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Is Amazon Prime Worth It? Print E-mail
(21 votes, average 3.24 out of 5)
Shopping - Online
Written by Omie Ismail   
Tuesday, 01 December 2009 03:40

Amazon Prime costs $79 a year and it allows you to get free two-day Fedex shipping on all of your products at no additional cost. In addition, members can get $3.99 next day shipping per item which is great for last minute shopping. But does it really make sense to pony up nearly $80 for free shipping? We answer the question "Is Amazon Prime Worth It?"

After having Amazon Prime for a couple years, I decided to cancel my membership. Its not that I didn't use it, I used it a ton. During the last year, I probably used it 25 to 30 times, which would make you think that it would be a no-brainer for renewal. But it wasn't.

Amazon Prime Benefits:

1) Prime allows you to buy something at the last minute and still have it show up on time. I have to admit, I tend to buy presents right before holidays or birthdays. A few times, I even needed to use the next day option to make it there on time. At a cost of only $3.99 for next day delivery, these last minute orders would have cost me far more than the Prime membership fee.

2) Essentially, when you subscribe to Prime, it eliminates thinking about the cost of shipping from the analysis. Since there are no sales taxes, the price that is listed is the price that you pay. Far easier to do comparison shopping without having to calculate the shipping charges. So I found that I made purchasing decisions much faster.

You'd think that that would make it a slam dunk for someone like me, but obviously, I didn't renew, and here's why:

Amazon Prime Negatives:

1) Almost every item that I would buy had a free shipping option. Sure it was the Super Saver shipping, but where I live in Southern California, it only takes a few days. The fact that Amazon offers free shipping to non-members devalued my Prime membership. Every time I would see this, I felt like Amazon had duped me into a paying for a service that is essentially free to customers who don't subscribe to Prime when they spend $25. Technically, they are not the same, but where I live, I get my Amazon stuff in 1 to 3 days.

2) Prime doesn't apply to non-Amazon purchases. Many times, the lowest price or the only available merchandise is from a third party vendor. On several occasions, I bought something where my Prime membership was worthless. I still needed to pay for the shipping from the vendor and that seemed awkward, because as far as I was concerned, I was buying it from Yes, it is a third party merchant, but it is being brokered by Amazon and Amazon is making a good cut of the sale.

3) After my experience with the non-Prime purchases, I found myself looking only at the Prime eligible items. Invariably, many of the Prime items carried a higher price tag than partner vendors especially at low price points. Items that were $8 from most other vendors were $13 through So I would get free 2-day shipping, but it was embedded in the price. Considering that I'd already paid for the shipping advantage by subscribing to Prime, it felt like I was taking money from one pocket and putting it in another.

4) Amazon Prime narrowed my comparison shopping. I used to look at several sites before buying, but once I had Prime, I felt like I needed to leverage my investment. That's exactly what Amazon was likely hoping for and it worked extremely well. But often, I noticed that other vendors had lower pricing and even after factoring in the savings on shipping, Prime was costing me more.

I determined that Prime no longer made sense for me. If you're like most consumers and buy significantly less than 20-25 purchases a year from Amazon, it's likely not worth it. Maybe if you are in a faraway place away from one of Amazon's warehouses, it might also make sense. But if you are in a major metro, just hit that magic $25 minimum, and wait the 3 to 5 days for your purchase to show up. Having said that, if convenience is your primary goal and you have to have something in 2 days, Prime still makes a ton of sense.

Update! Amazon Prime Streaming

Amazon now gives you unlimited free streaming of about 5,000 movies and TV shows. While the selection is not as extensive as Netflix it does provide additional value for those that don't already have Netflix. Enough value for me to get Prime? Not yet, but if they had a more extensive library, it would become a no-brainer.

Note: After receiving comments about sharing Amazon Prime, I did some research and wrote:

Split the Cost of Amazon Prime and Save?

Update: Since dropping Prime, I have had the following experiences with shipped packages. Package #1: Book - Received 1 day after order. Packaged #2,#3: Various gifts - received 2 days after order. Package #4 gifts shipped to rural area - received 3 days after order. Package #5 gifts shipped to rural area - received 4 days after order. Package #6 - Book Received 3 days after order. Note: for all of these shipments Amazon quoted shipping dates that were after the date that I actually received the packages.

So my experience since then only supports my decision with the exception that if I wanted to ship to a rural area and get it there in two days, I would want Prime. Amazon's regular shipping is just incredible, being able to get a book in 1 day for free shows how good they are operationally. It also means that the value of their 2-day service at $79 is much less.

Use Amazon Prime? What has your experience been?

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DSDS |2011-05-19 22:05:49
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Randall Lind  - Shipping took forever before prime |2010-04-27 19:44:18
Now really shipping but, Amazon would take 1-2 weeks or longer to process an item in order to ship it to me. Now I have Prime they seem to care about processing my order in a timely fashion.

This was the main reason I sign up and I order a couple big items through out my year. DVD media bookshelf that would have cost $35 to ship plus tons of other items so I am sure I got my $79 back and then some.

It is a shame however they make you fell like you need to get prime just to get you stuff shipped.
Omiewon  - Must Be Hit or Miss |2010-04-28 11:14:20
I have heard some people complain about that. They should ship the item with the same speed, just should be different transit times. For whatever reason, I seem to get all my items within 2 to 3 days. I had one the other day that showed up in a day.

