2022 was a tumultuous year for Amazon.com, and, for better and for worse, its 200+ million subscribers went along for the bumpy ride. The year saw major acquisitions for Amazon, widespread corporate layoffs, cuts in member perks, and perhaps most significantly, a price hike.
These days, you’re likely up to your neck in other subscription services. There’s cable TV, sports packages, streaming services such as Netflix, Disney Plus and Spotify, food delivery services, and membership schemes all the way down to gift boxes for your dog. Amazon Prime might offer a wide range of perks across its many services, but then Amazon went and raised its yearly subscription fee by 17% last February.
With the service now costing close to $200 for monthly subscribers, it’s no surprise that consumers are wondering whether Amazon Prime is worth the cost, even if Amazon Prime Day, that annual blockbuster sale remains a big draw. Last October, Amazon held a bonus discount Prime Early Access Sale, two days that ended up kicking off the 2022 holiday shopping season. And since Amazon judged this second event a success, we expect it will return later this year.
But as Amazon made deep cuts to its leadership team with a layoff of around 10,000 positions late this year, experts are predicting that could be a major disruption for Amazon, possibly leading to customer service issues. To make matters worse, part of those layoffs are affecting Amazon’s Alexa division, a tool many Amazon Prime members use to place orders.
That price hike isn’t the only change at the company, either. Amazon is currently working through multiple stages of layoffs (over 10,000 employees lost jobs between November and January 2022, and more cuts were announced in March 2023). Part of these layoffs affected the company’s retail division, whilst others affected Amazon’s Alexa division, a tool many Amazon Prime members use to place orders. Is the Prime experience getting worse, even as the price goes up?
So do you still need Amazon Prime? After years of membership, people often forget: Anyone can buy from Amazon, you don’t need to be a Prime member. You’re just not going to get the other perks — not all of which you might need, use or want. To that end, we’ve listed a range of 12 good reasons you might want to cancel your Amazon Prime membership.
Amazon Prime Is Expensive
If you pay your Amazon Prime membership annually, (the most cost-effective option), it’s an annual $139 hit. If you pay monthly, you’re paying $14.99 a month, which clocks in at just under $180 a year.
This is comparable to Netflix’s standard membership plan (albeit with a wider range of perks. But how much are you really using Amazon Prime — and how much value are you gleaning from it?
“Because the membership has so many perks, one might assume that it’s worth it,” says Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at True Trae. “For me, because I take advantage of many of the benefits, including free two-day shipping for my frequent purchases, and enjoy the video, music and book content, I have no question that it’s worth it for me. But if you do not shop frequently online, or use any of the many perks, it may not be.”
It’s easy to track how much you’ve spent and what you’ve bought (a gimmick that also works to Amazon’s advantage when you want to reorder an item). Click on “Returns & Orders” at the top of the Amazon home page after you sign in. It defaults to your orders for the last three months. On that drop-down list, you can choose yearly timeframes.
It’s frivolous items — things you probably wouldn’t have stumped up for in a physical store or if they hadn’t come with free shipping — that can really add up. Is having Amazon Prime causing you to spend too much at Amazon throughout the year? That’s just one key reason you might ask yourself: “Do I need Amazon Prime?”
Amazon Prime Isn’t Your Only Retail Membership
Your Prime membership might get you access to free delivery and deals on electronics, groceries, clothing, everyday goods and more…but Amazon isn’t the only place selling these products.
Keep an eye on Costco membership. Both retailers require membership fees for the biggest discounts, but there’s considerable overlap in the offerings. (But bear in mind Costco membership fees could increase in 2023).
At one point I was stacking memberships to BJ’s Wholesale Club and Sam’s Club on top of my Amazon Prime subscription (when I had a much larger household). That amounts to a decent amount of overlap when it comes to available discounts and benefits. So, if you find yourself using one of the warehouse clubs more than Prime, it may be time to cancel your Amazon Prime membership.
You Can Join Amazon Prime for a Month or Two at a Time
We’ve previously suggested taking advantage of the 30-day Amazon free trial option, as long as you remember to quit before the monthly fees — which are now $14.99 a month — kick in, and we still stand by this tip.
