What is Amazon Prime? Everything you need to know before signing up


What is Amazon Prime? Everything you need to know before signing up
By: Posted: June 23, 2023

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A delivery van with the Amazon Prime logo on it.
Amazon Prime is good deal for anyone who shops online often.

Amazon Prime is one of the most popular subscription services available. It offers perks like same-day shipping, grocery delivery, and exclusive limited-time discounts when shopping on Amazon. But there are many more benefits that you may not be aware of.

Below, we’ve put together a guide on everything you need to know about Amazon Prime — what it is, what it has to offer, and how you can make the most of it.

What is Amazon Prime?

Amazon Prime is a subscription service for online shoppers. While you don’t have to be a member to buy things on Amazon, Prime gives you a wide range of benefits, like same-day shipping and grocery delivery. You can also take advantage of exclusive discounts and early lightning deals during sale events like Amazon Prime Day, which takes place on July 11 and 12 in 2023.

You can check out a comprehensive list of Amazon Prime benefits in our guide to all of the service’s best perks, but the overall idea of Prime is that it’s supposed to make shopping and shipping a smoother experience.

For instance, you can get same-day, overnight, or next-day delivery on many Prime-eligible products at no additional cost. And if your order doesn’t meet the criteria for those shipping windows, two-day delivery is often an option. Without Prime, you’ll often have to wait much longer for your packages to arrive.

Prime members who don’t mind waiting, however, can actually snag rewards by forgoing expedited shipping options in favor of “no rush” delivery instead. While your package will take longer to arrive, you’ll be rewarded with credit that you can use on future purchases.

When it comes to items that aren’t readily available, Amazon gives Prime members the option to preorder select products in order to get them delivered on their day of release instead of having to wait for the item to ship after it officially launches.

Finally, Prime allows you to have groceries delivered to your home in under two hours from Whole Foods or Amazon Fresh. Without Prime, there could be a delay in receiving things like non-perishable goods, or you won’t be able to order staples like milk or eggs at all.

How much does Amazon Prime cost?

Amazon Prime costs $15 a month or $139 a year. New users can get a 30-day Amazon Prime free trial to test out the service.

Students and select government assistance recipients (e.g., qualifying EBT cardholders) can receive discounts on Prime subscriptions. Student plans cost $7.49 a month or $69 a year, while the government assistance discount is $7 a month. 

Additionally, Amazon Household is a feature that allows you to share a single Prime account and all of the associated benefits with a limited number of family members — two adults, four teens (ages 13 to 17), and four children (no shopping, digital content only).

Do you get anything for free with an Amazon Prime subscription?

In addition to the shipping perks and discounts above, there are also a lot of other free benefits users get with an Amazon Prime subscription, including access to Amazon’s many entertainment services.

  • Prime Reading: While not the same as a full Kindle Unlimited or Audible subscription, Prime Reading gives subscribers thousands of titles to read online, including some titles with narration. You don’t even need a Kindle to use this perk, as you can access the collection using the Kindle app on iOS or Android.  
  • Prime Gaming: Prime Gaming from Amazon (Twitch Prime) gives users access to several games for free, in addition to one free monthly Twitch channel subscription.
  • Prime Video: Prime Video gives you access to thousands of movies and shows for free, including many original programs you won’t find anywhere else. The service also lets you buy or rent additional titles, and you can even sign up for some third-party services, like Max and Paramount Plus, directly through Prime Video.
  • Amazon Music: Amazon Music Prime provides ad-free access to songs and podcasts. Unfortunately, this doesn’t include on-demand playback and instead limits you to a shuffled selection of songs and episodes from any artist, playlist, or podcast you select. If you want to listen to a specific song, you must upgrade to Amazon Music Unlimited.
  • Cloud Storage: Amazon Prime offers unlimited cloud photo storage and up to five gigabytes to store videos and other files. This is a notable improvement over the standard cloud storage all Amazon accounts get, which limits photo storage to five gigabytes as well.

What are some alternatives to Amazon Prime?

If you decide that an Amazon Prime subscription isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, there are some alternatives you should consider. When it comes to shopping subscriptions, Prime’s main competitor is Walmart Plus.

Walmart Plus launched in 2020, giving Walmart shoppers many of the same features that Prime offers but for a lower subscription fee of $13 a month or $98 a year. Perks include free Walmart shipping, grocery delivery, early access to deals, streaming with Paramount Plus, and more. For a full rundown of differences, check out our Amazon Prime vs. Walmart Plus comparison.

Meanwhile, if you’re just looking for a grocery delivery alternative, Instacart is a solid subscription option. And keep in mind that takeout delivery services like DoorDash and UberEats also provide basic grocery services from nearby stores.

Tech enthusiasts looking for shopping services outside of Amazon Prime may want to consider a subscription more specifically geared toward electronics, like Best Buy Totaltech. Members get exclusive deals, product and repair discounts, round-the-clock GeekSquad assistance, and free installation on qualifying Best Buy purchases.

And for anyone considering a Prime membership primarily to stream Prime Video, you should take a look at some of the other top picks in our guide to the best streaming services. Other options include Hulu, Netflix, Max, Paramount Plus, and Disney Plus, which all offer their own unique set of exclusive programs.

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