Wondering whether you should shell out for Amazon Prime? Here are the pros and cons.
I was an Amazon Prime member for around seven years until recently, so I’ve made enough use of most of the services to give a decent assessment. Below I’ve outlined what you’ll get if you sign up, along with my thoughts on whether it’s worth getting and when it should be avoided.
What is Amazon Prime?
Amazon Prime is a paid for membership to the online giant that gives you a series of benefits normal customers don’t have access too – or pay more for. There’s a long list of these extras further down the review.
How much does Amazon Prime cost?
The free trial
Everyone can try it for free for 30-days. It’s best to time your trial for when you think you’ll most need free delivery or when there’s a big promo event such as Prime Day (in June/July each year) or Black Friday (the fourth Friday in November each year).
Since any adult in the household can take one you can double up, or more. We used the first of our trials a few months before our wedding for last minute supplies, and then our second in late November/ early December for Christmas gifts.
You can sometimes repeat your trial a year after a trial has finished, so there’s the potential to do this every 13 months.
The annual membership: £79 a year
Amazon Prime costs a hefty £79 a year. This is a lot so you’ve really got to use two or three of the perks for it to represent good value.
There are usually a couple of times a year where you can get the membership for around £59. These are usually in the run-up to Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday, though they’ve been less frequent in recent years. I always list these on my Amazon deals and discounts page (so bookmark it and check back!).
The monthly subscription: £7.99 a month
If you don’t want to pay for the full year, then you can opt instead for a £7.99 monthly subscription which you can cancel at any time. It will work out as cheaper than the annual plan if you pay for nine months or less, or practically the same for 10 months.
There’s a cheaper £5.99 option but this is just for the Prime Video streaming service and not the other features.
The student discount: £39 a year
There’s an option which will give students six months free, then three years at £39 a year. To get this you need to have a student card. Sadly, the loophole where anyone could get a student card is closed.
Again, each household member can have the trial, so you once more can double up. We did this, giving us a full year for free, before moving on to the half-price deal.
What you get with Amazon Prime
Free next-day, possibly same-day, delivery
There’s no minimum spend for delivery from Amazon when you’re with Prime. This can be really useful if you order from Amazon a lot.
Normally you’d have to pay extra to get things sent through if the order is under £20 (£10 for books). And they will take a few days. Generally non-Prime delivery will cost £2.99 for media (books, cds, dvds and games) or £4.99 for everything else. You can knock these down to £1.99 if you get your order sent to an Amazon “pickup location” such as a locker or newsagent.
So if you’re mainly thinking of Prime for Delivery, you’ll need to make 40 items under £20 in a year to break out even with the pickup deliveries, or 16 at the higher £4.99 charge.
However, since not everything on Amazon is sold by Amazon, there will still be items that aren’t eligible for Prime delivery.
Exclusive access to flash sales such as Prime Day
In the middle of July (though it’s late June in 2021), Amazon marks its birthday with Amazon Prime Day. This usually features some big discounts on Amazon products like Kindles, Echos and Fire TV, as well as all sorts of other items. And these deals are only open to Prime members.
The Black Friday sale (which essentially runs for about 12 days, if not longer!!) is another big sale with extra offers for Prime members.
I find most of these deals are stock clearance or encourage you to buy things updated don’t need. But that hasn’t stopped me looking, and there are bargains to be found.
Early access to “lightning deals”
Personally I don’t check these out very often, but as a Prime member you can buy the daily deals 30 minutes earlier than everyone else. Since stock is usually limited, this could be the difference in getting the item and missing out. Here’s more about how Lightning Deals work.
TV and movies with Prime Video
This is probably what I’ve mostly used my past Prime memberships for. There are some good exclusive TV shows such as The Boys, Mr Robot and The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, and plenty of other box sets.
There are also some decent recent and classic movies. Amazon is also making more original movies, and has just purchased legendary studio MGM – so we’ll see even more films appearing just on Prime.
You can stream from your computer, smart TV or devices such as a Chromecast or Fire TV stick, though I’ll most often download programmes to my phone to watch on the tube. Don’t forget though that this costs £5.99 a month on its own, which might be a better option for you.
Live Premier League Football and tennis
Amazon is also increasing the sport you can watch exclusively via Prime Video. US Open and other tennis have been available to watch for a couple of years, and for the last couple of seasons there’s also been live Premier League football too.
The matches are only over two weekends in December, so you don’t need it for the full year if this is why you are looking at Prime. Unlike on BT or Sky, you’ll be able to watch every single fixture. You can read more about how this works here.
Ad-free streaming with Prime Music
This streaming service is ok. It has a lot fewer songs than Spotify, but there’s plenty to keep you occupied if you don’t want to shell out extra for premium music streaming. There is an extra Music Unlimited service which you pay £9.99 for, though there’s an extra £2 discount for Prime members, and a trick to pay upfront for a year to get it even cheaper.
Digital books and magazine with Prime Reading
Every month Prime members get access to a few thousand ebooks and magazines to read via a Kindle, Kindle app, or even your computer. There are a few big titles, such as the Harry Potter series, but otherwise don’t expect to pick up the novels on your reading list.
The magazine offering isn’t bad, but the titles change every month. It’s better instead to see if you can get digital magazines from your library.
There’s also “First Reads” where you can pick up a free Kindle book each month from a selection of six or so titles.
