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Amazon Prime: Everything you get with a membership that you didn’t know until now

Amazon Prime: Everything you get with a membership that you didn’t know until now
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When it comes to online shopping, Amazon is the industry leader. It's come a long way from its early beginnings as an online bookstore. Now, you can find nearly anything that you're looking to purchase on the site.

Amazon also has one of the most popular virtual assistants around. Instead of tapping an app to play your music, then another app to put on your lights, and yet another to turn down the thermostat, you can just do all that from a single home hub.

You can find Alexa in several Amazon products such as the Echo, Dot and Tap, with around 20,000 available "skills." When combined with Amazon Prime, Alexa can provide a futuristic shopping experience along with some phenomenal deals. The problem is, many people don't even know everything they get with these features.

That's why you need to know these Amazon Prime and Alexa benefits you're not using but should be.

How to save money with Alexa

Let's begin with how you can save money by shopping with Alexa. One of the best money-saving perks of having an Alexa-enabled device in your home is something called "Amazon Alexa Deals."

These are exclusive Amazon discounts for specific items that are applied if the product is purchased via Alexa voice shopping on Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Amazon Tap, Amazon Dash Wand with Alexa, Amazon Fire TV, or a compatible Fire tablet device.

To check the available Alexa Deals, you can simply ask Alexa "What are your deals?" Alexa will then tell you about the best deals that are currently available along with the price and the discount you'll get if you order through Alexa.

Alexa will then ask you to confirm if you want to purchase a specific Alexa deal and if you reply "Yes," the order will be placed on your Amazon account.

(Note: To prevent unauthorized purchases through Alexa, please set up the four-digit purchasing PIN code via your Alexa app.)

If you want to check which Alexa Deals are currently available, you can check them here on Amazon's Alexa Deals Page. Keep in mind that even though they're displayed on the site, you'll still have to order via a supported Alexa device to get the discounts.

Now, we'll discuss Amazon Prime benefits that you might not be taking advantage of.

1. Free Two-Day Shipping

 This is the granddaddy of all features, the one that made Prime so famous to begin with. When you see the little blue "Prime" logo next to an item, that means you can ship it for free. You can expect your purchases to arrive at your door within 48 hours. Even now, this advantage may feel like magic. Not every item gets free shipping, so make sure you see that logo, but you'll find multiple items that do.

2. Free Same-Day Delivery

It almost takes you back to the days of newsies and milk trucks: Imagine clicking on an item and then receiving it the same day for no shipping fee. Granted, this only works in particular ZIP codes – specifically, ZIP codes near an Amazon distribution warehouse – but for people lucky enough to live in these hubs, same-day delivery is an incredible boon.

3. Prime Now

Wait, so receiving an item the same day isn't quick enough? You need it within two hours? Amazon can do that, presuming you live in the right area. Only a fraction of Amazon's stock is available on Prime Now, but that still amounts to more than 10,000 individual items.

4. Amazon Family

If you're a parent, you already know: Kids are expensive. So when you have access to Amazon Family, you appreciate the 20 percent off diaper subscriptions.

If you're still expecting, consider putting your baby registry online, because Amazon Family also grants you 15 percent off certain products. You can even create a profile specifically for your child, so that Amazon will help you figure out what it is you need to buy and when.

5. Free Release Date Delivery

This is one of those features that many Prime members have never heard of: Suppose you're waiting for a hardcover book from one of your favorite authors.

You can't wait for the book to get released, so you can finally tear into it. Well, now you don't have to: The second that book is available, it'll be delivered to you for free. Many other items are also available the moment they hit shelves.

6. Prime Video

There are lots of online video services now available, but Amazon Video is still one of the greats, producing original movies and TV series, streaming movies for free, and making tons of other flicks available for rent or permanent purchase. Amazon was also one of the first companies to make their content available for download, so you can view your watchlist offline.

7. Prime Music

Much of Amazon's music collection can be heard through its streaming service, almost exactly like 8Tracks or Spotify. But Amazon Prime also lets you download more than a million of its songs for free. It's like Napster used to be, but legal. Just keep in mind, you will need to download the free Amazon Music app in order to download songs, and it's only available for mobile devices. If you want to put songs on your regular desktop or laptop, you'll have to stream songs or buy them for offline playback.

8. Prime Photos

After snapping your way through multiple vacations and family functions, you've got so many photos, you don't even know what to do with them. Well, Prime Photos is just the place for them: Amazon provides ample space in Amazon Drive, and you can even use its first-rate search features to retrieve just the right portrait. Easily share albums with the people close to you, as well.

All Amazon customers get 5 GB of storage for free. Prime members get unlimited photo storage!