You’re only eligible for one Amazon Prime free trial period every 12 months, so you could wait for the right moment to sign up to take advantage of Prime Day deals, or join for a month or two (one free, one paid) to save some money on your holiday shopping.
Do be warned, though: if you cancel Amazon Prime before the free trial period ends, you’ll lose access to any of the program’s perks immediately, so be sure to only cancel after finished making use of the service if you don’t want to have to pay at all.
Amazon Prime’s Free Shipping Is Far from Unique
Early on, the big bonus of yearly Prime memberships was the free two-day (then one-day and, in some places and cases, same-day) shipping which was rare in the retail world. The key word there is ‘was’, as this is no longer the case.
Businesses have stepped up their game to stay competitive, and now there are many alternative retailers offering free shipping plans, including Walmart and Target. They also offer same-day, or in-store pickup options, that don’t come with an annual $139 pricetag. And, both retailers have invested significant amounts of time and money into making drive-up pick-up easier and easier.
“Walmart’s and Target’s drive-up, pick-up options provide same-day purchase convenience without having to go in the store,” says consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch. “If you need to buy something urgently like diapers or milk, choose drive-up, pick-up options when ordering from big box retailers like Walmart and Target. This doesn’t cost extra!”
Woroch makes another important point: “Not everything you need or want to buy is sold and shipped by Amazon, so it may not be available for Prime two-day shipping anyway. That means it will likely take longer to arrive in the mail. Plus, returns are often much more of a pain to deal with when it comes from a third-party retailer.”
You Don’t Need a Prime Membership to Get Free Shipping from Amazon
Prime’s most obvious benefit is free shipping, everyone knows that. But did you know that everyone can get free shipping on Amazon — without paying the $139 a year?
“Amazon has a $25 free shipping threshold for non-Prime members,” says Bodge. “If you tend to buy items over $25 or you are patient enough to combine several items into one order, do you need to pay $139 per year [for Prime membership]?”
There Are Better Sources of eBooks and Streaming Video
Do you own any Amazon devices? And if so, how much of their software do you use? I’m on my second Kindle reader, and I’ve yet to download to my device any free publications from Prime Reading or Amazon First Reads.
The same can be said in our household for Prime Video, Amazon’s own streaming service. As with any service in this ever-expanding market, Prime Video has its own originals like Citadel, The Man in the High Castle, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, and My Policeman, but you can likely find plenty of entertainment worth paying attention to elsewhere. And, there are other, cheaper ways to get your reading and viewing fix in.
“You can stream TV shows, movies and get audio/ebooks for free from your local library’s digital platform,” said Woroch. “Just apply for a library card online and forget Prime Video.”
You’re Probably Not Using Amazon Photo Storage (Like They’re Bugging You to)
Amazon Photos offers unlimited cloud storage for your photos, a Prime perk that Amazon is constantly pushing. “Unlimited” is pretty good — Amazon users without Prime only get 5GB of free storage — but if you’re like me and already utilizing the Apple cloud for photo storage, Prime’s offer would be redundant (I’ve been in the macOS world since the late 1980s and using its Photos for macOS ever since it was called iPhoto. I have no plans to switch).
Here’s another big drawback to Amazon Photos: If you’ve taken advantage of that service and decide to cancel your Amazon Prime membership, you could, according to Amazon’s service agreement, start losing some of those stored photos. “If you exceed your Service Plan’s storage limit, including by downgrading or not renewing your Service Plan or no longer qualifying for an Additional Benefit,” the policy states, “we may delete or restrict access to your files. We may impose other restrictions on use of the Service.”
Grocery Delivery Is a Limited Amazon Prime Benefit
Amazon used to tack a monthly $14.99 charge on (even for Prime members) for its Amazon Fresh grocery delivery service. That charge was lifted, but in February 2023, the threshold for free delivery was made even higher.
As of February 28, 2023, customers will be charged a variable fee for orders under $150. Under the new policy, delivery charges will be $3.95 for orders between $100 and $150, $6.95 for orders between $50 and $100, and $9.95 for orders under $50.
