Amazon raised its monthly prices for Prime — while keeping annual membership cost the same.
Updated: January 22, 2018
It’s a prime time to have Amazon Prime — if you’re smart about how you buy it.
On Friday, Amazon raised the monthly rate for Prime from $10.99 to $12.99 — though it kept the annual Prime membership stays at $99. The company also jacked up its monthly Prime cost for college students from $5.49 to $6.49.
Even with the price increases, Amazon is likely still worth it for many of us. One of the main questions to ask yourself if you’re considering Prime is how much you buy on Amazon. Indeed, the shipping — free two-day shipping on millions of items (no minimum purchase required), and now the same-day, Sunday and two-hour delivery on many others — is still the biggest value proposition for many consumers, says smart shopping expert, Trae Bodge.
This means Prime may make sense for you, if you: 1) shop at least a couple times a month on Amazon; 2) tend to buy items sold through Amazon (versus third-party retailers, who are less likely to offer Prime shipping); 3) often purchase inexpensive items (you may get free shipping even without a Prime membership if you spend more than $25); and 4) like fast shipping.
On the flip side, infrequent Amazon shoppers, and those who go there just for bigger ticket items, probably won’t benefit as much. What’s more, if you don’t live in a city, you might not benefit as much either, says Jonathan Hadad, an analyst at IBISWorld. “Amazon offers free one-hour and same-day delivery for qualifying orders for customers in major cities, while rural areas … usually do not have that option,” he says. And for those who only care about the shopping/shipping benefits of Prime, he adds that are are other alternatives to Prime, including Jet.com, which has free two-day shipping on many items.
The other Prime benefits aren’t throwaways either — Hadad notes that for many these are just as or more important than shipping — and should be added to the Prime equation. These include video streaming of tens of thousands of TV shows and movies, music streaming of more than two million songs, free Kindle books and more. Plus, Amazon has lowered prices at Whole Foods for its Prime members: Overall, prices are down for Prime members by about 1.2%, according to an analysis in October from research firm Gordon Haskett. It also offers special pricing on some items for Prime members, like turkeys this past Thanksgiving.
Icing on the cake – you may see more Amazon perks introduced in the future, as the company wants. to keep Prime members happy. That’s because they spend more than double ($1500 versus $625) what other Amazon customers spend, according to data from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.
Even knowing all this, it can be hard to figure out if Prime is right for you. So Krista Fabregas, a retail and ecommerce analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com recommends you do the 30-day free trial on Amazon Prime — a perk they use to “lure new users in,” she says — and assess how much you are really using this benefit during that month. If it doesn’t seem worth it, you can cancel within the 30-day window and owe nothing. There are also ways you can get a Prime membership for less, including if you’re a student (look for the Amazon Student membership) or low-income.
And if you do join, you have to watch out for the so-called “Prime Trap” — in which members of Amazon Prime spend more than Prime members, possibly because they don’t shop around as much. Learn more about this — and three other Amazon shopping mistakes — here.
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