To Prime or not to Prime

By Mir
July 8, 2010

… that, as they say, is the question. Specifically, the question was this, from Daisy:

Is Amazon Prime worthwhile? I get a lot of amazon gift codes, and I wondered if combining those with Prime might be a good idea.

I love this question, but I also hate this question, because it’s a little bit like asking “Do these pants make me look fat?” and here is why: I think the answer to this question is highly subjective.

Let’s try to look at it from a purely mathematical angle.

Me, I do a lot of shopping at Amazon. A lot. Rather than belonging to a warehouse club, I buy a ton of bulk groceries and household products there, as well as books, music, and various other items. Honestly, it’s a rare week when I’m not getting a box (or three, ahem) from Amazon. But I don’t have Prime. I’ll go so far as to say that I can’t ever see myself paying $79/year for it.

Why? Well, many of my purchases are made via Subscribe & Save, which gives me free shipping with no minimum, anyway. Of the non-S&S items I buy, I don’t find it difficult to reach the $25+ Super Saver Shipping threshold; there’s always another book or kitchen gadget on my wishlist that I can toss into an order for free shipping.

For the past two holiday seasons I’ve managed to get a 3-month free Prime trial, and then I enjoy it very much—I’m able to scoop up the holiday toy deals without giving any thought to order minimums, I can ship direct to relatives, and I never have to worry about shipping charges or things arriving in time. For that it’s awesome, but again, that’s the only time of year I feel like it has a huge benefit for me.

On the other hand, I know plenty of people who have and use Prime and love it. If you live remotely and/or if you tend to procrastinate and need a gift or essential item right now, $79/year is probably a bargain compared to the time and money involved in constantly running out to buy things locally, or paying for rush shipping. I can see where it would be a real cost-savings for someone in that situation, sure.

Furthermore, the “free Super Saver Shipping on $25” thing can (and often does) lead people to spend more money. If you’re on the fence, look at it this way: Go through your Amazon order history for the last year. Do you have more than $79 worth of “things I added to that order to get free shipping” in addition to whatever you meant to buy? If the answer is yes, and having Prime will stop you from picking up those extra items, then it’s simple math that Prime saves you money.

Clear as mud, right? Always happy to help!


  1. I did one of the free Prime trials, and forgot to cancel it before I got charged. At first I was obviously highly annoyed at having to pay $79.

    Then I fell in love with it.

    The fast FREE shipping was great because usually I buy inexpensive things and don’t get to the $25 min. I didn’t renew it because its expensive but boy do I miss it:) For some reason ever since my prime membership expired, I buy waaaaay less stuff so its probably more cost effective for me to not renew it:)

  2. Same here. Forgot to cancel the trial. Our first year is up in 5 days and we’re not renewing. We’ll see how much we miss it. I’ll have be more organized when I do another trial membership.

  3. Thanks! I am so inconsistent; I order a lot, then nothing for months. It’s probably not worthwhile to buy the Prime membership.

  4. It was essential for our first year as parents to twins (diapers -to the door–basically overnight if you are on the east coast). But we did not renew. For the same reason I do not have the one-click button activated 🙂

    I found as the year went on I was impulse buying because it was a good buy—not because we actually needed it. All those $10.99 purchases added up. Having to either pay for shipping or find some trinket to get up to $25 causes me not to follow-up on those less than needed purchases. So I’m sure I’ve saved more than just the $79 fee.

  5. I didn’t think we’d use it enough to justify it, and it’s probably a close call in our case, but I love it! For me, getting things in a predictable two days instead of a less predictable 3-10 is a big perk. It helps me justify ordering something instead of driving around town and trying to find it locally for more or less the same price. I use it to send gifts (lots of out of town family), and I like not having to worry about minimums or seeing that shipping charge added on every time.

  6. Amazon probably won’t appreciate me pointing this out, but for those of you who forgot to cancel the free prime and thought you were stuck with it, you aren’t. You can cancel prime anytime as long as you haven’t used it.
    Also, I hadn’t thought of adding up all those items we add on to get to $25. I was always of the mindset of “We never pay to have anything shipped so Prime wouldn’t be worth it for us.” I think i have some research to do :). Thanks Mir!

  7. I am one of those people who live in the middle of nowhere: the nearest Walmart is 30 minutes away and the nearest Target is 3 hours away. I use subscribe and save a lot, but we also have Prime and it has been wonderful. When my niece had pneumonia I ordered an oximeter and paid only $4 to have it the next day. My husband ordered a saw that weighed more than 50 pounds and we still got it in two days. Yes, it would have qualified for super saver shipping, but if he had to wait a week or more to get it he probably would have gone to the hardware store and just paid the extra money to get it there. Prime has been wonderful for us, but I think we wouldn’t have kept it if we still lived in the city.

