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Amazon Prime: 21 benefits every member gets

The complete list of all the stuff that is (and isn't) included with your Prime subscription.

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It's not all about the shipping. Or even the shopping.

Bryan VanGelder/CNET

Amazon Prime is probably best known for two things: free two-day (scratch that: one-day!) shipping and Netflix-style video streaming. Those are decidedly worthwhile perks, especially considering the relatively low $119 annual subscription charge. (In comparison, a basic Netflix subscription costs $108 all by itself). But a Prime membership affords more than just shipping and streaming. A lot more.

Here's a look at every single benefit included with Prime -- along with a few Amazon services you might have thought were included, but actually cost extra. (Don't have a subscription at the moment? You can sign up for Prime here, even if it's just to get a 30-day trial -- and if you're reading this during Prime Day season, find out how to get Prime Day deals without being a member.) 

The complete list of Prime perks is surprisingly long. Let's start with everyone's favorite: fast, free shipping.

Shipping benefits

Free overnight shipping: In the beginning, Prime afforded a fantastic shipping upgrade: Free two-day delivery on many, if not most, of Amazon's physical goods -- even if it's just one item and it costs just a few bucks. ($3 HDMI cable, anyone?) Earlier this year, however, the benefit got even better: Amazon transitioned to overnight shipping for millions of products. Not in a hurry? When you get to the checkout page, look for a "no-rush delivery" option, which can net you a small credit (usually $1) that can be applied to digital purchases: e-books, movie rentals and so on.

Free release-date delivery: Suppose you preorder a new book from your favorite author or a hot new tech product. As a Prime subscriber, you'll receive that item on the exact day it's released -- not a day or two later. Only certain items are eligible, of course.

Free two-hour delivery: Prime Now takes things hyperlocal, delivering Whole Foods groceries and other items in just two hours -- free if you spend at least $35, $4.99 if you don't. What's more, Amazon offers Whole Foods discounts exclusively for Prime subscribers (see below).

Shopping benefits

Free (or flat-rate) grocery and household item delivery:  Toilet paper, dog food, shampoo, your favorite cereal -- Prime Pantry will deliver these and other goods (pretty much anything that doesn't require refrigeration). However, to get free shipping (and it'll be ground shipping, not one- or two-day), you must spend at least $35. Spend less and shipping runs $5.99 per order. You can also upgrade your Prime Pantry membership for $4.99 per month, but the only advantage to doing so is getting free shipping with a $10 minimum instead of $35.

Alexa deals: Do you own an Echo, Fire tablet or other Alexa-compatible device? If so, utter these magic words: "Alexa, what are your deals?" She'll rattle off a list of rather random Prime-exclusive deals, pausing after each one to ask if you want to buy it. It's certainly not the most efficient way of shopping -- especially if you opt to hop online to make sure the deal you're getting is actually a good one -- but it's a Prime perk all the same.

5% cash back with an Amazon Prime card: How do you score even better deals at Amazon? Sign up for one of the company's credit cards; each offers 5% cash back on nearly every Amazon purchase. There's the Amazon Store Card, which is good only at Amazon and offers interest-free financing on various purchases. (Right now, you can also get a $60 gift card when you sign up.) Then there's the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, a more traditional credit card that gives you cash back for non-Amazon purchases as well. 

Exclusive discounts at Whole Foods: Following Amazon's 2017 acquisition of the grocery chain, you can now score exclusive perks and discounts. If you're shopping in-store, look for prices marked "Prime," then just open the Amazon app on your phone and flash the QR code at checkout. While you're at it, use the aforementioned Prime Rewards Visa to net an additional 5% cash back.

Amazon Fresh: This grocery-delivery service, which predates Amazon's ownership of Whole Foods, seemed like it was dying on the vine. But Amazon seems to be doubling down, because the previous $14.99-per-month fee for using Amazon Fresh has been eliminated. For the moment, however, it's still available only in select areas (about 21 major markets as of this writing).

Instant reordering with Amazon Dash buttons: In the beginning, Amazon sold physical buttons you could use to reorder various household products (such as paper towels, laundry detergent or coffee pods). But Dash buttons are now exclusively virtual, meaning you access them on your computer, mobile device, Echo Show ($230 at Amazon) or Samsung Family Hub. The functionality remains the same: one tap automatically reorders individual products. 

Early access to Lightning deals: Amazon's Lightning deals run for limited time or while supplies last. If you're a Prime subscriber, you get access to those deals 30 minutes ahead of nonsubscribers.

Access to Amazon Elements: Arguably the most "meh" of all the Prime perks, Elements is an exclusive Amazon store stocked mostly with "premium" vitamins, protein powder and other supplements, plus baby wipes.

The Completion Discount: Having a baby? If you used Amazon to create a gift registry, the Completion Discount nets you an extra 15% off any remaining items on the list (i.e., items that weren't purchased for you). 