Also, per Amazon, free grocery delivery is only available to "Prime members in select regions on Amazon Fresh orders that meet the local free delivery threshold.” So you’ll need to sign into your account or punch in your zip code to see if you're even eligible.
Alexa Could Be Quiet Quitting
According to figures from 2019, Alexa, Amazon’s cloud-based voice service is already embedded on over 100 million Echo and smart devices both from Amazon and third-party manufacturers.
Whilst the voice assistant might help you reorder products easily, track down music, find info, or even sing you “Happy Birthday”, Alexa’s a loser — and Amazon knows it. According to a Wall Street Journal article from November 2022, Amazon is weighing up changes to Alexa and to other divisions that are bleeding money (to the tune of $5 billion a year, the WSJ reports).
That could mean halting the development of new features or honing those that are already there, as more functionality will cost more money. So, that could be yet another Amazon Prime perk that’s cut back, even though your membership fee has increased.
Prime Day Is Mostly a Huge Garage Sale
Amazon’s first-ever Prime Early Access Sale was a huge success (according to Amazon), so clearly we spent an awful lot of money during the last Prime Day, but are these events really worth it?
It’s easy to get excited about these events — Prime Day 2023 is practically right around the corner — but some of those “deals are just on Amazon’s proprietary products and third-party stuff that likely didn’t sell well at full price. Whilst you might find the odd gem here and there, buyer’s remorse can quickly set in, as it did with my Ancestry DNA kit impulse purchase last time around.
Maybe Those Amazon Prime Deals Aren’t So Hot
If you’re a Prime member, Amazon might be your first port of call for most things. You find the product, check out, and move on… but you might not be getting the best value for money if you shop this way.
“While Amazon has a vast selection and often very good prices, those prices aren’t always the lowest,” said Trae Bodge. “If you have a renewal coming up, try installing a browser extension that compares prices on Amazon versus other sites, like Cently from CouponFollow.”
Bodge suggests the following strategy to see whether Amazon Prime is really worth it for your regular purchases:
“For your next several orders, pay attention to the Cently alert as you browse”. If you’re consistently getting the best price on your chosen items on Amazon, you might want to hang onto your Prime membership, but if you find that other sites have better prices on what you’re shopping for, think about canceling.”
“You can often find better prices at competitors, and most big-box retailers will even price-match Amazon if they do have a lower price — including Walmart, Target and Best Buy,” says Woroch. “So why pay for Prime when you can get Amazon’s low prices at a regular retailer anyway?”
If you can’t or don’t want to install a browser extension, you can still do your own price comparisons the old-fashioned way. This is particularly valuable, in my experience, when you get emails suggesting new purchases directly from Amazon.
Maybe you’re just not a fan of Amazon's founder, Jeff Bezos — who transformed his online-only bookstore into the world’s biggest online retailer that now sells electronics, household goods, books, and basically anything else you can think of.
Amazon has made Bezos an astonishing amount of money, with a total net worth of $126 billion as of April 2023 (per Bloomberg). He’s put his wealth to use by acquiring companies such as Audible, Ring and Whole Foods Markets. Plus, he’s snapped up The Washington Post, launched a commercial aerospace venture — Blue Origin — and acquired MGM Movie Studios for a cool $8.5 billion.
Some consumers may want to try and support smaller, independent businesses rather than buy from such a large corporation.
Bob was Senior Editor at Kiplinger.com for seven years and is now a contributor to the website. He has more than 40 years of experience in online, print and visual journalism. Bob has worked as an award-winning writer and editor in the Washington, D.C., market as well as at news organizations in New York, Michigan and California. Bob joined Kiplinger in 2016, bringing a wealth of expertise covering retail, entertainment, and money-saving trends and topics. He was one of the first journalists at a daily news organization to aggressively cover retail as a specialty and has been lauded in the retail industry for his expertise. Bob has also been an adjunct and associate professor of print, online and visual journalism at Syracuse University and Ithaca College. He has a master’s degree from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a bachelor’s degree in communications and theater from Hope College.
- Martin ShoreContributor
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