rates are .
It's been four years since Amazon raised the annual subscription price, which started at $79, then hit $99 in 2014 and will soon cost you $119.
Given that hike, which goes into effect May 11 and applies to current customers starting June 16, you may be wondering if the service is still worth it.
Let's take a closer look at what your $119 buys you, and whether you might be better off sans Prime. Because while that's not a fortune, it's not exactly an impulse buy, either.
Amazon Prime has always offered an eclectic array of benefits, but the big draw for most subscribers is probably free two-day shipping on zillions of Amazon's gajillion products. (Depending on where you live and what you order, you might even get overnight or same-day shipping at no extra charge.)
Indeed, once you get accustomed to that kind of turnaround, with no minimum order, it changes the way you shop. You save not only time and money, but also wear-and-tear on your car (because you're not running around to so many different stores).
That said, if free shipping is your primary reason for subscribing, remember that without Prime you can still get it on most orders over $25. It's not two-day shipping, but that just means you need to do a little advance planning. And on those occasions when you need faster delivery, you can always pay for it a-la-carte.
Remember, too, that Amazon isn't the only store in town, so to speak. Walmart now offers free two-day shipping on orders over $35, while online warehouse-store Jet.com also provides free shipping on orders over $35 -- and free returns as well.
Shipping is far from Prime's only benefit. For example, you also get a Netflix-like streaming service, Prime Video. It's home to a pretty substantial library of movies and TV shows -- including, for a while longer, at least, HBO shows such as Veep and Deadwood. (About a year ago, HBO announced that in, well, about a year. But there have been no subsequent announcements, so for the moment the HBO stuff streams on.)
Although there's some overlap with Netflix, Prime Video does have its exclusives: Battlestar Galactica and The Americans, for example, and originals including The Big Sick and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
There's also Prime Music, a Spotify-like, ad-free collection of over 2 million songs, and Prime Reading, which gives you free access to digital books and magazines.
Like playing games? The most recent addition to Prime nets you as many as. Like newspapers? Prime subscribers can get a Washington Post subscription free for six months and for $3.99 per month after that.
The perks don't stop there. Check out the. I think there's little question that if you leverage at least some of them, you'll more than cover the cost of your subscription.
Still feeling upset about the price increase? Although a 20-percent raise sounds like a lot, the reality is that you're paying the equivalent of only $1.67 more per month -- and still getting a lot in return.
In fact, Amazon shows no signs of decreasing the benefits of membership. Quite the opposite: The aforementioned free-monthly-games option was added earlier this year, and 2017 witnessed the arrival of extras likeand Prime Exclusive phones (which are ).
So, yeah, I'll make the argument that Amazon Prime is still a good deal. Still a great deal, in fact, provided you really do take advantage of its benefits. But it's also an indulgence, something most of us could live without. After all, do you really need those new sport earphones in two days? And can't you get lots of books and magazines from the library for free? Heck, Pandora still streams music at no charge, albeit with commercials.
I think if you can afford $99 for Amazon Prime, you can probably afford $119. Grumble all you want, but there's still no other service quite like it.
Editors' note: This post was originally published on March 13, 2014, and has since been updated to reflect changes in Amazon's pricing and services.