  8. I thought it was a rip and we didn’t order much ever. BUT it was always annoying the free with $25 purchase shipping took about 7-10 days to get here (I’ve paid for express shipping less than a dozen times in my life, it isn’t worth it – if I need it that fast I buy it local usually). Eventually a friend got it and let me “share” and I realized how great it was. I could get my $4 book and not worry about the extra $19. If I want something it is usually one or two things and I’m looking online to save me from going to another store where I’d end up spending more money or paying more since amazon is priced really well on a lot of things. So after two years she lovingly dropped me and it was absolutely worth it for our family. We do share it with two siblings who pitch in $20 each a year so it is subsidized. But where we would be paying regular shipping costs anyway (most orders were under $25) the $80 over a year would happen. So paying shipping at one time and having two day shipping free is WONERFUL! I get groceries, books, toys etc online and never have to go to the store.

    I (heart) prime!

  9. To shorten and clarify my comment: I won’t increase my order to hit the $25 mark so the $80 covers shipping costs for the year. And I can confidently say that I also SAVE more than $80 a year shopping at amazon verses going to a local store.

  10. I love Prime! One year I tried it and then went without it and … it just wasn’t the same! I like the fast shipping and I especially like the $4 one-day shipping – I use it for gifts all the time. I am just not that pulled together, sadly, to get things done in advance. And we have used the free 2 day shipping on all sorts of crazy heavy things, so I feel pretty confident even without going through my receipts that I get my money’s worth.

    And even if I don’t I am keeping it anyway. LOL

  11. My extended family chips in then shares the membership. So instead of $80 — its only $20, and worth it.

  12. I ordered the from the diaper deal last week and just got an email for 3 free months of prime. Woo hoo!!

  13. I love my Amazon Prime membership! I don’t drive, my husband works long hours and we live in a big city, so I like being able to have something I need within 2 days for free. It’s also saved my behind many times for birthday and holiday gifts, and the shipping is super speedy. 🙂 I guess for me, that $80 is well worth it for the ultimate convenience.

  14. @Chris, I got that too! Very exciting.

  15. Just a quick friendly reminder, folks: It’s against Amazon’s TOS to share a Prime membership amongst people who don’t live in the same house, and this is one area in which they are extremely vigilant and have been known to terminate memberships and (in some extreme cases) even cancel accounts, so please don’t break the rules. (At the very least, if you are breaking the rules, please don’t discuss it on a public forum like this.) 😉

  16. I finally purchased Prime this year but we had just moved to Germany. So totally worth it to me while we are here. It completely covers me for nieces and nephews birthdays and will be very, very helpful at Christmas this year. I’m not sure if I’ll continue it once we move back to the states and I can bargain shop in stores again or not. But if you break it down, it’s about $6.58 a month for shipping. So if you order items under $25 more than once a month you will come out ahead with a purchased Prime membership.

  17. We have prime and I love it. I love being able to scoop up the toy deals they have without having to worry about getting enough stuff to get $25. $3 book – here in 2 days. Love it.

  18. I had Prime a few months ago when I got in on the 3-month trial deal around the holidays. I loved it!! I was able to get some great bargains for last minute holiday gifts and it was so nice to be able to order up to 2 days before Christmas and know that my items would be received in time. I’ve since been back and forth about signing up.

    I ordered from the diaper deal last week and I haven’t gotten any offer for 3-months Prime 🙁

  19. We have Prime because my husband’s impatient and a little more spendy than I am, but I kinda wish we didn’t. The convenience is tremendous, especially since we live in a small town w/ limited shopping options– but I really believe it’s better to put our money toward supporting our (struggling) local merchants rather than funneling it continually toward the enormous Big A. The convenience of being able to find almost anything immediately and have it shipped quickly to us means that more of our dollars are flying out of our community, never to return. I have it, I use it, but I recognize that it’s very successful in drawing my business away. Kinda hate that, and I hope we don’t renew it.

  20. I forgot to cancel my free Prime trial just 3 days ago. At first, I thought I was stuck, but upon further investigation on the site (as Crista said above) I was able to cancel and get my $79 refunded since I had not used Prime since my membership renewed.

    I loved it during the Christmas season, but since I live in store-laden suburban Chicago, it really isn’t worth it for me to pay $79 for Prime.

  21. I did the diaper deal from last week and got the free Prime for three months, too! SUPER happy about that. Once again, Mir is my hero. Thank you!

  22. I loooooove my Prime membership. It is fantastic during the holidays but I use it all year around. Something else to factor in: if you are buying local instead of using Amazon, think about (a) how much gas you use driving around town and (b) how much of your TIME is spent driving around — if I am not driving around to stores I can be working and EARNING money which quickly makes up the $79. Also between Costco and my Prime membership, I have basically quit going to Target which saves me all that money spent on impulse purchases.

    Also using Prime I get to skip dragging 3 kids around town which is … priceless.

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