Is Amazon Prime Worth it? The Breakdown

What is Amazon Prime?

An international, electronic commerce company located in Seattle, Washington, Amazon.com has been a popular source for online shoppers for many years. What once started out as a small company simply selling books over the web has turned into an online giant for almost any product that you can think of.

amazon prime pictureAmazon now offers a special membership program called Amazon Prime, which offers a multitude of benefits to its members for only $99 a year or $49 a year for students.

These benefits include free two-day shipping on all products, instant streaming of TV shows and movies from a selection of over 40,000, access to their Kindle Library with over 500,000 books and a music streaming service of over a million songs.

Do the perks make up for its price tag? Let’s examine what Amazon Prime has to offer and see if we can get a return on our investment after paying for the membership fee.

Perk 1: Free 2-day shipping on eligible items to addresses within the US

Currently, Amazon offers free shipping on any order over $35 provided that you select the Super Save Shipping option at checkout. While this may not cost you any extra money, this shipping process is incredibly slow, taking anywhere from 5-10 days for a product to arrive at your door.

With Amazon Prime, you get free 2-day shipping on any item no matter what the cost.

If you’re a patient buyer, don’t mind buying a few extra items to get to the $35 minimum for free shipping and can wait almost 10 days to get your order, then this benefit might not be for you.

What if you frequently purchase things for under $35 or want shipping that takes less than 10 days? Let’s take a look at what you would normally pay for Standard Shipping, which comes with a wait time of 3-5 days.

  • Standard shipping will cost you a minimum of $2.99 (Cassettes, DVDs, Blu-ray, Music CDs, Vinyl). Depending on your product category, this price can only go up, with computers at $7.99 per shipment.
  • The minimum per shipment fee is added in conjunction with the weight of the item. For toys, you have to pay $3.99 plus an additional  $.85/lb. For computers, there’s a minimum standard shipping fee of $7.99 plus $.65/lb.
  • Apparel will cost a minimum of $3.99 with an additional $1.49 per item.
  • If you buy everyday items such as toothpaste and deodorant for under $25 and ship them 4 times a year, you may pay roughly $7.25 per shipment.
  • All standard shipping rates can be seen here.

What does all of this mean? It really comes down to how often you make purchases on Amazon. With a minimum of $2.99 a purchase and an Amazon Prime membership fee at $99 per year, we can easily calculate whether or not Amazon Prime is worth it based on this benefit alone.

free 2-day shipping

Excluding gift cards, I took the average of all of the product categories shipping prices and came up with an average of $4.33 on standard shipping. In order to make up for the membership fee of Amazon Prime only using standard shipping, you need to purchase an average of 22 items per year on Amazon to get your money’s worth.

With a student membership at only $49 per year, you need to make only 11 purchases a year to get your money’s worth.

Keep in mind that these calculations include the lowest shipment fees possible. You will most likely end up spending a little extra per standard shipment.

If you frequently want two-day shipping, that’s another story. Here’s a quick list of some example prices for two-day shipping.

  • Minimum of $5.99 per shipment (video games and accessories) with an additional cost of $1.99 per item.
  • For toys and computers, you have to pay $10.99 plus $.99/lb.
  • Apparel costs a minimum of $7.99 plus $1.99 per item.
  • Sports equipment costs the highest at $11.99 per item plus $.99/lb.
  • Everyday items such as toothpaste and deodorant cost about $13 with two-day shipping.

After taking the averages of the minimum prices once again with two-day shipping, we found out that you need to make a minimum 11 purchases for the $99 membership fee or 5 purchases with the student fee of $49.

Again, keep in mind that these calculations include the bare minimum and don’t calculate the weight. It will most likely end up being more expensive. You can take a look at the two-day shipping costs here.

The other reason why this perk might be beneficial to you is if you want to save time and money from actually going to the store.

Almost anythingcan be purchased off of Amazon’s website. Instead of actually going to the store to make a purchase, you can save time and money on gas by making a quick order online, while still getting your product within a reasonable time frame. You can use this time to get homework done, spend time with your kids, etc.

With Amazon’s excellent return policy, it’s almost as if you’re shopping in a giant supermarket over the web.

The last and final shipping option through Amazon is the one-day shipping. It can be as low as $2.99 through Prime or $8.99 without it.

What’s really helpful with the two-day shipping option is the Price Check By Amazon App. If you ever go to the store to make a purchase, what you can do to is quickly scan the bar code of an item with this app. You will then get a quick comparison of the same object’s price through Amazon.

price checkIf it’s cheaper, you can immediately order it on Amazon with free 2-day shipping and won’t have to wait more than a couple of days to receive it.

Let’s take a look at the other perks that Amazon Prime has to offer.

Perk 2: Instant Streaming to Thousands of Movies and TV Shows

Amazon Prime also offers a wide selection of through its movie and television streaming service.

If you don’t purchase the student membership of Amazon Prime, it works out to be $8.25 per month. With Netflix at $7.99 per month (roughly $95 per year), their prices come out to be the same while offering almost the same benefits if you exclude Amazon Prime’s free two-day shipping perk.

amazon prime streaming moviesAmazon Prime currently offers a wide selection of movies and TV shows with over 40,000 selections. The only thing that Netflix has over Amazon Prime is its latest releases.

