songs
- Prime Music – albums
What you need to know about Prime Day
To celebrate 20th birthday Amazon launched Prime Day on July 15, 2015. It was a huge one day promotional event offering more deals than last year’s Black Friday.
The most special thing about Prime Day is that the deals were available only for the current and new members of the program.
What’s interesting, in the middle of summer, the time customers don’t usually chase the deals, order rates “have surpassed 2014 Black Friday”.
Prime Day is clearly here to stay, and it will be held every year. Why it’s good to keep that in mind? Because during this one day event a Prime member can save more money than it needs to pay for a yearly subscription.
Just one example. The basic Kindle was offered for $49 instead of
$79. Buying this one product only “lowered” the cost of subscription by one-third.
Kindle and Fire devices will surely be offered in the future Prime Day events, as they are needed to make use of Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.
But there is one thing to remember: when you join the program during Prime Day, you won’t enjoy the 30-day free trial. You’ll need to pay right away the $99 in order to enter the deals.
What’s the best time to join Prime?
You can join Amazon Prime any time you want. However, there are some circumstances when signing up for the program is more justifiable. Here are the three scenarios.
When you plan extensive shopping
The best approach is to analyze your own needs and shopping plans.
If you are planning to buy a considerable number of goods in the near future, it’s good to consider joining Prime in order to reduce costs.
For instance, a start of the new season of your favorite TV show is good enough for a start. Or when you plan to shop several goods but don’t want, or don’t have money, to pay for them at once. Instead, you can shop one item at a time, and save on shipping via Prime.
There is one thing to keep in mind, though: not every item on Amazon is Prime eligible. Although 20 million looks huge, there might be products you want to buy that do not qualify for Prime shipping.
The same with movies, songs or ebooks – especially that digital collections of Prime eligible goods are rather small.
I therefore strongly advise to spend some time on finding out whether the goods you are going to buy are Prime eligible.
Before Christmas and Black Friday
Even if you don’t have very specific shopping plans, pre-Christmas is usually a time when you’ll buy a lot of goods.
Signing up for Prime before Christmas, or even earlier – before Black Friday – will surely let you save a lot on shipping.
Add a couple of family movies watched during Christmas time, and the cost of the membership can be easily balanced with savings.
Before Prime Day
Pre-Christmas time is pretty hectic. On the other side, signing up for a yearly subscription needs some time to analyze all the pros and cons.
Holiday time is when you have time and make plans. Sounds like a good reason to explore Prime and decide whether it suits you at all.
When you add what you missed by not being a program’s member during Prime Day, you’ll find out going for Prime in early summer is actually a good idea.
Best of all, the coming Christmas falls into the same subscription year, so you’ll have not one (Black Friday) but two chances to benefit from good deals.
About free trial and cancelation
For many years, Amazon Prime was offered with a 30-day free trial. New users were given most of the program’s features without the need to pay for the yearly membership.
This has changed before Prime Day 2015. Amazon still prompts to “try Prime” but this doesn’t mean free trial.
I can understand why the free trial was removed for Prime Day. A single person could make savings by accessing Prime eligible deals for a value much higher than a yearly subscription and cancel the membership the day after receiving all ordered products.
The thing is that two weeks after Prime Day free trial has still not returned. Instead of the yellow button saying “Start your 30-day Prime free trial” we just read “Get started”.
So, the status of a free trial of Amazon Prime is unclear. One guess is that Amazon will remove it for Prime Day and put it back for the rest of the year. The other possibility is that free trial of Prime has gone forever.
Let’s hope it’s the first option, especially that free trial is still offered in other countries like the U.K.
Without the free trial, the terms of membership cancelation become extremely important. You can cancel Prime any time from within your Amazon account.
If you cancel within 3 business days of signing up, Amazon we will refund the full membership fee. However, if you, for instance, watched a Prime eligible movie, you may be charged the full price for its rental.
There is also a chance to get the full Prime fee back after these three first days – on condition you have not made any eligible purchases or taken advantage of Prime benefits.
Things to know about Prime membership sharing
Subscription services that can be shared with family are increasingly popular. Prime offers this feature too.
The cost of $100 is easier to swallow if more than one person can benefit from it. With Prime offering plenty of services (free shipping, video streaming, music, Kindle ebooks), the membership sharing seems very promising.
You can share your Prime membership with up to four members of the family
Well, it’s not that profitable, in the end. You can invite four members of your family, living at the same address as you, but their access to Prime membership benefits are quite limited.
Yes, you can share shipping benefits so that every Prime eligible item ordered on Amazon reaches your household at no extra cost.
However, how many times this would be used? Definitely, when family members want to give you a gift, or when your spouse makes a majority of online shopping, and you don’t want to bother about it. Do you see other suitable situations?
When it comes to digital content (movies, music, ebooks), it’s even less attractive.
First, Prime Instant videos and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library books can be only shared with family members who are adults. Sharing Prime membership with your teenage daughter to let her read YA novels? This can’t happen.
The promise of sharing a digital content is mostly about avoiding synchronization and access limit issues. Two family members should be able to read the same book or watch the same movie at the same time because they are using two Amazon accounts, right?
Well, in case of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library there is still one ebook Prime member can borrow at the time. So it’s either you or your spouse, not both.
