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Amazon now has over 150 million paid Prime members worldwide

That's up from 100 million in 2018.

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Amazon on Thursday revealed it now has more than 150 million paid Prime members globally.

The company last offered a specific figure on paid Prime memberships in April 2018, when it said the number was over 100 million. The new figure was announced as part of Amazon's unexpectedly strong fourth-quarter earnings report. Amazon said Thursday that more people joined Prime in the fourth quarter than any other previous quarter.

"It's nothing sudden. It's a long improvement in the Prime program that we've been making for years and years," Amazon finance chief Brian Olsavsky said on a call with reporters Thursday when explaining the increase in membership.

Though Amazon had kept its number of Prime members a secret for years, it's now revealed a hard figure twice in the past two years, likely as a way of promoting the company's continued growth. 

The $119-a-year Prime membership program, which started in 2005, includes grocery deliveries in the US, a streaming video library and a bunch of other perks. The program's most popular feature, unlimited shipping, has been sweetened in the US, as the company is shifting from two-day deliveries to just one day.

Prime is a vital part of Amazon's business, since members tend to spend about twice as much on the website as non-Prime shoppers, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. Plus, members are more likely to use other Amazon products, like Fire tablets and Echo speakers, helping Amazon draw these customers deeper into its ecosystem of hardware and services.

The program is a big reason Amazon is now the dominant player in US e-commerce, accounting for nearly 38% of US online sales, according to research firm eMarketer.