I audited my Amazon Prime membership to see if the $139 annual fee is still worth it

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To renew, or not to renew? 

That’s the question I’ve been asking myself every June since Amazon Prime first hooked me more than 10 years ago with a deeply discounted rate for college students.

Most years, my renewal date sneaks up on me before I even realize it. The notification from my credit card pops up on my phone and I realize that I’ve committed another $139 to the Seattle-based e-tail giant. 

But last year, when I yet again let auto-renew make my decision for me, I set a calendar alert for 2024 so that I could properly review my Amazon Prime subscription and see if I’m actually getting my money’s worth. 

After tax, my $151.34 membership comes out to $12.61 a month, less than what I pay for services like Netflix, Max or Spotify. Let’s audit the Prime perks that I do — and don’t — use, and see if it’s worth keeping around for another year. 

Free shipping, easy returns

Amazon’s free two-day shipping guarantee isn’t quite as impressive as it used to be, with some other retailers offering similar delivery speeds these days. But the convenience of being able to find most products I’m shopping for and receive them in a timely manner is still a huge value for me. Without Prime, I’d need to hit certain order minimums to qualify for free shipping, and it would take an extra day or two to get to me. 

I also like how Prime incentivizes me to choose later delivery dates in exchange for digital credits that can be used on movie rentals or Kindle purchases. When I’m not in a hurry to receive a package — and let’s be honest, I don’t usually need anything that urgently — it’s nice to accumulate my digital cash and get a free book or movie rental out of it. It’s a perk that is difficult to put a dollar figure on, but goes a long way toward making the annual fee feel worthwhile. 

Even better than Amazon’s shipping, however, is how easy it makes returns. I try to be conscious of my environmental footprint and not make unnecessary returns when I don’t have to. But in the event that I do need to send something back, few companies make the process easier than Amazon. Walking over to my local UPS store or Whole Foods and dropping a product off is a lot less of a hassle than printing out a label and packaging it up myself.

Prime Video

Stand-alone price: $8.99/month, $107.88/year

Unless there’s a new season of “Reacher” airing, Amazon’s streamer isn’t the first app I boot up when looking for something to watch. It’s probably not even the third or fourth. If I didn’t have Prime, I probably wouldn’t spend $8.99 every month for the service. 

But as it stands, I use Prime Video enough that I pay the extra $2.99 per month to avoid ads when I’m watching movies and shows. Plus, as a Yankees fan, 21 of my team’s games are available exclusively on Prime this season.

Free, unlimited photo storage 

Stand-alone price: $1.99/month, $23.88/year for 100GB photo storage

All Amazon customers get 5GB of storage for their photos and videos  whether they pay for Prime or not. Prime members, however, can save as many photos to Amazon’s cloud as they want.

It’s not a perk that’s top of mind when I think of my membership benefits, but with a photo archive dating back more than a decade, it’s nice to not have to pay extra for my digital storage space.

What about the perks I don’t use?

Smith Collection/gado | Archive Photos | Getty Images

On paper, there’s value that I’m leaving on the table with my Prime membership. I’m a Spotify subscriber, so I never use Amazon Music. Likewise, I don’t do my grocery shopping at Whole Foods, so the “exclusive” deals only available to Prime members don’t move the needle for me. 

Prime Day is billed as a shopping extravaganza for Prime members, but to me it just feels engineered to get me to spend more money on deals that aren’t actually all that great.

I get most of my Kindle books from the New York Public Library, so having access to Prime Reading’s rotating collection of books isn’t something I take into consideration when assessing how much I pay for my membership each year. The newly added Grubhub+ membership is nice to have, but spending more money on take-out because of Amazon Prime will only make my membership feel more expensive, not less. 

To renew, or not to renew? 

Between free shipping, easy returns, some fun offering on Prime Video and all the photo storage I need, I still feel like I get enough value out of my membership to make the annual fee worthwhile. I’ll let my subscription renew for another year.

That said, over the next 11 months I’ll still be keeping a close eye on how often I’m using the perks listed above. My Prime subscription may be worth it this year, but I won’t let auto-renew make my decision for me anymore.

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