9. Prime Pantry

Basically, it's like shopping at your local grocery store without the carts, cashiers, or car. You can have a giant bundle of food and household items delivered to your house for a flat rate of $5.99. That's already pretty amazing, but you also don't have to live in any particular ZIP code. The only bummer is for people in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, where the service is not available.

10. Amazon Elements

What are Amazon Elements? Basically, this is where you find basic over-the-counter health items, like calcium pills and baby wipes. If you're into basic wellness but don't want to pay an arm and a leg, Prime grants you access to the exclusive Amazon Elements storefront.

11. Amazon Dash

What if there was a button you could push in the laundry room, and Amazon would immediately send you a new bottle of Tide? This is almost exactly what Amazon's Replenishment Service is. Amazon Dash makes the process of ordering much faster, by letting you press these buttons or scanning product barcodes with your smartphone. At the press of a few Dash Buttons, you can collect a whole cartload of domestic products in seconds.

12. Prime Early Access

Are you feeling really competitive? Are you worried that your most coveted items will sell out before you have a chance to order them? Early Access lets you order things 30 minutes before they are released to the general public.

In Amazon parlance, these are called "Lightning Deals," and you get the inside scoop. Think of it as sneaking into a shopping mall on Black Friday a half-hour before the doors open, minus getting arrested or trespassing.

13. Amazon Prime Store Card

So the Amazon Prime Store Card is exciting, but it's important to understand what it is: It's a credit card that gives you a 5 percent refund. This is remitted every month in the form of a statement credit.

Keep in mind that it applies to only approved items, but it's still a pretty good deal, assuming you shop a lot on Amazon and keep an eye on items that receive the credit. If that doesn't float your boat, you can exchange the credit for promotional financing offers, which might benefit you for expensive dream-purchases.

14. Prime Reading

This option expands your reading palate even more, by giving you access to magazines and other periodicals. Borrow a wide range of literature for a set amount of time and read them on your Kindle. Don't have a Kindle? No sweat. You can download the Kindle app on almost any mobile device.

15. Kindle First

Like Early Access, Kindle First lets you see books before anyone else can nab a copy.

Each month, the Kindle First editors get together and decide on six titles to make available; then you can download one of those books for free. These lists depend on the editors' tastes, but if you have a diversely read palate, you'll probably like the surprise.

16. Audible Channels for Prime

Audiobook fans were shocked when Audible, their go-to service, released Audible Channels, a rapidly growing catalogue of free podcasts. This streaming service offers everything from short fiction to classics to original audio dramas. You could spend all day jumping from one literary tidbit to another, all for free.

17. Amazon FreeTime Unlimited

This costs extra, but for families with some time to kill, FreeTime is a godsend. For an extra $2.99 per month, you'll find a treasure trove of literature, educational games and TV series geared specifically toward children.

If you're already fond of online programs like ABC Mouse, you may find FreeTime enriching and fun. Plus, like the name says, it's pretty much unlimited.

18. Washington Post Free Trial

It's ironic: Quality newspapers may be endangered, but their subscriptions can still be pricey. This is just one reason you may enjoy a six-month free trial to the Washington Post, courtesy of Amazon Prime. This is a limited time offer, though, so grab those free digital headlines while you still can.

19. Twitch Prime

Gamers rejoice! Prime grants you ad-free viewing on Twitch.tv, Amazon's gaming-focused streaming video site. You can also get discounts on games and exclusive pre-orders.

20. Membership Sharing

The concept of Amazon Households makes perfect sense, no matter what your relationship with your co-habitant is: You can merge your accounts into a single Prime membership.

Now your spouse/significant other/roommate/butler can enjoy all of the above benefits together. Remember, sharing is caring.

21. Amazon Channels

Maybe you cut the cord on cable, but you're not quite happy with Netflix or Hulu. That's why Amazon came up with Channels, which offers you easy access to traditional cable networks like HBO, Showtime and Starz. Use the Amazon Video app to keep up with the latest season of "Homeland" and "Game of Thrones."

Bonus: Whole Foods discount

As you probably know, Amazon acquired the popular grocery chain Whole Foods last year. This is great news for Prime members.

The company said, "Amazon and Whole Foods Market technology teams are now beginning to integrate Amazon Prime into the Whole Foods Market point-of-sale system, and when this work is complete, Prime members will receive special savings and in-store benefits. The two companies will invest in additional areas over time, including in merchandising and logistics, to enable lower prices for Whole Foods Market customers."

More Alexa pro-tips: Complete list of Amazon Alexa commands you didn't know you could use

Many Amazon Alexa users are stuck in a rut and they don’t even know it. They say things like “Alexa, play my music” and “Alexa, what is the weather for today?” Those are handy commands, but they barely scratch the surface of what this very capable voice assistant can do.

Click here to explore the wider world of Alexa’s capabilities you've been overlooking for too long.

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