In 2005 Amazon created Amazon Prime, which offered free two-day shipping and affordable one-day shipping for Amazon customers. I joined in 2006, for $79 a year. Not coincidentally, that was the same year we bought our house. I had a two-year-old daughter, a five-year-old son, and no parking spot. Shopping with two little people was no picnic, but bringing it all inside when I sometimes had to park a block away was damn near impossible. My love affair with shopping for everyday items online had begun.
Since then Amazon Prime has evolved into much more than just shipping (even though the shipping part is still awesome). Until I went and looked last night I hadn’t really realized how many different ways I use Amazon Prime – and there are a couple of new ones that I’m about to try. And most of the benefits are included for just $99 a year, only a $4 increase if adjusted for inflation from 2005.
Amazon Prime Benefits
Here’s what Amazon Prime now includes, in addition to shipping (not all features are available in all areas):
- Early Access Prime members get early access to lightning deals, 30 minutes before everyone else. I love lightning deals, but every once in a while I miss out on something I want because it sells out before I decide whether or not I want it. This will give me a little extra time to decide.
- This also applies to MyHabit.com, Amazon’s designer flash-sale site.
- Amazon Prime Video Amazon Prime has a lot of great titles available to stream for free to Prime members. You can search or browse here. This isn’t just for watching on your computer, either. Amazon Prime Video is available on a lot of set-top boxes and video game consoles. I can even stream these free shows and movies to my TiVo Roamio. You can even download certain titles to some Kindle Fire tablets and Fire phones.
- Amazon Prime Music You can stream ad-free music on many, many devices with Amazon Prime Music. And on some devices you can even download the music for offline playback. You can search and browse the selections here.
- Amazon Prime Photos You can store an unlimited number of photos for free in Amazon’s cloud, plus get 5 gigs of storage for other things.
- Kindle’s Lending Library If you own a Kindle device (all generations of Kindles, Fire tablets and Fire phones), you can borrow one item a month for free from the Lending Library. It doesn’t usually have what I want, but my kids have a lot more luck. Before he owned them, my son re-read all of the Harry Potter books from the Lending Library on his Kindle Fire.
- There are over 800,000 titles in the library. Between Prime, Kindle, the Lending Library, and Kindle Unlimited, it can get confusing. For a book to be eligible for the Lending Library, it has to be marked both Kindle Edition and Prime. The easiest thing to do is to look from the Kindle Store on your Kindle or Fire device, not from your computer.
- Just be careful, since some people have reported clicking on “Read For Free” thinking they were using the Lending Library, when they were actually signing up for a free 30-day trial of Kindle Unlimited. At the end of the trial, they were automatically charged for the next month. There is a lot of overlap between these two services. (More about that farther down.)
- Kindle First With a Prime membership you can download an editor’s pick for free a month before it’s released to everybody else. (Without a Prime membership you can still subscribe to Kindle First and buy these books at a reduced rate.)
- Prime Now Available in select cities, Prime Now promises FREE one- or two-hour delivery of tens of thousands of items for Prime members, with no minimum order. Prime Now ordering is available only through an app, not from a computer. It’s available in my zip code, so you can be sure I’ll be trying it out soon.
- Prime Pantry This is like Costco coming to your door, but without the giant packages and huge quantities. For $5.99, you can order as many Prime Pantry items as will fit in a box. As you fill your box you can see what percentage of the box is full and how far you have to go. You can check out which items they offer here.
- No-Rush Shipping Credits Let’s say you’re ordering something that you don’t necessarily need in two days. For most items you’ll see an option for No-Rush Shipping, which will give you a credit towards things like digital music or videos or e-books. You’ll still get your items in about a week. I use this a lot when I’m not in a rush, and I’ve gotten a few free Kindle books and video rentals this way.
- Referral Credit If you tell a friend about Amazon Prime, and that friend joins and spends at least $5, you get a $5 credit in your account! (It took me a long time to research this article. If it helped convince you to get Amazon Prime, I’d really appreciate it if you signed up through my referral link.)
