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Posted: 11:46 a.m. Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Is Amazon Prime worth it?

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By Clark Howard

ClarkHoward.com


Amazon Prime members get free 2-day shipping and other perks, but is it worth the new $99 admission price?

Effective April 17, the price of an Amazon Prime membership will jump from $79 to $99. That's prompted a lot of people to ask me what I think about the price hike.

First, let me set some background. Prime members get free 2-day shipping on most online purchases with no minimum order size, plus a free streaming service that's like a Netflix wannabe, and free Kindle e-book downloads. (With its limited streaming library, Prime is *not* a viable substitute for Netflix or Hulu Plus yet.)

So at $99 each year, you really have to assess the value of what's being offered. The fact is that Amazon was once the cheapest place to shop, but that's no longer the case in many product categories.

Amazon Prime is more about convenience if you're not a price sensitive shopper. On the other hand, if price is important to you, you may want to reconsider that membership. (I should note that students and anyone with an .edu address can generally join Prime for half price.)

The real issue here is that if you're too devoted to Amazon, you're probably overpaying. That "free shipping" is very expensive if you pay too much for the stuff in the first place because you're no longer comparison shopping. (By the way, here's how to find the best price when you're shopping online.)

I saw on Slickdeals.net a workaround strategy to get 1 more year of Amazon Prime at $79. Basically, you buy a membership before the new rates go in effect, and then gift it to yourself. See the complete details here.

Meanwhile, there is a would-be competitor to Amazon Prime in Shoprunner.com. Right now, this rival loyalty program is offering 1 year of unlimited free 2-day shipping to Amazon Prime members who don't want to renew at the new higher rate.

Toys "R" Us, GNC, NewEgg.com, and Lord & Taylor are just a few of the nearly 100 participating Shoprunner retailers. The possible advantage with Shoprunner is that with so many competing players in the co-op, you may be able to get lower prices than you could from Amazon.

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