Singapore Markets closed

What to Know About Amazon Prime

Geoff Williams

If you've ever thought about becoming an Amazon Prime member to take advantage of the retail giant's perks like added savings and free two-day shipping, the $119 annual price may give you some pause. Despite Amazon Prime's host of benefits, including complimentary streaming services for Amazon Prime Music and Amazon Video movie and TV content, you may be wondering if it's really worth paying $12.99 per month (or $119 annually), especially if you're on a tight budget.

If you're on the fence about joining Amazon's subscription service and you're wondering whether the savings and other bonuses offer a compelling value proposition, here's everything you need to know about Amazon Prime pricing, discounts and benefits.

[See: 10 Ways to Save More in 2019.]

How Much Does Amazon Prime Cost?

The price of an Amazon Prime membership is $119 per year -- or $12.99 per month, which comes to $155.88 a year. However, the Amazon Prime cost for college students is much lower. Amazon Prime Student costs $59 a year (or $6.49 a month). If you're interested in trying out Prime, you can take advantage of a free 30-day trial; Prime Student members can take advantage of a free six-month trial period.

What Are Amazon Prime Benefits?

Here are the key benefits of Amazon Prime:

-- Free shipping and Prime Now.

-- Unlimited music streaming.

-- Unlimited movie and TV streaming.

-- Unlimited reading.

-- Unlimited photo storage.

-- Access to certain sales.

-- Access to Prime Pantry.

-- Access to Amazon Family.

-- Access to Twitch Prime.

-- Access to Amazon Household.

Free Shipping

Let's face it: It isn't really free if you're paying a membership fee, but you can benefit from two-day shipping on over 100 million eligible items. In some cities, you may even be able to get same-day delivery on eligible orders. (If you aren't a Prime member, and you spend more than $25, you will receive free shipping, but it will often come in five to eight business days.)

In approximately 50 cities across the United States, including Dallas, Denver and Cincinnati, you might even be able to get your items, such as groceries and household items, delivered to your home within as little as two hours for free with Amazon's Prime Now service.

Unlimited Music Streaming

With Amazon Prime, you'll get access to Prime Music; you can listen to more than 2 million songs without ads.

Unlimited Movie and TV Streaming

Prime Video allows you to stream thousands of TV shows and movies for free.

Unlimited Reading

There are over a thousand books, comics and magazines that you can read for free. You also can download one free e-book a month, with no due date, from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.

Unlimited Photo Storage

With Prime Photos, you can add your pictures to Amazon Cloud Drive -- with unlimited storage.

Access to Certain Sales

Every July, Amazon has held its annual Prime Day. It's an event known for offering a variety of steep discounts. What's more, during the other days throughout the year, when Amazon has lightning deals -- offering products in a limited quantity for a discount over a short period of time -- Prime members will get 30 extra minutes on the front end to shop.

Access to Prime Pantry

You can buy grocery and household items, and if you spend $35, you'll have them delivered to you with no shipping fee. If your order is under $35, you'll pay a $5.99 shipping fee. Due to the weight, your Prime Pantry box may take up to four business days to arrive.

[See: 50 Ways to Improve Your Finances in 2019.]

Access to Amazon Family

If you're a Prime member, you can subscribe and get things like diapers and baby food sent to you regularly -- with up to 20% off.

Access to Twitch Prime

Amazon's Twitch Prime is a streaming service that specializes in gaming. Among other things, you will get free games, in-game content, use exclusive emoticons and receive a free Twitch channel subscription every 30 days.

Access to Amazon Household

Amazon Household lets you share Amazon benefits with your household, which means you and your partner and your children, up to a total of 10 members. Both adults can share some Prime benefits, digital content using a service called Family Library and can manage the profiles of the teenagers and kids in the house. Teenagers in the household can share certain Prime benefits as well.

Is It Worth It to Get an Amazon Prime Credit Card?

If you want to go all in, you might want to apply for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card. With the card, you'll get 5% back on purchases you buy at and Whole Foods. If you apply for the card without a Prime membership or later let your membership lapse, you'll get 3% back. At other stores, Prime members and nonmembers will get 2% cash back at gas stations, restaurants and drug stores and 1% back on anything else. There's no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

Is It Worth It to Get Amazon Prime?

Like any service, it depends on your spending habits and individual needs. If you use it, "an Amazon Prime membership is 100% worth it," says Michael Foguth, founder of Foguth Financial Group, a financial planning firm with offices in Michigan.

But then, Foguth and his wife have five children, and they do a lot of shopping online. "It can be a lot easier for a family that's on the go to have everyday items purchased and delivered from Amazon Prime, including water and vitamins to clothes, shoes and toys," he says.

If you use the other services, such as streaming music and TV, that's another boon, Foguth says. He says his family pays for Netflix and Pandora, but acknowledges, "You could be saving quite a bit of money by not paying for Netflix and using Prime Video. If you have Amazon Prime, you could also be saving a decent amount of money by utilizing Prime Music and avoiding having to pay for Spotify, Pandora or another music streaming service."

Still, Amazon Prime isn't for everyone, says Michael Gerstman, a chartered financial consultant and the CEO of Gerstman Financial Group LLC, a financial advisory firm in Dallas. "In determining the pros and cons to an Amazon Prime membership, you must determine what your objectives of your membership are," he says. "Like most shopping excursions, Amazon Prime benefits an educated consumer more than anyone else. It is obviously extremely convenient, and if convenience is a primary motivation, it doesn't get better than having your purchases delivered to your front door. When you consider the cost of gas to get you to a store and the value of your time, Amazon Prime is a bargain for many people."

"On many items, Amazon is not the least expensive place to make your purchases," Gerstman says. "If you have the time and the proximity, you will find on certain items that other big-box retailers may provide greater value. These include Costco, Sam's Club, Walmart and Target."

[See: 14 Money Moves You Will Be Thankful For.]

He points out that some of those stores, like Costco and Sam's Club, require people to pay a membership fee. "You probably don't want memberships with too many retail clubs because any cost savings on products will be lost due to the cost of the memberships," he says. "I would recommend that, once a year, you do a price comparison on the staples you purchase. I would then commit to that retailer and keep things easy."

More From US News & World Report