There are many reasons to consider buying an Amazon Prime subscription. Among them are perks like free two and one-day shipping, exclusive Prime Original movies and TV shows on Prime Video, tunes via Prime Music, plus access to lots of deals and huge sale events like Prime Deal Days. Amazon is regularly finding new ways to draw in would-be subscribers... but all these extras come at a cost.
As the Amazon Prime offering has evolved, so too has the price. The most recent hike came in 2022 and saw the annual Prime membership fee increase by a hefty 17% to $139 a year, significantly more than the original annual fee of $79. So, it's no surprise that more people are considering whether a Prime subscription is still worth it or not.
If you haven't joined Amazon Prime before, or are considering resubscribing, read on to learn more about the various plans on offer, and some of the great perks an Amazon Prime membership will get you.
Amazon Prime cost since launch
- February 2005 - March 2014: $79 per year
- March 2014 - May 2018: $99 per year
- May 2018 - April 2022: $119 per year
- April 2022 - to date: $139 per year
For many, the price increases don’t matter, especially for shoppers who are too busy to visit multiple brick-and-mortar stores to pick up everything on their shopping lists, from groceries and gadgets to books and apparel. The Amazon Prime subscription-based service has made buying these items online a whole lot easier — now offering overstock items from Amazon Outlet and second-hand items from Amazon Warehouse.
The core benefit of Amazon Prime is free two-day shipping — that was there at the launch — but over the years, Amazon has added many other perks that have lured more than 200 million shoppers worldwide into ponying up for an annual or monthly Prime membership. Roughly 56% of Amazon Prime shoppers spend between $612 and $2,400 a year on Amazon, according to market data portal Statista. Expedited shipping alone can quickly make the membership fee worthwhile, depending on how often you order.
How much is Amazon Prime monthly?
The monthly Prime membership fee is $14.99, for a total of about $180 a year. It's a good option for shoppers who might want to cancel their Amazon Prime membership, or for bargain hunters who only want to sign up so they can get access to sale events like Prime Big Deal Days.
If you're looking to save the most money possible, the annual Amazon Prime membership fee is $139, saving you $40 a year compared to the monthly option. You're charged upfront, and the annual membership auto-renews every 12 months. Perks include free one and two-day shipping, access to Prime Video, unlimited music streaming and photo storage, as well as access to Prime Reading (aka Kindle book and magazine downloads) and Whole Foods discounts and delivery options.
If you've not tried the service before, there's a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime membership. So if you’re not ready to commit to an annual membership you can test the waters for free for one month before you buy in.
Amazon has also introduced Prime Access, a discounted membership available to qualifying recipients of government assistance programs like SNAP EBT, TANF and Medicaid (among others). Prime Access costs just $6.99 a month but comes with all the benefits of a regular Prime membership, at less than half the cost of the normal fee. For the full list of eligible programs, head to the About Amazon page on Prime Access.
How much does Amazon Prime cost for students?
College students can register for a free six-month Prime Student plan trial membership. Initially, you're supposed to register using a ".edu" email address so Amazon can confirm your student status (the email can be changed later). Once verified, students can enjoy the same Prime perks as annual members, as well as get access to Prime Gaming (which includes free gaming content and ad-free viewing on Twitch).
Student members also get first dibs on daily deals on everything from skincare products to school supplies. Once the free trial is over, you can sign up for a discounted annual Prime membership ($69) that's good for four years or until you graduate, whichever comes first. Or, you could continue to buy in monthly to the Prime student membership for $7.49.
If you're not a big online shopper but you want access to Amazon's shows and movies, you could save a few bucks each month by going for the standalone Prime Video plan. For just $8.99 a month, you can stream blockbuster movies, award-winning Prime Original series and movies, and even live sports, without any of the other benefits of a full Amazon Prime membership.
All the benefits of Amazon Prime
If you regularly order from Amazon, then Prime's free two-day (often one-day, sometimes same-day) shipping is probably enticing enough. However, that's not the only noteworthy perk members with annual, monthly, or student plans can take advantage of free of charge:
- Free same-day or one-day delivery is available in select metro areas. You must spend at least $35 on eligible products to qualify for expedited delivery. For same-day shipping, orders must be placed before the relevant "order within" countdown time to receive them by 9 p.m. the same day. For one-day shipping, orders placed in the afternoon will arrive by 9 p.m. the next day. You can enter your shipping zip code on Amazon.com to find out if either shipping option is available near you.