For Prime Music, things are clear from the beginning. It’s not included “for invited household members on a shared Prime account”.
Make some money by referring Prime to your friends
To ease the pain of spending $100, there is a financial incentive that doesn’t require a lot of effort.
You can recommend Amazon Prime to your friends. For every customer who joins Prime following your link, you will earn $5 – after the new member makes a purchase of at least $5.
The credits earned from referring Amazon Prime won’t be applied to your gift card balance. Instead, they will be automatically applied to your purchases of any item sold and fulfilled by Amazon.
Each credit is valid one year from the date it appeared in your account.
You can refer Amazon Prime be sending an email (up to 5 email addresses) or via Facebook.
Amazon Prime – cost calculations
Prime is not a single-feature subscription service. It seems to be its biggest benefit because you don’t have to be a heavy user in any of the offered areas to break even and start making savings.
$99 a year is $8.25 a month. Let’s compare it to Kindle Unlimited, with a monthly fee of $9.99. It pays to enter Kindle Unlimited if you are a book lover, who reads on average a few books per month.
“A few items a month” is the same rule with other kinds of digital content. With video on demand subscription, you’ll need to watch a few movies per month. With music subscription – listening to a few albums a month.
When you have Prime, you don’t need to heavily consume goods in a single category in order to break even. Instead, you can benefit from using a combination of various features.
Prime is clearly designed for customers with moderate needs in several areas. Let’s go through a couple of calculations.
To get free shipping on Amazon, you’ll have to collect in the basket eligible goods worth at least $35. Still, they won’t be delivered withing two days.
With Prime, you can buy any Prime eligible item, and you’ll have it shipped for free in two days.
Let’s say you want to buy Wreckage by Emily Bleeker. The paperback costs $7.48.
If you are a Prime member you’ll pay for it $7.48:
- for the book – $7.48
- for two-day shipping – $0.00
If you are not a Prime member and want it delivered in two days, you’ll pay for it $20.46:
- for the book – $7.48
- for shipping – $12.98
If you are not a Prime member and can wait a few more days for the delivery, you’ll pay for it $12.46:
- for the book – $7.48
- for shipping – $4.98
If you have a Kindle e-reader or Amazon Fire tablet you may want Wreckage as an ebook. Its price is $4.99.
This ebook is included in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, so you’ll be able to borrow it via Prime. You’ll save $4.99 but remember: Prime members can borrow only one Kindle book per month. You won’t make any extra savings on Kindle ebooks this month.
If the Kindle book costs more than $8.25, you’ll break even by borrowing just this one book. Well, this is more of a theory because there are not many that expensive Kindle ebooks in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.
Renting movies is another area where you can make clear savings.
Let’s say you want to watch the new season of Downton Abbey. Watching four episodes in four consecutive weeks in standard quality (4 x $1.99 = $7.96) already pays for your monthly Prime cost of $8.25.
Want to watch any of the previous seasons of Downton Abbey? The entire season in SD quality costs $14.99. If you have Prime, you keep $6.74 in your pocket.
As I already explained, Prime is a perfect solution for customers who occasionally shop in different sections of Amazon.
Therefore, it makes more sense to calculate average savings in different areas, like the basket of $14.96 savings that are shown below:
- save on shipping one physical good – $4.98
- save on watching one movie in HD quality – $4.99
- save on buying one Kindle book – $4.99
Prime Student gives extra benefits for students
Amazon offers a special variant of Prime membership that’s addressed to students. In terms of money, the conditions are much better than for regular customers.
If you enroll join Prime Student, you will have a longer free trial period and pay a lower subscription fee.
To be eligible for Prime Student, you have to add the .edu email address in your Amazon.com settings, and after signing up to Prime Student, you’ll need to verify your enrollment via this email address.
6 months of the free trial
The regular customer can try Prime membership for 30 days free of charge. After that time your credit card will be charged with a fee.
30 days is long enough to explore all the benefits of the membership, but students can enjoy the free trial for five more months, thanks to the support from Sprint.
In other words, you free trial period lasts six months – the first payment is due half a year after you joined the program.
When on the free trial, you won’t have access to all the features, but the free two-day shipping and unlimited access to Prime video is here.
50% off the Prime membership fee
As you know, the regular yearly fee for Prime membership is $99, If you are a student, you’ll pay half of the price.
You will be eligible for the discount for four years or until you graduate, whichever comes first.
After you graduate (and unless you cancel), your subscription will automatically renew into a regular subscription for Amazon Prime.
Amazon Prime – useful links
Below you’ll find useful links that will let you better understand benefits and limitations of Amazon Prime.
- Amazon Prime help pages – help pages: overview, managing ownership, eligible items,
- Terms and Conditions: Amazon Prime – conditions of use, membership cancelation, fees and renewal, limitations,
- About Amazon Prime – a list of all Prime benefits with short descriptions,
- Amazon Prime shipping – a list of items and addresses eligible for free two-day shipping, and free same day delivery,
- Prime Instant Video – browse movies and TV shows available for free streaming,
- About Prime Photos – how you can use Amazon Cloud Drive with your Prime membership,
- Prime membership sharing – more about what can be shared with family members,
- Amazon Prime referral program – terms to get a Prime referral credit,
- Amazon Prime sign-up page – if you decide to join Prime, you can sign up here.
• • •
All images via Amazon.
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