The Hidden Value of Amazon Prime

There are better reasons than Prime Day to join Amazon's service

Illustration of a person looking into an Amazon box

 Lifewire / Joshua Seong

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Next week Amazon will hold its now two-day, annual online shopping bacchanalia better known as Amazon Prime Day.

I accept the fact that Amazon has turned us all into summertime shoppers who spend enough to rival lunatic Black Friday Shoppers. But what’s often missed among the ecommerce frenzy is that:

  1. You have to be an Amazon Prime Member to participate.
  2. Amazon Prime is so much more than just deals and 2-day free shipping.
Amazon Prime Day landing page

Thank You, Amazon

Recently, I finished reading the astonishing The Weight of Ink, a 500-plus page historical novel set in 17th-century London and the turn of our millennium. I didn’t pay a dime for the Kindle edition. I do not own the book but borrowed it out of Amazon’s Prime Reading library. The Library is full of hundreds of books and graphic novels I can read for free on my Kindle. Not all of them are winners (John Grisham’s The Tumor — a non-legal thriller?) or by well-known authors (Sex, Murders & Killer Cupcakes by Allisa Janda? Actually, that sounds kind of good) and, to be honest I took a chance on The Weight of Ink (and was rewarded). Still, this is just one example of the many extras Amazon throws in with a Prime Membership.

Prime isn’t free. If you plan on saving money on all those tasty Prime deals, you have to shell out $119 a year.

As most of you already know, that gives you access to Amazon’s growing movie, TV, and original video content library in Amazon Prime Video, where you’ll find quirky treasures like Flea Bag, the now-cancelled Sneaky Pete, and the excellent The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Prime Video doesn’t really have a monster breakout, cultural touchstone hit like Netflix’s Stranger Things, but it’s a decent service.

I always thought the biggest benefit of Prime was its free two-day shipping, but even if you’re not a member, stuff ordered through Amazon arrives at your home pretty fast — often in 4-to-6 days. Just remember that free shipping doesn’t kick in for non-Prime members until they spend at least $49.

As far as I’m concerned, Amazon does only a fair job of publicizing all the Prime benefits available outside of video and delivery. There are caveats with almost all these additional offerings, but, in general, they make Prime worth more than the sum of its parts.

Whole Foods landing page

Food

Ever since Amazon snapped up Whole Foods, Prime Members have had access to special deals. If you have an Echo or other Alexa-enabled device, you can even ask it about which deals are available to you. I do highly recommend that Prime Members get at least a basic Echo (you’ll be able to get one on Prime Day[s] for $49.99). Some of the deals, like whole chicken for $2.19 a pound and 2 pounds of organic strawberries for $5, are pretty good. The bad news is that there are only about 467 Whole Food markets in the U.S. and some states have just one store. So, if you live in Idaho (which only has a store in Boise), this might not be a Prime membership selling point for you.

Clothes

Amazon’s Prime Wardrobe lets you order a whole box of outfits, try them on, and return everything except the one that makes you look on-fleek (The Amazon-owned Zappos works similarly). You can shop by brand (most of them are high-end like Hugo Boss and Calvin Klein), by gender, or by category. Amazon also sells an Echo device called Echo Look which is supped to be a combo camera/style assistant that might be a good companion for this, but I have yet to meet a single person who bought one of those devices.

Prime Day Exclusive

The New

A number of manufacturers are now timing their product launches to not only coincide with Prime Day, but to exclusively launch on the platform. If you want, for example, Anker’s new 60W USD C charger for $39.99, you need to be a Prime Member. Same with the Paw Patrol True Metal Classic Gift Pack and the new Star Trek Trilogy: The Kelvin Timeline 4K UHD set.

Sing It

Amazon Prime includes Prime Music, which is a nice collection of tunes that I love to access through my Echo devices via Alexa voice queries. Unfortunately, 40 percent of the time the desired music, especially the newest tunes, are not on this included music platform. If you want unlimited music, you’ll have to pay $7.99 a month for access to Amazon Music Unlimited. I respectfully refuse.

Amazon Prime Reading

Pay Later

Naturally, Amazon has its own Prime Credit Card. I generally say no to new credit cards, but this one gives you 5% back on purchases (which is better than the 3% back you get if you’re not a member). With that credit back you can, as Amazon hopes, buy more stuff on Amazon.

Book It

As I mentioned above, Amazon offers you free books to read, but also throws in early access to new books (as ebooks or hardcover). They also try to up-sell you on Kindle Unlimited, which, as the name suggests , is an all-you-can-read program for $9.99 per month. Truth be told, when I’m not getting the occasional free read from Amazon, I get ebooks from my local library via Overdrive

Amazon Photos

A Shipping Crate of Storage

Amazon also outdoes most of the competition when it comes to photo storage. A Prime membership gives you access to unlimited, full-resolution photo storage. You'll need the Amazon Photos App (all platforms, including desktop), however. Google Photo stores “high resolution” photos for free, but that tops out at 1080p, which is well below the resolution of today’s best phone cameras.

Amazon also lets you share your Prime account and all of its services with family members for free. Your kids might not be ordering anything on Prime (really, they shouldn’t be), but they might appreciate free access to Twitch Prime. Amazon bought Twitch, the live game streaming platform, in 2016 and it’s the go-to destination for watching other gamers earn millions for broadcasting themselves playing video games (your teens can use the platform to broadcast their own gaming exploits, as well).

If you’re standing on the sidelines on July 15 and 16 wondering what all the Prime Day fuss is about, just remember that, ultimately, Amazon Prime is so much more than just a monster-two-day sale.