Unlimited photo storage with Prime Photos
Amazon’s cloud-based storage will keep the photos you take safe if you had computer or phone gets lost or stolen. You also get 5GB of storage for other file types with Amazon Drive – the same you get with Apple iCloud, but less than the 15GB with Google Drive.
Same day delivery with Prime Now
This service is potentially handy if you need something delivered on the same day – as long as your postcode is covered. Delivery is free on orders over £40, or £3.99 on orders below this but above the minimum £15.
There’s also usually a code for first-time users to save on their first purchase, so it’s worth a go.
Cheap nappies with Amazon Family
You can save 20% on nappies and baby food once you’re a Prime member through the Amazon Family part of the membership.
Access to Amazon Fresh grocery delivery services
Prime members also get to order food from Morrison via Amazon Fresh. It’s free over £40, but charges you for orders under £15.
What you don’t get included with Amazon Prime
You’d be forgiven for expecting Prime gives you all the extra services Amazon offers. But no, you need to pay extra for the following:
- Amazon Music Unlimited – an extra £7.99 a month
- Kindle Unlimited – an extra £7.99 a month
- Audible audiobooks – an extra £7.99 a month
- Amazon Channels – extra TV channels such as Discovery and Eurosport
What’s good about Amazon Prime
People obviously love the next-day delivery, and it’s certainly a service that other retailers find hard to compete with. And there’s much more you can get on top.
If you use most of the features that come with Amazon, you’re getting a lot for your money – effectively £6.58 a month if you pay for the year. Here’s a quick comparison of how this stacks up against some key competitors:
|Free next day delivery||£79||Delivery charges elsewhere (three orders a month at £2 an order)||£72|
|Prime Video||Included||Netflix (standard)||£119.88|
|Amazon Music Unlimited||Extra £79||Spotify Premium||£99|
|Total £158||Total £290.88|
I’ve assumed three online orders a month with a charge of £2. Now, often you’ll get free delivery from other retailers, but charges will also vary. And you might order more or less, but this gives you an idea.
With TV and film streaming, Prime Video is cheaper than Netflix, even when subscribed for via full Prime rather than on its own, and it’s the same price as a year of Disney+.
Even the extra charge with Music Unlimited is still cheaper than buying the same service with Spotify IF you are also using the other parts of the Prime.
Prime members can also get access to extra vouchers and discounts, which are great if you are going to spend the money anyway.
What’s bad about Amazon Prime
There’s a reason Amazon pack so much into the membership. They don’t want you to spend money elsewhere. If you’ve already paid for delivery with Prime, you’re not going to want to pay again elsewhere. So you don’t shop around. And you could easily end up spending more money as a result.
In part that’s because Amazon isn’t always cheaper. Five months into my year without Amazon and I’ve actually saved money on my purchases – even when you factor in the delivery costs.
I think you’re also likely to buy more because you have Prime. Not just because you’re more likely to be on Amazon more often and open to more temptation, but also because those extra discounts, especially on Prime Day, encourage you to spend to save.
You also lose the friction that added delivery costs can add to your purchase, which might make you think twice before buying something you don’t need.
Let’s also look again at the table above. Yes, it’s potentially a huge difference in spending, but that’s assuming you don’t also pay for the other services elsewhere.
If you do want Disney or Netflix, then also having Prime for film and TV won’t be saving you cash – it’s an extra cost. If you need to shop elsewhere (not everything is on Amazon) you’ll pay for delivery on top. So really I don’t think you’ll save as much as it first appears.
Is Amazon Prime worth it?
So does Amazon Prime offer good value for money? Well, it can be – as long as you use at least a couple of the services. Most people will get enough use from the free delivery, exclusive discounts on Prime Day and Prime Video to justify the £79 fee.
However, if you end up buying more and not shopping around because you have Prime, you’re likely to spend more money having Prime rather than not having it.
Don’t forget you can still shop at Amazon without Prime. Yes, you might pay between £1.99 and £4.99 for items under £20 (it’s under £10 for books). But you’d need to order something under that threshold roughly every fortnight to cover your £79 fee. Do you order low-cost items that often from Amazon?
And of course you need to consider where else you shop. I definitely found that when I had Prime I shopped much more with Amazon because I get the free delivery. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.
It really comes down to whether you are dedicated to Amazon or happy to shop and stream elsewhere.
If you don’t want to stop completely, then maybe you could cancel your annual membership and go monthly. And then pick and chose the months you need to use it. So perhaps it’s just around Prime Day, Black Friday and when you want to binge some new box sets. Just see how you go!
Why I cancelled my Amazon Prime membership
I’ve actively chosen to go without Amazon in 2021, so obviously cancelled my Prime membership – even though I was paying just £39 a year.
This is largely so I’m proactively supporting other retailers ideally on the high street. But I’m also making sure my money doesn’t help Amazon continue to grow its profits while it manages (legally) to avoid paying a fair rate of tax here in the UK and elsewhere. Here’s more on why I decided to do this.
Of course you might think that going without isn’t possible, but I’d urge you to give it a try. I’m finding it so much easier than I thought I would, and I’ve been surprised how much less I’m buying and how much less things are costing at the same time.
You can follow my year without Amazon and some tips to help you spend less with the online giant over on Instagram
How to cancel Amazon Prime
Watch this video to see how you cancel – and why you might want to think about using Amazon less.
Other ways to save at Amazon
Make sure you check out my Amazon deals and offers page. This is where I’ll list flash sales, gift card bonuses and other extras. For example, you can often get a free top-up when you buy a gift card. All this and more via the link below!