Prime Wardrobe: This Amazon exclusive gives you seven days to try eligible clothing, shoes and accessories at home, then send back for a full refund any items you don't like.

Streaming benefits

Unlimited video streaming: Prime Video is akin to Netflix, offering movies, TV shows and original content. It's accessible on virtually all mobile devices and streaming devices, along with most game consoles and smart TVs. What's more, many TV shows, and some movies, can be downloaded to your phone or tablet for offline viewing, same as with Netflix. Here's our roundup of every new movie and TV show on Amazon in July 2019

Limited music streaming: Amazon Prime Music affords unlimited, ad-free access to a song library stocked with over 2 million tracks. You can stream them to various devices, but songs can also be downloaded to your phone or tablet for offline listening. Prime Music should not be confused with Amazon Music Unlimited (see "What's not included with Amazon Prime," below), which offers a much larger library but costs extra. Prime subscribers do get a break on the price, though.

Media benefits

Unlimited photo storage: Much like Google, Amazon Prime offers subscribers unlimited cloud storage for photos. For most people that means using the Amazon Drive app to upload pictures from phones and tablets, but there's also a desktop app (for Windows and Mac) that can archive photos from your hard drive. In addition, Prime Photos gives you 5GB of storage for documents and videos.

Free e-books and magazines: As part of your Prime subscription, you get access to Amazon Prime Reading, which -- like a lending library -- lets you borrow up to 10 titles. The catch: This particular library offers a relatively small selection, so don't expect a lot of new titles or bestsellers. However, the magazine selection -- which rotates fairly often -- can be decent. Right now, for example, you can get Entertainment Weekly, Martha Stewart Living and Men's Health, to name a few. 

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Amazon Prime affords you access to a variety of digital books and magazines, all included free with your subscription.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Free e-books, part 2: It's called Amazon First Reads and it works like this: Each month, Amazon editors curate upward of a dozen yet-to-be-released books and give Prime subscribers the chance to pick one of them -- for free. And it's for keeps, too; you're not just borrowing the book.

Free Audible channels: Amazon owns audiobook service Audible. Audible Channels is one of Prime's best-kept secrets -- a small selection of audiobooks available only to Prime members (and available only for streaming; if you want to download one, you'll have to buy it). But speaking of secrets, these books are sort of hidden: To find them, you need to venture into the Audible app on your phone, then tap the Channels icon and scroll all the way down until you see Audiobook Collections.

Free PC games and extras: Hardcore gamers know all about Twitch, which lets users watch and share game videos. Prime subscribers who link their Twitch and Prime accounts can get free games and in-game loot. (To access the former, you'll need the Twitch desktop client.)

Odds and ends

Membership sharing: Do you share a household with another adult? Then you can take advantage of Amazon Households to share many of your Prime benefits with that person. Households also allows up to four teens (ages 13-17) to create their own profiles for shopping and streaming.

Amazon Prime also lets you add premium video subscriptions -- HBO, Starz, Showtime and so on -- to your Prime Video viewing umbrella, though it's really just a convenience: You don't get any discounts compared with purchasing those subscriptions separately.

What's not included with Amazon Prime

That's an awful lot of Prime goodness. However, a smattering of Amazon services aren't included with your subscription -- and a few services have disappeared. For example, Amazon Restaurants, which offered GrubHub-like food delivery, was discontinued earlier this year. There's no more free 6-month Washington Post subscription, either. Here's a look at what costs extra -- and how much extra.

Amazon FreeTime Unlimited: A subscription service designed expressly for ages 3 to 12, FreeTime Unlimited curates kid-friendly apps, e-books, games, movies, TV shows and other content. It's compatible with Kindles, Fire tablets and the Fire TV ($39 at Amazon), and it includes parental controls for things like setting time limits, adjusting content filters, and reviewing any photos taken with the tablet. You don't need to have a Prime subscription to get FreeTime Unlimited, but it's cheaper: $2.99 per month for one child or $6.99 per month for up to four children. If you don't have Prime, the service costs $4.99 and $9.99, respectively.

Kindle Unlimited: Kindle Unlimited -- priced at $9.99 per month -- appears to expand on the e-book, digital magazine and audiobook content already included in your Prime membership. It's not actually clear just how much more content you get, so be sure to sign up for a trial first. (As it happens, Prime subscribers are currently eligible for a three-month trial at no charge.)

Music Unlimited: Amazon's answer to Apple Music, Spotify and the like gives you access to some 50 million songs -- considerably more than you get from Prime Music. If you already have a Prime subscription, adding Music Unlimited costs $7.99 per month -- a few dollars less than the competition charges. However, a family plan makes it $14.99 per month whether you're a Prime subscriber or not, and that doesn't represent any savings over the competition. Indeed, you might want to investigate whether Amazon Music Unlimited is good deal for you before adding it to your account.

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Originally published in a previous year. Updated regularly to reflect changes to the service.