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Amazon Prime is a Shipping membership that allows you to get free 2-day shipping for $79 a year. I recently wrote an article on how, after a few years of happy Priming, I decided to non-renew my Prime membership. The article was widely published and there was an outcry of Pro-Primers that couldn't believe that I dare non-renew. Although many of the comments were off-base, there were some good comments on how to lower the cost of Prime by sharing the membership with 4 family members or friends. So I looked into it and here's how it works both formally and in practice:
Although I had Prime for several years, I was never aware of the ability to share the cost with family. Perhaps my membership pre-dated the share option or maybe I never paid attention to it. Either way, I paid the full $79 for my family's own personal use and for several years, I felt it was well worth it. The family share plan allows members of the same household living at the same address to share Amazon Prime by linking their accounts. Accounts are still separate but they can all get the same free 2-day shipping. Up to 4 accounts can be added to the Primary account, meaning there can be 5 total accounts sharing. Working out the math, results in a very affordable $15.80 for each person or about the cost of shipping on mid-priced item with 2 day shipping.
Now I am not sure what kind of mythical households have 5 people living under the same roof with separate accounts where you would actually feel like you were saving money. In my household, we have 1 Amazon account and you can take a guess as to who foots the bill. Of course, I understand Amazon's logic that households may setup several accounts that have different preferences. One of the big drawbacks of having a single account is getting suggestions for toy dolls and business books. So Amazon's intention makes sense to me, but it wasn't intended to save costs unless you would actually have the different accounts ponying up $79 each just to have their separate preferences.
So the way Amazon intended it, there isn't really any cost savings unless you happen to have a household with many income earners that purchase separately. Of course, in practice, people split Amazon Prime in a very different way. First, let's look at the sharing mechanism. The Primary Prime User sends an invite email to have other accounts join. To share the account, you need to know the person's birth date and they need to know yours. Simple as that. If you live in the same household this is very easy.
So how do people "save money" with Amazon Prime? They stretch or completely break the rules? I'd separate these into two groups of people. People sharing with their family that don't live under the same roof and friends or people who have no relationship whatsoever that figure out how to "beat the system"...aka steal. The first routine is obviously not good, but can be a gray area. If a kid heads off to college and they now live in a dorm but come home for holidays and summer, is that really a violation? It really depends on whether they consider themselves living under the same roof. But technically its a violation of Amazon Prime. In this case, the parents are likely picking up the tab and there is no expected reimbursement from the kid. So again, there is really no cost savings since the parents are likely funding the kid anyways. But that's not how most people do the first option, what they are really doing is sharing the cost amongst their extended family that don't live in the same household: grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. Again, this is a violation of Amazon Prime's rule which only allow you to share "benefits with up to four family members living in the same household".