After taking a quick look at Prime’s selection, here we see the top 5 releases from the past 30 days: World War Z, The Neverending Story, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Frozen Ground and Patton.

These titles aren’t necessary bad movies, it’s just that Netflix usually has them out a little bit quicker.

Furthermore, Netflix usually keeps its TV library up-to-date with more popular releases. If you don’t really mind what specific shows or movies you are watching and don’t mind waiting a little more to see newer movies, then go ahead with Amazon Prime. Otherwise, Netflix is almost always going to win hands-down.

The only reason that I could justify signing-up primarily for this service alone is if you signed-up for their student membership at $49 per month and simply want to pay a lower cost than Netflix.

Perk 3: Read Free Books Each Month Through Kindle First and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library

If you find yourself reading a lot of books with the Amazon Kindle, this benefit alone makes up for the cost of the Amazon Prime membership. Their Lending Library has over 500,000 titles that also include many New York Times bestsellers.

kindle lending library

Books borrowed also have no due date, so you don’t have to worry about any overdue fees. They can also be delivered to other kindle devices registered on your account. Unfortunately, you can only borrow one book at a time and will be prompted to return the book before you borrow another one.

Amazon doesn’t offer a direct link to show access to all of the books available on Amazon Prime all at one time in your browser, but PC World found a loophole by following these 3 short steps:

1. On Amazon.com, find the down arrow next to the search box. Switch from “All” to “Books” and click Go.

2. On the left sidebar, scroll down and you should see a link that says “Prime Eligible.” Go ahead and click on it.

3. On the next page, click the “Kindle Edition” header and you see all of the books that Amazon Prime has to offer on one page.

If you’re an avid Kindle reader, this benefit makes up for the cost of the Amazon Prime membership fee alone.

Perk 4: Prime Music Streaming Service

Amazon Prime recently launched its new feature called Prime Music, a music streaming service that offers members unlimited, ad-free streaming on a selection of over a million songs.

Prime Music allows you to play specific playlists already made with the ability to make your own playlist by adding individual songs. There’s unlimited offline playback for songs available on the service.

Within hours of release, critics who evaluated the Prime streaming service stated that it was just “okay.” Frequent users of streaming services were quick to point out that Spotify offers the same thing with over 20 million songs available to subscribers.

If you’re already paying for a subscription streaming service such as Spotify or Pandora, there’s really no incentive to switch over to Amazon Prime unless you’re a little more frugal.

A subscription to Spotify’s premium account has recently gone to $120 a year instead of Amazon’s Prime Music service at $99 a year. Keep in mind you also get this with free expedited shipping as well.

I Can’t Justify Amazon’s Prime’s Membership Fee. Is There a Cheaper Option?

As already mentioned, Amazon Prime is currently offering a discount to students at 50% off for only $49 a year. For those of us who aren’t students, there’s also an option to pay almost 20% of the price if you can split the membership with your family members or friends.

Once you sign-up for the Prime membership, Amazon allows you to pass on the free two-day shipping benefit of up to 4 other family members or friends. You simply need their email, birthday and your relation to that person in order for you to share it with them.

invite a household member

Please take note that this only includes the two-day shipping option and no other benefits. If you want family members to have access to these perks, they’ll have to log into your account to be able to use them.

Furthermore, if you have a student membership, you are not allowed to share this two-day shipping option.

Convince 4 other family members to split the cost with you and you’ll only be paying $20 instead of $99.

If you still think that the price isn’t worth it, there’s currently a 30-day free trial which can be canceled at any time. I’m currently using this service to test out their music and movie streaming service.

Conclusion

Is the Amazon Prime membership really worth it?

It really depends on how much you purchase through Amazon and how much you’re willing to pay. I have actually heard complaints that Amazon Prime actually makes you buy more because you’re continually trying to justify the $99 membership fee. However, if you’re self-disciplined, this shouldn’t affect you.

For frequent online shoppers, the two-day shipping option is so great because of Amazon’s wide variety of products: toothpaste, deodorant, clothes, books, accessories, art, music, etc. that usually cost below $35.

Furthermore, if you ever do go out shopping for something at the store, what you can do to make the most of your Prime Membership is by using the Price Check By Amazon App in order to compare prices.

If you don’t want to spend the extra $99 dollars and don’t mind waiting 5-10 days to receive your product, then the two-day shipping benefit is of no use to you.

For music and streaming alone, there are much better options, so we can automatically rule out these benefits unless you’re looking at price alone. Amazon’s Prime Music service is usually cheaper than other subscription services.

The only feature that I can see that is capable of standing on its own is the Kindle Lender’s Library, with unlimited access to over 500,000 books.

It’s the all-inclusive perks is what justifies the price of Amazon Prime, and one factor alone cannot solely determine if Amazon Prime is truly worth it. The best way to see if Amazon Prime is right for you is to try it out yourself by trying out a 30-day free trial.

If you have used or tried Amazon Prime and would like to add anything we missed, let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

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19 Comments


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  15. Lydia Kitchen

    Sep 6, 2015 at 2:22 am

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