Amazon's free-shipping secret

If you're a member of Amazon Prime, you can actually share your account with up to four "household" members. A lot of people don't know this.

Want free two-day shipping on Amazon but don't want to pay for it? Well, if you know the right person, you don't have to.

That's right, last year around the holidays I offered up a little Amazon Prime tip for folks planning to do a lot of last-minute online shopping on Amazon.com. Now, with the holidays approaching again and a lot of people interested in the Kindle Fire , I thought I should update the story with some additional info.

A lot of people don't know you can share your Amazon Prime membership with up to four household members. Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

Here's the deal. If you own or are considering purchasing an Amazon Prime membership ($79 for the year), which enables you to get free two-day shipping on a whole host of items in Amazon's catalog, you can actually share your Prime membership with up to four "household" members. A lot of people don't know about this option because it's buried in the settings menu under "Your Account."

To get there, just click on your "Your Account" (it's a little link in the top-right corner of your screen when you sign into Amazon). Look at the "Settings" section, and find "Manage Prime Membership." Once you click on that, you'll be able to send invitations to folks you're close to. You just select your relationship, and enter an e-mail address and a birthday of the recipient to send out the invitation.

Only the primary holder of a Prime membership can stream videos for free on the Kindle Fire and other devices. Amazon

Of course, some people balk at paying $79 for Amazon Prime, but if you could share the cost with a roommate or just want to be a generous family member, it starts to look like one of the great bargains, especially if you use Amazon a lot. Also, if you're a student, you can pick up six months of Prime with Amazon Student (just enter a .edu address to get your free six months).

It's worth mentioning that Amazon additionally has a program called Amazon Mom. As one reader pointed out in the comments section, the program, which is not gender specific (dads can use it as a primary caregiver), gives you three months of free Prime membership, and for every $25 you spend on "baby" items, you get another month free. Alas, Amazon Mom is currently closed to new members (you can add your name to a wait list).

The free e-book borrowing feature is also only available to the primary Prime account holders. Amazon

As you may or may not be aware, a Prime membership now includes additional features beyond the "free" shipping features, most notably free streaming of Prime Instant Videos and free borrowing of a limited number of Kindle e-book titles. But here are the caveats.

  • "Household" members you've gifted a Prime membership to only get the free shipping benefits of the Prime program.
  • While you can gift up to four Prime memberships to household members, the recipients do not get free Prime Instant video streaming. Only the primary Prime member gets free video streaming.
  • "Household" members you've gifted a Prime membership to also aren't eligible for Amazon's Kindle Owners' Lending Library that allows Prime members to borrow certain Kindle books for free (one a month). Free borrowing is only available to the primary Prime member.
  • The Kindle Owners' Lending Library is only available on Kindle devices (Kindle, Kindle Touch, Kindle Keyboard, and Kindle Fire) and is not supported from within Kindle apps on mobile devices or your computer.

Anyway, those are my free Amazon shopping tips this holiday season. Hope they help, and always, feel free to add your own tips and comments.

Editors' note: Updated November 21, 2011.

 

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