Why your Amazon Prime membership may not be worth the price

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Why your Amazon Prime membership may not be worth the price

One hundred million people have signed up for Amazon’s Prime subscription service. The company recently raised the price to $119 a year. The service offers customers free expedited shipping, music and movie streaming, along with a bunch of other lesser-known programs.

But is paying a premium price to shop on Amazon really worth it?

Free shipping

The biggest feature that’s included with Amazon Prime is its free, two-day shipping, which the company says is offered on hundreds of millions of items, along with same-day delivery on some items. But that’s not the only way to get stuff shipped to you to for free. If you don’t mind waiting a bit longer, non-Prime members can receive items in five to eight days with a $35 minimum order.

Competitors like Target and Walmart have upped the ante by offering free, two-day shipping on orders over $35, without any subscriptions.

If you want to see how often you really use your Prime shipping benefits, you can download a copy of everything you’ve ordered from Amazon in the last couple of years. When I looked at mine, I found that I did most of my shopping right before Christmas. So if you’re mostly using Prime around the holidays, you can actually just subscribe to it by the month for $13 and then cancel it after the new year.

Prime Video

Prime also gets you a subscription to its streaming video service. But Prime Video pales in comparison to Netflix. While Amazon is pouring about $5 billion into original content in 2018, Netflix says it will invest $8 billion into premium shows and movies. A survey by Morgan Stanley revealed that 39 percent of consumers said Netflix had “the best original programming,” while Prime Video only scored 5 percent.

Prime Music

Prime gives you access to Amazon’s basic tier of its Prime Music service, which includes free streaming of around 2 million songs. However, that doesn’t even come close to Spotify’s free service, which has around 40 million songs, if you don’t mind the occasional ad.

Whole Foods Market store with Prime member signage in Burbank, California.
Dania Maxwell | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Whole Foods Market store with Prime member signage in Burbank, California.

Whole Foods

Prime membership offers an extra 10 percent off sale items at Whole Foods as well as some additional weekly deals.

If you shop exclusively at Whole Foods, these savings will add up over time, but for the rest of us the savings are probably only a couple of dollars here and there. On a recent trip, I didn’t save anything at Whole Foods using my Prime membership.

Other benefits

Amazon also offers a number of smaller benefits — like the ability to rent one free Kindle e-book a month, unlimited use of video game streaming site Twitch and a discounted subscription to The Washington Post.

The verdict

If you are someone who makes a lot of small purchases on Amazon, the convenience of the free, two-day shipping is invaluable. But, if you’re someone who rarely shops on Amazon, and doesn’t mind waiting a few extra days to get your stuff, you should definitely save your money. Without the convenience of free two-day shipping, you might even find yourself spending less money shopping online.

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