Before I give you the list of Amazon Prime benefits, please be wary about whether they’re actually available to you. One of my pet peeves is that membership in the Kindle Unlimited Program pre-empts the receiving books for free books as an Amazon Prime benefits. It’s one or the other.
The good thing is that while you need to be in the Amazon Prime program when you begin membership in the Kindle Unlimited program, the two are separate and distinct thereafter. That means you can renew your Kindle Unlimited membership, even at the Amazon Prime Day 40% discount for one or two-year renewals, without being an Amazon Prime member at that time. You only have to be in Amazon Prime when you first join Kindle Unlimited. Since, as an avid reader, I love, love, love KU, I think this is a great value as you can wind up with unlimited Kindle reading for $6 a month. I realize that explanation sounds convoluted but, as with many Amazon workarounds, that’s because it is.
Please note this article refers to a $99 price for Amazon Prime which was way out of date when this article was published June 18, 2018. Nothing is error-free.
17 Things to Know About Amazon Prime
If you’ve wondered what the big deal is about Prime, here’s what you need to know about Amazon’s service.
Amazon is already a treasure trove of great prices, undercutting a lot of other e-commerce and brick-and-mortar store prices. The savings only get better if you are among the 85 million people who subscribe to Amazon Prime. It’s fantastic when you go on a shopping bender, thanks to the service’s most basic and best feature: free two-day shipping on eligible products. Plus, you get access to all the streaming content Amazon Video.
If almost $99 per year for Prime sounds expensive, there’s a month-to-month option to get it for $10.99. If you keep that option for a year or longer, obviously you’re not saving much; but if you need free shipping for the holidays or want to binge-watch The Tick or Man in the High Castle for a month or two, it’s a good option. In fact, a 2016 study by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners showed that 19 percent of Amazon Prime subscribers still prefer the monthly payment for its flexibility. Low-income families with a valid Electronic Benefits Transfer card can get Prime even cheaper, at $5.99 per month (though you can’t use the EBT card to pay for Prime).
If you’re a Prime member you can also take advantage every year of Amazon’s annual Prime Day, the site’s attempt to boost e-commerce in the summer to Black Friday-mania levels. The savings can be substantial; of course, Amazon has other sales throughout the year, too, most of them geared toward Prime members.
If you’ve never had Prime, you can try the start the 30-day free Prime trial. It’s definitely worth trying, even if you’re not going shopping, because Prime includes a slew of other services beyond just shipping and videos. Below, we’ll spell out some of the special things you get with the service.
1 Get 50 Percent Off Unlocked Phones
Amazon Prime now offers discounts for a select few unlocked phones. Prime members can pre-order certain Android phones for 50 percent or more off, depending on the phone. The downside: to get those prices, the unlocked phones put ads on your lock screen in much the same way Amazon puts ads on the Kindle via “Special Offers.” To avoid the ads, you have to buy the phone at full price.
If that doesn’t bother you, Amazon last month expanded its lineup of available phones, adding the Nokia 6, the Moto E4, and three new Alcatel handsets. Prime members get a $50 discount on three phones, bringing the Nokia 6 down to $180, the Alcatel A50 to $100, and the Alcatel A30 Plus to $80. The Alcatel Idol 5S gets an $80 discount, bringing its price for Prime members to $200, while the recently announced Moto E4 is $30 off, for discounted price of $100.
2 Order Prime Items on Alexa
Caught the Amazon Alexa bug? Amazon Echo devices with the Alexa voice interface are popular and easy to use. In fact, you don’t even need Prime to get most of the features of an Echo—you can listen to music on other services, even make Echo-to-Echo calls without Prime. Amazon, of course, prefers that you do buy things using your Echo, as well, and provides some deals occasionally to Echo owners, but those do require a Prime account.
You can order and re-order items you’ve already bought in the past, just tell the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, portable Echo Tap, and the new Echo Spot what you want. Setup a PIN code in the Alexa app that only you know so random friends and family don’t use your Alexa to buy stuff you don’t want. You also have the option to use Alexa to cancel or track orders.
3 20 Percent Off Video GamesDuring pre-order periods and the first two weeks of sales, physical video games are always 20 percent off for Prime members. Amazon calls it Twitch Prime, which comes with release-day delivery of the game. You don’t even have to think about it, as the discount is applied at checkout. But note, it’s for physical copies only, not digital downloads. It includes some deals on hardware as well, and the ability to play a rotating selection of games for free. There’s ad-free viewing, custom emotes, special badges and colors for chats, and one free Twitch channel subscription each month.
4 Unlimited Streaming on Prime Video
By now, you’re probably aware of Amazon’s version of Netflix, Prime Video. It makes amazing original shows like The Tick, Red Oaks, One Mississippi, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Man in the High Castle, Bosch, Mozart in the Jungle, and one of the funniest sitcoms ever, Catastrophe. And of course it won lots of awards for Transparent, a show unfortunately caught up in the fallout from Hollywood’s (and the world’s) ongoing harassment scandals. You can watch them all, plus a slew of movies, on just about any device—even the Echo Show or Echo Spot—or via the web, if you’re a Prime member.
You can also get Prime Video alone for just $8.99 per month, but note that doesn’t come with the free two-day shipping and other perks. It’s just for the Prime Video.
5 Watch Videos Without Wi-FiWatch Videos Without Wi-FiWi-Fi is no longer required to stream Amazon Video on mobile: you can stream over a cellular connection. That’s great for commuters on a train or bus. However, if you don’t have an unlimited data plan, you’re going to chew through your available gigabytes in no time. Depending on the video quality setting, videos could use as much as 5.8GB per hour, which hurts if you’ve got a data cap. Under Settings, opt to “Notify me when using mobile data” to avoid bill shock.
