We crunched the numbers for eight Amazon Prime perks to help you figure out if the benefits outweigh the $119 fee.
From free streaming of TV and movies, discounted grocery delivery and merchandise deals on Prime Day to free expedited shipping on qualifying purchases, Amazon Prime has a lot to offer to frequent Amazon shoppers. But the membership comes at a steep cost – $119 a year. If you opt for a monthly payment plan, that cost jumps to $12.99 per month plus tax, or closer to $156 per year. (Note, students and customers with an eligible EBT or Medicaid card can qualify for Prime membership at a reduced cost.)
So how do you decide if Amazon Prime is worth it? The membership is packed with perks, but each one is valuable only to certain spenders. To help you determine if this membership is right for you, we crunched the numbers for an estimated value of top Prime perks. Read on to learn more.
Prime benefits and estimated value
1. Free shipping benefits (Estimated value = $300/year)
One of the primary appeals of Amazon Prime is its free shipping guarantee. Prime members get free two-day shipping, as well as free same-day delivery in certain cities and even same-hour delivery in certain ZIP codes.
Amazon Prime free shipping (Qualified items only)
|Same-day delivery||Free for qualifying orders in certain cities|
|Two-hour delivery||Free in eligible ZIP codes|
|One-day shipping||Free for qualifying orders in certain cities|
|Saturday shipping||Price varies by item size and weight – as low as $7.99 per item|
|Amazon Day delivery||Free|
|Standard shipping (4-5 business days)||Free|
If your dream is to have endless orders from Amazon delivered posthaste to your doorstep without racking up shipping fees, this is an excellent deal. Your savings on two-day deliveries should easily surpass a $119 membership fee.
This is a difficult benefit to value, since shipping fees can vary drastically depending on the price and type of item. We’ve estimated an average of $15 per $50 item for two-day shipping fees. At a rate of two deliveries per month, that comes to $300 per year.
Drawbacks: Amazon already offers free standard shipping on eligible orders over $25 to every Amazon shopper. If you typically order more than $25 worth of merchandise and aren’t in the habit of using expedited shipping, Prime shipping benefits may be more of a convenience than a cost saver for you.
We’d also note that Walmart also offers free two-day shipping on orders greater than $35. If you’re purely interested in the bottom line, Walmart may be the better place to shop. You can get expedited shipping on low-priced merchandise without having to pay a $119 membership fee.
2. Qualify for the Amazon Prime credit card (Estimated value = $65/year)
With the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card, you get 5% cash back on every purchase that you make on Amazon or Whole Foods. Because this 5% offer is available year-round, it beats the rewards rate for Amazon purchases on any other rewards card.
For an Amazon Prime member who spends around $1,300 a year, 5% cash back adds up to $65 per year.
Why get it?
|More things to know:|
Drawbacks: While you can rack up a significant discount on your purchases just by using the card – enough to offset your annual membership fee – you should keep in mind that Amazon also offers the Amazon Rewards Visa to regular Amazon members. With the regular Rewards Visa, you can earn 3% cash back at Amazon and Whole Foods without having to pay a membership fee.
3. Discount on Whole Foods purchases (Estimated value = $69/year)
Great news, foodies: Your 5% cash back with the Amazon Prime Visa also applies to Whole Foods purchases. Cardmembers get 5% back any time they use their Amazon Prime Visa to shop at Whole Foods (and free delivery in some cities through its Prime Now service). This 2017 survey indicates that Amazon Prime members who shop regularly at Whole Foods spend an average of $1,371 per year on Whole Foods purchases. If you fit this niche, your 5% discount is likely to net you around $69 per year in savings at Whole Foods.
Plus, Prime members have access to rotating deals on select products at Whole Foods, allowing you to save an additional 10% on eligible sale items and unlock other deals on all kinds of purchases.
4. 20% discount on diaper subscriptions (Estimated value = $28/year)
Amazon Prime offers some great benefits for Amazon Family members, and one of the more popular ones is its 20% discount on diapers. To get the discount, you must start a diaper subscription through Amazon’s Subscribe and Save service. Amazon will then deliver the diapers to you on a regular basis (in intervals between one and six months), and you can cancel at any time.
See related: Guide: How to maximize your cash back on Amazon.com
Drawbacks: A quick comparison of Amazon’s diaper prices verifies that the 20% discount can get you some of the lowest prices on diapers, without requiring a lot of footwork. However, the discount isn’t as great as it seems. Amazon Subscribe and Save is open to any Amazon member, and regular Amazon members are already entitled to a 15% discount as long as they subscribe to at least five items. So, the Prime discount is really more like a 5% discount. Also, you should be aware that Amazon prices fluctuate wildly, so you’ll need to keep a close eye on your subscription.
5. Free movie and TV show streaming (Estimated value = $108/year)
Amazon Prime membership entitles you to unlimited access to thousands of TV and movie titles at no additional cost. Without a Prime membership, a Prime Video subscription costs $8.99 per month, so this perk saves around $108 per year.
