'What is Amazon Prime?': The best features of Prime, Amazon's wildly popular membership program

AP/Patrick SemanskyAmazon Prime is vital for anyone who shops online often.
  • Amazon Prime is a membership service run by the online retailer Amazon, which offers a wide host of benefits, apps, and discounts.
  • Amazon Prime costs $US119 per year for a standard membership, or $US12.99 per month.
  • The most notable benefit of Amazon Prime is free two-day shipping on eligible items, as well as free same-day delivery in some locations.
  • With an Amazon Prime subscription, you’ll also gain access to streaming apps like Prime Video, Prime Music, and more.
  • Other features of Amazon Prime include Amazon Wardrobe and AmazonFresh.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

When Amazon launched Amazon Prime back in 2005, it was a membership that guaranteed free two-day shipping on all sorts of different products. That was enough for me; my wife and I became Prime Members in 2006 and have enjoyed fast, free shipping on everything from cat litter to candy to books to beach towels ever since.

And if that’s all Prime ever was – a fast, free shipping plan – it would be worth the $US119 annual fee (or less, depending on your circumstances) based on how much we save in shipping costs by using Prime.

But today, Amazon Prime is so much more than just a two-day shipping membership. And it’s more than the one-day or even same-day shipping they offer customers in many areas. Today, Amazon Prime is a one-stop shop for media, groceries, apparel, parenting products, and so much more.

Let’s break it down by category.


Amazon Prime shipping

Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty ImagesNot only can Amazon Prime members receive free two-day delivery, but free one-day, and even two-hour, delivery on certain products.

Prime has always and will always be all about fast shipping. Members living in the continental United States (and in many other countries) get free two-day shipping (order on Monday, guaranteed by Wednesday, e.g.) on countless Prime products.In some zip codes, members can get free one-day delivery or even same-day delivery on orders over $US35.

And if you don’t need that Emeril Lagasse air fryer or Bluetooth headphones delivered within two days, you can earn rewards that will apply to future orders by opting for no-rush shipping. Wait five or six days, earn future savings; not a bad deal, really.

(On the other hand, if you live in certain areas, you might have to wait as little as two hours for your shipment thanks to Prime Now.)


Prime Music

Business InsiderAmazon Music has a massive collection of tracks and artists, including some too obscure to find on Spotify or even YouTube.

Your Amazon Prime membership offers access to millions of songs that you can stream through your computer or via the free Amazon app. Prime music lets you organise your tunes into playlists, by genre, artist, album, and more.

And Prime members get a discounted price on Amazon Music Unlimited, a subscription-based service that, as far as I can tell, offers every song ever created. Seriously, I have yet to think of a song I wanted to hear and not been able to find it.


Prime Video

ShutterstockYou can watch Prime Video on your computer, TV, tablet, phone, and more.

Like with Prime itself, Prime Video started as one thing, then grew into another. Initially, Prime Video offered access to thousands of movies and shows produced by other studios.

It still does that (and happens to be the source of about half of the TV I watch), but now, Amazon also produces dozens of original programs – both movies and shows – which are available at any time to Prime members.

Besides Prime Video, Prime members can also enjoy free access to Twitch Prime, and for an extra $US4.99 to $US14.99 a month, access to Amazon Channels, which gives you content from HBO, Showtime, and Starz.


Cloud storage

Ali Balikci/Getty ImagesAmazon Prime members get unlimited photo storage with their subscription.

Amazon Prime members get unlimited photo storage included with their membership, along with an additional 5 GB of free storage for video files.

Amazon also offers annual cloud storage plans. These cost $US19.99 a year for 100 GB and $US59.99 a year for 1 TB.


Prime Wardrobe

Sarah JacobsEach piece of Prime Wardrobe clothing comes individually wrapped and labelled.

Prime Wardrobe removes one of the last issues online shopping presents: not being able to try on clothes.

Prime members can order eligible apparel and then enjoy seven days to try the stuff out after it arrives.

You only pay for the garments you keep, and ship the rest back to Amazon in pre-paid packaging.


AmazonFresh

Flickr/Jason WalshAmazonFresh deliveries groceries straight to your door.

With AmazonFresh, Prime members can get groceries delivered straight to their door. That’s fresh stuff from the local grocery store, mind you, not canned goods and dry pasta.

AmazonFresh isn’t available in all areas, and there’s an extra delivery fee for orders under $US35. But if you hate shopping for groceries, you may fall in love with AmazonFresh.

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