While Amazon is not doing drone deliveries as part of the package just yet, Amazon Prime is an alluring online service for shoppers. It's tough to compare it to other companies, because who else offers a single package that includes free shipping, videos, music, Kindle reading and photo storage?
Still, the multitude of features and perks doesn't mean the yearly outlay will pay off for every shopper. Here's a quick-hit list of the benefits of investing in a Prime account, along with areas to consider carefully if you’re thinking of joining Prime.
Cost: For $99 a year, consumers receive free two-day shipping for eligible purchases, unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Prime Video and book-borrowing privileges from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library for $99 a year. Those who only shop heavily a few months a year might want to consider the same benefits for $10.99 a month, which adds about $32 to the annual price if you keep it for 12 months.
Cost-benefit ratio: If you typically have a total order required for free standard shipping from Amazon, or constantly need (or want) items within two days, the savings in shipping and time-opportunity cost can quickly offset your investment. A free trial membership available through the Amazon website will also give you an idea of how many of the items you need or like that qualify for Prime and how often you might use the service. Just be careful to cancel the membership after the free trial period if you don’t want it, since a credit card is required.
More Amazon Prime shipping benefits: To truly maximize the shipping benefits of a Prime membership, you must live in one of the more than 7,000 cities and towns that receive free same-day or one-day shipping on more than a million qualifying items (and orders over $35). To see if you qualify, check out your zip code on the Amazon website.
Tapping those shipping benefits is a matter of looking for the Prime FREE Same-Day or Prime FREE One-Day logo when you're shopping on the site, or using that filter in search. At check-out, make sure to choose the same-day or one-day option.
You also have to order in the morning, typically before noon, to receive items by 9 p.m. that day or order in the afternoon for qualified free one-day shipping to arrive the next day by 9 p.m.
Prime Early Access: Bargain hunters and those who genuinely enjoy online shopping will revel in the Amazon Prime member benefit of a 30-minute early access to Lightning Deals on Amazon.com.
Sharing benefits with household members: If you're a happy shopping family, Prime membership costs can be divided. Prime members can allow others adults in their Amazon Household to share Prime benefits at no extra cost by linking their regular Amazon account to the Household service and agreeing to share payments. Shared benefits include shipping, video, vault for photo storage, other digital benefits and exclusive offers.
More must-know facts about Amazon Prime benefits and features:
Large items sold or fulfilled by Amazon don't qualify for free two-day shipping though large item shipping is still free.
If you're expecting the two-day delivery on time, you must carefully note both the order cut-off time on each item's detail page and the proper shipping selection at checkout.
Saturdays and Sundays are not considered business days in calculating free two-day shipping for Prime. The shipping methods apply to business days only, not weekends or holidays.
Orders that cost more than $1,300 may require a signature for delivery.
This Christmas: An Amazon Prime membership makes a great gift for a family or couple just getting started with establishing a household, or who could really use the entertainment options along with the speedy shipping.
To purchase other gifts for guaranteed Christmas delivery from Amazon via Prime, be aware that gift orders on Amazon.com must be completed online by Dec. 18 to be shipped with free standard shipping and by Dec. 22 for the free Prime two-day shipping. The select cities that offer free one-day shipping for Prime orders require orders complete by 9:30 a.m. local time on Dec. 24.
Oh, and about those drones. Amazon does have a separate Prime Air delivery service in the works. It would deliver packages up to five pounds in under 30 minutes using small drones. As of Dec. 7, 2017, Amazon said it would start offering Prime Air as an option "when and where we have the regulatory support needed to safely realize our vision. We’re excited about this technology and one day using it to deliver packages to customers around the world."