I did really like Prime and if I had to wait even a week before they shipped something, I would probably get it again. But in my case, getting it in 2 days vs. 3 or at the latest 4, just isn't worth the differential.
Jeanette  - Prime's value is relative... |2010-04-08 08:50:58
This is my third year with prime and I love it. I think the overview of reasons NOT to use is a bit simplistic and a bit inaccurate (sometimes the wait for packages is very lengthy, up to a week, for the free shipping. You can't always anticipate everything you buy, especially if there are specials that sell out.)

Not having to buy a minimum of $25 to get free shipping actually saves me money in that I'm not buying stuff I don't need (which a lot of people end up doing on amazon and elsewhere) in the first place to get "free" shipping.

Second, no matter how much we plan ahead, there are times when we need to get stuff quickly based on an emergency, etc. (We live in a major city. No car. Sometimes it costs us far more in time, transportation costs --whether bus, subway or taxi--than even a pro-rated usage of Prime annual fee.)

When amazon has sales, we can purchase ASAP and not worry, again, about minimum costs.

Knowing that we're saving on shipping allows us to get things as needed, and only what we want. Big value for us.

Prime works out to about $1.50 a week or one cup of coffee purchased outside the home. But the return is great.

The key is not buying something simply because you have Prime and know the shipping is fast and free.

And we never purchase something on amazon if the price is not good, regardless of having prime. That makes no sense.

We rarely buy from the marketplace and we almost always buy from somewhere else when there are large fees for shipping attached to an item, usually because we can get it elsewhere for less even with shipping.

It's all relative to what you buy. We're big subscribe and save purchasers of products in bulk. To us, those lower prices plus the free fast prime shipping is the real value for us.
Cory Smith  - Agreed |2011-08-10 05:03:51
I've had prime for a year and I don't feel like I have to purchase from amazon. Although I know that I most likely will since they usually have what I want and at a cheaper price.

I agree that you should not buy something just because you have prime, but on the other hand, there are items like home improvement etc. that are cheaper than in the store. When you realize there are no hidden taxes or shipping fees this is a better deal especially when you factor in transportation to the store.

Imagine this: you need a new hose for the garden. You can go to lowe's which has limited prices and options and is 15 minutes away. A round trip can be a few dollars itself. OR you could wait two days after you find the best quality/price hose on amazon.

With that said, it is best to consider all the costs and benefits. You want to compare average shipping times (e.g. the author already has fast shipping without prime), compare other purchase options (e.g. if you live near every type of retail store), and frequency (you are paying for free shipping so calculate at what point you would get your money back). At the end of the day if you get your money back, and considering you don't feel forced to buy things because of prime, then there is no harm done and much convenience gained.
sahmCFO  - glad to know |2010-02-13 07:41:02
I was thinking about getting Prime because I do buy online from Amazon a lot. I had kinda decided against it but your post confirms it for me. I'll just have to remember to buy presents for people earlier!
Rich  - Worth it with family option |2009-12-03 15:20:23
There is an option to add family members to the plan, and they didn't even need to live at the same address. My daughter, her mother, her grandfather and my self split the $80 cost and it's totally worth it.

Also, when using the standard 2 day shipping, I've gotten things the next day sometimes.

Plus, I hate shopping in stores! I've even ordered shoe laces of the internet.
Ryan  - Love it! |2009-12-03 03:49:54
I love Prime. I have had it for almost a year. I have surely already paid for it. I have had alot of orders through amazon this year, esp now that they are carrying grocery items as well. The free saturday shipping is nice too. I know sometimes the prices are higher, but still usually cheaper than the price+shipping at other sites. It just makes me shop amazon more.

Many times I could drive over to Walmart to get the item I want, or just order it on Amazon and save $4 in gas driving...
sylphon  - I love Amazon Prime |2009-12-02 08:29:30
I have to admit, I signed up for prime when they first had it available and I've kept it current since then. Since most of my online purchases are through amazon, it has made my life easier over all. I still buy from third party sellers sometimes on amazon, but mostly it's things that are eligible for prime. Since I don't buy a lot of TomToms or other large ticket items (mostly books, cds, dvds, kitchenware, etc), prime saves me a lot of $ in the long run. It's fast, convenient, and usually packed reasonably well. Nearly instant gratification :-)
Erik  - Family membership |2009-12-02 08:01:03
I've had it for a few months now and find it completely worth it, but there's a catch! You can add up to 4 "family" members to your account at no additional cost and it doesn't alter your account in any way... it's as if everyone has their own prime account. My family split the cost 5 ways of one prime membership which brought it down to about $16 per person to have Amazon Prime. Now we can all take advantage of Prime benefits without the high membership cost.
unicornmaster  - worth the money |2009-12-02 07:54:02
I've renewed my Prime membership for the second time this year. It's awesome. Here's my experience:
1- The free shipping takes at least 2 days longer, which means an item ordered on Tuesday or Wednesday would not arrive until next Monday sometimes... a long time for me. Also, I've often ordered items less than $25 at a time. It gives me the freedom to pick up things here and there.
2-yes, It was nice that some vendors actually use Amazon to ship
3-I figured the difference in price and wasn't worth it. A lot of times the $5 difference would be accompanied by a $5.99 shipping charge-- regular shipping. SOME times but not often the difference great enough for me to purchase from the vendor.
4- I do always check amazon first, but if I find it somewhere else cheaper, I don't hesitate to buy it. That's just economics.
Sleuth  - Amazon Prime or not? |2009-12-01 11:48:37
Maybe I am just patient or organized but I never felt the real need to get anything that fast at that price-$79
for the annual membership! As a rule I would usually spend the $25 minimum to get the free shipping. The item almost always arrived in 3 days which suited me just fine.
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