When it launched in 2005, it was hard to imagine that Amazon.com’s (AMZN - Free Report) Amazon Prime service would ever grow to become what it is today—an all-in-one shopping and entertainment membership that has its footing in nearly half of American households.
And to be fair, Amazon Prime was still pretty cool more than decade ago. The subscription, which originally cost $79 per year, offered users free two-day shipping on eligible purchases anywhere in the contiguous United States.
In its earliest forms, Amazon Prime was just a way to ease the burden of online shopping’s two biggest headaches, shipping costs and wait time. Today, the service is revolutionizing how we interact with the internet and creating an army of loyal Amazon shoppers for years to come.
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The current plan, which now goes for a monthly fee of $10.99 or a $99 annual fee, has so much more to offer than two-day shipping. In fact, the benefits of an Amazon Prime membership are so plentiful that it’s almost difficult to keep track of everything a Prime member gets. Here’s the complete list:
Expedited Shipping Benefits
The crux of an Amazon Prime membership is still expedited shipping, but the options have expanded quite a bit over the years. Prime users are still guaranteed free, unlimited two-day shipping on eligible items, of which there are now more than 50 million, but there are opportunities to get your products even faster now.
In fact, Amazon Prime now offers free same-day and one-day shipping in over 5,000 cities. There are currently more than 1 million items eligible for this type of delivery, with products arriving by 9 p.m. on the day of purchase if ordered in the morning. These items are guaranteed to arrive the next day if orders are placed in the afternoon.
Prime members can also choose to have certain in-demand video games, movies, books, and music delivered to their doors on the item’s release day.
There’s also Prime Now, which is an even faster option for limited markets. It’s only available in some cities, and Amazon only promises “tens of thousands” of eligible items, but some Prime members can get their products delivered in as little as two hours.
We should also probably mention AmazonFresh, which is an optional grocery delivery service available as a $14.99 add-on to a standard Prime membership.
Amazon Prime is also a viable online video streaming option. The Prime Video library includes thousands of movies and TV shows, including Amazon originals like the Golden Globe-winning Transparent and the Emmy-winning Man in the High Castle.
Prime Video is available to stream on a web browser or a smartphone, as well as on smart TVs, video game consoles, and Amazon’s own Fire TV products. Users can also purchase a Video-only Prime membership for $8.99 per month, making it slightly cheaper than the comparable option from Netflix (NFLX - Free Report) .
There’s also Amazon’s Streaming Partners Program, which delivers additional streaming video services, such as online content from Showtime, Starz, and Lifetime, straight to the Prime Video application.
In a similar vein, Amazon Prime has evolved into a growing music streaming service. The company’s music wing, Prime Music, is as ad-free, on-demand service that rivals the likes of Apple’s (AAPL - Free Report) Apple Music and Spotify.
Prime Music’s library currently has more than two million songs, and users can unlock even more songs with Prime Music Unlimited, an additional service that includes a library of more than tens of millions of tracks. Unlimited is available to Prime members for $7.99 a month, and non-Prime users can access it for $9.99 a month.
Things to Read
On top of Prime Video and Prime Music, there is also Prime Reading, which gives members unlimited access to over a thousand books, magazines, and Kindle Singles.
Access to Subsidiaries
Prime users enjoy unique access to Audible, which is a subsidiary of Amazon that delivers audio books. Prime Reading includes access to books with Audible narration, and Prime members get unlimited listening to original audio series from Audible.
Another Amazon subsidiary with Prime benefits is Twitch, a popular livestreaming site for video games. Prime members receive exclusive discounts and offers on games sold through Twitch, as well as ad-free viewing and a free monthly Twitch channel subscription.
In short, just being on Amazon at all seems to be improved once you go Prime, as users do get to cash in on exclusive deals. For example, Prime members get to access Amazon’s Lightning Deals a full 30 minutes before other shoppers.
Amazon also throws in unlimited cloud-based photo storage, meaning that Amazon Prime members never need to worry about their pictures clogging up too much space on their phones.
Earlier this year, Amazon announced that it was partnering with JPMorgan Chase (JPM - Free Report) to offer Prime users an exclusive Visa (V - Free Report) card.
Finally, Amazon looks to continue expanding its media offerings in an effort to make Prime a must-have for cord-cutters. Just this week, Amazon announced that it purchased the rights to stream 10 of the NFL’s Thursday night games during the upcoming season.
For more on that story, as well as several other top stories from the week, listen to this week’s episode of the Zacks Friday Finish Line podcast:
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