Drawbacks: While Amazon has been working to beef up its content, it doesn’t offer the same quality or breadth of content as, say, Netflix. However, it does have some good titles in its lineup, including original series like “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Catastrophe.” As a free add-on service, it’s a great deal.
6. Free music streaming (Estimated value = $120/year)
You also get a free membership to Prime music, which grants you unlimited, ad-free access to hundreds of playlists and more than a million songs. Since Spotify charges a $9.99 fee per month for its subscription service, we figure that Prime music membership nets you $120 in value.
Drawbacks: Like its video content, Amazon’s music content is limited and not up to par with competitors such as Spotify, so maybe it’s not quite worth $120 per year. Still, it’s a nice add-on service.
7. Free unlimited photo storage (Estimated value = $60/year)
One nifty benefit of Prime membership is unlimited storage for your photos. While most storage services put a tight limit on the number of files you can store for free and can charge up to $119 per month for a terabyte of storage, Amazon lets you endlessly add photos to your account for free. Since Amazon itself charges $59.99 per year for a terabyte of storage, we figure this benefit is worth around $60 per year.
8. Grocery delivery through Amazon Fresh and Amazon Pantry (Estimated value = $150/year)
Along with its two-day shipping benefits, Amazon currently offers several delivery services that – in conjunction with its acquisition of Whole Foods in 2017 – could be the next big selling proposition for Prime membership.
Its Amazon Pantry service is available for most ZIP codes. Pantry allows you to fill a “pantry box” with household items in smaller, “everyday” sizes and ship them on demand. For orders of $35 or more, Prime members qualify for free delivery. On all orders of $35 or less (for Prime members) and all non-Prime orders, a flat shipping fee of $5.99 applies. Most orders arrive within four business days.
Alternatively, Amazon Fresh is a grocery delivery service offered in select cities exclusively to Amazon Prime members. You simply place your order for grocery staples (or a few basic Amazon products) and choose a two-hour delivery window for free delivery (on orders over $35). Note that during particularly busy times, grocery delivery windows may be limited.
Both of these services can be valuable offerings for customers wanting groceries or other home staples delivered right to their door. Considering what other delivery services – including Instacart – charge for this service, we value it at $150 per year.
Drawbacks: Amazon has a ways to go to compete with the likes of Instacart. While Prime Pantry does have a pretty good selection of household supplies and processed food items such as potato chips and coffee, the selection of perishable items – e.g., produce, meat, milk – that you can get through Prime Now is still very limited. While Amazon Fresh has a much larger selection of such staples, it is available in fewer locations.
Also, you’ll have to compete with other customers for delivery windows. If the closest two-hour time slot is filled, you may have to choose a later time slot, resulting in a much longer wait.
Other noteworthy Prime benefits
As mentioned, there’s more to Amazon Prime than can fit in one article, but here are a few other benefits worth noting:
- Unlimited access to a selection of books, magazines and audio books on any mobile device. Savings on 12 books/year = $92/year
- Prime Early Access deals. Savings = 20% or more on a variety of merchandise
- Amazon Prime Day. Savings = 20% or more on a variety of items
Bonus tip: Save with a half-price Amazon Prime Student membership
The Amazon Prime for Students program is a really get deal for students currently in college. You’re entitled to most of the same benefits as regular Prime members – including free two-day shipping – at a 50% discount. And, you get a six-month free trial period. All you need is a valid .edu address to qualify. Benefits include:
- Prime video
- Prime music (once your six-month trial period expires)
- Free shipping benefits
- Free photo storage
- Twitch Prime
- Exclusive deals for Prime members
Adding it all up: Is Prime really worth it?
When we add up all the free services that come with Prime membership, the answer, by an overwhelming number is: Yes … maybe. Actually – it depends on which of the free services you value and make use of.
In the table below, you can see all our estimated values added together – the total is nearly nine times the cost of a $119 Prime membership:
Annual Prime membership estimated yearly value (Based on $1,300 annual Prime spend)
|Membership benefits||Estimated value|
|Free two-day shipping||$300|
|5% discount on Amazon purchases||$65|
|5% discount on Whole Foods purchases||$69|
|20% discount on diaper subscriptions||$28|
|Free movie and TV show streaming||$108|
|Free music streaming||$120|
|Free unlimited photo storage||$60|
|Free grocery delivery||$150|
|Unlimited access to books, magazines and audio books (12 books per year)||$92|
This is a huge value for a $119 fee, and you can see why Amazon Prime membership is well worth it to many of its members. But, it’s not worth it for everyone. If you don’t often have a need for two-day shipping and you prefer Spotify and Netflix over Amazon streaming services, you may have a harder time seeing the value in Amazon Prime membership.
Also, you should probably factor other costs into the equation. This statistic from Statista shows that the average Prime member spends $800 more per year on average ($1,400 total spend per year) than a non-Prime member on Amazon purchases. There’s a chance that all the conveniences of Amazon Prime may lure you into spending more on Amazon that you had intended.