- There's Key by Amazon— Amazon's in-home delivery service (check your ZIP code to see if it's available in your town). It provides keyless, in-home delivery of your orders when you're away. Key by Amazon gives the delivery person access to your home to drop off packages either inside your front gate, your garage, or inside multi-unit buildings, instead of leaving them outside. You'll need a smart lock on your front door, and your garage door opener has to have the ability to interact with the MyQ app (Amazon will walk you through this). You'll need to download the Amazon Key app so you can lock and unlock your front door remotely, as well as watch your package being delivered (an option if you have a compatible camera installed).
- Most recently, Amazon has introduced RxPass — its new subscription service for medication. The monthly RxPass subscription service costs $5 (on top of your Prime membership) and includes over 50 generic medications.
You also get free release date shipping on eligible pre-order items. You'll need to order the item in advance and it will be delivered to you on the release date. Prime members who don't need their order in a hurry can choose the no-rush shipping option to receive a discount on their active order or a promotional reward that's good toward a future purchase.
Unlimited streaming on Amazon.com
Prime Video offers unlimited streaming for a wide variety of movies and television shows including the gazillion-dollar Amazon Original The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and Reacher. You can also subscribe to Prime Video Channels to watch shows from cable networks or other streaming services like Paramount Plus, Starz, AMC+, Max, and BritBox.
Prime Music may be worthwhile for those who regularly use music streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify. Prime Music members get ad-free access to curated playlists, personalized radio stations, and more than a million songs and albums. It's available on a variety of platforms including PC and Mac computers, Android smartphones and tablets, and iOS and Sonos devices.
Note that Amazon Music Unlimited is a separate subscription service offering access to tens of millions of songs for $9.99 a month or $99 a year ( or$10.99/month for Non-Prime members).
Amazon.com grocery shopping
For would-be Prime members with families or busy lifestyles, grocery shopping on Amazon Prime is a no-brainer. Subscribers can shop for individual-sized grocery and household items, such as boxes of cereal or packs of diapers. These same items are oftentimes only available in bulk (and at a higher cost) to regular Amazon users. Prime members can also browse the site's AmazonFresh section, which offers free grocery delivery and pick-up services in select large cities. There may be a minimum order to trigger free delivery, depending on the city you live in.
There's also Whole Foods, which Amazon bought in its entirety back in 2017. Since then, shoppers have been able to order on Amazon.com the upscale grocer's private-label products, including those from 365 Everyday Value, Whole Paws and Whole Catch, and other items.
Amazon has rolled out a number of ways to deliver your orders. The service launched with a free two-hour delivery window to Prime members in select cities for Whole Foods orders. Whilst grocery deliveries will now run you $9.95 per order (on top of your Prime membership fee), Amazon has since launched one-hour delivery (which may incur additional rush fees), and you can opt for attended or doorstep deliveries, as long as your basket doesn't include age-restricted items.
Amazon also gives Prime members an extra 10% off on sale items at Whole Foods stores (look for the yellow signs) plus other seasonal deals and members can pick up groceries from Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market grocery stores in select cities for free in participating cities.
Alternatives to Amazon Prime
If the latest price increase has you considering canceling Amazon Prime, you may be interested in exploring the alternative services to Amazon Prime. Many of these substitutes offer competitive benefits or discounts, but help you hone in on the deals that matter most to you. Some of those services are:
- Walmart Plus
- My Best Buy Total
- Scribd (audiobooks and e-Books)
- Barnes & Noble annual membership
- Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy & Athleta rewards program
Bob was Senior Editor at Kiplinger.com for seven years and is now a contributor to the website. He has more than 40 years of experience in online, print and visual journalism. Bob has worked as an award-winning writer and editor in the Washington, D.C., market as well as at news organizations in New York, Michigan and California. Bob joined Kiplinger in 2016, bringing a wealth of expertise covering retail, entertainment, and money-saving trends and topics. He was one of the first journalists at a daily news organization to aggressively cover retail as a specialty and has been lauded in the retail industry for his expertise. Bob has also been an adjunct and associate professor of print, online and visual journalism at Syracuse University and Ithaca College. He has a master’s degree from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a bachelor’s degree in communications and theater from Hope College.
- Martin ShoreContributor
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