Tokmak, Ukraine - March 25, 2011: Amazon website main page in web browser Internet Explorer 9. Amazon is multinational electronic commerce company, it is the largest online retailer in the world

Is Amazon Prime Membership Worth $99?

The price hike forces customers to ask themselves about the membership’s worth.

 Tokmak, Ukraine - March 25, 2011: Amazon website main page in web browser Internet Explorer 9. Amazon is multinational electronic commerce company, it is the largest online retailer in the world

Amazon Prime comes with many perks, including savings and convenience.

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The day after I wrote about an Amazon Prime membership being one of the best things you can buy now to save money, the company went ahead and raised the price of a membership by $20. Starting March 20, new Amazon Prime memberships will cost $99 per year, as will memberships that renew after April 17.

While there is no doubt in my mind that an Amazon Prime membership is worth $79, I thought I'd go over the perks of a membership and break down whether a membership is worth the $20 price increase.

Perk 1: Free two-day shipping on most purchases

Depending on how often you purchase from Amazon, free two-day shipping can be a huge perk. Personally, I order from Amazon constantly and part of that is because I know that I have already paid my shipping fees for the year. I have definitely been spoiled by the guarantee of having items delivered within two days. This option is especially useful over the holidays.

I probably place at least four Amazon orders per month. Assuming two-day shipping would cost approximately $10 per order, without Prime I would be spending nearly $500 per year in two-day shipping fees. Or I would just have to wait longer for my products, which would be extremely inconvenient. Without Prime, shipping is free on most $35 and over Amazon purchases and delivery will occur within five to eight business days.

Perk 2: Free movie and television streaming

Amazon has its own streaming service, Amazon Instant Video, which is comparable to Netflix. Quite a few of the shows available via Amazon Instant Video are only available on Amazon, so depending on what you want to watch this could be a huge benefit.

For instance, right now my husband and I are watching "Justified" and "Veronica Mars," both of which are only available via Amazon. If we went out and purchased the DVDs for those two shoes, we could spend close to $100.

Perk 3: Free books

There are now two different ways that Amazon Prime members can get free books. The first is via the Kindle Lending Library. Prime users can "borrow" one free book per month from Amazon's selection of more than 500,000 titles. After the book is read, it must be returned to the library, at which point another book may be rented. 

Secondly, Amazon recently launched Kindle First, which allows Amazon Prime members to download one free pre-release book per month. Each month there are four choices, with new options becoming available on the first of each month.

The Kindle Lending Library could have a value of up to $120 per year (assuming each book rented would otherwise cost $9.99 to download), and the value of Kindle First ranges from $60 to $120, depending again on the price of the book.

While I definitely take advantage of Amazon's free two-day shipping offer, I find the greatest value actually comes from Amazon Instant Video and the Kindle perks. Yes, I love getting my packages in two days, but that is not a necessity and sometimes I could conceivably wait five to eight days for my order to arrive. Still, I definitely get more than $99 worth of perks out of my Prime membership so there is no question that I will renew even at the higher price point.

While the $20 price increase for an Amazon Prime Membership may not be ideal for some users, depending on your shopping, viewing and reading habits, the new $99 price tag might still be a good bargain. I recommend taking a good look at how often you use the perks of an Amazon Prime membership to see if you are reaping the full value.