With the introduction of Amazon Prime the huge online retailer is encouraging users to look to Amazon first when considering a purchase. Amazon has been a market leader in online shopping for over a decade. People look to the retailer to provide good pricing information, customer product reviews and great service. Amazon Prime helps customers not only look to them for information, but also for actual purchases.

Amazon Prime is a service that offers many benefits to their customers. The cost of Amazon Prime is $79 a year which works out to less than $6.60 a month. If you buy just one product a month you will make your money back on free shipping even if you don't watch a single movie or TV episode offered for free. This is because they know that once you pay your $79 a year, you will become a loyal customer for at least that amount of time. They want you to use Amazon for purchasing as many products as possible. If these are products that you would purchase anyway, you might as well take advantage of the lower than average price as well as free shipping.

Free Two-Day Shipping

The main benefit to Amazon Prime customers is that they get free and unlimited two-day shipping. One of the reasons that people don't like shopping online is that they still have to pay for shipping on whatever they purchase. While in some cases you won't have to pay sales tax on a purchase, the cost of shipping usually wipes out the savings of buying through the Internet. But with Amazon Prime you no longer have to worry about shipping costs for the vast majority of your purchases.

The free two-day shipping that Amazon offers to its Prime customers is not limited to a certain order amount. They do offer free shipping to non-Prime customers, but you have to purchase more than $25, in most cases, to qualify.

Amazon says that the shipping is free on "eligible items" for their Prime customers. That includes almost everything that is sold directly by Amazon (millions of products). If an item does not qualify for the free two-day shipping, it almost always qualifies for free standard shipping. This includes items that are too large to ship quickly and easily, such as treadmills and other large items. Items that are fulfilled by partners, like Target, do not qualify for the free two-day shipping nor the free standard shipping.

As an Amazon Prime customer, you are eligible to upgrade your shipping from two-day to one-day shipping for a mere $3.99. Even overnight Sunday deliveries are available for an extra $15.99 fee. Depending on the item and the area in which you live, it is possible to pay for same day delivery from a local supplier for $3.99 as well. To see the other benefits and limitations to the shipping options, please check the Amazon Prime information page.

Free Movie Streaming

In February 2011 Amazon announced that Amazon Prime members would get free access to their movie and TV streaming catalog. This includes unlimited, commercial-free viewing of more than 5000 movies and TV shows! These videos can be streamed to a Windows or Mac computer. They can also be streamed directly to more than 200 different models of Internet connected televisions, set-top boxes and Blu-ray players.

The TV and movie streaming option is available to current subscribers of Amazon Prime. Other than Amazon Prime, there is currently no subscription program that Amazon has for streaming. Each title has to be rented or purchased individually at a cost of $0.99 per TV episode, $3.99 for movie rentals and $14.99 for most movie purchases.

Prime For Students

Amazon offers a one-year free subscription for college students. The student gets all the free shipping benefits of other Amazon Prime users. This includes the unlimited free two-day shipping and inexpensive shipping upgrades.

There are special discounts offered to students for certain products. These offers are sent to the student via email alerts. If the student chooses to cancel these notifications, they will be removed from the Amazon Prime program.

Prime for students does not include the free video streaming benefits.

To sign up for the program the college student must have a valid .edu email address. The must also be enrolled in at least one course at a college or university within the one of the 50 US states. At their discretion, Amazon reserves the right to require proof of enrolment and documentation that the student fits the requirements.

Check out the Amazon page about Amazon Prime to learn more. You can also sign up for a one month free membership and get all the benefits mentioned above. It is possible that within a month of using Amazon Prime for free you can make the cost of membership pay for itself.