To the record-setting 3 million folks who signed up for Amazon Prime in just the third week of December, welcome! The decade-old service is still one of the hottest subscriptions in the ecommerce space, with tens of millions of members. The company is famously cagey about details on its Prime business, but analysts estimate one in four U.S. households holds a Prime account.
So what’s all the fuss about?
The star perk of the annual $99 Prime membership fee is, of course, free two-day shipping on some 20 million items, from groceries to gadgets. But there are some little known auxiliary goodies that even long-time Prime members may not know about. Here are a few:
Free two-hour delivery. Amazon launched Prime Now in more than 20 metro areas last December. Exclusively offered to Prime members, the service offers free two-hour delivery on “tens of thousands of items” through a dedicated app. If two hours isn’t fast enough for you, pay just $7.99 for one-hour delivery. Deliveries are made seven days a week from 6 a.m. to midnight. Plug in yourZIP code here to see if Amazon Now is available in your area. Pro tip: Amazon’s running a promo now for $10 off your first order. Just enter the code “10PRIMENOW” at checkout.
Unlimited photo storage.You can upload photos to Amazon’s cloud servicefor free with a Prime membership and access your pics on your phone, computer or tablet anytime you want. You can get similar services via Google (Google Photos, launched in May, is free and offers unlimited storage) or Flickr(also free but limited to 1,000 GB of storage). But if you’ve already got a Prime membership, might as well take advantage of the additional storage backup.
Movie and TV streaming. With critically acclaimed original series like “Transparent” and “Mozart in the Jungle,” Amazon’s unlimited streaming serviceis shaping up to be a true competitor to streaming giants like Hulu and Netflix. Prime membership gets you free access to tons of shows and movies. It may be a stretch to call it “unlimited” streaming, however, since plenty of popular shows and movies are only available to rent or buy.
Music streaming. If you don’t feel like paying extra for ad-free music streaming on other services like Spotify or Pandora, Prime members can tap Amazon’s huge catalogue of ad-free tunes. True music fans might be disappointed in the Amazon selection, which at about 1 million songs pales in comparison to offerings from other services like Apple Music and Spotify, which each offer more than 30 million songs. But, again, you have to pay up for those services ($9.99 a month).
Add family members for free. There’s no need for everyone in your household to sign up for a $99 Prime membership. One membership can cover two adults and up to four children. The household account lets you create a“family library” where you can link two Amazon accounts and share e-books, audiobooks, apps and games on all your devices. The service also lets you control what content your kids can download on their own. All the perks that come with a Prime membership (Prime video, free shipping, music, etc.) are shared by the second adult on the family account. Kids are free to access any content available on the adult accounts.
Your own digital library. If you own a Kindle, Amazon Prime gives you free access to the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. The library offers more than 800,000 e-books. You can borrow one per month and keep it for as long as you want.
Early access to lightning deals. Get a 30-minute jump on other shoppers on Amazon “lightning deals” (items on sale for a limited time, usually a few hours). Amazon runs an assortment of lightning deals every day. The 30-minute head start is a nice advantage to have on busy shopping days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday when Amazon runs the most lightning deals of the year.
Prime Pantry delivery. If you routinely shop for household goods online,Amazon’s Prime Pantry service is a worthy benefit to investigate. It lets you bundle together a bunch of household items that would otherwise be too pricey to ship individually for free. The only catch is that it costs $5.99 to ship and you won’t get your items for 1-4 business days. For Prime customers used to the usual free two-day shipping perk, this could be a tough charge to swallow. But if you’re planning ahead and want to save yourself a trip to the store, it’s not a bad deal. You can also “subscribe” to certain items you buy regularly, which can save you up to 15% off the retail price.
Student discount. College students can sign up for a six-month free Amazon Prime membership and thereafter pay only half the regular fee— $49 a year. True, you can always stay on your family’s Prime plan, but remember, the family plan only lets two adults share key perks like free two-day shipping and Prime video streaming.