- Benefit Sharing Did you know that you can share your shipping benefits with up to four additional household members? So if, say, you want your kids to have access to free shipping but not to your credit card info, you can do that! Or if you don’t want your husband to see what you bought him for your anniversary, but he still needs to be able to order with two-day shipping, you can do that too!
- Once signed up, the household members will have two benefits: Free 2-day shipping, and 30-minute early access to both Lightning Deals on Amazon and new events on MyHabit.com.
- What they won’t have is access to your order history and payment information. My kids have had access to my Amazon account for years, and have a stellar record for not ordering anything without permission. But a couple weeks before Christmas each year, I have to change my password so that they can’t go in and see what I’ve ordered for them. Now I won’t have to do that!
- If your family members don’t have their own Amazon accounts (mine didn’t, since they’d been using mine), they will create them when they accept the sharing invitation.
- [Note that when my kids tried to use their invitations, the site said that there was a problem and the process couldn’t be completed at this time, but then when they went into their new accounts, the membership had actually gone through.]
- Amazon Dash Button I hesitate to include this because it’s invitation-only right now, but it sounds cool. The Amazon Dash Buttons are each product-specific and are meant to be kept where you use each product. For example, you can stick your Tide button to your washing machine. When you run out of Tide, you simply press the button and more Tide is ordered.
Other Amazon Services
These services aren’t included in Prime, but they’re pretty cool.
- Amazon Supply This is for corporate customers, and has no annual fee. You can pay by purchase order and buy things like janitorial supplies, office supplies, tools, and lab equipment, and you get free two-day shipping on orders of $50 or more.
- Amazon Fresh I haven’t tried this service yet, but I’m going to. Soon. I’m a Fresh Direct addict, and this is the first service that I’ve seen that might give it a run for its money. Available in select cities, it’s a grocery delivery service, and you can get same-day delivery if it’s early enough in the day. The first 90 days include free delivery on orders over $35, but after that it’s $300 a year.
- That might sound steep, but right now I pay $99 a year for Amazon Prime (which is included in an Amazon Prime Fresh membership), $119 a year for unlimited Fresh Direct delivery, and $55 a year for a Costco membership. Amazon Prime Fresh and Prime Pantry could potentially replace those other three memberships. I’ll let you know in 90 days. Costco is pretty cheap for a lot of the stuff that we buy, but I hate going there and I HATE carrying the stuff into my house. I need to do a cost analysis and look at that in conjunction with a frustration analysis.
- Amazon Dash Not to be confused with the Amazon Dash Buttons that I mentioned above, the Amazon Dash device only works with Amazon Fresh, and right now is only available to a select few customers in California. It’s a little battery-powered device that can scan bar codes and add them to your shopping list. Or, you can speak the items into the device to add them.
- Then, at your convenience, you go into your Amazon Fresh account and put in your order. I WANT ONE.
- Kindle Unlimited For $9.99 a month, you can borrow as many titles and audiobooks as you want from the Kindle Unlimited library. I didn’t find the selection to be worth it though. Several big publishers have opted out of the library, and a lot of it is filled with self-published crap. The books that normally cost $12.99 are few and far-between on Kindle Unlimited, so if that’s mostly what you buy you probably won’t be saving any money.
- However, there are some benefits to Kindle Unlimited that may make it worth it. For one thing, unlike the Kindle Lending Library, you don’t need to own a Kindle device to use this service. It works on the Kindle apps. And if you’re an audiobook listener, thousands of audiobooks are included as well. The cool part about the audiobooks is that they’re synced with the books, so you can pick up on audio where you left off in the book, and vice-versa.
- Also, if you read a lot of cheaper Kindle books, you might find those there. And if you’re reading more than three a month of the $2.99 books, then Kindle Unlimited could save you some money.
Amazon seems ready to take over the world, and I’m OK with that.
If I helped convince you to get Amazon Prime, I’d really appreciate it if you signed up through my referral link.