Are Amazon’s Month-To-Month Prime Memberships Ever Worth The Extra Money?

Image courtesy of Alan Rappa

Earlier this week, Amazon announced that it was making its Prime membership program — which includes access to the Prime library of streaming video and music, discounted and expedited shipping, and other benefits — available on a monthly basis in two different forms. Instead of the annual all-encompassing fee of $99 (which comes out to $8.25/month), shoppers have the option of either $8.99/month for Prime Video only, or $10.99/month for full access to the program. So does it ever make sense to go the monthly route or should Amazon shoppers just ante up for the annual subscription?

There is no clear choice that covers all shoppers, but there are some scenarios in which one plan may be more suited.

1. The Year-Round Amazon Customer

If you’re a regular shopper on Amazon and want the shopping benefits of Prime, it makes more sense to go with the full-year plan instead of the month-to-month option. Yes, you’ve got to pay $99 all at once for that membership, but that ends up significantly less expensive than the $131.88 you’d spend over the course of the year.

Depending on what you buy, and how quickly you need it, you may want to consider ditching Prime altogether. Amazon recently made it more difficult for non-Prime members to qualify for free shipping, raising the minimum order to qualify for free shipping on most (non-book) purchases to $49. Book purchases only need to hit the $25 mark to qualify.

So if you’re regularly making purchases that pass the free-shipping threshold and don’t mind waiting a few extra days for delivery, then maybe the money you’re spending Prime could be put to better use elsewhere.

2. The Holiday Amazon Shopper

Don’t like dealing with holiday shopping crowds, or getting to the store only to find the gift you wanted to buy is out of stock? That’s why online shopping was invented.

Many gift purchases would likely be above that $49 minimum to qualify for free shipping without Prime, but that brings in the other factor: Shipping time.

Maybe it’s a last-minute purchase, or maybe that vague “5 to 8 day” window for non-Prime customers is too big for you, then you’ll either have to pay for expedited shipping or go the monthly Prime route.

For example, two-day shipping on a PlayStation 4 will run you $14.48. Adding a month of Prime for $10.99 would shave more than $2 off that shipping cost.

Add in a copy of Dark Souls III and your non-Prime two-day shipping costs goes up to $22.46. The monthly fee for Prime would cut that in half.

So if you’re only an occasional Amazon shopper who swoops in once or twice a year to buy several items at the same time, the monthly Prime might be the better option of the two. Just remember to cancel when you’re not using it.

3. The Video Game Buyer

Earlier this year, in an effort to compete with the growing online marketplaces for console video games, Amazon began discounting pre-ordered and newly released video games by 20% for Prime members.

That means a new game like the aforementioned Dark Souls III will only cost $47.99, instead of the $59.99 other customers pay.

Avid gamers who regularly purchase new release games throughout the year would probably want to consider the annual Prime membership. But if you’re just looking to save on a particular title, the $10.99 fee for Prime would result in a net savings of one dollar for that game — plus the free release-date delivery.

The one tricky part here is knowing for certain when a video game is being released. Any gamer knows that release dates aren’t terribly reliable, and games are frequently delayed. The 20% video game discount for Prime is applied at shipping, so if you’re going to become a short-term Prime member just to save money on video games, it would be best to wait until shortly before the release date to make sure there isn’t a last-minute schedule change. (We’ve asked Amazon to confirm that this is correct and will update if/when we hear back).

4. Prime Video

If you’re coming to Amazon Prime for the streaming video library, the monthly $10.99 plan makes little sense (unless you’re only going to need access for a few weeks and need to make a bunch of purchases with two-day shipping).

Which is why Amazon also announced a standalone Prime Video-only service for $8.99/month, targeting curious but commitment-phobic cord-cutters. Over the course of a year, you’d pay a total of $8.88 more for the ability to add/drop the service as needed.

Aside from people who want to test Prime Video without having to fork over a whole year’s membership fee, who might be interested in this month-to-month access?

If you’re a fan of an Amazon original show, like Transparent or Catastrophe and just want to pay to binge-watch a new season over the course of a few days, then maybe it’s worth simply paying for access whenever something of interest pops up on Prime.

This could also hold true for some of the cable show catalogs in the Prime library. Want to catch up on Season 3 of Orphan Black but don’t feel like paying $15-20 to purchase the entire season? The $8.99 for a month of Prime Video will cost you less.

Important: Regardless of whether you try the $10.99/month full Prime access or the $8.99/month Prime Video access, make sure to keep track of when that month renews so that you’re not paying for months you don’t want or need.