Ditching Amazon Prime? 4 Smart Ways to Live Without It

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Retailers raise prices all the time — especially with inflation pushing up costs — and the world just keeps on turning. But when Amazon recently raised its annual Prime membership fee from $119 to $139, I, for one, gasped. That’s an increase of nearly 17%.

Probably you, too, remember the last Prime price hike, in 2018, when the price of an annual membership rose from $99 to $119 — an increase of 20%. The company launched the service in 2005, for $79 per year, and by 2020, it had 200 million members worldwide.

The chances are good that most users will keep on subscribing at the higher rate. It’s hard to beat Amazon’s combination of price and convenience.

But if you want to drop Amazon Prime or just test life without it, here’s how to replace the service’s most valuable perks, including free shipping, streaming video, books and magazines, and Amazon’s cash-back credit card.

1. Free shipping

A man excitedly opening a comfort buy package during the coronavirus pandemic
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A major attraction of an Amazon Prime membership is the free two-day shipping on every eligible purchase, no matter how ridiculously small or cheap.

But you don’t need Prime to get free shipping from Amazon. You just must buy at least $25 of eligible items at a time — and sometimes there is even a trick to getting around that requirement, as we reported in “A Hidden Way to Get Free Shipping on Amazon.”

Had it with Amazon? Another source for free two-day shipping is Walmart: Order at least $35 in eligible merchandise at a time to get free shipping. Or, purchase an annual Walmart+ membership for $98 to get free next-day and two-day shipping on eligible items with no minimum purchase requirement.

Amazon’s innovative free shipping policy has pushed other retailers to drop their own shipping fees to compete, making free shipping more widespread. For a few examples, read “30 Retailers That Offer Free Shipping — With No Minimum Purchase.”

Another option: Try a ShopRunner membership, which gets you free two-day shipping and free returns at dozens of retailers. ShopRunner currently is offering a free three-month trial, and some credit cards offer free ShopRunner memberships to their cardholders as a perk.

2. Free streaming video

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Free streaming is a big inducement to buy a Prime membership, which includes access to Amazon’s Prime Video service, even though Netflix has more content.

If you are ditching Prime anyway, Netflix — with its vast catalog and beloved original content — may be a good alternative. It won’t necessarily cost less, though. The cheapest plan is $9.99 per month, and you can buy a standalone subscription to Prime Video for $8.99 per month.

Streaming media pours from many sources these days, so it’s not hard to save money while staying entertained. You can watch a lot of premium content for free by taking advantage of free trial periods from Paramount+, Hulu, Philo, Sling TV and others.

Tip: Mark the trial period end date on your calendar to remember to cancel before your credit card is charged.

For plenty of other options, check out “17 Streaming Services That Are Completely Free.”

3. Cash-back credit cards

Excited woman shopping online
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Amazon’s Prime Rewards Visa credit card pays 5% back on purchases from Amazon and Whole Foods Market (and 1% or 2% on other purchases).

My Prime Rewards card has put $115 back in my pocket over the last 12 months. That’s not big money, but it’s not nothing. (Note: As with any rewards credit card, cardholders need to pay their bill in full each month to avoid finance charges or interest that would undermine any value from the rewards.)

The Prime Rewards card doesn’t have an annual fee. But a Prime membership is required to earn 5% back at Amazon and Whole Foods. If you ditch your Prime membership, you’ll earn 3% back at those retailers instead.

Five percent cash back, while nice, is not an unheard-of deal. In fact, we recently cited a few cards offering 5% back — or more — in “Earn a Whopping 5% Cash Back With This Card.”

For more options, you can compare cash-back cards by using Money Talks News’ credit card search tool.

4. Free books and magazines

Man reading on a tablet
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There’s no reason to pay for e-books, with or without a Prime membership. I’m addicted to free Kindle e-books from public libraries, where it seems I’ll never run out of books to read. You can also get electronic access to magazines and streaming services from many libraries.

For more options, check out:

Did you know that you don’t need a Kindle to read e-books? Learn more in “This Trick Lets You Read E-Books Without an E-Reader.”

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