Amazon's Prime subscribers will soon be faced with a $20 rate hike. Starting on May 11 for new subscribers and June 16 for current subscribers, Prime will cost $119 a year (the last hike was four years ago from $79 to $99). While that only amounts to an extra $1.67 per month, the price jump to over $100 may make you wonder whether you really need to pay for Prime.
When the service was first released, it was all about the free two-day shipping. But today, free shipping is everywhere: even if you aren't a Prime member, Amazon will ship orders over $25 for free (though they won't arrive as quickly as Prime packages). Walmart and Target have followed suit, offering free shipping with a minimum order of $35 — and many other retailers do the same. If you browsed through your Amazon orders over the past 12 months, you'd probably find a lot of orders that could have shipped for free without causing you any hardship.
But Amazon Prime is about more than free shipping. The service includes a lot of extras, some of which you may not even realize you have. In addition to free two-day (and sometimes same-day shipping), Prime includes:
- Prime Video, a Netflix-like streaming video service packed with TV shows, movies, and some great, Emmy-winning original content. On top of that, you can get discounted subscriptions to channels like Showtime and Starz through Prime Video. There's a lot coming up on Prime Video, too: Thursday Night Football streams there, and Amazon has just started work on a big-budget Lord of the Rings TV show.
- Prime Music, ad-free music streaming with curated playlists and over 2 million songs. That's less music than you'll get with Spotify and Apple Music — or even Amazon's own Music Unlimited, service, which is an extra subscription fee. Still, it offers perfectly serviceable music collection that's completely free with your Prime subscription.
- Prime Reading, which offers access to over a thousand books and magazines. Like Prime Music, Prime Reading is a limited version of Amazon's Kindle Unlimited reading subscription, but it still offers plenty of reading options at no extra charge to Prime members.
There are a lot more extras packed into Prime, but these are the three that you're most likely to use. Even if you don't think you need Prime's free shipping, if you use any of the above features, it's probably worth keeping your subscription going. Just consider the prices:
- Amazon Prime is $9.91 per month (if paid yearly).
- Netflix is $11 per month for its standard plan.
- Hulu is $7.99 per month with commercials or $11.99 per month without commercials.
- Spotify is $9.99 per month, or $12.99 per month when bundled with Hulu.
- Apple Music is $9.99 per month.
As you can see, when you break the price down, Amazon's pricing is still competitive with other streaming services. If you're watching Prime Video, you're getting a good price.
If after running down the features, you've decided that Prime is still a must-have, there are a few tricks that can keep your costs down. Here are six ways to get around that price increase:
1. Use Prime Student
Yes, we just went through all of the extra benefits of Amazon Prime, but if you just want the shipping benefits, Prime Student is the answer. Anyone with a school-related .edu email address — which can include recent grads — can get Prime Student. (You can even switch from Prime to Prime Student if you have an existing Prime account.) After a six month free trial, it's half off at $59 per year.
2. Share your membership
Another way to get half off is to share your membership with someone — and, yes, it's fine with Amazon to share your account with another member of your household, from family to roommates. You can share all of your Prime benefits, with one small snag: you have to share your payment methods, too. That means only sharing with someone you trust.
3. See if you qualify for discounts
Some low-income shoppers, including those with EBT cards or on Medicaid, may qualify for half off Amazon Prime. You'll have to fill out a form to verify your eligibility, but you don't have to jump through many hoops to get this deal.
4. Pay month to month
While this is more expensive at $12.99 per month (or $156 per year), it may help your budget to spread out the cost. Paying monthly also lets you only have Amazon Prime when you want to — because there are no long-term commitments, you can cancel your membership for the months you don't think you'll use it.
5. Just pay for Prime Video
If you've decided you don't need the shipping benefits, but you like the streaming service, you can just sign up for Prime Video for just $8.99 per month. At $108 per year, it doesn't save you very much, though.
6. Buy a year of Prime with a gift card
You can still gift a year of Prime for $99… and you can gift it to yourself, too, though you'll have to cancel your current Prime membership — but don't worry, because your subscription will continue until it runs out. When it does run out, simply renew using the gift card. It's worth noting, however, that while these Prime gift cards don't expire at present, Amazon could change that in the future.