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For shoppers who are too busy to visit multiple brick-and-mortar stores to pick up everything on their shopping lists, from groceries and gadgets to books and apparel, the Amazon Prime subscription-based service has made buying these items online a whole lot easier.
SEE ALSO: 9 Money-Saving Hacks for Amazon Shoppers
Free two-day shipping is one of the most popular benefits of Amazon Prime, along with unlimited music and video streaming. These and other perks have combined to lure 100 million shoppers worldwide into shelling out extra cash for an annual or monthly Prime membership. With the average Prime member spending $1,300 annually, according to a 2017 study conducted by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, expedited shipping alone can quickly make the membership fee worthwhile depending on how often you order.
If you haven't joined Amazon Prime yet, but are considering it, read on to learn more about the various plans offered, the costs and key perks.
How Much Is Amazon Prime? Choosing the Right Membership Plan
The annual Amazon Prime plan membership fee jumped to $119 from $99 on May 11 for new members. Renewing Prime members were hit with the new rate effective June 16. You're charged upfront, and the annual membership auto-renews every 12 months. Perks include free two-day shipping, access to same-day or one-day delivery on some orders, unlimited music streaming and photo storage, as well as access to Prime Reading (book and magazine downloads) and Prime Pantry (discounted groceries and household products).
If you aren't ready to commit to an annual membership, test out the monthly Prime plan. The monthly Prime membership fee remains the same at $12.99, for a total of about $156 a year, if you don't upgrade to the annual plan. You're privy to the same perks as annual members, but you'll have to pay more every month to enjoy them. It's a good option for shoppers who fear they might get cold feet and want to cancel their Prime membership midway through the annual subscription.
College students can register for a free six-month Prime Student plan trial membership. Initially, you're supposed to register using a ".edu" e-mail address so Amazon can confirm your student status (the email can be changed later). Once verified, students can enjoy the same Prime perks as annual members, as well as get access to Twitch Prime (which includes free gaming content and ad-free viewing on Twitch.tv). Student members also get first dibs on daily deals on everything from skincare products to school supplies. Once the free trial is over, you can sign up for a discounted annual Prime membership ($59) that's good for four years or until you graduate, whichever comes first. The monthly Prime student membership fee is $6.49.
Attention film buffs: Even if you're not a big online shopper, and you prefer your music on CDs and your books on paper, there still might be an Amazon membership for you. The Prime Video plan allows you to stream movies and television shows on a variety of platforms for $8.99 a month.
The Benefits of Amazon Prime
If you order from Amazon on a weekly basis, then Prime's free two-day shipping is probably enticing enough. However, that's not the only noteworthy perk members with annual, monthly or student plans can take advantage of free of charge:
Free same-day or one-day delivery is available in select metro areas. You must spend at least $35 on eligible products to qualify for expedited delivery. For same-day shipping, orders must be placed before noon to receive them by 9 p.m. the same day. For one-day shipping, orders placed in the afternoon will arrive by 9 p.m. the next day. You can enter your shipping zip code on Amazon.com to find out if either shipping option is available near you. There's also the Prime Now option, which provides a two-hour delivery window on select items in certain areas.
Prime members can also register for Amazon's in-home delivery service. It provides keyless, in-home delivery of your orders when you're away. You'll have to separately purchase and install Amazon's Key Home Kit, which gives the delivery person access to your home to drop off packages near your front door instead of leaving them outside. You'll need to download the Amazon Key app so you can lock and unlock your front door remotely, as well as watch your package being delivered.
You also get free release date shipping on eligible pre-order items. You'll need to order the item in advance and it will be delivered on the release date. For example, former first lady Michelle Obama's new book "Becoming," which is currently available for pre-order but not available in-stores until November 13, is eligible for this shipping option. Prime members who don't need their order in a hurry can choose the no-rush shipping option to receive a discount on their active order or a promotional reward that's good toward a future purchase.
Prime Video offers unlimited streaming of a wide variety of movies and television shows. And don't worry, it's stuff you might actually want to watch such as the Oscar-winning film "Moonlight" or the Emmy Award-winning TV series "Downton Abbey." You can also subscribe to Amazon channels to watch shows from cable networks including HBO and Showtime for an additional monthly fee of up to $15.
Prime Music may be worthwhile for those who regularly use music streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify. Prime members get unlimited, ad-free access to curated playlists, personalized radio stations, and more than a million songs and albums. It's available on a variety of platforms including PC and Mac computers, Android smartphones and tablets, and iOS and Sonos devices. Note that Amazon Music Unlimited is a separate subscription service offering access to tens of millions of songs for $9.99 a month for non-Prime members and $7.99 a month for Prime members.
For would-be Prime members with families or busy lifestyles, Prime Pantry may come in handy. Members get to shop for individual-sized grocery and household items, such as a box of cereal or a pack of diapers. These same items are oftentimes only available in bulk (and at a higher cost) to regular Amazon users. You can buy as little or as much as you want, and there's a flat $5.99 shipping fee. Prime members also get to shop the site's AmazonFresh section, which offers grocery delivery and pick-up services for an additional monthly fee of $14.99.
Alternatives to Amazon Prime
Existing Amazon Prime members who plan to renew their annual accounts have a few more weeks before the fee increase to $119 from $99 kicks in starting on June 16. However, if the $119 rate has you thinking about canceling Amazon Prime altogether, you have options. There are other e-commerce sites that offer wide selections and free two-day shipping. One option is Jet.com, which doesn't charge an annual membership fee and also sells electronics, grocery items and household goods. Jet, owned by Walmart, offers free two-day shipping on select items and free standard shipping on orders of at least $35. You must be a registered user to place an order. The downside is that Jet's product selection is limited in comparison to Amazon.
Walmart.com has a vast product selection and boasts having millions of items available for purchase through its website -- from prepackaged food items to sporting goods. Like Jet, the big-name retailer doesn't charge a membership fee, offers free two-day shipping on select items, as well as free standard shipping on orders of $35 or more. Another draw is the option to order online and pick up the order in-store free of charge. This might be useful to shoppers whose orders don't qualify for free shipping. You don't have to be a registered user to place an order.
SEE ALSO: 22 Best Benefits of Amazon Prime
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