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Amazon Cuts Down On Prime Members Sharing Their Benefits

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Over the weekend, Amazon quietly rolled out a series of changes to its “Amazon Household” program and the ability for Prime members to share their shipping benefits. The changes are designed to limit the ability for customers to share Amazon Prime subscriptions with those who are not actually members of their immediate family, it appears.

Amazon previously allowed anyone with an Amazon Prime subscription to share shipping benefits and a few others, with up to four other “household” members. But with a change to its policies at the end of July, Amazon now only allows a Prime member to share their Prime benefits with one other adult.

What’s more, anyone sharing an account has access to each other’s credit cards to make purchases. That’s obviously not a problem for spouses or significant others who live together and share their financials, but it does put a damper on sharing your Prime benefits with extended family members, or with your friends or roommates, for example.

And that’s likely the intention.

Following the update to the rules, two adults can now share their Prime benefits, which include the free, two-day shipping, Prime Instant Video streaming, access to Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, Prime Early Access and Prime Exclusive deals.

In addition to the two adults, each household can also have up to four “child” profiles, which makes it easier for family members to share Kindle books across devices. Meanwhile, explains Amazon, Amazon Student Prime members and other invited guests of Prime members can’t share their benefits. But Prime members with Amazon Mom can share their 20 percent diaper and 15 percent Baby Registry discounts.

The two adults will also need to authorize each other to use the credit and debit cards associated with their Amazon accounts, which can then be used to make purchases on Amazon in the future. They’re both able to configure the family’s shared library of books, apps, and games, too, and can manage parental controls on Amazon FreeTime for the children associated with the account.

The concept of “Amazon Household” itself is not new, we should point out. The company in September of last year introduced “Family Library” as a way for household members to share their content purchases. And households could share their shipping benefits before, too.

But now that “Amazon Household” program is basically absorbing the other Prime shipping benefit sharing option, which before allowed any Prime member to share access to Amazon’s free, two-day shipping with others, provided you knew their email and birthday. (Clearly those requirements were intended to limit sharing to just family, but asking a friend for their birthday was easy enough, many realized.)

Or more simply put, Amazon Household has replaced Prime Sharing for anyone who had yet to set up this option.

Before the changes, this is how Amazon Prime sharing used to work (via ecommercebytes.com):

“Free or paid Amazon Prime members can share their shipping benefits with up to four additional family members living in the same household. If you purchase a Prime membership for a small business, you may invite up to four co-workers to shop with this corporate account.”

The new wording, however, now reads:

Share Your Amazon Prime Benefits

Free trial or paid Amazon Prime members can share certain Amazon Prime benefits with one other adult by forming an Amazon Household.

To get started creating your Amazon Household, go to Manage Your Content and Devices. Under the Settings tab, select Invite an Adult under Households and Family Library.

Note:

  • The following Prime benefits can be shared in an Amazon Household: shipping benefits, Prime Instant Video (streaming only), Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, Prime Early Access, and Prime Exclusive Deals.
  • For more information about Amazon Households, go to About Amazon Households.

The updated text doesn’t mention anything about sharing Prime memberships among co-workers at a small business. It seems that businesses will instead have to join the Amazon Business program, introduced earlier this year, which provides free, two-day shipping on orders of $49 or more.

Over the years, many Prime members took advantage of the sharing feature as a way to introduce others to the benefits of using Prime. It’s how I first came to join Prime, in fact, and since then, I’ve shared Prime with friends who were on the fence about paying the $99 annual fee for Amazon Prime’s membership program.

Amazon didn’t make an official announcement about the changes to Prime benefit sharing or Amazon Household, but Prime customers are figuring it out for themselves. On the Slickdeals forums, for instance, members have noted the updated terms appearing on their accounts. And some said that when they removed one of the four people they were sharing their benefits with, they could no longer add them back.

That implies that those who had shared benefits with multiple others ahead of the changes will remain grandfathered in until they take action (like removing the additional accounts), or until their Prime membership comes up for renewal.

Amazon doesn’t detail how many subscribers it has in the Prime membership program, but the most recent estimates put it at 44 million. The research also indicated that 47 percent of Amazon’s U.S. shoppers were Prime members, after more than doubling its subscriber base in a little more than two years. Now it seems Amazon is ready to push those tagging along on others’ memberships to convert to paying subscribers, too.

Update, 8/4/15: Amazon has offered the following comment, essentially confirming it had always intended Prime shipping to be shared among family members:

We are excited to allow Prime members to share more benefits within their household. This was always our intention, and the new Amazon Households Program allows a family unlimited access to Prime Instant Video so they can share access to videos included with Prime. It also allows households to create a shared library of ebooks, audiobooks, apps and games across all of Amazon devices and media apps, in addition to sharing shipping benefits and more. The Amazon Households program includes two adult family members and four children.

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