6 Download Video on MobileAnother data-saving option is to download videos at home on Wi-Fi to watch later when you’re on cellular or offline, like on a plane. Look for the “Download” option in the video details of any title.
7 Get Free Music with Prime
Amazon doesn’t like to be left behind when companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Google get into a new market. So of course, it created Prime Music. It’s a streaming music service, akin to Spotify or Pandora or Apple Music, but of course, free if you already pay for a Prime membership. The problem: Prime Music only has around 2 million songs (you can always purchase individual songs, of course).
For something with a more robust catalog, in the order of “tens of millions,” Amazon Music Unlimited provides an intriguing alternative to the many, many competing products on the market—especially for owners of Echo devices. It starts at $0.99 per month for the first four months then shoots to $7.99 per month (or $79 per year) after the trial for Prime members, $9.99 for non-Prime members, and $3.99 per month on one Echo device. There is also a family plan for $14.99 per month of up to six family members. All the versions let you try it for free for 30 days.
8 Split the Prime
If you’ve got a couple of Amazon shoppers under the same roof, share a Prime membership with one other adult (plus up to four kids who don’t actually have Amazon accounts). It used to be four adults, but Amazon cracked down. Still, it also opened up the sharing to include Amazon Video with all linked members. This is a smart way to keep the holiday shopping secrets, yet still get all the two-day shipping savings.
To set it up, on Amazon.com go to Manage Your Content and Devices > Settings tab > Households and Family Library > Invite an Adult. You’ll need their email address as used on Amazon, and it will require you two to share credit and debit card information. This is also where you create settings for teens and children in the household who may want to do some shopping on your dime, or use age restricted services.
9 Prime Early Access DealsPrime members can enjoy 30 minutes of extra early access to Amazon’s popular Lightning Deals. The deals will say “Prime Early Access” right on them. Visit Today’s Deals and click Prime Early Access Deals in the left navigation to get access to all of them.
10 Reading Perks
If you have an Amazon Kindle device or app on any other device, plus a Prime account, you have access to Amazon First Reads. You get a monthly option to pre-order four to six new, big-name, “Editors’ Pick” books, one of which you get free. Sign up for the monthly email so you never miss the deal. (The other books are under $9.99, usually only $4.99 to pre-order, which is still pretty cheap.)
Prime members in the US can also enjoy unlimited access to a “rotating selection of books, magazines, comics, and more” at no additional cost via Prime Reading. There’s also unlimited free access to short-form digital audio service Audible Channels, and a “rotating selection of more than 50 audiobooks from Audible’s catalog.”
Those with actual Amazon Kindle-branded devices (not the apps on phones and tablets) also get access to the Owner’s Lending Library. That’s 800,000 books you can just “borrow” to read.
11 Amazon FamilyPrime members with kids can sign up for Amazon Family. Parents get extra savings, such as 20 percent off diaper subscriptions, exclusive coupons, and registries for baby stuff.
12 Prime StudentIf you’re matriculating, Amazon Prime Student is an even better deal. You get Prime’s features for free for six months (sponsored now by Sprint), and a nice discount thereafter (only $5.49 per month that you can cancel any time, or pay $49 for the year). You also get $10 for every other student you talk into joining.
13 Same-Day (or Faster) Delivery
Prime members in over 5,000 cities and towns can get same-day or one-day delivery on over a million items with qualifying orders over $35. Order something by noon and get it by 9 p.m. that day or order by the afternoon and get it by 9 p.m. the next day.
Many of those cities also benefit from Prime Now, the ultra-fast free delivery service Amazon is implementing to get orders out within a couple of hours. It’s mostly limited to household items and local eateries (and booze).
14 Amazon Prime Reload
If you’re a Prime member and frequent Amazon shopper, consider Amazon Prime Reload. Add funds to an Amazon.com Gift Card Balance using a checking account and get 2 percent back—up to $196 per day—on every purchase made using those funds.
Amazon called this a “limited time offer” when it launched, so take advantage of it while you can. Also, take note: the amount you reload to your Amazon Balance is nonrefundable or redeemable for cash.
15 Donate Via SmileThis isn’t Prime-specific, but with Amazon Smile, you can make sure that 0.5 percent of everything you spend on eligible products gets sent to the charity of your choice. You just have to be using smile.amazon.comwhenever you go to the site on a desktop to buy stuff. I give mine to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. If you use the Chrome browser, get the AmazonSmile 1Button for Chrome extension on the desktop—it forces you to go to the correct URL every time. To date, using Smile has generated nearly $70 million for various charities.
16 See Live Prime Events
The latest Prime perk: access to live concerts. Literally, Amazon might give you exclusive access to be in the audience for artists you love. Of course, you have to buy the (non-transferable, virtual) tickets from Amazon—in fact, there aren’t any tickets, they just leave your name at the door.
The major downside is that, for now, this one is only available in the United Kingdom. The recordings that show up on Prime Video later, however, can be seen in the US… assuming the show got recorded. Robbie Williams did.
17 Cancelling PrimeSomeday you may want to pull the plug on Prime (or change your subscription from annual to monthly or back). When that time comes, read all the steps at How to Cancel Amazon Prime. This is also how you discontinue service if you’re just trying the free trial.
About the Author
Eric narrowly averted a career in food service when he began in tech publishing at Ziff-Davis over 25 years ago. He was on the founding staff of Windows Sources, FamilyPC, and Access Internet Magazine (all defunct, and it’s not his fault). He’s the author of two novels, BETA TEST (“an unusually lighthearted apocalyptic tale”–Publishers’ Weekly) an… See Full Bio